Character list (click to close)

Thinker: An overambitious storyteller, trying to lead the other personalities with an utter lack of concern for reality.

Worker: The reliable one. He single-mindedly follows schedules, and revels in busywork.

Gamer: Cynical and bored by life, he tries to get a sense of achievement and purpose from virtual experiences.

Programmer: Always up to a good challenge.

Person: A very awkward social creature. All other characters need to defer to him when a social opportunity presents itself.

Explorer: An overgrown child, with a passion for many things: design, film, music, and random nonsense.

Addict: Absolutely obsessed, though the subject of obsession changes from day to day.

Musician: A musician.

I Am Not...

The complete life and identity of Mory Buxner, ported to HTML.


I am not...
I see you're attempting to read my blog with Internet Explorer, a browser which is -to put it as delicately as I can- a worthless piece of crap. There are standards of web programming, standards which this blog follows, and every browser but Internet Explorer supports these standards. Microsoft deliberately does not support the standards, because they're the market leader and can therefore realistically hope to see web sites which are entirely dependent on Internet Explorer's unique quirks. But I am not willing to write each blog post twice: once for the working browsers and once for the chaos that is Microsoft Internet Explorer. So I am telling you right now: you will not be able to read this page properly from the program you're using. Even if you think it's displaying right, you're actually not seeing much of what I've written since May 2010. Please switch to one of these sensible options for exploring the web, all of which are perfectly capable of handling the experimental and interactive things I do here:
Mozilla FirefoxGoogle ChromeApple SafariOpera

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Moebius

Part 1: For Salvation Comes Through Blog

I wake up when Yardena wakes up. I make her coffee, sit by her as she browses her Facebook feed. I enjoy her company, even if she's not so conscious yet. I pick up my phone and go to a few websites: Ain't It Cool News, Bleeding Cool, Comic Book Resources, The AV Club's TV section. None of them contain anything that adds to my life. They're not expected to. Yardena tells me about something someone's shared on Facebook. I tell Yardena about something I see on The AV Club. We kiss. She leaves. She comes home. We watch TV and play videogames and eat ice cream and read comics and have a good time. As we get ready for bed, Yardena expresses reservations about my not having a job or much initiative in finding one. We talk for a while. I give her a foot rub. We go to sleep.

The less I think about it, the happier I am. I am loved. I am having fun. I am in a prison of my own making. It's all good.

It's only when I try to push back that I start to see the problem. Having conferences between my many personalities is still as much fun as it ever was, especially now that it's understood that all threats made there are toothless and all plans are mere suggestions. But sometimes I get the silly notion that I can actually control my behavior, that that's what the whole exercise was about. And that's when the accommodations start feeling less cosy.

I could blame it on the internet, which seems to suck in every unoccupied moment, but that would be neither useful nor particularly accurate. If I were able to detach myself from everything around me with a web browser (to wit: my computer, Yardena's computer, the netbook, the tablet, two game consoles, and most problematically, my phone), I would just waste my time in some other way. The issue is not the internet. The issue is that I never decided to spend eight hours of every day doing nothing that I can remember immediately afterward. And yet, somehow, I'm here.

If I were being passive because of stress, or because there were too many demands on my time, then I could pooh-pooh the situation and comfortably go back to doing whatever it is that I've been doing. But this is the bottom of the hill. I don't have a job yet. I don't have kids yet. I don't have a house, or a car. Those will all come, and they will undoubtedly cost me dearly in money, in time, and in energy. They will come, because I love Yardena, and Yardena wants all of these things. And when they come, I will have stress and demands and responsibilities to deal with such as I have never known in my very sheltered life.

I wake up with Yardena. She leaves, she comes back, we have a good time, we go to sleep. And all the while, the deadline ticks ever closer.

One morning, I decided that it was time to make a change. (Most of my efforts to overcome my basic nature take the form of decisions rather than actions.) And I decided that the means to this change could be learned from the blog. There's a heck of a lot of discussions, analyses and pronouncements here. Time for that wisdom to pay off, and fix my self-control problem once and for all. But where to start? Well, as the seventh 74 said:
The first day is frustrating, yes, but the seventh is satisfying.
And as the Thinker once commentated on that post:
When you put in an effort, it ends up more beautiful than you intended due to God's presence.
It follows, then, that if I put in a genuine effort to find answers on the blog, God will ensure that those answers can be found there. With this in mind, I clicked on the "random jump" button at the top right:
 

I saw just two random posts, and already I saw the full picture. This blog was a graveyard of ideas and ambitions. I am not capable of getting things done without external pressure. All attempts to externalize my internal pressure fell apart, as I realized (despite all my efforts to obscure the fact) that those attempts were, like the plans they served, of interest only to me.

So I'm here. Right where I started, eight years and seven months ago. And in retrospect, there's nothing surprising or complicated about it. I've explicitly given up on everything, taken away all the symbols of my growth as a blogger, stopped pretending this is going anywhere... and who cared? There was one anonymous commenter, bless their soul, who said that the story "went from interesting to boring fast.". That was the full extent of external concern that came my way. Because even among those who genuinely care about me, who have followed my journey thus far and who have been waiting this long year for substantial new posts, not one person seriously expects me to accomplish my crazy ambitions. Giving up on them is a sign of maturity, or something. That's a reasonable position to take. What isn't reasonable is thinking that in that freedom from external pressure, I could ever make something of myself.

I saw two random posts, and despaired.

But then I remembered what Yardena's brother Golan had said, the last time we'd all been at their parents' house for Shabbat. He was trying to get his mother to therapy, and was ranting in general:
"I don't understand why people try to deal with all their psychological problems on their own, instead of getting professional help. I mean, maybe they can be fine on their own, but it's like having one hand tied behind your back. You can do it, but it's stupid."
I thought about what he'd said, and what I'd achieved in trying to fix myself, and I decided that it was time to make a change.

1 Comment:

Blogger P.A.W. said:

I cared. I naively imagined that you weren’t blogging because you were busy accomplishing some of your crazy ambitions. If giving up is a sign of maturity, who wants to be mature? You have accomplished some of your ambitions – notably Gamer Mom, although that was before the system stopped working (the end of part 3?). Admittedly, some of the posts after that were a cause for concern, but I believed that you would overcome those problems and thought that they were possibly exaggerated to make the blog more dramatic. And then came the GDC poster session, which dispelled any worries I had that you had given up on your gamistic ambitions. (Even though I am sceptical about how interesting a full game using your dynamic interfaces would be (outside of character interaction, for which I think they work brilliantly) (but that is separate topic)) I imagined that the success of Gamer Mom might have helped you to externalize pressure somewhat (by you thinking that the people who were interested in that would be interested in other things you did).
I, also, sometimes have problems getting myself to do things; including writing, as evidenced by the lateness of this comment.

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Part 2: Formerly Creative, Available Now

I wake up when Yardena wakes up. I make her coffee, sit by her as she browses her Facebook feed. I pick up my phone and go to a few websites: Blastr, Eurogamer, Comic Book Resources, The AV Club. I play a quick round of Sudoku. I ask Yardena to tell me about something someone's shared on Facebook. We kiss. She leaves. I keep playing Sudoku.

An hour before she finishes work, I start to move. I scramble to clean a few dishes, throw on some clothes, then run out to catch a bus. I get to Yardena's work five minutes late. We hug. We walk home. I sympathize as she vents about her job. I hope she won't ask me about my day. We get home. We watch TV and play videogames and read comics and have a good time. As we get ready for bed, Yardena asks to watch an episode of Daria. We watch an episode of Daria. I give her a back rub. We go to sleep.

I dream I'm at a music festival, improvising on a keyboard along with a cellist and a drummer. They don't quite get what I'm doing, but that's okay. I'm having fun, and that's coming through. I leave to enjoy the rest of the festival. A manager calls me into his office. I sit down. That improvisation might have inspired him to give me a regular job. I need one. "What do you think that was?", he asks. "I think I was coming up with a fusion of classical music and rock, on the spur of the moment.", I answer. He consults his notes. "It was the most obvious thing you could possibly have played. You went from F sharp to B to C sharp. And then when you were done with that, you just did the same chord progression again!" So he begins, and continues with a barrage of musical jargon that I don't understand. "And then you'd left yourself nowhere to go, so..."

I wander through the festival. Yardena is here somewhere; we decided it was better to split up, do our own thing, and meet up at the end of the day. I sit down to a concert, and am called away by a phone call. It's someone from the Game Developers Conference. One of the prouder moments of my life. I had torn myself away from my friends there to perform a scheduled piano improvisation. Maybe they're inviting me back? No, they've called to yell at me about my performance there. Apparently it was something like watching a baby try to play Bach. I completely embarrassed myself, and they're only telling me now.

It's getting dark, and Yardena finds me. I try to tell her that I'm depressed. She interrupts me as soon I start talking, to tell me how tired she is. She doesn't want to drive home. She wants to get a ride with my sister, Dena. We leave the school, get in Yardena's shiny blue car and she drives the wide suburb roads to Dena's house. It's a big American house, with a lawn. Yardena gets out of the car and goes in to ask Dena to drive us. I wait for her. I sit around. I look at the silent neighborhood. I stare into space. I get out of the car and enter Dena's house, to find out what's going on. A bunch of Dena's friends are in pyjamas, walking past me to leave. Others are still standing around. Yardena is standing by Dena, who is in her own pyjamas looking annoyed. I decide that Yardena has it under control, and I go back out to the car.

The car. Where's the car? I see a car driving away quickly, and I try to run after it, but I can barely get myself to walk. As the car disappears from view, I realize that it looks nothing like Yardena's car. I return to the empty space where I'm pretty sure a car once was. Yardena hasn't come out yet, thank God. But a group of noisy people are walking toward me on the road, my father among them. He's holding car keys -- no, it's just a fuzzy-dice keychain that he's attached his smartphone to. He's just waving around his smartphone, trying to show something off on it.

"Where are the keys?", he asks. "THEY'RE IN THE FUCKING CAR
an e-mail from my mother, giving me a heads-up that someone she knew would be contacting me about something. And sure enough, they did. A married couple who'd been to my parents for a Shabbat meal were told about me, and so they saw my work, and were interested. They liked my music, they were intrigued by my other creative endeavors, they were sympathetic to my diagnosed social affliction and they wanted to talk to me. I wrote back that I was always free, and so Tuvia the music producer called me up and talked with me for a good two hours.



We batted ideas back and forth. It never went anywhere.

3 Comments:

Blogger Kyler Kelly said:

That was a roller coaster ride post.

 Mory said:

Thank you. :)

Anonymous Anonymous said:

so dizzy. but fun =)
new post now??? :-p

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Part 3: Terms and Conditions

I wake up when Yardena wakes up. I waste a few hours. I go to work. I come home to a tired wife, an eager cat and a neglected home. We go to sleep.



Our rabbi walked us through the text, word by word. Backwards concepts rooted in sexist norms, written in the obsolete language of Aramaic. The k'tubah is a legal contract which must be signed by the male spouse-to-be at every Jewish wedding.
...that Mordechai, son of Tzvi Eliezer... said to this virgin Yardena... "Be my wife according to the practice of Moshe and Israel, and I will cherish, honor, support and maintain you in accordance with the custom of Jewish husbands who cherish, honor, support and maintain their wives faithfully. And I here present you with the marriage gift of virgins, two hundred silver zuzim, which belongs to you, according the the law of Moses and Israel; and I will also give you your food, clothing and necessities...
I was getting uneasier by the second. This was not a description of the relationship we had, nor the relationship that we expected to have. It did not reflect my attitude toward gender politics, which is that anything with a whiff of gender imbalance makes me uneasy, and it did not reflect Yardena's attitude toward religion, which is that it is invasive and demeaning and should be kept out of people's personal business.

But we could put aside our many and morally-repulsed issues with the text, for the sake of getting society at large to acknowledge and accept the relationship which we already had. I could even put aside the crippling fee of 120,000 shekels that the rabbi added on to the traditional 200 zuzim (whatever that is), promised in the present but paid in the case of a divorce or death (The rabbi advised me, ridiculously, to get life insurance as soon as possible, and sell whatever I needed to sell to afford it.), because I intended this to be an arrangement for life and Yardena would never pretend I had obligations past that. But what I could not put aside was the word "support", and the elaboration "food, clothing and necessities". While I had been working on the GDC presentation, Yardena had been supporting me. And I hoped to get a job shortly after coming back, but even if I succeeded in finding one, I had no confidence that it would be enough to pay my half of the rent for our small apartment, let alone food, clothing and necessities for both of us. She was the one with the money, and in all likelihood she would be supporting me for years. I couldn't sign something that claimed it was (or needed to be) the other way around.

The rabbi assured me that no one really looks at that as a legally binding requirement, and that plenty of yeshiva students get married with no intention of ever getting a job at all. I pointed out the clause at the end that explicitly says: "It is not to be regarded as a mere forfeiture without consideration or as a mere formula of a document.". I would be signing a document that not only asserts my agreement to things that I can't agree to, but which has me saying that I know it's a serious document, and that I'm signing it intending every word of it!

I don't remember the exact mind-game that I played on myself to get myself to agree (without reversing all my beliefs on everything) that it wasn't such a bad thing to sign. The mind is a stretchy thing, though, and it needed to be signed. We were deep into planning the wedding, we wanted to not feel like we were doing something wrong every time we were intimate, and all in all there was way too much pressure for me to fail to convince myself. So I did, and we have a lovely, decorated document with my signature on it which states in an obsolete language that I am to be an ancient archetype of a husband. (Hebrew word for "husband": "ba'al", which also means "owner".)



We got in bed around 1:30 AM. I had been in a bad mood all day, and that put Yardena in a bad mood. She was tired. So was I, but I knew I wouldn't be able to sleep. Too many negative emotions: dissatisfaction and shame at having done nothing all day, dread for the day to come, loneliness, hopelessness...

I should not have told Yardena of this. She wanted to sleep, or to be rubbed and then to sleep. I was not in the mood for the latter, but I should have allowed her the former. Instead, I got close to her and told her that I felt completely worthless, that I felt I had no control over my own actions, that I was scared.

Talk like that devalues me in Yardena's eyes, not because she doesn't have faith in me but because she doesn't have faith in herself to see me clearly, which might amount to the same thing at 1:30 AM. She asked me if my life was worse off since marrying her.

Life before (click to view)

I told Yardena that if it weren't for her, I'd probably be in a mental institution by now. I told her that I would have run out of money and moved back to my parents and ended up completely insane. I told her that I was useless when left to my own devices, that everything I had been doing on my blog was because I was supremely messed up and couldn't get anything done ever. I told her that even those experiments hadn't really been working, and were in danger of falling apart every day and ate up all my time and energy just to keep me from being a lifeless lump, and that for the past year I hadn't been able to write to the blog and couldn't keep myself going for even a few days at a time.

She turned her back on me and started crying. She didn't want me to touch her. I sat and watched her for a while, pondering what I'd said. And then I got up and left the room. I sat curled up into a ball in a living room chair, and cried for a while. It's all I wanted to do. I considered Sudoku, Super Hexagon, web-browsing, but none of it would be acceptable at a time that Yardena was against me. All I wanted was for her to come and hug me and tell me that it didn't matter how messed up I was, she would still love me. But I was also angry at her and wanted to keep my distance, because what I'd said, on reflection, was that I needed her, and she'd rejected that. And I was angry at myself, because it was 2:00 in the morning and I was expecting some sort of rational detachment from someone who clearly was too tired to handle what I was dumping on her in that moment. I wanted her to come and see me crying and feel sorry for what she'd done to me. I felt stupid for not moving and for thinking of manipulating her into pitying me. I was too sad to want to move. I wanted to go back and have a discussion. I wanted her to come out of the bedroom already.

I went to my computer, turned on the MIDI keyboard, opened QJackCtl and QSynth, put on headphones and started letting off some steam by playing the closest thing I had to a piano. Spooks jumped up next to me and I petted her for a while. She purred.

Calmer now, I adjusted to my new situation. Yardena loved me. Or she would, anyway, if I stayed strong for her. She needed someone she could rely on, not a basket case to take care of. I needed to always tell her that everything would be okay, that I would do whatever it took to ensure that. That we'd have the house and the kids and the car and everything she wanted. That we'd both be consistently happy for the rest of our lives, as long as we were together.

My feelings were petty. My memories and plans were a trap. How I saw myself, and how I wanted to see myself, didn't matter and wouldn't change anything. All that mattered was that I loved Yardena and needed for her to love me.

I went back to the bedroom, ready to apologize. Yardena was fast asleep, poor thing. She looked adorable.



I will go to sleep early in the morning and wake up when the sunlight comes in. I will struggle to make ends meet, the same as everyone else. I will come back from work as tomorrow turns to

today

5 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said:
Mon, 03 Mar 2014
Till death do us part..
Part 3 of Mory's latest Moebius post discusses with some frankness thoughts on togetherness and the challenges that come with it. I feel in many ways, his post is a partner to my "why marry" blog post (which apparently is one of the posts that has been lost to my disorganization and inability to keep a blog going for more than a few days without erasing it.)
Mory has a way of saying things (both visually and verbally) on his blog that makes it hard to respond to. I feel like I would need to make a post equally complex to begin to convey a meaningful response.
Marriage is one of those things that we humans has spent so much time defining, denying others, feeling good about, feeling bad about, worshiping and breaking up. You would think after all that we (as human beings) would understand it a little better.
Being a human – a person in this world with 7,217,092,578 (as of this writing) other people in it, is a surprisingly terrifyingly alone thing. We live in cramped cities, travel together on public transportation, yet deep down pretty much everyone feels somehow alone. After a while, some people learn how to share their lives with others and the “aloneness” is drastically altered. Not always removed, but dampened down to a minimum if not entirely gone.
The answer to "why marry" in my world has always been "because if/when you do, it will be because your life is a million times better for having done so." Yes, there are stresses associated with being together, but the warmth, meaning and closeness that a life-partner can bring to your life is indescribable.
Also: One of the things he illustrated well was the conflict between the social institution of marriage and what it really means to the ones getting married (kind of what I wrote about here, in a slightly different context). I think we do Marriage a great injustice by pasting pages of labels on it.
Posted at: 16:08 | category: / | Comments
 Mory said:

I really wish I could read that old "why marry" post, not least because I bet I commented on it at the time and it's so hard to know what my position is on things without being able to go back and read something to find out. Sadly your old blog seems to be gone and not archived, so there goes that.

My position on marriage is complicated, and it bothers Yardena that that's the case. I never had the same goals or values that Yardena did, but I made a conscious decision before I started dating Yardena to be interested in my goals and values only alongside hers. I wouldn't have pursued a relationship if I'd thought it was impossible to satisfy both of us. And I still don't believe it's impossible, just extremely difficult, and this after the relatively simple life plans I had for myself were already not going so well.

In other words, some day I'll have my games out, and I'll also have a wonderful family who I spend time with, and because I truly believe that that will happen, marrying Yardena was the best move I ever made. What I'm really hoping for is a 50/50 balance between family and creativity. The trouble is that with the way Reality is currently configured, it's looking more like 90% society, with family and creativity fighting for the scraps. I'll need to reconfigure Reality somehow, I guess.

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Maybe there is something between the two - some people like Avri manage to mix creativity, work and family.

Also, who knows? You might be teaching your kids all about game development before you know it!

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Also: http://rel.webmanfamily.net/writings/adulthood

 Mory said:

Great, I'll have a little videogame sweatshop. :D

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The first stop was a tired whine from a year and a half earlier, which might as well have been written in the present day, but for its faint remnants of optimism. There had been a road from here to there, I'd walked it for a time, and yet somehow, I was still here. What went wrong? Apparently, that I was fundamentally not capable of change.

I clicked on the watermark again:
 
This time, I was brought to one of my earliest crazy-ambitious "redefine everything" plans. A new language, but really a new way of thinking about languages, more sensible than what developed naturally. I'd looked at the task, considered it for a while, and then given up. No one could seriously expect a grade-schooler to invent a language, and the friends who I'd told about it had quickly stopped caring. The only person to whom it mattered was me, so it was easily discarded and quickly forgotten.
 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The strangest phone call I have ever had, part 2

I walked with Yardena to the bus stop as she left for work. We hugged for a while, and then the bus came and she was off. I started walking toward the park which I'd once stumbled into, with lots of nooks and crannies where one might be creative. When I got there, I called Tuvia and pitched him my idea.

The album starts out with Brahms' Lullaby reinterpreted as a loud late-night party, like so... -"I love it, it's Brahms with syncopation! You know, there are people who...". There would be a few other tracks in there somewhere with similar subversions. Do you know Through the Looking Glass? -"Sure!"- When Alice sees the poem "Jabberwocky", it's backwards and she can only read it through the mirror. So I have a tune for Jabberwocky which I can sing backwards, then reverse the audio, like in Twin Peaks, so that it sounds weird. Of course, it would take time to learn to sing it all backwards well. Then there's a tune I've had for a long time, and I'm thinking about maybe writing lyrics for it about Facebook, it goes something like this, Buh-buh-buh-buh-buh-buh-buh-buh-buh... -"That sounds great! Just leave it like that and play it on a kazoo" - No, that's the tune that'll be about Facebook... - "Oh, that's what you were talking about?" - Yeah, the only part I've figured out is something like dah-dah-dah-dah-dah-dah-DAAAAAAA... I've had enough, I'll turn it off, as soon as I know buh-buh-buh-buh. Or something like that.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Life Be For


Yardena


Monday, July 08, 2013

The Facebook Song

Sarah shared a thing that's trending
Kind of dumb but I'm amused
Isn't a forgotten friend an
Awful thing to lose?

Well, not friend, I guess acquaintance
Now I see she's bought new shoes
How did people live before they
Kept up with the news?

Bob is sick and Rosa hates
A movie that I haven't seen.
Barbara likes a post that states
A singer's just turned seventeen.

Here's a photo Marvin took
I'd want to hide a shot like that
Diaper coupons, politicians lied
Oh look, a pretty cat!

I've had enough
I'll turn it off
As soon as I know

What you're reading, how to make cupcakes,
How to fix a broken fuse
I need regular updates
To keep up with all the news

Every second I am beckoned
Back for knowledge I can't use
I can feel my mind expanding
Slightly nauseous but still standing

I think I'm a zombie

Tired people
Stop your sleeping
Post so I can
Work on keeping
Up with all the news

3 Comments:

Anonymous said:

Wow. even better in the final version!

Anonymous said:

so I posted a link to it on FB. Sorry?

Anonymous said:

very gilbert and sullivanesque, it suits you. i loved it!

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Monday, January 28, 2013

Wedding invitations

At the beginning of January, I had still not done much work on my ridiculously ambitious Game Developers Conference talk. This was a problem, because the deadline is February 25th. So I said, "No big deal. I spent a whole month on one project before, with Ruddigore. I'll just do that again.". The only problem: I hadn't made the invitations yet. I couldn't wait any longer to send those out (not if I wanted people to actually come), and I couldn't devote all my time and attention to the presentation while I was also dealing with those. So I met with myselves, and we decided that before getting started on the poster session and its complementary materials, we'd first take a day or two to get the invitations done with.

The idea for the invitation was a true creative collaboration between myself and Yardena. We knew from the start that we would be using Harel's system for online invitations (with included RSVP functionality), but that's all we agreed on. My initial idea was to write something to the effect of "We invite you to witness the union of Mordechai Buckman and Yardena Rosner to form the terrifying two-headed monster Mordena Buxner!". The idea was both to play with the idea that people might consider us weirdos, and to introduce our new family name in a subtle way. Well, she hated that idea, through and through. (Apparently, she doesn't like being called part of a terrifying monster.) I had spent a whole day coming up with various sketches of logos that could adorn the top of this invitation, where I tried every possible way to smush together my own logo with an image of a dragon. (Yardena loves dragons.) When I went to Yardena's workplace to go home with her at the end of that day, I eagerly showed her the symbol I'd settled on, and she just said "No.". She didn't like it, couldn't say why, and that was that.

My idea having been shot down, I didn't know what the invitations should be like, so Yardena proposed a Zelda-themed invitation. We'd have drawings of myself as The Wind Waker's Link, and her as Zelda. I said that would only be acceptable if she were the purple Phantom from Spirit Tracks, because that was the only time the two were complete equals (rather than a hero and a rescuer). She said she really didn't want to be a monster, so I said I could be the phantom and she could be Link. We compromised on Link and Tetra, but something bothered me about the idea of a Zelda-themed invitation to a non-Zelda-themed wedding. Certainly Zelda has a lot of personal significance to the two of us, but when it's just an image on an invitation, in the absence of any other iconography, it might have been too kitschy.

To cut a long story short, Yardena eventually came up with a new idea, of a declaration of the joining of our two houses, which I quickly co-opted into something that would introduce the House of Buxner, and we both agreed that the House of Buxner would certainly have a coat of arms, with my melded symbol on it and with the Master Sword behind it. Yardena said it should look like it was on a scroll. So after writing down the wording (and deciding on some design concepts in the meantime), I found a nice parchment image on the web, started making a page with it in CSS, and showed it to Yardena, who was very disappointed. Like any web site, it was built on rectangles. And so, she felt it didn't look as much like a scroll as a matzah. (I had to agree.) I asked her to show me what she was looking for, and she found (on Google's image search) a black and white outline of what a scroll looks like. So I took that scroll, traced over it in Inkscape, turned the parchment into a tile (which it was not) in The GIMP, used the tile on the parchment, used gradients to give the impression that the scroll was 3D, and got started.

Which brings us to the beginning of the new year, and my resolution to get the invitations done quickly. I really thought I could do everything in two days. I wrote out a list of steps to follow (There were thirteen of them.), with the Programmer yelling in my ear "45 days until the deadline, 47 days until the wedding.", and I really thought it would be done in two days. This is because I had never done any proper design work before, of the sort that people pay good money for. Turns out, there's a reason they pay good money: it's a lot of work to do well. And I was determined to do it well. I used manual kerning, I edited individual letters of the fonts I was using (when they didn't suit my purposes), I made sure the whole thing looked suitably dramatic, and then I started on the crest, and the symbol of the House of Buxner, and that's where I got very stuck.

I do not draw, you see. I can, however, move around points in a vector drawing to mimic a sketch. I know how to do this because it was how I was making Angles and Circles, my unfinished abstract exploration game. Yardena had given me a sketch of how the symbol should look, and I copied it point for point. Yardena came home, looked at my work, and declared that it didn't look like a dragon so much as a generic monster. So in a few seconds, she threw together another sketch for me, which I thought looked very ugly and not like a dragon so much as a dinosaur. (This upset her.) So I started researching what dragons look like, and got quite addicted to the challenge of drawing something new that looked similar to other dragon images while still blending well with my logo. Finally I felt comfortable enough with the design that I sent it to Yardena at work, who instantly loved it. I still think it's kind of awkward-looking, but Yardena says that's part of its old-timey charm.

Then I drew in all the other SVG elements (such as the Master Sword), tracing other images whenever I could, and the ribbon that said "The House of Buxner" on it, with all its shading, and then I drew my own letter X because it seemed like the X in Buxner should look just right, being the most prominent letter in the name, and then I corrected all the colors on the page because I remembered that my ancient computer screen displays colors wrong. And then I tried to seamlessly connect this image with the rest of the page (which would all be CSS), and I wrote out the invitation, worded very carefully, and I set up the page for getting directions, which Yardena had insisted should be linked to from a pirate compass in the corner of the scroll. Then a button to RSVP, a simpler and uglier Hebrew version of the page for non-English speakers, and I was ready (though it was now January 23rd) to write in the guests and their personal messages and send the thing out.

Well, I thought I was. Then I talked to Harel, and he pointed out that the RSVP feature was missing important functionality. What if people had said they were coming, but then changed their plans? What if we invited a whole family with one invitation, and only one person from that family was coming? So relying on my Javascript expertise and my gamistic interface design experience, I quickly coded a very intuitive system for RSVP-ing on a person-by-person level, with the proper grammar to deal with cases where we didn't know what one person's name was. It was proper, object-oriented programming, very clean, with instructions for Harel on what he needed to do in the PHP and AJAX, which he would be doing for us because I don't know anything about programming for servers. Then I translated all of the interface into Hebrew, which was difficult for me. (I took out the part that thanks the guest for keeping us updated. Israelis don't need to be thanked.) I proudly showed the system to Yardena, who was impressed... until she saw the Hebrew page.

She knew it was going to be uglier than the English, but I guess I hadn't told her it was also going to be incomplete. While I chose every word and vector of the English page carefully, the Hebrew page was thrown together in a hurry; and it just gave the basic information. It looked vaguely similar to the English one, and got the general point across, but it wasn't the same invitation. Why should it be? It was going to just a handful of extended family members! Except it apparently wasn't. It wasn't four or five people, it was the vast majority of people her parents were inviting, as well as a few of Yardena's own friends. Yardena demanded that I put in some of the functionality I'd taken out - for instance, the ability to give a personal message. I first said that that would be too much work, which was bullshit but I was angry that the invtiations still weren't getting sent out. This got her angrier, so I tried to placate her by putting that functionality back in, which took all of fifteen seconds.

Then my father called. And the first thing he asked was "Have you been working on the presentation?". And I started panicking, in a panic that kept building from moment to moment and minute to minute without stopping until later that night, when I simply could not function and Yardena offered to take over and I sat curled up for an hour trying to focus on Sudoku on my DS so that I shouldn't think about and when Yardena said things I couldn't quite make out what she was saying and when I spoke I stuttered and I was shaking and cold.

By the end of that night, though, we had the full list of guests, with their personal messages.

Harel was up all night coding, and then we needed to wait for him to finish working at his job at 14:00 (This was a Friday, and Shabbat started around 16:30.), at which point I could start sending out the invitations. Except I couldn't, because the AJAX wasn't working in Internet Explorer for reasons that had nothing to do with the code and everything to do with flaws in Internet Explorer. So I waited for Harel to write workarounds for that, and then I had a half hour or so to send out all the invitations while Moshe (who was over for Shabbat, his mother being in South Africa) kept trying to talk to me. Then Shabbat came, with half of the invitations left to go, and I realized that I had accidentally sent the English invitation to some Hebrew-speakers so that was hanging over my head for all of Shabbat.

Immediately after Shabbat, I sent apologies (with the correct link) to the Hebrew speakers, and then I finished sending e-mails to everyone else on the list, scared all the while that I'd accidentally send the wrong personalized invitation to someone. I was starving, because there hadn't been food over Shabbat because our fridge was supposed to come with a Shabbat switch and it didn't and they keep delaying giving us the bloody thing, but I couldn't eat or drink until I was finished with every last invitation. It took me hours, but finally I was done. And then I remembered that our parents had requsted print versions of the invitation, for reasons which I do not understand, so I started making an English version before remembering that it actually needed to be in Hebrew rather than English, and then I was done. And then my parents showed up to give me long-sleeved shirts that my mother had bought me (because I don't have many, since I don't like to wear them), and they started pushing me to get clothes quickly but not the clothes that I want because they'll be too expensive and hard to find and besides the clothes that they want me to wear are nicer. My father insisted on giving me money to buy new glasses with, since I had broken mine a week or two earlier and didn't have money or time to get them fixed, and I reluctantly asked for rent money from them because I had 15 shekels in my bank account, my last two employers hadn't paid me yet, and the rent was due at the beginning of the month. They agreed, and then left, so I could finally eat and sit with Yardena and play Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door.

Except that there were a few addresses that I hadn't had before, and had now received. So I sent those, and I was done.

And then I was asked by Yardena's father to make an English print invitation, so I was done.

And the next day I was sent three more addresses by Yardena's father, and ten more names from my mother, and one more from Yardena, and I was told that my baby sister Dena had decided on her own to invite three of her friends. So I started arguing with my mother, and Yardena started arguing with her father, and it was around this point that Yardena started worrying that despite all their support up until now, our parents might try to throw their weight around at the wedding (because they're paying for it) and nothing would be the way we want it, and this worry turned into a panic that has kept growing and growing and has been keeping her up at nights and I can't do much because I have so much work to do and both of us are running around for the wedding things and we're barely getting to spend any time together.

And all the while, the deadline ticks ever closer.

1 Comment:

Anonymous said:

You know, reading that makes me so happy you guys are married and the stress is down to.. well daily stuff.

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Sunday, December 31, 2012

This Post Is Significant

I don't know where this post is going, and the past few posts don't give me many clues as to where it's coming from. But by the time I reach the end of this post, my life will not be in the same place it's in now. It can't be. I'm not a gamist. I'm not a storyteller. I'm not, in my opinion, even that interesting. I keep looking for opportunities to remind everyone in the cast of The Gondoliers that I was in Ruddigore, and that I'm still hoping to do Trial By Jury, because it makes me feel important. I keep obsessing over the first few minutes of my GDC speech -the part before I get to my own ideas- because it makes me feel wise. I keep looking for any opportunity to play piano backstage, because it makes me feel creative. But at the end of the day, I don't feel important, or wise, or creative.

When Yardena's here, at least I feel loved. That counts for everything. But right now she's at a wedding in Netanya, wishing she were home. I wish I were there with her, sharing her boredom instead of experiencing my own. With her gone, I'm aware of my blog's stagnation, and my lack of exercise, and my lack of purpose, and the huge stack of dishes that need to be washed. I wish she were home.

It will be a while until she gets back. Maybe another hour and a half. So I have an hour and a half of self-awareness in which to change my life. It can be done. This blog has done it before. Blog, time me.

01:30:00


01:28:31

Wow, time moves quickly. Okay. The most obvious problem is that whenever a self-meeting is called, the immediate kneejerk reaction is to switch to another session, kill the conference room, and continue with whatever I feel like doing. I'm not naming any names here because I can't - without the conference room, there are no clear characters to blame or credit for anything. It's the conference room that provides the proper contextualizing of my actions.

01:25:07

The Programmer could change the way the conference room works to make it beyond his own abilities to kill the program, using that "crloop" script he experimented with that makes sure the program keeps reopening itself until it ends correctly. Complicated, but doable. That accounts for any self-meetings dictated by cron, but there are still the ones I schedule myself, which can be closed by simply foregrounding the counting script. I can bypass that by making an alias to cover over the fg command, making those processes inaccessible to me once I start them.

01:19:49

I've already gotten rid of the fg command, but I feel that this is a temporary solution. For one thing, since the conference room itself can be killed, all this does right now is delay my rebellion to the last minute. There will still be no conference if I don't feel like having a conference. So the crloop needs to be programmed. But even then, I can find a way around it. I'm pretty resourceful when I need to be, and perfectly capable of both finding and getting comfortable with roundabout ways of doing things.

01:16:46

So even if I outsmart myself for a little while, it's only a matter of time until I lose control again. In Windows it was a bit easier, because I didn't have control over Windows like I have control over Linux. I could let Yardena change my password and not tell me what the new password is, but then I could never install new programs or update anything without her being here, which would be tremendously awkward. Not to mention that she might forget the password unless it's written down somewhere, and if it's written I'll probably find it.

01:12:36

I'm thinking about this wrong. An obstacle will be overcome. But an unwillingness will halt me. I need to not want to break character, and so I need to recontextualize my insolence. Closing the conference room is not lazy. It is evil. To prevent my other personalities an opportunity to make themselves heard is to sin against those aspects of myself. It is akin to slavery. Fictional characters have rights, and by pretending to be a single, unified person, I trample on those rights.

01:05:15

The most important tenet of my philosophy must be: "Love myself like my neighbor". Just as I would not silence or subjugate another person, I must never silence or subjugate myself. To limit myself to one perspective is a sin, and needs to be dealt with harshly. Not through technical obstacles. Those are mere puzzles. Sin must be brought out into the open for all to see, so that it can be purged. Evil must not and will not be tolerated, and evil thrives in the dark and the quiet.

00:59:12

The appearance can be worked out later; the basic format is clear enough. The list of sins will take the place of the old Performance Reviews. Whether the Performance Reviews should continue is a matter best left for a Dialogue; personally, I'm not clear on why we ever stopped. But I have

00:56:34

fifty-six minutes in which to crudely implement the idea, because when Yardena gets home I will want nothing in the universe except to hold her. Equally important: she will want to be with me immediately, and would justifiably be hurt if I did not reciprocate.

She has texted me that she may be home in as little as 20 minutes. Better update the timer.

00:19:56


If I close a locked conference prematurely, that goes on the sin list. If I act counter to my plans for a day, that goes on the sin list. Can there be any forgiveness for a sin?

00:16:44


Well, I don't know. I don't want to make sinning and shame a matter of habit. I also don't want a mountain of five hundred sins, where it seems like one more won't make a difference. These are important questions which need to be addressed before I can start. If the characters are responsible for forgiveness, it makes forgiveness a matter of strategy and politics. I don't know what the outcome of that would be, and I'm scared to find out.

00:12:33


On the other hand, if I let the readers of the blog absolve me, they may do so carelessly. No one but us necessarily cares about this interpretation of the concept of evil. And if the blog itself absolves, it can too easily become a meaningless formality. No option seems acceptable.

00:10:46


Oh my God. She might show up any minute, and I've got nothing. Okay, forget the details. Let's get this going.

00:07:02

Okay, there's the barebones file. I could differentiate between cardinal sins and casual sins, with the punishment being different, but maybe it's best to paint all evil as equally unacceptable. There is something to be said for fundamentalism.

00:05:52


00:03:47

Okay, now to make it appear at the end of the post...

00:01:42


Okay, it works. Now there's just formatting...

-00:02:26

Oh, to heck with formatting. What difference does it make how the lines are spaced. She could walk in any minute now, and then I'll never want to publish this post! I need to finish right fricking now.

-00:03:24

-00:12:14



Yardena's home. I explained to her how this post works, and I just want to kiss her nonstop but she says I should publish the post. God bless Yardena.

1 Comment:

Anonymous said:

Interesting.
You need better enforcement though. Why not have the message appear at the bottom of the post in a more visually incriminating way?

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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

My Girlfriend Lives In Hyrule

"When he speaks, there is a phrase that Mr. Miyamoto always mentions that speaks directly to the very nature of the Zelda series. The phrase is: 'Zelda is a game that values reality over realism.' In the art world, realism is a movement to faithfully replicate the real world to whatever extent possible. Reality is not mimicking the real world, but rather making players feel like what they are experiencing is real.

...

"You know, when playing through the game there's no need to be aware of Link's age or what his ultimate goal is. But, when this happens, the things that the player is doing tend to become typical game actions and the awareness that the player is just playing a game becomes stronger. Players who need bombs to progress through the game, but don't have any, will by chance find themselves visiting the bomb shop in the middle of the night. When the shopkeeper says, 'Hey, you're just a boy!' the player who had not been consciously thinking that Link was just a boy realizes, 'Oh! That's right! I'm just a boy.' The player than reflects that he's walking around in the middle of the night and starts to feel the loneliness of the middle of the night. That leads the player to become one with the game world, and the player experiences reality."

-Eiji Aonuma, GDC 2004


I never understood the Forsaken Fortress. It's the first hostile area you reach in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, and yet it always struck me as the hardest part of the entire game. You don't have a sword to fight with. There are no real puzzles to solve. There are no keys to allow more progress, or items gained to experiment with, or musical jingles indicating that you're on the right track. Everything I was comfortable with from the Zelda series was taken away. Except for the map, that is. So I studied that map, and set out to explore every single room until I figured out what I was supposed to be doing. In each room, I tried to understand the logic of the design. What were my options? What could I do that would lead to new opportunities? What could I do that would reduce my opportunities, and how could I avoid those situations? But the more I studied, the more confounded I became, to the point that I became convinced (and have remained so until now) that this gameplay was broken. Many hours into my expedition, I deduced that only one of the many rooms could possibly lead me to somewhere new, and so I memorized the path which I'd taken to get there (which was very complicated, and took around ten minutes to cover) and repeated it over and over and over until I made it through that room and on to the third floor.

I never understood the Forsaken Fortress, until I saw Yardena play it. Fighting my nature, I tried to be quiet and, as much as I could, just observe. This is what I saw:

A young boy named Pedro was at the Forsaken Fortress to rescue his sister. Most of the rooms had guards or rats or hoards of tiny monsters, so the frightened Pedro wisely avoided those rooms entirely. He snuck around outside, being very careful to never be spotted. And then, he noticed a window high up in the tallest tower, with a light on inside. Thinking only of his sister, he raced in that direction, and very quickly reached the third floor.

The logic of the design is perfectly simple: most of the rooms aren't very helpful because it's an enemy fortress. It's not a linear path of gameplay to follow, it's a hostile area that would exist even if the player weren't there. It's the attitude of the NES Legend of Zelda: "Here's a big and scary world, here's you, best of luck!". I saw Yardena sneak through the Forsaken Fortress, and I was humbled. I'd played The Wind Waker many times. But in all those times, I'd always thought of the Forsaken Fortress as a piece of gameplay that I needed to master, and I'd always gotten lost. Yardena, with her boundless imagination, gave in to the reality of the game 100%. And the game offered her a real world, the brilliance of which I'd never suspected.

Over and over, Yardena treated Pedro and his surroundings like they were real. Sometimes this led to small frustrations, as the rigid game systems displayed their lack of real-world logic. Sometimes Yardena ignored the game rules, pretending in funny little skits and voice-overs that they fit whatever narrative she wanted. And sometimes, the game astonished me by playing along. During one sidequest, we found out that a pair of Windfall Island residents had an unspoken attraction between them. It was one bullet point in a laundry list of cute interactions we were instructed to find, the completion of which led to the second phase of the sidequest. I had played through this optional sequence many times, and never thought much of it. But Yardena had the idea that if these two people were interested in each other, we ought to give them a little push in the right direction. She didn't seem to understand that once a non-player character has served its gameplay function, there isn't any more code to play with there. She was thinking of the characters as people, not parts of a game. So she took a picture of one of them, and handed it to the other. He realized he should make a move, and so he did. They went on a date. They ended up being very happy together. And I stopped seeing that a game was being played - I saw a reality.

I slowly came to realize that with all my praise of the Zelda games, I didn't have the connection to the series that I used to. When I played The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, it was with a buggy emulator that I played with a keyboard, but I believed in that world wholeheartedly. By the time I played The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, I was more experienced and jaded. I raced through that game, seeing what there was to see in the main quest and then stopping. When I tried replaying the game later on, I was disappointed. I was turned off by the excessive linearity early on, I gave up, and that has colored my opinion of the game ever since. I may have recommended that Yardena play The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks, and skip Twilight Princess entirely. But Yardena started Twiight Princess one day while I was away (She named the character Duncan.), and to her it was always a grand adventure. She hunted down the Poes, she explored every nook and cranny of the game, she collected every single bug, she spent hours looking for pieces of heart. And the game accommodated her. Yes, the first few hours are oppressively confining. But then it opens up. There are caves and pits all over the place, filled with strange challenges. There were mysteries that demanded to be solved. Pretty much the only thing we avoided was fishing. That did not interest Yardena.

In the Arbiter's Grounds, I told Yardena my opinion that the first half of the dungeon was a waste of time that you just had to slog through to get to the joyful second half of the dungeon. I remembered the thrill of speeding around on the Spinner (which you get in that dungeon), and my disappointment at never getting to use it again, though I would cheerfully have played a full game with it. So I braced myself for Yardena getting too bored of the dungeon's remixes of past Zelda experiences to get to the good part. But she loved it. She loved the puzzles and some of the fights and the clever exploration. And I kept waiting for her to get to the Spinner, and have the fun that I had. But the wait was long. I had forgotten quite how substantial the Ocarina of Time-referencing part of the dungeon was, since it had barely made any impression on me. And then we got to the Spinner, which immediately frustrated Yardena to no end. She couldn't manage to maneuver the speeding vehicle properly, so she gave up and handed it to me. Reluctantly, I played the first Spinner room for her. I couldn't manage to maneuver the speeding vehicle properly, so I had a blast for many minutes. Then I handed it back to her, but while she tried to take over, she had lost all her enthusiasm the game. She hated the Spinner with a passion. She couldn't understand what I had liked so much. And then we were already at the boss, because apparently this section which I had remembered being half of the dungeon was actually just the last two rooms. She asked me to fight the boss for her, and I did, but I was too depressed to enjoy it. Later on, we found plenty of Spinner tracks in the rest of the game that I'd been unaware of. Yardena always wanted me to deal with those, but Yardena reached one as she was playing on a Shabbat and had to face it herself. After much initial frustration, she eventually got good at it and had fun.

Shabbats were awkward, in general. Yardena always wanted to play Zelda on the day of rest, and I couldn't exactly say no. She's not religious, and if I weren't religious I'd say Zelda games were the best possible use of a Saturday.-------
Why were these people shouting?, Ariel wondered. He is not in our territory, and he understands what homes are made for. Should we not let him be?
Besides, I wanted to sit back and silently watch her while she played. She'd be playing anyway, whether I was there or not, so I didn't see any religious objections to this. And I never asked her to play, or to do anything in the game. I just did not explicitly object when she said she was going to play. Often this arrangement led to lovely afternoons. But just as often, it would lead to prolonged uncomfortable situations. Yardena would reach something that frustrated her, and I could have corrected her with just a word or two, but I felt that that would be equivalent to me taking the controller and playing for myself. So I needed to sit back and watch as the love of my life got more and more angry and stressed out, while I could do nothing about it.

"I don't know why I play these games!" was a cry I heard often, early on. The action and platforming elements were very stressful for her. The puzzles as well, if their solutions evaded her for very long. Every time she made the tiniest mistake, she took it as a sign of her own weakness and failure. And then I would sit by her as she calmed down, tell her that I loved her and that she was really doing quite well (which invariably, she was), and more often than not she would then return to the game and nail it. Sometimes it helped to turn down the volume on the tense music. You see, it was all a matter of confidence. Yardena was capable of overcoming everything the games threw at her. I never doubted it for a moment. But the question was whether she would know she could do it, and do well, or whether she would doubt herself, panic, and start losing control of her fingers. When she started playing Ocarina of Time, she had never played any games with direct control before. And when she got to the first boss of the first dungeon, she was terrified. She acted as anyone would act, were they trapped in a room with a big monster that was trying to kill them. It was one of the tensest fights I have ever seen in a game. At one point she was calming down, confident that the monster was on the other side of the room and she'd have time to prepare to retaliate, when the creature appeared right behind her. But I refused to take over from her. I gave encouragement, and some tips, but the issue was stress and I wanted Yardena to overcome it. Eventually she did, she defeated Queen Gohma, and it was glorious. If she were to fight that fight today, I suspect she'd be done in thirty seconds. She'd still feel intimidated, because she hasn't stopped acting like all of it were real. But she'd fight through it, because she is awesome.

(I should not have finished off the final boss of Twilight Princess for her. She had it. She had overcome every single stage of that battle up to that point all by herself, and all it took was another few hits to take Ganon down. But she had gotten paralyzed by self-doubt and frustration, I took over, and she ended the game with a very sour taste in her mouth. In The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks, by contrast, I did half the stages of the final battle, but I insisted that she finish the fight herself. She protested, but she did it, and was very proud of the ending.)

Watching Yardena play was a frequently inspiring experience. I've talked about the Reality Revolution, that point in the future where people will change realities as casually as one changes buses. I have never seen this concept illustrated as vividly as it was on the day that Pedro returned to the Forsaken Fortress. Yardena had been putting off the trip as long as possible, because she was scared of what she might have to face there. But one Shabbat, she decided that it was time to go. The Forsaken Fortress was a good five minutes' sail away. So she checked her map, set the boat on the right course, and started her lunch. Now, of course this is all perfectly natural. But there was just something in the way that she casually put the controller down, picked up her sandwich and started eating which blew me away. It was not the body language of a gamer, it was the body language of an experienced sea captain settling in for a long trip. The boat and the sandwich existed in the same reality, for her.

I don't know how long it took us to get to the Forsaken Fortress. It's hard to say sometimes, because after a while of playing we'd only recognize the cycle of days in the game, and not the changes in daylight outside the window. But eventually we got there, and Yardena suddenly was all business. She kept her distance, took out a telescope, and started scoping out the fortified island for a way in. When she didn't find one, she started circling around the island, without getting any closer, not ready to move in until she'd properly prepared her break-in. She found the wreckage of other ships which had tried to enter, and tried to climb on them so that she could glide across to the Fortress without being noticed. (If she moved in with her boat, it would tip them off, you see.) Now, the ships were just decorations, as far as the game was concerned. There wasn't actually any way to interact with them. And the way in was actually very simple: shoot the moat until it breaks, go right through. But Yardena gave herself in so fully to the story that she was experiencing a game better than what had actually been programmed. She added drama to everything she played, just by believing in it.

When she plays Zelda, I frequently tell her how much I love her. And sometimes she's confused. She thinks she's been playing poorly. She thinks, regardless of how many times I assure her otherwise, that I look down on her lack of experience and developing skills. But the truth is, I always admire her. Sometimes I even envy her. When I play games, I hope I can experience them the way Yardena does.

1 Comment:

Anonymous said:

Awww..
This is one of your best posts! I love it

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Tuesday, October 09, 2012

tick tock

So many things to do I can't keep them straight like for starters I'm engaged and I'm in Gondoliers and GDC is in March so "Adventure Games: Traditions vs. Potential" is the name of my lecture no poster session they're interested but not in the lecture format so here's the most ambitious thing I could possibly think of which I submitted at the last minute and I need to do it in little bite-sized chunks how do I do that and it's on Pessakh in San Francisco so I might need to give a lecture on a day when I can't use electronics or transportation or carry things around with me and what the hell do I do for the Seder but I want Gamer Mom in the Independent Game Festival so I need to run a booth with the game I've already paid to enter it which means I can't pay the bills and maybe Benjy will let me stay with him if I ask but I haven't spoken to him in years and maybe I can get someone to explain to me what a poster session at the Game Developers Conference entails but I don't have time because I need to update the blog which I've neglected for months because my life doesn't make sense it's all details and not ideas which I can comprehend and deal with it by regulating via rules and multiple personalities but they're quiet because the Person has taken over saying why would I want to do anything when Yardena is playing Zelda: Twilight Princess but I still hope she finishes the other games because I want her to see the end of Ocarina of Time and The Wind Waker but maybe she won't face the final dungeons herself so I'll need to offer to play them for her and then there's Choice of the Dragon which I thought would be right up her alley but she didn't finish it and how do I bring it up when she's trying to clean the house and make money and she's still at her job because even though it makes her physically ill it's money and I need money but audio transcription pays next to nothing so I really should apply for more transcription jobs if I have time between making a marketable web site so that I can start a web site design business with Yardena dealing with people because I can't deal with people yet they keep bothering me with "mazel tov"s and questions and demands and I just want to be married already so that our relationship is in a socially-acceptable framework and they'll all leave me alone already because I just want to curl up in a ball and watch TV shows with Yardena and never return until she's watched all of Babylon 5 which she just started but she wants me to spend this week making sure that I have the opportunity to go to GDC because that would be me following my dreams which I've only paid lip service to because the Rules don't work when there are obligations around so I need to rewrite all of those using the transition steps and I also need to add restrictions to the conference room so that I can never start a day without adequate preparation but I'd still need to know how to play the day which relies on the Thinker and the Explorer and the Programmer and the Musician taking a month or so to work out how to make my life work even though its natural state is as a lazy bum and I could be spending time with Yardena even though I'm afraid she may stop loving me if I don't stop wasting every single day of my life because who could love a person who's a hypocrite and a leech on resources so I need to find a long-term job which will also let me work on The Invention of Dance on the side which I haven't even planned out in broad strokes and anyway Angles & Circles takes precedence even though it's a complete mess that I can't give up on because I do love that world and I put hundreds of hours of work into that goddamned program which isn't coalescing though I'm very proud of the work I did so I need to figure out if it's possible to salvage any of it and still have the energy to get laundry done because right now I'm just sitting by the computer in a towel seeing as how I don't have any clothes left and I'd better be sure to wash my dress pants before Shabbat when we'll have a meal with my grandparents who are coming from America and then on Monday we're going to Beit Shemesh for the first meeting of the parents which is supposed to be a big deal for some reason though I don't see why because family has never mattered to me much but that'll need to change when we have our own family which we're leaning toward naming Rosebuck which is a portmanteau of our family names and Yardena wants kids in a few years which I know she can't be happy in the long term without and I desperately want for her to be happy in the long term no matter what it takes to get there but if it takes giving up on games then I've got only a few years to finish everything and then I need to spend all my time on loving and raising kids while Yardena makes money to support all of us but in the meantime she doesn't make that much so I need to be able to pay the bills which I'd do if I had any idea how to make money in this crazy reality I'm stuck in where effort doesn't pay off because you can prove yourself to be a reliable actor to work with but then you show one moment of weakness in an audition and they think they can string you along with hopes of roles you can't get but which need to be learned anyway because there might be a chance that the person they're interested in isn't reliable but I first need to show that I'm reliable by learning the music for tomorrow's chorus rehearsal even though I don't have the sheet music yet but when I get it I will totally learn everything they want me to learn because I still want to do Trial By Jury and Cox and Box with them someday so I can't show a moment of weakness or everyone might realize what a crappy person I am like how I haven't spoken to Moshe in months I need to call him right now or he'll get angry at me.

Ah, that was a very pleasant phone call. What time is it- oh dear. Can we just pretend this post is finished?

1 Comment:

Tamir said:

Much luck in this new stage of your life. May it live up to its potential. =) I hope we'll get to hear more from you, but I totally understand if we don't.

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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Yardena Is Home

My life revolves around my girlfriend now.

When Yardena left the country, I found myself unable to enjoy anything I did. I had plenty of time to be writing blog posts, but no interest in anything I might say. I tried to entertain myself with comics and TV and movies, but I only felt hollow. I tried getting back on track with a new version of The Rules, but I couldn't muster any enthusiasm for a version of my life that didn't involve Yardena most of the time.

I should note that these qualities in me did not start or end with Yardena's two-week trip to America. But when she's here, these don't seem like problems. My life was so empty before I fell in love, and I tried to insert meaning and creativity and other silly things to fill the void. But now what was missing in my life is here. If the emptiness had the potential to drive me, then completeness has the potential to freeze me in one state for the rest of my existence.

But what a state it is! I endlessly cycle between comfort, anticipation, excitement and gratitude. She played The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (in a way that I'd associate with the Platonic ideal of Zelda players), and is now addicted to The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. Every night before we go to sleep, she wants to watch an episode of Phineas and Ferb. Any time I act in a way that is odd and true, she loves me more for it. If I talk for hours about something no one but me cares about, she's genuinely happy to listen.

And maybe best of all, I can make her happy. I have never felt needed by another person before. Sometimes people appreciate the strange things I am so intent on purveying, but no one's ever really needed my presence like Yardena does. Heck, few people even tolerate my presence for long.

The love I get from Yardena isn't conditional on whether I succeed or fail at little social games, or how well I follow Rules, or what progress I have to report. Where there was darkness, there is now a light that shines on me brightly at all times. When I look at Yardena, I know that I belong with her, and I don't care about my selves cracking apart. The fog has faded away, and it is the day after tomorrow.

Yesterday, Yardena said to me that she prefers playing games with me around, because she feels like we're going on an adventure together. It's true: when we're together, we're not tethered to the Real World anymore. Time behaves differently. Existence behaves differently. All stories are real, and all of reality feels like a story we've been told.

My life revolves around my girlfriend now. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

2 Comments:

Anonymous said:

Awww.. :-)

Anonymous said:

Well, this blog went from interesting to boring fast.

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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Not Much Ado

Dish #1 out of approximately 25... so what have I been doing lately? A week ago I saw a production of Much Ado About Nothing. Turns out I don't like Shakespeare. I sort of knew that already, but I was told that it's not enough to read Shakespeare, you've got to see Shakespeare. So now I've seen Shakespeare. The actors seemed to be having a good time. Myself, less so. There are long parts where it's very clear what the point of the scene is, but it takes forever because everything is poetic and overwritten. The characters are really annoying and unlikeable. Shakespeare does not hold up. I'm just putting that out there. A play where you've got a character who is publicly humiliated by a guy, and yet you're expected to root for them ending up together, that does not hold up. In the year 1600 maybe what goes on between Claudio and Hero seemed perfectly natural -Hero faking her own death so that that asshole Claudio should feel -what, is that supposed to be love? What, if she's a corpse, suddenly he'll respect her? And then what's supposed to happen when she comes back to life? Will he like her as much, or will he say: "Eh, I preferred the corpse. The corpse I didn't have to do much to deal with, it was just grief. But you, you're work. I'm supposed to actually listen to you and ask you about things?"? Dish #3... I don't understand why people get taken in by Shakespeare. There's stuff you can find on TV these days that's so much more dramatic, and so much more plausible at the same time. Breaking Bad, now there's a great show. A creepy, creepy show. And yet you can believe it because ow! Better lower the temperature of this water.

Anyway, I saw Much Ado About Nothing because Dena did the costumes for it. Curse you, dish #4... I hope that doesn't start bleeding... Dena did the costumes, I don't know anything about costumes, so I can't say whether they were good or not. What do I know about clothes? And then I rushed back home because I didn't really feel like talking to anybody. I have those days. Sometimes I want to hang out with people, and sometimes I just want to be at my computer.

Speaking of which: two friends from Beit Shemesh told me to watch The Big Bang Theory. Now, The Big Bang Theory, as shown on TV, is unwatchable. It's kind of stupid, with its conventional sitcom plots and conventional sitcom characters. Sheldon does remind me of me, so I'll give them that. But it was unwatchable -that is, until I started watching it at 170% speed. That seems to be the perfect rhythm for the show. So much so that when I try watching it at normal speed, it feels like it's in slow motion. You have to wait for them to... slowly... say... each... little... gag... and... then... you wait... for... the... laugh... track.... And yet, for some reason, I've gotten addicted to it. I can't say it's very good. I don't like any of the characters except for Sheldon Cooper and Amy Farrah Fowler. Surprise, surprise, I like the characters who are like me. But the other characters don't have much going on. Leonard is annoying - his priorities are all wrong. He doesn't seem to care about his work much, he seems to only care about sex. Which I guess makes him relatable to the viewers, who also don't care about his work much, but very much do care about sex. It's always the same story with Leonard. "Ooh, a naked lady! I guess I suddenly have no control over myself, because that's how a man is!". Yeah, I dislike Leonard. Penny isn't as annoying as I thought she'd be from the beginning of the show; she has more of a tolerance for nerd culture than I would expect from a person like that in real life. The most implausible thing about the show is that she hangs around with them at all. She seems entirely too stupid, except when the writers suddenly decide she's smart because they want her to have a punchline. Ah, sitcoms.

Dish #9... I wish a show could start with those clichés, and then go somewhere interesting. You know, get you expecting something conventional and comforting, and then, once you're hooked, actually do something with it. I love the fact that LOST -whatever its many failings- looked like something that was going to be acceptable to the target demographic. And then it got weird. I like the fact that it pretended to give a damn about convention, and then didn't. I'm kind of hoping that The Big Bang Theory goes somewhere, but who am I kidding. There's no justification, it's a guilty pleasure. The fact is, I am watching The Big Bang Theory because I am lonely and my life is pointless. I would like to pass the hours with as little brainwork as possible. Not how my life was supposed to be at this point, but let's not think about that. Live in the moment, right? Each episode of The Big Bang Theory is just ten minutes long. Dish #14...

I hate doing dishes. This is why I buy plastic cups, but I forgot at my last trip to the supermarket. I'll need to go back, I forgot other things. I need a new pen, because the pen I use is running out of ink. I'll have to go to the pen store.

Life is good, I guess. I live in a great place, I've got some friends, most of whom are in America right now, but friends nonetheless. Sometimes I talk with them over instant messenger. "It is good to have friends, is it not?"... And I can do whatever I want, so naturally... I watched... The Big Bang Theory. Maybe I should play more of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. It's bloated, but it has some good sidequests.

I have data entry work now, finally. I don't know what I'd do without this job. It's the only thing keeping me from not being able to pay my rent. I can't find any more jobs. Yardena suggested that maybe, come September, there will be more jobs available because half the workforce will have gone back to school. She may be on to something. I hope she is. I'm not looking for a career, but I'm looking for a way to pay the bills and come home and worry about things that are important. Like... like... Angles & Circles, what ever happened with that? That is a game that I need to make. I thought maybe I could get away with not making it, but all the other plans I have depend on my ability to have good world design. I don't know anyone who can do that -no, that's a lie, there's that one woman, what was her name... don't remember. Who married... that other one whose name is eluding me. Oh well. I'll have to do it myself.

I went to dinner with my family the other day, for Dena's birthday, and my father asked me why I haven't been doing much. And I had nothing to tell him.

Look at me, the big-shot gamist! Dish #19...

I tried to play music earlier. It was a mess. The MIDI keyboard does not inspire me. I need some good soundfonts, but where do I find them? I need better software, but it requires Windows. Eah, forget better software. I will take my freedom over good software! My freedom with Kubuntu, which gives me random errors all the time, and which doesn't have the features I need, with a terrible interface... ah, how I love Kubuntu.

I'm going to try out for The Gondoliers, so I should probably write out the accompaniment to Ode To Your Face for the audition. I've been putting that off for more than a year. This is more than 25 dishes, to be sure. [sigh] Dish #21.

So I have more data entry work coming up, and soon Yardena gets back from America. So actually, life won't be too bad. I like data entry. I'll be efficient. I'll be a machine. No emotions. No plans for the future. I'll just enjoy the work, go home, watch some TV... or maybe I'll go shopping. There are a few other things I need... what were they? Ah, yes. I need a computer mouse. Mine is eleven years old and it feels it. Ecch. Dish #22 is covered in ants. There you go, death to bugs. And plastic cups. Yes, I need to buy plastic cups.

Now that I've gotten used to watching The Big Bang Theory at 170%, I find that all 24 frames-per-second videos look extremely jerky. I'm looking at it and saying, is this what I've been used to all this time? And that's why I'm so disappointed about The Hobbit not being released in 48 frames per second. When I heard that, 90% of my enthusiasm went away in an instant. I wanted to see what 3D would look like when my brain wasn't struggling to make sense of the images because of the jerkiness. And then they decided, oh no, people don't like improvements, people don't like change. Let's not give them change. Let's pretend they can have change, and then jerk it all away and leave them with the same stupid 24 frames per second they've always had. Corporations suck.

In related news, I'm not hearing about any games that interest me. I hope I haven't turned into that kind of old gamer who just sits around saying "It was better in my day.". But it was better in my day. And it was better in the days before that. It just goes downhill all the way. But why do I care, I don't play games anymore. I watch The Big Bang Theory now. This is what my life has become.

Eh, it's good enough. I've got a nice apartment, I've got data entry work, I've got my computer, I've got my nice big bed, with a fan aimed at it. The weather isn't... quite so deadly at the moment, though I guess it is in the days. I'm living the dream! Whose dream, I'm not sure. I'll do the other dishes later.

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Show performance reviews for June 2012Daily performance reviews for June 2012:(Rules)

one anonymous comment
Anonymous said:

This is such a beautiful post.

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2012, July 12th, 22:05 and 55 seconds

Give up to win

I never got a chance to show
My class a single melody.
Never will I get to know
What they would have thought of me.
Since then I've had no teacher.
No notes.
I'm free.


I play piano often now-
Doesn't matter what or how.
I just sit down at the keys
And play exactly as I please-
It's just for fun, y'know?
Don't matter if it's new or old,
Don't matter if it's trash or gold,
Don't matter if there's anyone to show.
I don't care about the players above me.
I just play, and one day I realized:
It sounds lovely.

From my poem The Older Pianist

At the Friday night dinner table at my parents' house two months ago, my mother told me she had been playing Gamer Mom. I'd modeled the adventure game after all the frustrations I'd caused myself in obsessively trying to get my family to play games, for all those years I was living with them, so I naturally was curious to hear how they felt about my creation. I listened with fascination as my mother described trying to get the fictional family to play World of Warcraft, and failing (of course), and trying again, and failing again, and giving up and coming back more determined than ever and losing all hope and getting frustrated and asking me for a hint and being confused by my hint and continuing for hours. Yes, my mother played this depressing little game of mine for hours, far longer than I expected anyone to withstand the emotional abuse the game inflicts on its players. This is my mother, the person in my life that I would have rated the least likely to ever touch a computer game. She explained that on one day in her now-empty nest, she'd decided that it would be nice if she could send me an SMS saying that she'd beaten my game, and to that end she tried to brute-force the puzzle by taking notes of every path she took.-"Can I see it?", I asked. She seemed bewildered and hurt. Why would I want to see the evidence of her failure? But I kept insisting, and finally she gave me the four pages she'd filled out of branch after branch, all written out in her perfectly neat handwriting with an "X" following every line. (When she reached the winning ending, she would have instead drawn a smilie face at the end of the line.) I could see from the pages that she was not at all close to beating the game, because the depth of the characters' apathy was much greater than she might have imagined, and she had eventually come to that conclusion herself. She seemed truly hurt by how the experience had played out, which delighted me not only because for the first time ever she was invested in a computer game, but also because her short-term frustrations so neatly mirrored my long-term frustrations with her and the rest of my family. She did not seem overly interested in this parallel; she was just bitter that she hadn't succeeded in connecting with me like she wanted to. All she wanted was to send that SMS, and I'd made it so difficult for her... -"But these pages are the most touching thing ever!", I insisted. I didn't care whether she had beaten the game or not, I cared that she'd experienced something that was real to me, and which she had never understood about me. What I didn't bother to explain to her is that I only put the goal there to trap the player in an endless loop of trying harder, and not to provide an opportunity for fulfillment.

The Importance of Being Earnest was the easiest acting experience I've ever had. That wasn't due to a lack of depth in the source material, or a deficiency in the directing - I just didn't put much into it, and no one acted like I was expected to. Sura -the director- needed to worry about making sure the audience on all sides of the stage (which was in the middle of the room) always had something to be watching to pull them into the scene. Yardena -the assistant director- needed to make sure that the characterization wasn't lost in all the movement and gimmickry. But me? I just needed to show up, know my lines and have fun. I did not have any compelling insights into the character of Jack. The relationship between him and Algernon reminded me of the relationship between Moshe and myself, but I didn't draw any specific parallels to that in my performance. It's not that I couldn't have gone far with this character and opportunity. It's that I didn't care as much about theater as I have in the past. I'd always beaten myself up trying to create the ideal versions of characters, suffering with the realization that I wasn't even coming close to what I'd envisioned. But with this play, I didn't go beyond the surface of the character: stiff with a secret sense of humor, always aspiring to be authoritative but without really having his heart in the effort. All my costars were really nice people who were fun to be around and to work with, not to mention very competent actors (a rarity in community theater!). I paid attention to them, I played the scenes in ways that seemed to make sense (though I didn't think about anything too much), I listened to the directors (who didn't ever challenge me), and I never went the extra mile. The audiences loved it, and with good reason. The directing was fantastic, there wasn't a weak link in the cast, it was snappy and engaging and at the best moments we interacted with each other like we were just people hanging out comfortably. It was a really good show. My father enjoyed it, my mother (obviously) enjoyed it, my friends enjoyed it, my siblings enjoyed it, my peers in theater enjoyed it, my high school English teacher enjoyed it (and was laughing audibly through the entire show), random strangers told me that they enjoyed it. All this, from me not sweating the details.

I went to Beit Shemesh for Shabbat two weeks ago. I didn't have anything to talk to my family (including my visiting cousin) about, so I spent most of the day at the Feldmans, where Yardena was staying. Part of the reason I went to my parents' house that week was that without Yardena to talk to, it would have been a more than usually dull Shabbat if I'd stayed in Jerusalem. After Shabbat, and before the buses started running, I passed the time by talking about nothing with Harel. He showed me a little bit of the DVD of The Importance of Being Earnest, and I cringed. Seeing all the details in front of me like that made me notice all the ways in which they didn't add up. I plan to never watch that video again. We're going to have more performances in September (due to the show's success), and I don't want to feel like I need to work more. As soon as Yardena was ready to go, we got on a bus to Jerusalem. We sat in the back, next to a Kharedi man who evidently pushed aside his righteous horror at the sight of a man and woman sitting next to each other, in order to launch right into full-on glee. "I think it's from God that we ended up sitting next to each other!", he said. I tried to have a conversation with Yardena, and within thirty seconds it was apparent to me that this man was going to keep interrupting us until we listened to some lecture or other about sin. So the next time he interrupted us, I immediately said to him as bluntly as I could: "Please shut up.". And he did. Yardena said I was awesome for talking like that. I think most people would call it "rude". And certainly there are those who would side with the Kharedi, and say it was admirable for him to cleverly reach out to two so misguided folks as ourselves. But I don't care what other people want from me. I do what is right for me, and other people can live with it or get out of my sight. I don't need to argue with anyone except for my selves.

...though, I'm spending less and less time with them these days. I feel accepted nowadays. Content. I am not an outcast anymore, because I don't recognize the legitimacy of a society that would reject me. Who am I? Who cares. Life is good. I don't need to struggle. I don't need to argue. I don't need to change. I don't need to pretend. I don't need to perform, or create, or think, or write, or play. I'm happy just being me, and I don't care who that "me" is. It's not me vs. the world. It's not me listening to an older pianist. It's not even me doing what I'm told but not as I'm told. It's just me.

Hello.


2012, June 11th, 11:59 and 09 seconds

View the character-building of May 2012Daily performance reviews for May 2012:(Rules)

Reflections on May 2012

The Thinker's summary

May would have been a momentous month regardless of how we approached it -it was my first month of independence, and it was the month when (at long last) I released Gamer Mom to a very enthusiastic blogosphere. The sensible thing to do would have been to give as much control to the Worker as possible, so that he could get everything done with a minimum of wasted time. But after March we'd felt that too much control had been given to the Worker, and that the other characters were losing their independence as a result. So we decided to randomize the character-selection process: the conference room randomizes the order of the characters, and since we don't really trust the computer's pseudorandomness we'd pick a number from 1 to 8, then look at the list and see who that number represented. If that character refused the day, a different character would be chosen; but on the whole, characters wanted to play. This readiness to play any character gave a lot of energy when we were willing to take the game seriously.

Often we were not taking the game seriously, because there was an effect similar to that of March: one character ended up being dominant, that character being the Person, and his attitudes infected us all. Now, the Person did come up in the randomization a lot, but this effect would have happened anyway. We have a rule that says "If other people unexpectedly become involved in a day, immediately switch to the Person.", and apparently we've forgotten that the word "unexpectedly" is in there. (Oops.) Every single time Yardena was involved with a day -which was basically always, since we're living together- the Person took the initiative to take over. He does not technically have that right - any other character may choose to switch to the Person, but the Person (like any other character) does not have the right to take over on his own initiative unless the other person has entered the day "unexpectedly". I am not going to penalize the Person because I believe the offense was made based on an honest misinterpretation of the Rules. I should have noticed the problem during one of the scoring sessions, and I did not so this is entirely on me.

In any event, the Person has always had a very flippant attitude toward the Rules, and this comes across in the number of wasted days we had. But even ignoring that, there are problems in the Person having this much control. We watched very little TV which was not part of a social activity; but now that we're living with someone who watches all the same shows, all TV has become a social activity because every night she wanted to watch something. There is much less guilt felt while watching TV with someone else, as compared with watching TV alone, and I do think there is value in strengthening relationships through shared experiences, but a sense of proportion was desperately needed and not present. The time allocation tables were originally instituted to promote an understanding of proportion, and though the scoring has shifted away from that aim I think we should still try to pay attention to which activities are reaching the top. Being able to watch TV with someone else means that technically, every character (not just the Worker) is allowed to watch TV by switching to the Person. This destroys the balance between productivity and indulgence which was mostly achieved by restricting TV access to the Worker (who would be most responsible about enforcing its limits).

Going into June (or the second half of June at any rate, since this post is late), there are a few things we need to keep in mind. First, no character is obligated to switch to the Person. If Yardena comes home and we're in the middle of something, a judgement must be made whether or not to switch to the Person before joining her, asking how her day was, having long conversations about love, watching TV, etc. as the habit has become. If necessary, have a short conference to settle the matter. There is no need for the other characters to be entirely antisocial, but there is a tremendous gulf between complete antisocialness and switching to the Person at a moment's notice. Remember the word "unexpectedly". Yardena's presence -and even her willingness to socialize- will never be unexpected. Second, the conferences are there to allow you to see where you stand. If someone's getting too much power, call him out on it and demand your equal share. Musician, I see from the transcripts that you've given up on trying to get days. That's a problem, because if you don't stand up for yourself no one else will. Get angry again, get what you're owed, and don't let the Person push you around.

2012, June 15th, 17:34 and 37 seconds

Adulthood, month 01

01-05 May 2012

Started draining the money I got doing data entry in previous months. Haven't been paid yet for the work I did last month, or the beginning of this month.

Gamer Mom is almost ready. Need to add a few comments still, and it'll take a long time to go through button-by-button and make sure it works with oversized or undersized fonts. I also need to make the whole gamism.org site, which will frame the game in the appropriate context. I'll do it later.

No working internet connection yet. All my efforts have done nothing. To do: buy a different model of wireless card that's compatible with Linux.

The Importance of Being Earnest continues apace. We're figuring out the staging, which is unusual because the stage is in the middle of the room with the audience on four sides. It's a nice group of people to be spending this much time with.

06-16 May 2012

06-16 May 2012

The money in my post office bank account is running out very quickly. I won't be able to use that account to do anything on the internet, so I've opened a "real" bank account. I can't put any money into it yet, because the local branch doesn't have any tellers and I don't have an ATM card yet. Gamer Mom hosting will have to wait.

Did some adjustments to the Gamer Mom buttons, but it's too much work for not enough point. No more of this. The comments are complete, I'm making the site. Any day now, I'll be able to put Gamer Mom on the internet.

No working internet connection. There are no brands of wireless cards in the nearby stores that are compatible with Linux. I have no idea what to do.

We're restaging a lot of scenes in The Importance of Being Earnest, because no one remembers what the staging was. I'll have to write down what my staging is, so that I shouldn't forget.

17-22 May 2012

17-22 May 2012

Walked to the local bank to see if my ATM card had arrived. It hadn't. Walked to another branch of the bank, put in money. Came home to host Gamer Mom. I see PayPal doesn't accept direct deposits from non-U.S. bank accounts even though it allows withdrawals. Walked back to the local bank to order a credit card. Now I wait for it to arrive.

Harel came over to fix my internet problem. The live CD for Kubuntu 12 has no problem with my wireless card, so all that is needed is an upgrade (from Kubuntu 10). The upgrade, unfortunately, requires a working internet connection, which I do not have. Harel doesn't have time for the whole procedure, so he tells me to download the alternate installation CD from the live CD and run the upgrade program. I do that, and it says there are packages that it can't upgrade. I write a shell script to just uninstall those packages it's having trouble with, while creating a second shell script that would reinstall those packages. It turns out, the packages it has trouble with are somewhat fundamental. Every other package I've ever installed, including the base kubuntu-desktop package, gets uninstalled. If I turn off the computer, I will not be able to boot up again. I run the upgrade program, and it says I don't have the packages needed to upgrade. Harel tells me to boot into the live CD regardless, and we spend many hours manually upgrading. I reboot, it seems to go in, nothing gets displayed. What is the problem? Who knows. Harel tells me to copy my home directory, reformat the hard drive, install Kubuntu 12, and copy the home directory back. Yardena lends me an external hard drive, and I follow his instructions. I start staying up later, so that I'll have more time to fix everything. Finally I can boot into what looks like my desktop, but trying to run anything at all crashes the computer. Harel tells me to delete the KDE user settings folder, and I do. There is much that isn't set up right, and will probably not be right for months or years to come. But I can use my computer.

23-25 May 2012

23-25 May 2012

I buy the gamism.org domain, pay for hosting through pay-what-you-use hosting service nearlyfreespeech.net, I upload the files, and Gamer Mom is now on the internet. Before sharing it with anyone, I set up a button for donations (through PayPal), and put together a large page of behind-the-scenes materials from Gamer Mom to give to everyone who donates. This takes many more hours than anticipated. Then I link to the game from my blog, send out letters to friends, family, acquaintances and bloggers, and finally at 7:26 AM I can go to sleep. The following evening, Adam Smith of Rock Paper Shotgun (one of the bloggers I'd contacted) picks up the game and players come pouring in by the tens of thousands. Their responses are everything I hoped they'd be. But I had never actually done the math on hosting for that many people. Each time I reload the nearlyfreespeech.net page, the amount of money in it goes down by a few nickels. I have not been paid yet for the data entry job I did in April, so my bank account has just 200 shekels in it. But if the hosting stops, thousands of people who would have come and shared the game with others can't access it and the internet moves on. Their responses are so beautiful, I can't let that happen. So in a fatigued panic, I put half my money into the hosting. I can get by for a little while without food, but Gamer Mom needs to keep going. Only a few donations so far (I realize only after several hours of the game's popularity that I had messed up the donation link, and thousands of potential donors had not had access to that page.), but I decide that I'll put that money into hosting that isn't pay-what-you-use. I call Harel, he searches the web, and the only hosting service he can find which has reasonable prices for a terabyte of monthly bandwidth is vps.net, which he is not familiar with. I sign up, and cannot make heads or tails of it. But the money in the hosting keeps ticking down, and if I go to sleep before transferring the hosting, it may be offline by the time I wake up. Yardena plays Gamecube to keep me company, under the theory that having someone in the room with me will add pressure to get things done and not drift off. It is keeping me focused on my computer screen, but what is on that screen is making no sense to me. I don't know what "namespaces" or "virtual private servers" or "DNS resource records" are. I can't even figure out how to SSH into vps.net, let alone transfer the hosting there without downtime. Harel tries to explain basic internet concepts to me, but I have not had enough sleep and my brain is mush. After many hours of staring at what seems like a foreign language without any information entering my brain, I put even more money into nearlyfreespeech.net and go to sleep. The next morning I send the password to Harel so that he can do the work for me, and he can't get vps.net to work either because apparently it's just bad. So he recommends the ethically-dubious godaddy.com for its pricing, and at this point I will do just about anything to keep the game on the internet so I go through the setup process and discover that even with the donations and even with a 30% off coupon that Harel gave me, the money I have to my name is just a dollar short of being able to pay for a month of hosting now that I've fed all that money into the other service. With just hours to go until a two-day holiday in which I can't use electronics, I try to think of ways to get money. Is there any way I can get money into my account, or get money from my parents, or ask Kyler (on vacation in Europe) to pay for it, or...? No. Even running around like a crazy person, even with Harel doing nothing but helping me for all that time, even with people supporting me all over, I can't set up hosting in a matter of hours. I hadn't had time to make any preparations at all for the holiday! So I thank Harel, and tell him that I'm just going to let the game go down. I put an urgent message on the donation link's hover text, saying that we need money to keep Gamer Mom on the internet. If we get money it'll still go offline some time in the next day or two (because I won't be available to put the money in), but after that we'd be able to keep it up. Almost immediately after adding this message, I get a small donation which I put into nearlyfreespeech.net. Probably not enough to keep it up for two days, but enough for a few extra hours. With the rest of my limited time before Shabbat, I read all the nice things people are saying about my work.

26-27 May 2012

27-31 May 2012

I turn on my computer. Gamer Mom is still online - the money was apparently enough. Two hundred Canadian dollars in donation money, now. I take off the message saying donations are urgent, and the donations stop. I decide to leave the game on nearlyfreespeech.net, to not impose on Harel any more.

Jay Bibby of the major game site jayisgames.com contacts us, asking whether he can host the game. I provide everything he needs, and it is quickly added to the site along with a very positive review. Thousands of new players pour in at this additional address.

I get addicted to following the Gamer Mom reactions. Every plan I make gets interrupted by hours of scouring the web for reviews, discussions and idle references. God bless the internet, the king of all time-wasters.

I start having trouble remembering lines in play rehearsals.

01 June 2012

01 June 2012

I go back to Beit Shemesh for Shabbat, not because I want to but because I have no money for food and at my parents' house I won't go hungry. The rent is due.

Shavuot 2012

Shavuot is one of the few holidays I actually enjoy. The tradition of staying up all night, wandering from lecture to lecture, appeals to me more than maybe any other tradition in Judaism. It combines so many things I like: thinking about things, wandering around, staying up late. Even in Beit Shemesh, Shavuot was always an exciting experience. I expected that Shavuot in Jerusalem would be even better. It might have been, if I'd had the time to plan out my night. Unfortunately, I found only five minutes to hurriedly search Google for talks. The item at the top of the list was a series at the Shalom Hartman Institute, which (Google Maps informed me) is in walking distance of my apartment. I didn't have time to check what the Hartman Institute was, or what the talks were about, or even what language the talks were in. So I went, and it was certainly interesting if not prticularly convincing. It was a succession of talks about how really, any kind of Judaism you want to go by is perfectly fine, and let's not get too particular about which kind of Judaism makes more sense than others. I gather that everything at the Hartman Institute is like that.

It ended very early, so I went home and started looking through the Khumash for myself. I got stuck on the sotah section, which decrees that a woman who is suspected of adultery should be poisoned and declared guilty unless she's fortunate enough for the poison to not kill her. Try as I might, I couldn't find any way to interpret the section in a way that's not hideously wrong. It's so blunt about what it's saying that there's no room for any interpretations at all. It says that whether or not the woman actually did anything, her husband is right to put her through this and she deserves whatever she gets.

I started wondering whether the Hartman Institute was right, and we should pick and choose which parts of the Torah to follow. But then it all seems kind of arbitrary. "I need to make sure Gamer Mom stays on the internet, so I'll ignore Shabbat this week!", "I've decided to have another God, so I'll just overlook the place where it says that that's a problem.", "I see that guy cutting wheat on Shabbat, but I'm choosing not to kill him even though I really should!" (Wait a minute...). I don't know, maybe it is arbitrary. Certainly I'm not keeping what little I am from Judaism because it makes sense to me, I'm just using Orthodoxy as a place holder until the theoretical day that I try to figure out my own take on the Torah. The story of Sotah makes me think that maybe that's not even theoretically possible, though. I don't know that I'd be comfortable with a philosophy that's so internally inconsistent. I can accept internal inconsistencies only when I'm not thinking about them.

After these thoughts, I went to sleep. I desperately needed that sleep, seeing as how I'd been going to bed later and later in the preceding days. Say what you will about Judaism, but there's definitely something to the "day of rest" thing. This was the first time in my life that I actually looked forward to a two-day holiday (rather than dreading it). Even without having made concrete plans for food (For half the meals I just had bagels with cream cheese.) or socializing or really anything else, the fact that I couldn't work on the game meant that I could relax. I could read Lewis Carroll's Phantasmagoria (How had I never heard of such a brilliant story?), I could talk about Gamer Mom with friends of Yardena's, I could attend Yardena's pancake-fest, I could sit and do nothing; and through all of it, I didn't feel the need to be doing anything. It was lovely. Every previous holiday was spent in my parents' house, and while they were running around frantically beforehand and then feeling relieved to be starting, I always felt detached from the ritual and its purpose. Now that I'm living on my own (or to be more precise, with Yardena), it's different. It makes sense now.

(Maybe other parts of Judaism only make sense in context, as well. Can't imagine a context in which the Sotah laws make sense, though.)

The end of Shavuot felt like a ticking time bomb. As soon as the holiday ended, I'd need to learn what was going on with my site. And that would mean having to deal with what was going on with my site. I had no idea what that entailed, or whether I was capable of it. The specifics of my problems were far from my mind, but something of the tension stayed with me.

27-31 May 2012


2012, May 31st, 18:30 and 23 seconds

Hello, world.

So. Gamer Mom's been getting some reactions.

From Rob for the blog "World One Two":
Gamer Mom is one of the most important indies produced this year. It is a call for games to hold meaning, to be genuine, to say something.
axeman157

This is how I felt when I tried to get my friends into Dwarf Fortress.
doo dad wrote:
this game isn’t very interesting. i could tell it was written by some nerd by the writing. it just doesn’t feel real at all, felt more like the deluded reality of someone who feels they are victimized when really they’re actually confusing victimization with not getting their way all the time.
harald from the Adventure Gamers forum:
I remember your earlier posts about this, but I’m still not sure about the concept. It doesn’t feel like much more than a variation on my least favourite adventure game puzzle: the dialogue maze. It was fun to try out the different combinations for a while, but it gets old quickly. Also, it’s frustrating to get loads and loads of depressing endings but never be rewarded (if there hadn’t been a message assuring me that there was a way to get them to play, I would never have spent as much time with it as I did). Though I guess the “everyday blues” theme might just not be what I’m looking for in games, and I shouldn’t let that affect my impression of your concept.

But in the end all I see is a huge dialogue puzzle. Reluctantly, I’m reminded of my favourite adventure game series; the Tex Murphy games, whose dialogue trees could be terribly difficult to get through. In both cases there is too little indication of which conversation path the game designer wants you to take, so you end up either guessing or brute-forcing your way through. And with “Gamer Mom” the combinations are too many for these approaches to work. (I realise that was probably the intention.) I can imagine that it’s lots of fun to script a huge dialogue structure like this, but I’m having difficulty seeing where the entertainment value for me as a player comes in.
Patricia Hernandez for Kotaku: Gamer Mom is a short adventure game that puts you in the shoes of a mother just trying to have a conversation with her family. That alone is unusual—it's not a typical role to put a player in, after all. What is also curious about the game is that the mom is trying to rope either her husband or her daughter into playing World of Warcraft with her, of all things. Or, at least listen to her talk about it.

While the visuals may look rushed at first glance, they manage to capture the feel of the situation really well. The dialogue is also noteworthy, as its a poignant reminder of the difficulty in communication we sometimes have—even with those closest to us. What the game captures above all is nuance in conversations, particularly with creating a sense of futility in this case.
All I could think, going through this, is that if you are an adult who seriously thinks that your teenager needs to enjoy the same activities that you do, you are really not remembering at all what it's like to be a teenager. And the husband just seems to be a jerk. I've never played WoW, but I've been spending a good deal of my free time on the internet since the mid-90s, and I've never had anybody act like this about it who I would willingly spend more than ten minutes talking to about anything else in the world, either.

But if it was really put together by a guy who isn't living in this situation, it's no wonder. It's projecting how he *thinks* people are about things like WoW, without ever having experienced how people are about things like WoW. Any hobby can be overdone, but without ever having played, because my SO does, I am perfectly capable of understanding what it means when she says that she's frustrated because the person who was tanking for this raid is awful and they've wiped four times or whatever, and I can sympathize. I don't need to also play to say hey, that's cool, when she tells me her druid hit 85. She doesn't play so much that she ignores me, so I don't mind it at all that she plays, and I take the same kind of interest that she does in my schoolwork.

If you start resenting your family members for not taking your hobbies seriously when you don't respect what they do with their own time, then the problem is not wholly with them. I really feel for this guy's relations.
posted by gracedissolved
I love how intense these IF games can be, but this one is especially hard for me, simply because this scenario literally played out in my family, WoW and all. I'm a gamer who had previously avoided WoW, but otherwise I'm a good mix of the daughter and the husband. Our story ended a bit differently - I played, and I enjoyed it while it lasted, but it didn't fix anything. When I quit (and even while I played), everything was just as bad as before.

The thing is, this game takes a snapshot of a problem that has been developing in its characters' lives for years. And that problem has a lot to do with who the mother is, as well as her expectations and resistance to change. It's impossible not to empathize with the lonely mother. But it's almost certainly too late to fix what's been broken, and I'm afraid it's only going to get worse.

Either way, thanks for the replay. It's nice to know someone ruminates on these emotions and ideas thoroughly enough to encapsulate them in a game. Posted by: Mantus
Stephen Roberts says:

There’s something so remarkably human and empathy-generating about this game that I wonder what it is doing that other games don’t. It’s like other games are escapism and this is the very opposite, an examination of a fractured human interaction where incomplete control and identifiable characters plaster sympathy and empathy on the participant in heavy, oily blobs. The recognisability here is almost unsettling.

I don’t know if the ‘good’ ending is really a solution to what appear to be much deeper problems. And that makes it a very compelling little narrative.
Naomi Clark ‏@metasynthie
Sad games rooted in real life can be infinitely more soul-crushing than games rooted solely in escapism. To wit: http://adventure.gamism.org/gamer_mom/
anna anthropy ‏@auntiepixelante
so there's a lot of text in the source for gamer mom that makes the author out to be creepy, sociopathic and misogynist
Vaniver

Mory Buckman is eight people: the explorer, the worker, the gamer, the musician, the programmer, the thinker, the addict, and the person. (He's also not neurotypical.) It looks like a fascinating case study of Hansonian "model yourself as multiple agents and make deals between them," especially because he's been doing it for over a year, he writes quite a bit of notes, scores himself, and has regular conferences between the personalities that are posted to the blog. I haven't read enough to provide any intelligent commentary, but wanted to raise it to the attention interested in that sort of modeling.

He wrote Gamer Mom, an adventure game about convincing your family to share an experience with you, which is a design masterpiece (but also fairly depressing, so don't get too involved unless you're willing to take an emotional hit).
Apples says:

I actually thought the husband was a pretty sympathetic character. He’s busy, he has a distant teenage daughter who he can’t identify with and a wife who seems to only be interested in something that, compared to his work, looks incredibly trivial. He offers some compliments about food and responds to her talking about her day, so he’s not some evil monster. When she started crying he seemed genuinely concerned and worried, but I ballsed up it by bringing it back to WoW, and instantly realised what a complete berk she must look to him. Crying over a videogame while he’s trying to actually financially support the family.

Of course the videogame wasn’t the problem, it was the lack of cohesion as a family, but she wasn’t helping by completely failing to express that, and trying to force everyone into doing things HER way.

Are the source code comments part of the ‘act’ of the game or completely unironic? They paint a portrait of an absolutely horrible person.

edit: the daughter seemed like kind of a cock but we all were at that age, surely. I can’t blame her for thinking her mom is cripplingly lame, and actually I was on her side when she called her mom out on embarrassing herself by literally leaping up from the table in enthusiasm about WoW.
Muflax wrote:
The game itself deserves elaborate discussion, and is a true piece of genius, and if Mordechai lived anywhere near me, I’d go and play Zelda with him this instant for making something so beautiful, even though I don’t particularly like Zelda, but I won’t say much about Gamer Mom. I’m already writing a post about the movie Tangled, so I’ll address similar points soon.

But now, I’d like to comment on Mordechai himself, or rather, my past self wearing the mask of Mordechai. ... I’m deeply puzzled by this search for connection, and not just in him, but also especially in myself. It’s there, but I don’t know what it’s for. I wonder what the fuck I’m actually looking for because it sure as hell ain’t a soul-mate. The people who do think like me I ignore, don’t hook up with, don’t try to in any way deepen the relationship, in any kind of configuration whatsoever.

This here is the best-case scenario. People are connecting with the game, they're interested in me (which I thought wouldn't happen 'til I really got my act together), and when I release my next game "from that guy who made Gamer Mom" will have a little bit of weight with some people. Which means it can't be Angles & Circles or another experiment in that vein, it needs to be something people will care about. My life needs to meet a higher standard now; I can't have one great day surrounded by mediocrity when my performance reviews are actually being read by people all over the world!



2012, May 24th, 07:08 and 29 seconds

Gamer Mom

A character adventure game by Mordechai Buckman and Kyler Kelly

nine comments, the last one being from Holt
Blogger Rachel Helps said:

Is there a way to win this game? Or is it an exercise in saddness :-/?

 Mory said:

You can get them to play. It is as you say an "exercise in sadness", though, so I wouldn't advise getting too focused on winning.

Blogger Rachel Helps said:

I still haven't seen all the combinations! I did a little headliner on your game though http://killscreendaily.com/headlines/will-no-one-play-world-warcraft-gamer-mom/

Anonymous said:

pleaase release a guide?
I have the Obsessive Compulsive Syndrome and I can't sleep without finishing this. . .
please be considerate

 Mory said:

Well, if you donate you can download the original script. It's not quite a guide, but it'll tell you how to get to anything that's in the game.

Anonymous said:

Hi! I played "Gamer Mom" and I like it very much. It is very interesting when I see my mother and i can role play her in this game. My mother dont know WoW, but problems is this same.

Blogger Conzeit said:

You really need to re-read the conversation at Auntie's blog if that quote is all you can take out of it, some people there are actually genuinely concerned for you. I would like to talk to you about your view on games privately because I feel I've had that kind of inclination but the point to which you've become attached to it is not really good for you.

 Mory said:

I've reread the conversation on Auntie Pixelante's blog many times - I find it very entertaining. At first I was really angry that people could misjudge me so completely, especially after I'd been so bluntly honest, but now I'm just amused by how out of left field it all is.

I don't "respect women"? My roommate, who is a woman, has reassured me that she would strongly disagree with you. (Her wording involved a curse word, and I will not repeat it here. :) )
"Unable to practice empathy"? No, I quite enjoy listening to people and empathizing with them. Not many people will do the same with me because I am an unrepentant oddball, but I really am not that cold.
I "try to disseminate [my] favorite game like a religion"? Okay, guilty as charged. :D That shouldn't be offensive behavior, it's just a way in which I am weird. (And a way I am quite proud of, incidentally. My emotional attachment to games is what got me to start making games.)

There were a lot of comments in that thread that I wanted to reply to directly, but for some reason every time I tried to post a comment it gave me an error message. So I contacted Anna directly (This blog post has drawn my attention to her work, by the way, and I admire it a great deal.), and she told me that it's unreasonable to expect women to be perfectly honest when they've been conditioned by society to be scared of violent retaliation for honesty. It's a fair point, I accept it, and I've decided as a response to never get too attached to the idea of dating anyone. (The one awkward incident which has been discussed was my one and only dating/love experience.) The closer I get to someone, the more I'm naturally going to want for them to be like me. And that can be harmful, given that I may never meet someone who is actually like me, so I should keep my distance.

Anyway, I really do have my life under control, I don't have most of the problems that the commenters seemed to think I did, and I think my life is in a relatively healthy place right now. But I always welcome a chance to get to know somebody new, so if you'd like to talk to me about anything at all, e-mail me at Mory@TheBuckmans.com or call me on Skype (morybuckman).

Blogger Holt said:

You sir , you are a real artist ...... I didn´t finish the game (with the good ending) , but the way the comments in the source code enriched the story in a very delightful way ....... It was a journey. Cool songs too ...

Post a Comment


2012, May 11th, 14:00 and 08 seconds

1. Move2. Adjust3. Rationalize

Day 11 of living in Jerusalem, and I'm finding it hard to remember what the point of this move was. I'd been thinking about getting out of my parents' house for years, but deciding to actually do it was as impulsive as most of the big decisions in my life. I don't do things because there's sense to it, I do things because they seem like neat things to do. I try to find the sense later. And in this case, I'm not seeing it. To be clear: I'm not considering going back to Beit Shemesh. I'm going to stay here as long as I possibly can. I'd just like to find a good excuse for doing so, because right now I've got nothing.

The fact of the matter is, my life is basically the same as it was. I'm alone in the apartment for most of the day, but in my parents' house I had so little interaction with my family -and it was so usually quiet in the house- that I'm barely perceiving a difference. Sure, I can sing as loudly and as strangely as I want and I won't care about bothering anyone because I don't know or care to know the neighbors, but that's more than offset by not having a piano anymore. It's great to live in a city I love, rather than the middle of nowhere, but it's not like I'm going to be leaving the house for long most days. It's fun to be a ten-minute walk from the rehearsals, but it's a twenty minute walk to the local game night (while in Beit Shemesh it was next door).

There are only four significant things that have changed since the move. First, it is much more awkward to play videogames. There's an old TV here that Yardena was going to throw out, and when I connect my American consoles to this Israeli set they will only display in black and white. I received a helpful comment from P.A.W. right underneath this post, which told me how to switch my Wii's output to PAL and get the color back. It worked, but most of my Wii games don't actually support PAL. I will spare you the tedious details of the situation, but let's just say I can't really use my Wii the way I used to. Plus, the TV is quite broken -the only way I can even get it to turn on involves a piece of plastic placed just so with a heavy weight preventing it from escaping. I'm thinking I'll throw this TV out and get a different one. But for now, there's much awkwardness and frustration.

The second and more problematic change is that I have no working internet connection. I bought a wireless card, but as it turns out it doesn't really support Linux and now my wireless settings are so messed up from all the hours of trying to get this thing to work that I don't know if I'd be able to get any network connection set up anymore. After all of that frustration, I can sort of almost maybe connect to the internet. With enough patience, I can check my e-mail (in GMail's barebones HTML mode) and sometimes even respond. But I certainly can't download anything, or stream music, or update my blog. The only reason I'm able to upload this post here is because Yardena has been kind enough to let me use her computer.

Yardena is the third change. Everyone warned me that being a roommate isn't the same as being a friend, and that as soon as we were living together we'd be annoyed by lots of little things about each other that wouldn't otherwise have bothered us. That has not happened. Yardena and I are as close and as comfortable in our friendship as ever, and this may be a problem. I have a policy to never turn down an opportunity to socialize, even if it comes at the expense of my own activities. And now I have opportunities to socialize every single day, and for hours at a time. Whatever else I had planned gets put on hold so that we can hang out, talk about life, watch TV shows, play videogames, etc.. And I think it's really good for her to have someone to talk to regularly. She said to me at one point that she felt like I was the one part of her life that wasn't messed up. I don't need to talk to her that much because I always have my selves to keep me company, but it's nice to feel needed. Plus, I'm getting her to play videogames. How cool is that? She's like the sister I never had.

The last big difference between here and Beit Shemesh is that suddenly money means something. When I go to my data entry job, it's not primarily for the fun of it anymore. It's so that I can get to keep living here. The panic of needing to get more money quickly has not settled in yet, but I'm sure it will and I'll find a way to adapt. Hopefully a way which doesn't suck up so much of my life that between that and all the socializing there's no time for any of the things that matter.

Presumably the point of all of this is to learn to be independent. But this isn't quite the deep end of independence. My parents came to help me move, my father even assembling a computer table in the room. My mother keeps stocking me up with food, which I'm not going to say no to because it's less money I need to spend on shopping. (The only thing I've bought for myself so far is milk and cola from the minimarket across the street.) I know exactly what I'd need to do to stock up -there's a supermarket ten minutes away, a bagel store five minutes away- but I haven't needed to yet. And in the first week, my mother offered to wash all my laundry. I'm not going to have her do that again because it's a hassle to carry it all back and forth and it really isn't such a big deal to do laundry. My mother is alone in the house with her dog Fudgie now, and she wants to feel like she's doing something.

And then I've got Yardena on top of that. Before I moved in, she was talking about how she was going to try to make it really easy for me and I said to her: "I'm just going to be living there. You don't need to take care of me." She paused, considered, and replied that she'd never thought of that. She always tried to look after her previous roommates, she says. With me, that amounts to trying to give me food, which I always refuse because I don't want that kind of dynamic between us. She made some chicken last night which did smell really good, and she insisted that I should eat some but I said no. "You're taking away my motherly need to give people food!", she half-joked.

Everything is made so easy for me that there's been barely any difficulty at all in settling in. If I'm supposed to be learning some hard lessons about life that might help me later, I'm not sure what they are. Maybe it's an exercise in time management? In some ways I'm happier here, and in some ways I'm more frustrated. But for the most part, my life is pretty much what it's been for the past year. It doesn't seem like a change worth thousands of shekels a month. I could argue that it's less of an imposition on my parents, but my mother's spending so much time and money on food for me that that's barely true. I'm sparing them some electricity and water charges, I guess.

So I don't know why I'm here. But I'm going to have to figure that out, because I'm not leaving. This is home now. The day I left my parents' house, I pulled the dresser away from the door of my room. It was there to discourage people from infringing on my private space, but it's not my private space anymore. That room doesn't belong to me, it belongs to my parents. I've taken what I needed from it, and now they can do whatever they like with it. I still visit Beit Shemesh for Shabbat, because I wouldn't know how to make nice meals for myself and I'm more comfortable taking food from my parents than I am taking food from anyone here. I don't have much there. I play piano, eat with my family, hang out with friends, wait for Shabbat to end, and then return home.

I don't know why I'm here. But ask me again in a few months, and I'll have found a reason or two.


eight comments, the last one being from Daniel Meir
Blogger P.A.W. said:

Is the black and white problem caused by trying to use NTSC consoles on a PAL TV? If so, you could try using AnyRegion Changer (http://wiibrew.org/wiki/AnyRegion_Changer) to change the Wii's video mode to PAL.
For your other consoles a SCART RGB cable should work, provided that the TV has a SCART socket, the console supports RGB output, and the cable is carrying a RGB signal, not composite.

 Mory said:

Thanks, I'll try that.

 Mory said:

I used AnyRegion Changer, and it worked. Unfortunately, the majority of my Wii games do not support PAL, but a few of them (including The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword) play in color now. And now that I see that the Wii can output PAL, I've taken to running my Gamecube games from Gecko to force PAL mode and all of them seem to work like that. Thank you so much.

I do think I'm going to get a different TV, though. This one causes way too many problems.

Anonymous said:

Ah moving out..
I remember discovering that living in dorms was the best time of my life. Not because I had better conditions (I didn't) but because there was something beautifully mine about the tattered mattress and bare shelves.
I felt like a real person in ways I never did before.

Anonymous said:

Re: your latest status update. well done on a productive day!

Tamir said:

It's funny, I just told someone today that Gamer Mom should be out in about a week before reading that post where you said the same.

I'm really looking forward to this! Gamer Mom being the first game you've made that (in my opinion) is widely accessible, I'm planning on spreading it to people I know. Is it weird that I'm excited about this?

Anonymous said:

Well, I decided to go through your source code after a tip from a game blog I was reading to do so. I just want to say this. Thank you for your writing and comments on your code. You have a gift to really express something beautiful, and really capture what people like myself feel in the dull world I live in.

Thank you so much.

Blogger Daniel Meir said:

Just wanted to second the post above me. Those javascript comments were the most meaningful thing I've read in months.

Post a Comment




2012, May 1st, 22:04 and 15 seconds

View the garbled remnants of April 2012Daily performance reviews for April 2012:(Rules)

Reflections on April 2012



2012, May 7th, 11:44 and 33 seconds

Yardena, part 2

I joined The Importance of Being Earnest, even though I didn't really have the time for it, because Yardena was the assistant director and I wanted to hang out with her more. That worked out very nicely - Yardena's apartment was only a twelve-minute walk away from the rehearsals, so even when she didn't come to rehearsal I would go to her house and talk for hours, only cutting it short because I was afraid I'd miss the last bus back to Beit Shemesh if I stayed any later. We talked about life and love and the play, and while Yardena talked more than I did, I was always happy to listen.

When Sura, the director of the play, said how many rehearsals there were going to be, I got worried and calculated an estimate of the money I'd be spending on transportation between my home in Beit Shemesh and the rehearsal space in Jerusalem. It amounted to over a thousand shekels. So Yardena offered to let me stay by her any time I wanted to avoid a trip. Her previous roommate had gotten married and moved out, and she didn't have a new roommate yet, so there was a nice room going unused. At first I was wary of the idea - the only reason I'd stayed over the first time (March 10th) was because Harel and Rachel were also there, and it seemed less inappropriate to sleep over at a woman's house if there was another man there too. But the endless bus rides were tedious, so I brought a change of clothes to rehearsal one evening and slept in Yardena's spare room. It was so convenient that I started staying over at Yardena's once or twice a week.

Any fears I had about the arrangement being awkward were quickly dispelled. Yardena was always really happy to host, and never treated my presence as an imposition. She was out working at her frustrating job all day, and she let me use her computer while she was out. At first I just watched the TV shows and movies she'd downloaded which I'd planned to watch at home, but eventually I did get some work done. And after a few times of staying over, I was comfortable enough with using her computer to install Braid (which I'd bought, but was unable to run on my own low-end computer) on it and start playing. Then I'd walk to the rehearsal.

While Sura was dealing with a wedding, Yardena took over the rehearsals and focused on characterization rather than staging (since Sura could veto any of the staging when returned). The atmosphere was a lot more laid back with Yardena in charge, which made for a very enjoyable social experience, though it wasn't ideal for the play. Being a group of people who generally like each other we were prone to going off on tangents, and Yardena was enjoying those tangents too much to pull us back to the scene. (When the rehearsal was moving forward, though, Yardena had a lot of good ideas.) At one small rehearsal, Josh mentioned a Game of Thrones season-premiere party he was attending that evening, and all of us -myself, Yardena, Lianne- were eager to join him. So we wrapped up the rehearsal a little bit early and had a good time at the party. Yardena wanted to leave before the Season 1 trivia competition, and I was staying over with her that evening (having another rehearsal the next day) so I left with her. We went home, chatted a bit, and then watched Mad Men together. From then on, any time I stayed over we ended the evening by watching TV together.

Yardena introduced me to Avatar: The Last Airbender, which I spent a week addicted to. I watched The Voice U.K. because an episode was sitting on her hard drive, and I wrote those silly little blog posts about it. The other priorities in my life were getting pushed down, but I didn't mind because they were such good shows. Not that quality was necessary - if I was over and the only shows she'd found to download that day were trashy, then we watched trashy shows. It's not like I had anything else to do there without a computer. (I hadn't been carrying my Nintendo DS much since the stylus had fallen apart, simply because it was mildly inconvenient.) I enjoyed the company.

I knew it couldn't last - it was a nice apartment right in the heart of the city, and even though Yardena kept putting off the search for a new roommate (due to a general lack of energy at this point in her life) I knew it would not be long until the empty room was taken. I asked her how much rent would cost, I knew I couldn't afford it for more than a month or two, and that was that.

We had a few bitter arguments, over these few weeks. They were my fault, of course -a result of my stubborn policy of always treating friends the way I would wish for them to treat me. If someone pointed out a problem in my life, I'd turn the idea over and over until I found a counter-argument or -failing that- agree with them. If the problem were raised in a reasonable manner, and not just used as a petty insult, I'd always appreciate the honest criticism. Yardena is more sensitive and has very low self-esteem, but I do not significantly alter my behavior for her. So I would mention problems in her life, and she would get hurt. I would then apologize profusely, ask what I could do to make it up, etc. -because I would hate to lose such a good friend. She would write a few letters, I'd write a few letters, we'd talk out the problem and come out of it with a stronger friendship.

What makes it work is that we're not pretending anything. I have been perfectly upfront about all my strange attitudes and behaviors, and she has been really open about everything that bothers her. We know that we can say anything to each other, without being dismissed as crazy.

One Shabbat at the typically-dreary dinner table, my father was prodding me to move out of the house. "Okay.", I said. This surprised him, of course -the teaser doesn't expect the tease-ee to actually do anything. But I knew I wasn't going to get another opportunity this good. After Shabbat I called Yardena and asked if the room was still available, she said yes, and here I am. It's very different, living with someone I like. It might not be good for my productivity to be this happy.

2012, May 1st, 1:37 and 58 seconds

The Cat's Away

Let's take a moment to recap the blog so far. At first I was a useless lump. Then I tried to force myself to get things done. This led to my first two games, but also much depression. Inventing a new personality for myself meant fighting the existing one, and that personality fought back. In the end there was a messy fight between versions 1.0 and 2.0 of me, and I decided that from then on I would be the type of person whose goals and nature were united. And if I wasn't that type of person, I'd fake it 'til it became true. (Why didn't I just let the "adult" version of me win, you ask? Because I don't believe he has it in him to hold on to childish dreams in the face of reality.) Then I had a profound experience in amateur theater, where I changed my personality and had one of the most meaningful months of my life because of it. I decided that the perfect version of me that I wanted to aspire to was actually lots of different personalities, which I'd switch between to achieve a kind of superhuman versatility.

But in most situations, versatility is not an obvious or easy choice. In almost every context, just getting the work done without asking questions is a perfectly effective approach. I call that side of me "The Worker", and we have been leaning on him more than anyone else. For the past few months the Worker has been taking more and more of our time and focus, because it seems like there's too much to deal with at any point and the Worker is so calm and confident and is always willing to bear the load. But we've been suffering for it. As we finish up Gamer Mom, we have absolutely no idea what we'll be doing next. Earlier that would have been unthinkable - there would be plans and dreams and excitement and the next thing would always be even more awesome than whatever it was we were doing. But we don't know what the next thing is, because in all the running around we haven't stopped to generate any interest in the future. The Musician and the Gamer, previously sources of inspiration, have been marginalized over the past few months because they just don't fit into the Worker's deadlines. The Thinker, ostensibly the leader of the group, allowed himself to become irrelevant by taking away the ambiguity from our collective identity. He hasn't had any meaningful thoughts in months. Our music has come to a standstill. Our gaming has become infrequent. Few ideas are occurring to us in any context. A decade ago I liked to say that I shouldn't grow up because adults are dead inside. Who knew?- I was right!

To the Thinker's credit, when the Worker demanded all of March, the Thinker offered him only half, and required the concession that the Worker would only be allowed on one or two days of April. We could not let the Worker control our future. The Worker, being an agreeable person, agreed. He did what he could in March (which was a lot), and then he left.

There were no real characters played after that. In the first week, I watched the entire series of Avatar: The Last Airbender. I also watched a dozen other shows, and when I wasn't watching I was waiting for more shows to become available. You see, the Worker was always Mory 2.0. And when he's gone, I'm just a useless lump again. It would be easy, and maybe even obvious, to say that this entire multiple-personality system is a sham, and that everything on this blog after March 2010 is an increasingly flimsy attempt to deny Mory 2.0 the unambiguous victory he deserves.

But I've been dreaming again. Not to the extent that I used to, I'll admit. But I've come up with some radical ideas for revamping the blog, which are so awesome in concept that chances are we're just going to ignore them until they go away. And I came up with a crazy idea for turning one of my Five Games into a potentially massive phenomenon with young girls without sacrificing one iota of artistic integrity. I used to come up with outlandish ideas for reinventing my other ideas every day, and somewhere along the way I just got comfortable with where my mind was sitting. That's the point where ideas die, sapped of all momentum and emotional investment.

Here I am, in a room in Jerusalem that is now mine, writing words that are flowing freely out of my fingers like they've been dying to come out all this time, even managing to work in a self-reference like the good old days without it being purely gimmicky, and I am here simply because I'm not working. There was no blog post at the end of March because there was no time in the schedule for it. Projects needed to be continued, deadlines needed to be met, perfection needed to be pursued. If the Worker had any say at all right now, I would be unpacking my things instead of following the Rules and being addicted to the creation of this delightful little post. If the Worker had had any presence at all in April, I would have responded to the idea of moving out with dismissal ("Eventually, when it works into my plans.") rather than saying "Okay.".

We've gotten too comfortable, fellas. And the blog, as always, puts us back on track. I am not the Worker. And I am proud of that.





Back

After writing "The Cat's Away", the Addict started a conference looking for some drama.
(character list)

The blog is essential. I hope you all see that now.

I do.

Excuse me? Is there something I'm missing?

Yes. Reflecting tells us where we're going, what's wrong. You, for instance.

Excuse me?

You just say the same thing over and over again. This is exactly what I'm talking about.

Let's please not do this.

I don't understand.

You wouldn't.

If you have something to say to me, say it.

Okay, I think I will. There has been no real progress on the blog in months, and it's your fault.

Mine?

Yes. You are just like Shoshana. You drag us all down with you. We repress ourselves to the point where we have nothing to offer, all because you are so certain of what it is that you know.

I think the Worker's certainty in his orders is extremely beneficial...

Ouch.

I have no idea what you are talking about. Have I done something?!

No, I have. I gave you too much power.

No more than you gave the Programmer in this past month. Not my fault he didn't deal with it properly.

I don't like ordering people around.

I was telling you how to be efficient!

Worker...

No, you listen to me. I have been the only one of this group to do anything at all. I have been pushing forward while all the rest of you wait for me to do the work. I got things done because no one else would step up and get them done. I was the only one who you knew would be reliable. And then you gang up on me, when all I did was what all of you should have been doing and what you were relying on me to do! How many times did all of you promise to do things and not do them? Well, I set goals and deadlines and for the most part I met them. I'm not perfect. I'm not good enough. But I am trying, and that's a damn sight more than any of you!

Worker, calm down. You still have a place in the group.

Damn your place in the group! None of you have ever respected me and what I bring to the table.

You were the only one who was ever respected. You "got things done", as you say. The rest of us are just ourselves.

What have I ever done to deserve this kind of treatment? Are you going to force me out of the group?

Or I suppose I should say "force me out of existence". That's what this is, let's not beat around the bush.

No. We are going to rely on you, but you are one of eight. You will not have preferential treatment. And in this month, I think we should resolve to find how we can manage without necessarily expecting you to do all the heavy lifting.

Man, go easy on him. Look, I'm sorry, Worker. You're right, this is all ridiculous.

Oh my god, you really are going to get rid of me.

No one's getting rid of you.

Are you hearing any of this?!

Do I even get a say in all this?

I am enjoying this.

I think there's a misunderstanding here. All we're talking about is shifting priorities around a bit.

It really isn't. The Worker gave us everything he had, and you're all acting like he's some kind of criminal.

Don't exaggerate. There was no hostility intended.

Oh no, go on. The hostility was good. Time it goes the other way for once.

What is your problem?

When's the last time I had a day? And recently I explained to the Thinker why according to the Rules I should get a day, and how I'd make more of it than anyone else, and he agreed and then proceeded to not give me the day. But you? You always get the day, even when your heart's not in it. What makes you so special?

I did nothing wrong.

And maybe if something makes me "special", it's that I don't sit around doing nothing all day.

Or I try not to, at least. Can't say I always pull it off.

I have some sense of a goal.

I always have some goal in mind. Always. Maybe it's the end of a level, maybe it's a high score, maybe it's saving the world. There's always something.

What? This is an okay attitude, but when I try to live in the real world suddenly I'm the crazy person?!

You are living in fiction. You run around in circles and pretend you're going places. When things are actually happening and require attention, I'm going to give that attention.

So could the Explorer, or the Addict, or the Programmer, or even the Musician possibly.

The musician?!

Why not? Maybe I wouldn't be so literal, maybe I would bring a more abstract touch to whatever it is that I'd be called on for.

What... does that even mean?

Yes, what does it mean, Musician?

Well, I for one look forward to finding out.

This is ridiculous. What, is he going to sing at problems?

Maybe I will. It might be effective.

The terrible thing is, I can't tell if you're serious. That's how crazy you all are, all the time.

You are not better than us. This sense of superiority you have is exactly why it's so nice to see you not being worshipped for a change.

I have never been given anything more than I earned through honest work.

I'm bored. Is anyone else here bored? I think we have a nice, long blog post and let's call it a day. Worker, love you.

I have no idea what is wrong with you people.

Then maybe we should try to explain ourselves better.

No! Gah. It's always talking with you. Enough talking! The talking just forces me to deal with all your annoying personalities. I don't want to talk, I just want to be allowed to show you that I am capable and reliable and I would like it if my work could be appreciated instead of spit on. That's all.

Oh, blog, how I've missed you. These are the glory days, after all.

And this is the sort of annoying talking I am referring to. Leave me alone, all of you.


This is where I'll put any posts related to the TV show "The Voice".
It's not one of my favorite shows, but it's a curious little thing and I enjoy talking about it.

Click a link on the left to read a post.

2012, April 1st, 02:56 and 55 seconds

View the Worker's month: March 2012Daily performance reviews for March 2012:(Rules)
I don't have time now to reflect on what happened this month. Maybe it was good, maybe it was bad; either way I'm stuck with the consequences. April will be interesting, and it's starting now whether I'm ready for it or not.

2012, March 16th, 0:27 and 19 seconds

The Dialogues

The Rules

As a way to make the most of the various facets of my personality, I have a system by which I daily choose one of eight characters to play, each one being some positive aspect of myself. We continually add new rules to this system, but we recognize that rules are not enough. Our personalities must be regularly sharpened through conversation between ourselves, to remind us of the differences between our world views and the particular skills that each of us brings to the table.

Character list (for reference)


Click a date to read the Dialogue.
  1. 2012, March 15th, 17:24 and 58 seconds
    Conclusion: To stay in character, actively reframe all activities to fit.


2012, April 10th

I want to be in a relationship with someone who will play our multiple-personality game with us. Not the same characters, of course, unless some of the characters suit her personality as well (and it would be awesome if some of them did), but a similar cast of characters modeled after her personality.

What would you get from this theoretical person which you don't get from us?

Multiplayer. It's really important.

When you're playing a solitaire game you can always quit in the middle, or cheat, or just not take the experience very seriously.

That's a problem. You should be taking these days as seriously as if we were all there in the room with you. That's what these dialogues are for.

That is what they're for, right?

Yes.

Fictional characters can't stand in for other people. They just can't.

I guess it boils down to the human brain not being capable of truly multitasking.

We can't really be all these people at once, so we take turns. And if we take turns, then we're not in the room with you.

If we came to this conference room more often, and respected it a little bit more, we'd be in better shape.

Sure, I'm sure, but you get more with other people. You get that objective voice which speaks up when you're not doing the best you could be doing.

I don't see any way we could simulate that without another person, as you say. The timing is important, that the message should come when there's a problem and not at some predetermined or arbitrary point.

It's not so much a message, more a sort of shared energy that keeps bouncing off one person and the other and keeps building and feeding on itself.

Oh my god, if there was someone else I could be myself with, and she were also an Explorer at the same time, can you imagine the sorts of adventures we'd have?

I've always wanted a band.

Two people can be enough of a band.

No it can't.

I think it actually could be. I just want the sense that I'm part of a group and we all exist just to make music as long as we're together.

Look, why can't we just have different people playing these different parts? We don't need one person who has everything, we could have musician friends and worker friends and explorer friends and gamer friends.

Not doable with the way the system is set up. We always switch to the Person when there are other people. It's always about interaction, or doing whatever they want to do. It's not about any particular personality.

That's just the way the system is now. We're redoing the system anyway, aren't we?

Maybe.

But there's a reason for the way the system is now. It's more honest. I don't want to be like my late grandmother, where all social interaction is actually some mind game designed to get something.

Honesty is overrated.

It absolutely is not. Honesty tells everyone where they stand, prevents misunderstandings and hurt feelings, and creates an open environment where any problems can be found and dealt with.

Let me rephrase, then: complete honesty is overrated.

Again, absolutely not. People who know me know that they can trust everything that I say, because I always say what I'm thinking.

Two points. First, few people trust us because we're so weird. The same way we can't 100% trust someone who doesn't think like us, most people aren't going to trust people who think like me.

The barrage of honest sentiments isn't helping, it's just letting people more clearly see the qualities that make them distrust us.

Well, I'd rather get all that mistrust out there at the start, then, and know exactly where I stand.

So you want knowledge, and think that's better than trust or forming relationships.

Whether we trust people matters.

Whatever. The other problem with what you said is that we don't say everything we're thinking. Only with Shoshana on that one date did we ever say absolutely everything, and that proved to be a horrific mistake.

I don't think it was. I think she reacted to it dishonestly and that messed us up for a while, but we didn't do anything wrong that day.

Fine, but we don't normally act like that.

The only thing we cover up is attraction. I don't want you going around telling everyone you're attracted to that you're attracted to them, because that would be interpreted as flirting rather than a statement of fact. At present there is no one we're interested in dating, so bringing up sexual interest would lead to misunderstandings. That is all. It's not like the attraction is such a key ingredient in our interactions, anyway.

Yes it is.

We'd more or less be acting the same way with everyone without the attraction.

Even if that's the case, it certainly is something these people might want to know to create that open and honest environment you were talking about, and we hold back. So the idea of holding back truths is not unfamiliar to us. Is it radically damaging our integrity that we don't say 100% of everything?

Perhaps. I hope not.

The question was rhetorical. We're fine.

If there were a person we could be ourselves with, it would be a bit stressful all the time because there would be so much pressure not to break character ever. (I'm assuming here that we would never be separated ever, which seems like a sensible idea.)

I don't think you're one to talk about sensible ideas.

Heh. Maybe not. But then we could release all that stress as the Person, and just have sex or whatever.

You have a sick mind. Can we please keep the blog a bit cleaner than that?

Sex, sex, sex, sex.

He's not sick, he's just a child.

I find the subject distasteful, in any event.

We don't need one person. We need many people. You're expecting something that no person we're ever going to meet could possibly keep up with.

I think what we're expecting is a clone of me.

Yes! Some daaaaay my self will come... some daaaay we'll meeeeet again...

[sigh]

But if my self-clone has a vagina, that's even better.

I'm going to leave now.

Thinker, back me up here. This person does not exist.

I'd like to think she does.

That liking is well documented. But in the real world, we're never going to find such a person.

Already we have the expectation of Jewish, English-speaking, Asperger, non-repressed, female; and now you're adding on top of that that you want someone who'd be willing to split her personality with me, and never leave my side for a minute.

Who would be the one earning money in this relationship, by the way?

We could play music together.

Fat chance. You'd just sit around messing around on your instruments, and you'd be satisfied with that.

All I need in life is myself and my self-clone.

So now she doesn't need to just be Jewish, English-speaking, Asperger, non-repressed, female, split personality, and not have any other life, she also needs to be a musician. Brilliant.

Orrrrr we could just admit that this person doesn't exist, or that if she does exist there's no way we'll ever meet her because the statistics are not in our favor, and we can be okay with the idea that not everything in the world needs to come from one person.

Part of the problem with Shoshana is that because we thought we'd get everything we needed from this one repressed person, we started repressing ourselves to make that idea more plausible.

The brain rewires itself, unnoticed...

The brain is always rewiring itself. The people you hang out with are the people you try to fit in with. And that means changing yourself on a subconscious level.

Our brain was rewiring itself in our sleep.

Yes, in retrospect that is what was happening with Shoshana. And it's a scary thought. But the Person is right, we're never going to find a person that we wouldn't need to limit ourselves for.

The Rules are too ambitious for that. This version of ourselves that we're constructing together is complex in the gamistic sense of the word, and who would be able to keep up with that?

So maybe we should take the Person seriously when he says that this one person we're looking for is actually many people.

And that means we should not lump all social interactions into one group, but actually be different personalities when interacting with different people.

Fine by me.

Yes, I know, all of you are fine with it. I wish someone would give the counterpoint, in favor of honesty.

Nope. No one cares about honesty but you.

Can we keep up a persona while making it clear that it's just a persona?

Not if we want them to treat us like the persona's real. It's better if those people don't know. Or even if they know, it's better if we don't emphasize it. They'll get used to the persona and just think of us as that one thing. We can limit ourselves differently depending on who we're interacting with.

And how can we possibly know which character is needed for interacting with which person?

Because everyone else in the world has a persona too, and it's generally not so hard to figure out which persona they're using.

I'll start the interaction, to see which character they're playing, and then I'll switch to whichever character I feel is the closest.

We'll need a more complicated system of character switching, though.

What - so we're always just mimicking the people around us? That's an awful idea! We need to bring diversity to the world, and that comes of being the opposite of the people we're around!

What are you talking about? Just before you were saying how you'd like to have the same "energy" as other people.

Sometimes, sure! But not all the time! Sometimes it'll be fun to bounce an Explorer off a Worker, or a Thinker off a Musician, or something like that.

"Infinite diversity in infinite combinations".

I'm not sure the Vulcans would approve of our system. :)

Then the Vulcans are lame.

Besides, they never really held that philosophy. We do a better job.

Geeks.

I don't think it's an option to start experimenting with social interactions. Every action we make with another person either helps build that relationship, or undermines it. There are always consequences.

If the other person senses that they're not getting what they expected out of a relationship with me, and this is true with any kind of relationship, they'll stop spending time with me.

That's why it needs to be one person who loves me no matter what.

We are not going to find that person.

Is there some other way I can say that, which will make it sink in? It is not going to happen.

Do you agree that having the one person that the Explorer describes would be the ideal?

...yes.

Then let's figure out what that ideal would look like, and then see how much of that vision we can achieve with people we know, how much we can achieve by meeting new people who are not unlikely for us to find, and how much we can achieve on our own.

Close

2012, July 5th

An excuse I've pulled out now and then for the Rules is that no one character is capable of doing everything we have planned. This argument can be shot down fairly simply. Without the Rules, we created Smilie, The Perfect Color and The March of Bulk - all very different kinds of experiences, created in different kinds of processes. So the argument that multiple personalities are needed for the Five Games is very flimsy. A counter-argument could be made, that since the Rules we've let Angles & Circles die out and haven't come up with as many new ideas for games, and that this might be indicative of a greater difficulty with being creative while so much energy is being devoted to the characters.

The question then needs to be asked: why are we doing this?

Finally someone says it.

Thinker, this was basically your idea. No one is more qualified than you to say why we're doing this

My original reasoning is laid out in the post I Am.... In short: when I get comfortable with a certain way of doing things, I will stop questioning my own behavior and will just follow that narrow road as far as it goes. The more focused I get on a particular way of life, the less I will be able to reflect on that path's failings. Therefore, I should be willing to change my personality regularly.

The eight characters are to make it easier to switch characters. If I needed to invent an entirely new character each time, it would seem like too much work and I would revert to the useless 1.0 version of myself. If I only need to switch to something which I know well and have built up a familiarity for, it will take less effort. That is the thought, anyway. In practice, this doesn't seem to work.

The problem is we don't have any sensory connection to the different characters. As far as it seems, all days are the same. So we act the same. We need different surroundings to have different attitudes.

We've already been over this, in Dialogue 1. A small pad, to be written into continuously, strengthening the sense of character. If none of you do this, that's not due to an oversight in the system.

Maybe each of us should have different pads! You could have a graph paper pad, I would have a blank one, the Thinker would have one with bigger lines, this little one could be for the Person, the Worker could have some sort of schedule-y thing, the Musician would have a music notepad, and the Gamer and Addict would probably be too busy to write anything down.

That way each of us has a pad that gives us a sense of being ourselves, plus we see everything we've done in previous days and have to live up to that.

That sounds brilliant. Programmer, is it realistic?

Maybe. It's worth a shot, certainly.

But are we accepting the argument, then, that the Rules exist to fight rigidity?

If that's the case, they're doing a pretty bad job of it.

Well, we haven't been following the Rules, have we?

But we've never managed to follow the Rules for more than a few months at a time.

It might just not be feasible.

And if that's the case, what would we lose by throwing out the Rules entirely?

We can go back to the one-character system from before December 2010, or even stop with the Performance Reviews entirely.

The value of the Rules can be very clearly seen, now that I think about it, in April 2012. We had gotten very comfortable with the Worker being in charge, we were content to just keep going with that, and then we broke out of it and had a paradigm shift that led to moving out of our parents' house and radically improving our life.

This is what you call a "radical improvement"? There's barely any music in our life at all anymore.

The Thinker has not been doing a good job of leading. He let the Addict take over yesterday, for instance, when he knew it wasn't a good idea.

My point is that our life is going in interesting directions, rather than staying fixed and miserable.

That's all on the Rules.

I should point out that the event in question -deciding to move to Jerusalem- was done on a Shabbat, while not in character.

But our thinking even then is shaped by the rest of the week.

Maybe the problem with the system is that we're switching too often. Maybe we should stick with a character until either they have a successful day or give up, and we should try to encourage them to push through and not give up.

Maybe we should repeal the Rule about needing a 7/10 day to be allowed to continue.

We have certainly seen that repeating a character over many days improves the quality and clarity of that character.

It also makes it hard to break out, though.

Is it ever hard to play the Gamer?

No.

Then we should switch to the Gamer after a long period of doing anything.

Why the Gamer?

Yes, why the Gamer?

Why not actually try to be productive, after wasting too much time?

Because it's an easy character to get back into. It's just a way of clearing out our headspace. I haven't checked the records, but I think the Gamer is the most consistently performing character we have.

If that's true, there's something wrong with the system.

It was just a thought that it could be the Gamer.

But more importantly, if we repeal the 7/10 rule, the difficulty of switching out of a long-running character won't be as much of an issue.

Perhaps not.

Here's the explanation you gave in the August 2011 self-meeting for the rule you're trying to get rid of now:
If the day's going badly enough to score under 7/10, there's some essential problem with the approach that's not going to be fixed by just carrying it on longer. We keep hearing the excuse "The day isn't good yet!", followed by the day getting even worse. This will stop that.

What's changed?

Hm. I'd forgotten that that was what happened before we had the rule. Certainly I'm not going to push for going back to a system that wasn't working. But by the same token, I can't condone keeping it like this.

It's not necessary to repeal the 7/10 rule; we can remove the repetition rule instead. But what goes in its place? The point of the rule was to prevent getting stuck in bad ways of being. But sometimes a single day isn't enough to show a path's invalidity. So we can change the rule to only relate to cases where there have already been several failures. Or we could remove it entirely - what if we come across some really difficult but necessary transition, and we just need to keep trying until it works? Such matters should be decided in Dialogues, not Rules.

I will remind you that August 2011 was before we had this conference room. Of course we got stuck in patterns; there was no regular oversight. Now there is, and the rule can be safely removed.

Well, I'm not sure we can call it "safe", given that we don't really know the outcome of any of these rule changes we make. But I hope you're right.

If not, we put it back and try something else. This is one of the most wonderful things about the Rules: the bureaucratization of life.

That sounds awful.

Don't knock bureaucracy: an effective bureaucracy is absolutely essential in any large-scale project. And life is a rather large-scale project, wouldn't you say?

No, I think it's pretty small scale. However we dress it up, we're one person.

I agree with the Thinker that Life is a complicated thing. But to reduce something so beautiful to such a cold system is a bit of a shame.

Then again, I suppose I can explore the system to my heart's content. You're not going to penalize me for looking for loopholes, are you? It's how I do things.

I'll only penalize you if you actually do things that harm us. If you're just learning the system, in your own way, and it's clear that that's your motivation, I don't know how I could possibly object to that. It does suit your character, after all.

Thinker, please don't give the Explorer ideas. He finds loopholes, tells everyone else, our job gets harder.

So you'll patch up the problems. I have the utmost faith in you.

This is not an efficient way to run a life.

Kind of awesome, though.

The initial subject of this discussion is the eleventh of March, 2012. It is my hope that studying the events of this day will lead us to many fruitful topics, but we will start with the literal. Worker, would you like to describe what happened?

Not particularly, no. I prefer doing things to talking about them.

Very well. I will begin the story myself by noting that this month was intended as "The Worker's month", in that there are a lot of things that need to get done and in past months the Worker has always been the model of discipline and productivity. I hesitated in the monthly self-meeting to allow him such a prominent position, given that the character of the Worker has been a fixture of the past few months at the expense of other worthy characters such as the Gamer and the Musician. But I was persuaded by the sheer number of things that need doing -our adventure game Gamer Mom (with Kyler Kelly), two plays, a Megillah reading, assorted writing and website work- to offer the Worker every other day of the month, which is a position of great authority though not complete focus. I further stipulated that should the Worker accept this role for the month of March, April would belong to the other characters; it was and is my goal to keep all the aspects of my personality in play in the long-term. The Worker accepted.

I've been making a mess of it, I know. There is so much to do and the month's half over and I've done almost nothing. And then next month it's too late. You know what I need? I need to set deadlines. I don't know why I haven't set deadlines already.

That is a very good idea, and I think we should certainly do that tomorrow morning before you start your next day. For now, I'd like to focus on yesterday, and if there are other tangents that we find along the way, we will certainly follow them. Though, I don't think the matter of deadlines is necessarily important enough to be put on the blog.

If it's on the blog, it's set in stone.

True, true. Okay, we'll have a conversation about the deadlines and connect it here.

To get back to the story: the Worker was making some slight incremental progress on Gamer Mom, when the planned direction of the month was interrupted by a social opportunity. Person, would you like to elaborate on the events of 08-10 March?

Sure, why not.

The eighth was Purim. I woke up early, read the Megillah, which was a little bit worse than usual due to a sore throat but in terms of storytelling it was fine, I took a nap, and then the rest of the day I spent hanging out with Moshe. The next morning I woke up early and joined Harel and Rachel, and the three of us drove to Yardena's apartment in Jerusalem (where they were holding Shushan Purim), where I stayed for the following two days. For that entire time, I was almost never not socializing. It was utterly fantastic. It was like the little bits of hanging out that I'm allowed to do on ordinary Shabbats, but without all the boring non-social stuff surrounding it and without having to ever stop.

You know, when I suggested we do The Dialogues, I didn't mean for it to be like an interrogation. Lighten up, guys.

What are you suggesting?

I'm suggesting you pull the stick out of your butt.

What are you suggesting, specifically?

I give up.

No, tell me what you'd like from this post.

I'd like more drama, and less courtroom procedure.

I'm getting to it. I think we can sum up the relevance of Friday and Shabbat on the events of Sunday (the 11th) by saying that the weekend felt like a major shake-up from our life. And of course when we got back both the Worker and myself were eager to resume the plan for the month, because three days is a major interruption.

The Worker started out well, but he started to get tired already an hour into the Gamer Mom work, and since the work needs to be done from Firefox, there was no barrier between the Worker and distractions.

I think it's worth pointing out how this usually works.

There are some limits in place on how the computer can be used, so that it is easy to lock ourselves out of specific activities. It is not that these locks can't be bypassed - it's that in the few seconds that it takes to bypass the locks we tend to rethink what we're doing and decide to leave the barriers in place. The trouble is, once Firefox has been opened there are no more limits to what can be done on the internet, because anything can be done from a web browser.

We may need an extension that prevents certain web sites from being opened.

We would only want that extension (if such an extension exists) on the copy of Firefox we work on Gamer Mom from. Currently that copy is connected to the buggy Ubuntu release which we use for everything else - it's a separate program file, but it uses the same extensions. So we may want to switch to the portable version of Firefox, if there still is one these days. We haven't used a portable Firefox since version 5.

I'm not entirely sure that will do the trick, though - it may still share the default extensions. We'll have to see.

Sounds like a plan. Anyway, the Worker spent the entirety of the day watching videos: mainly the Yu-Gi-Oh! Abridged Series that Shoshana introduced us to.

Shoshana has good taste.

I expect part of the reason for this interruption of the Worker's usual patterns was the lingering feelings from Friday which had not been dealt with.

It doesn't help to bottle feelings up. You need to let them out.

But not in the middle of a schedule! A worker is supposed to be repressed!

I messed up, plain and simple.

Yes, you did. Are there some kind of repression exercises we could come up with for the Worker?

Interesting challenge.

Perhaps a program with some very simple task, like typing whichever letter appears on the screen.

The question I have is whether it should be increasing in difficulty, decreasing in difficulty, unchanging in difficulty, or entirely random.

The idea is to distract the Worker from whatever the rest of us are doing, right?

Yes. So there would be some sort of scoring system based on reaction times.

The more distracted the Worker is, the lower his reaction time. I'm leaning toward a decreasing difficulty level, since we're trying to maintain the focus through tasks which may or may not be complicated to carry out. This of course should not replace the playing of music during work, which helps repress the creative mind in any event.

If we're talking about making programs to get into character, should we be doing that for all characters?

It could possibly be connected to the conference room program.

What, it's not enough of a burden to have to get the Thinker sign off on a day? I need to play a game too? Shouldn't I just be getting to work?

Not if you're not in the right mindset. You clearly were not in the right mindset yesterday.

The Musician's first activity could be to write some little witty saying that we haven't said before. Just to get in a mindset where he's looking for originality.

I'd rather avoid the words and just get to the piano.

We really don't have time this month for any of this.

It's still worth discussing, for future months.

We need to figure out what went wrong yesterday, and how to avoid it in the future.

I messed up. I'm only human. I'll try to do better.

That's not really going to help. You feel what you feel.

I'll avoid feeling, then.

Right. Sure.

I am a machine.

The sentiment is admirable, but it is not backed up by your actions.

My sleep schedule had been interrupted a few times. I was still recovering.

I'm not comfortable with the idea that some tiny little change to our sleep schedule will make you utterly useless and unreliable. That is not a situation I am willing to accept.

I should have taken a nap in the middle of the day. I used to do that, but nowadays I avoid it because there's just so much to do.

There's something to that, but I don't think that explains why you didn't at least make an effort.

At the point where I saw the TV was going to exceed the work, I didn't see the point in trying anymore because the Rules say it's a zero-point day automatically at that point.

The Rules also say that I can give you a point for effort. 1/10 is better than 0/10.

Not really.

If I may step in here, I think there's a problem with the sharp transition between reality and virtuality. After spending all that time with real people, it might be difficult to see imaginary people as equals.

So you admit they're not equals!

No, virtual experiences are every bit as real as physical experiences. But there's a shift there that needs to be made. If my hunch is right, it really didn't matter which character took the lead on Sunday. It could have been the Worker, or the Explorer, or the Programmer, and the end result would always have been a zero-point day because we didn't make the clear shift from physical to virtual that's necessary for this whole multiple-personality game to work.

So what you're saying is that this "shift" as you call it takes place whenever we spend too much time in one place?

Exactly.

So it could just as easily be a problem the other way around, not being able to deal with real people after talking to ourselves for too long.

Absolutely.

Gamer, I have to ask: is this all just a lead-in to a pitch for you to have more days?

Certainly.

How shocking.

I'm just talking about a rule saying that if we go for longer than, say, 48 hours without talking to ourselves, you should let me take charge and get us back in a fictional mindset.

I could do that too!

Or you could just waste time like the Worker did. Passivity is not what we're looking for. You'd just watch movies all day.

I might not!

But you might.

Well, sure, movies are awesome.

Gamer, you already have a silly Rule that says you get a day if we haven't played games in a while. How many different Rules do you want that say you get a day?

This is an extension of the same idea. If we get too trapped in one world, everything falls apart. We get pulled along in the currents of one emotion or another, following the path of least resistance, and the end result is the most reliable of us producing a zero-point day.

I'm not talking about a full fourteen-hours deal. Just six or seven hours of playing Zelda and whatever else, and then I yield to whoever is next. And then, since we're already in the mindset of fictional situations, any character we choose will have more weight.

It's an interesting concept. Programmer, what do you think?

I think 48 hours is not very long. After every two-day holiday, we immediately follow with the Gamer? What if there are things that need to be done, because we've just lost two days?

I'm looking through two-day holidays in the past few months, to see if there's a problem in the days after.

01-02 October 2011 was right after a long holiday, and the Worker watched TV all day.

Actually, that's the only one I can find. Two-day holidays aren't so common.

There might be a simpler solution than giving the Gamer a day automatically. Right now we're locked out of using the computer until we have a conversation between ourselves for five minutes.

What if we change that to a variable length, based on how long it's been since we were last on the computer?

That assumes that every in-character day will be spent on the computer.

Usually it is.

You know what, we could even give you the control. When we enter the conference room, we ask how long it's been since we were in a comfortable rhythm, or something like that.

There's no guarantee that I'll be the one writing that in. I think the Person would likely just say "zero" and get straight into the computer.

Aaaw, you don't trust us?

No.

Not remotely.

I still think my idea is better.

You would.

I think it's worth checking whether the characters who follow the Gamer tend to do well.

If the Gamer is right about being so helpful to the integrity of the characters, then we should find that pattern.

No, I don't see it. Look at 21-23 November 2011.

Right after a solid Gamer, we have three days in a row with no character declared, and nothing of value done.

And the two days before me were zero-pointers, too. This was the month with your disastrous "Panic Mode" experiment, it's not on me. And anyway, I'm not claiming that whoever follows me will necessarily do well. I'm just saying that from either an extended Person or an extended break in the game, you need me to get us back into fantasy land.

You'd have the same thing in the other direction, where an extended day from me would need to be followed by the Person.

And it's not so different from what you already said to the Worker, that if he gets half the days this month he doesn't get a presence next month.

It's not entirely convincing, but next time we have a "shake-up" of some sort I'll keep in mind that I need to overcompensate in the other direction before getting back to normal.

There's still the other problem, that I gave the Worker this month and he's been acting un-Worker-like.

It might be a problem with giving assurances, in general.

If I can't give assurances, then what can I negotiate with?

I just mean that if you think you're getting the days no matter what, there's less pressure.

Lovely. If I can't give assurances, then what can I negotiate with?

It's just that I didn't have deadlines. That's all. I didn't think of it.

I don't know why we're doing this whole song and dance. I messed up, I've apologized, I'll do better. Not everything needs to be analyzed to death.

Hrmph. Without analysis, there's no progress.

With overanalysis there's no progress. There can be plenty of progress without thinking too much.

Close

At the end of every week, I want to be comfortable and off-book with whichever Importance of Being Earnest scenes I've learned.

By this Monday, we'll have two new blog posts up, including this one.

By next Thursday, I will have started on the shul website. By the following week (29) I will have a basic framework I can use.

Gamer Mom is the most important thing. Why are you forgetting about Gamer Mom?

I haven't forgotten about anything, I'm just getting the simple things out of the way first.

I'll find some date this month to work with Coren on Dungeon Master, making slight changes to episode 1 and starting to write episode 10.

Now - Gamer Mom.

My next node is 451. I want to get all the way to the end by the end of this month.

That's a hundred nodes, in roughly 16 days, only half of which are mine.

You're going to need to let me have a day or two to manage that.

Probably, yeah.

But ultimately it's the Thinker's call.

Hey, it's your month. If you feel the Addict is needed, the Addict will get his days.

I appreciate that.

By this Shabbat, I want to be finished (not counting art) with node 480. By Monday morning, node 494. By the 20th, node 508. By that Shabbat, 525. By the 26th, 540. By the 28th, 555. And by the 30th, 559.

That is not evenly distributed.

So?

Never mind.

In addition to all those deadlines, I have to work with Kyler at every possible opportunity. I can't set deadlines for that because I don't know when he's available, but the art will progress on a separate track and I hope to have most of it done this month.

That's the month.

I really should have done this from the start.

Close

This past weekend was a really unique experience in my life. First off, obviously I rarely sleep away from home. The last time I've slept somewhere that wasn't either home or in the same place as the rest of my family (direct or extended) was... um...

Sleepovers in elementary school?

You know, I really think I'd have to go back that far, yes. Probably the last time I slept away from my family and/or my family's house was when I was 8 or 9. Oh, no, there was that horrible trip with my 12th grade class. That's true. And there were a few nights that I stayed in the dorms in the Yeshiva in ninth and tenth grade. So really it's only been seven years. Still. Not something I tend to do.

Because it always sucked!

It always did.

In elementary school I'd be friends with one or two people there, and I'd be really scared of everyone else and worried that if I fell asleep there'd be some prank played on me because I irritated everyone. Not that that ever happened to me, but I never knew what to expect from my peers.

I remember one time I was at a sleepover birthday party for my then-friend Jordan, when we were very young, and I was thrilled when someone was willing to even play Backgammon with me because I was so bored and isolated otherwise. Or was it Checkers?... doesn't matter.

And then in high school I wasn't friends with anyone, and I didn't mistrust them per se because they all seemed like nice enough people, but I also knew that the more I talked to them the more likely they'd be to hate me. Which didn't stop me from talking to them, I must say, but it was more because there was nothing else to do and less because I thought they wanted to hear me.

Wow my world has changed since then.

I'm friends with Yardena. I don't know why she puts up with me, even though obviously my behavior is frustrating her all the time and I have never indicated (nor had) any intention of changing my behavior toward her. She's not normal, but she's normal compared to me. So she shouldn't want to hear me saying the truth all the time, and she's always acting like it offends her, and yet she keeps acting like she wants to spend time with me. It doesn't add up, and I know I'm there to listen to her moreso than she's going to listen to me, but it's never boring to have a conversation with her and I am thankful that she puts up with me for whatever bizarre reason.

So there was Yardena, and there were Harel and Rachel, each of which I could talk to for hours on end, because they're almost as abnormal as I am.

Then there was Josh, a huge geek who loves to talk about things that interest me, who I'm already friendly with because he's occasionally stayed at Avri's house. And there was Benny, who I was at the bottom of the cast of 1776 with, and was always friendly with even though we were never friends. Shoshana came to the party on Friday, and kicked butt at Apples to Apples (which I was terrible at)...

Ah, Shoshana.

Please don't get carried away, now. We've seen how this works. You start pining after her, the Thinker starts validating every random thought you have about her, Shoshana doesn't actually talk much so the hype keeps building and building, and the end result is that I can't get any work done because you loonies keep teetering on the edge of mental breakdown.

Shoshana is awesome.

Shoshana is trouble. Tell you what, why don't you wait until the end of this month and then start obsessing about her again. At least let me have this month to get some work done in. Or better yet, don't obsess about her.

You have no heart.

You have no brain.

Anyway, my point is that there were all these people, any one of whom I could have a long and satisfying conversation with without feeling guilty about it afterward.

Normally you'd feel guilty? About what?

About not noticing a lack of interest. I've gotten better about holding myself back, a little bit, because even with really tolerant people like Yardena we can't exactly relate to each other unless you pick a specific topic where we're on the same page.

But basically, there's guilt whenever I didn't play the scene correctly.

Ah. It's what you noted in Little Social Games.

Sure. Generally I feel guilty for going too far with a perceived opportunity. There was some little opportunity, I saw it as a big opportunity, and the person I was talking to never wants to speak to me again. Or at least I feel that way. With Shoshana on Friday I went to the other extreme, and I felt guilty for the rest of the night that I had pretended I wasn't particularly aware of her presence because I think that's what she wants from me right now.

If you're acting the way she wants you to act, what's to feel guilty about?

About acting how people want, rather than how I want to act. I wish the two were always on the same page, so that I could avoid making other people unhappy without being unhappy myself.

I don't think any of us will fault you for bending a little bit for others. It's sort of part of socializing. Not everyone will accept us exactly how we are at every given moment.

I guess. And it's not like it was so important to talk with Shoshana, I'd just been hoping... I don't know. Never mind.

Anyway, I had a good time even after she left. Though immediately afterward there was the whole drinking game - they were playing "I never" and it was just really pathetic because I've never done anything they'd use in that game (nor do I particularly want to) and they've never done the things I'm most proud of doing. And really what I wanted then was to feel like I wasn't just totally unwanted, but they were harping on all the ways I'm not like them. (Including my policy of not drinking alcohol.)

But then by the time we got into the meal I was just one of the group. I was accepted. I spent 48 hours around other people, and I don't think they wanted to get rid of me. I am a very lucky man to have been invited to this weekend, and to be allowed these friends.



My god, I'm ugly. Every time someone talks to me and doesn't cringe, they must be ignoring the way I look and just seeing the idea of me. Maybe people can only be friends with me if they don't judge people entirely by how they look, because I am going to look revoltingly un-me for the next three months thanks to The Importance of Being Earnest and its director's insistence that everyone look like their characters in all rehearsals. I swear, every time I look in the mirror it's a new shock at how ugly I am. And everyone says I look better like this. Why the hell does everyone not see that this isn't me? I don't look right moving around like this, I don't look right speaking like this, I don't look right existing like this. Without the beard, it's like I'm someone trying to be normal and failing. I'm not trying to be normal. I don't want to be normal. I want to be me. Yardena says I look much better like this. She told me that I look distinctive, which is nice of her to say but I can't agree with that. My only distinctiveness is in how utterly I fail to pull off this look. I'm just a cheap pretender.

We are pretty ugly.

Look, people like me better this way. So why complain? Does it matter what we think of how we look? No, it doesn't.

Do you think I actually get more social opportunities like this?

Oh, absolutely. With the beard people didn't want to talk to us in the first place.

There's quite a bit of fallacious reasoning in what you've said, Person.

If everyone says I look better like this, then how are we relying on people ignoring how we look?

Have you seen how we look?

To me, we'll always be the IMX symbol. That's what we really look like. The face, the body, none of that is real.

The face and the body is all anyone is seeing.

If we looked the way we want to look, Shoshana probably wouldn't have spoken to us in the first place.

You make a good point. Let's grow the hair out! Fewer distractions that way.

You're impossible.

Close

The Thinker didn't know what to respond to this, so he left, considered, and decided to set up a separate user on the computer for the Worker which would be free of distractions. But he quickly realized that this wasn't a good idea.

That's weird. Why did I think the Worker needed his own user?

Oh, right, it was because of the music on the bus.

I saw that not having my usual interface (the piano, in that case) made me unable to move forward. Which really just goes to show that my head is not a flexible place. I need tools to enhance it.

But the tool doesn't need to be a whole different user, and if it were then the Worker would be unable to continue what anyone else had started. We don't want our personalities to be separated from each other.

So let's think about other tools. The Worker needs to be constantly writing his progress.

No, progress is the Gamer's thing. Not progress. But he needs to be constantly writing something that tells him he's working.

It could be as simple as an OK!.

That's a very good idea.

Gamer Mom: OK!

Blog: Partial

Just write my progress as I go.

I'm not using that little notepad for anything.

Wait, I actually could use the little notepad. That's brilliant.

Even check marks could be enough.

Ah! I need new rules for each of us, regarding what we do on the little pad.

Hey, Person, what would you like to write down?

Excuse me? You think I need to be writing on some little pad while people are talking to me?

Yes.

Maybe you could make notes of what people are telling you about.

That would be interesting...

But I think that could freak people out.

Give it a try, see how it goes.

Let's see, the Explorer should be sketching things and jotting down ideas.

Naturally.

The Musician... well, I don't think he'll write out much there. Actually - he could write out any ideas that occur to him.

Structure, and things like that. And if there's a theme, he can add a line in the middle of two lines and he's got a musical bar.

The Worker obviously will be writing down how well he followed the schedule.

I'll write down my ideas.

It's the same thing for you, the musician and the Explorer.

Different sorts of ideas.

The Gamer might write down things to remember in the game.

The Addict will write down love notes to whatever he's working on.

That's creepy.

And then there's the Programmer. He jots things down anyway, on a different pad usually. That's fine, or he can make his notes and analyses on the same pad as the rest of us. Either way.

We're actually going to be going everywhere with two pads now?

Damn straight.

Isn't that, I don't know, cumbersome?

We'll try it out and see.

Okay, new idea. The Worker's already playing along, and I think it'll work nicely. The idea is to keep two pads with us at all times, instead of one.

The big pad is for keeping track of time allocation. The second pad is for staying in character.

I'm not using it for staying in character, I'm using it for keeping track of deadlines.

And for you, that's staying in character. We'll go through everyone and see what they want to do with it, but first I'll explain what the Worker and I have come up with for him, so that it'll maybe give you some ideas.

First off, the Worker is going to copy all the items from his daily schedule into the little pad, and when he finishes a task he set out he'll draw a checkmark. If he didn't deal with the activity the way he'd promised to in the performance review, he'll write an X. Or he'll write "1/2" if he did it, but not precisely how he was supposed to.

I haven't done this yet, but we've gone over it and I think it's a good idea.

The other thing the Worker will do with the pad this month, which he has started already, is to write out the deadlines to follow and writing checkmarks if he meets them properly. Now, I don't know if I'd want him to do this when he has a less prominent role in a month, but I imagine other characters could come up with similar planning methods.

What would I do with this little pad?

Well, you're always saying how you need paper to jot down all your ideas. Jot them down on the paper.

It's a bit small, really. And most of my ideas are more visual. The lines will get in the way.

Ah, I didn't think of that. Well, see what you can do with it.

You know what, maybe it would be cool if I wrote on it but not in order. Can I jump around?

Sure.

That will make it harder for the rest of us.

Not significantly.

Yeah, Explorer, you can use as much of the notepad as you like. If you use it up, we'll just get a new one.

Yay! This will be just like the notepads I had as a kid, where I was scribbling all over the place and I thought of it like a whole world to explore.

Oh dear lord.

Musician, do you think you could write notes on it? You can draw a line in the middle of two consecutive lines, and you can write sheet music.

It would be very awkward.

Then you can write out structure ideas, so that you don't forget them.

Generally when I come up with ideas, my fingers are on the piano. And I want to try them out immediately, I don't want to start writing.

Okay. Well, you don't have to use the pad if it's too awkward to, but you should carry it around with you anyway, just in case.

I just realized something. If we have the little pad, we don't need to bring the big pad with us while we're out. Generally we count it all as one activity anyway.

Okay. Well, try it out one way and the other and see how it works.

I'm fine with the notepad I have. I don't need another one.

Okay, fine. This is all basically what I thought you guys would say. Look, the pad's there, use it or don't. But I think it'll help us stay in character, in a better way than just making new games for first activities.

Hasn't that been the goal of every hare-brained idea you've had in the past year? To stay in character better? You'd think by now we'd be able to stay in character.

Being someone is not a passive state, it is a constant effort.

I'm not in the mood to talk about philosophy. Yardena gave us a nice little pad, it's a good tool, I'm going to use it.

That's all I ask.


Tuesday, November 5, 2013Thursday, November 14, 2013

The strangest phone call I have ever had, part 2

I walked with Yardena to the bus stop as she left for work. We hugged for a while, and then the bus came and she was off. I started walking toward the park which I'd once stumbled into, with lots of nooks and crannies where one might be creative. When I got there, I called Tuvia and pitched him my idea.

The album starts out with Brahms' Lullaby reinterpreted as a loud late-night party, like so... -"I love it, it's Brahms with syncopation! You know, there are people who...". There would be a few other tracks in there somewhere with similar subversions. Do you know Through the Looking Glass? -"Sure!"- When Alice sees the poem "Jabberwocky", it's backwards and she can only read it through the mirror. So I have a tune for Jabberwocky which I can sing backwards, then reverse the audio, like in Twin Peaks, so that it sounds weird. Of course, it would take time to learn to sing it all backwards well. Then there's a tune I've had for a long time, and I'm thinking about maybe writing lyrics for it about Facebook, it goes something like this, Buh-buh-buh-buh-buh-buh-buh-buh-buh... -"That sounds great! Just leave it like that and play it on a kazoo" - No, that's the tune that'll be about Facebook... - "Oh, that's what you were talking about?" - Yeah, the only part I've figured out is something like dah-dah-dah-dah-dah-dah-DAAAAAAA... I've had enough, I'll turn it off, as soon as I know buh-buh-buh-buh. Or something like that. And then there's my song "Ode to your face": "When I last saw your face, it was raining/and moonlight shone in from the moon..." And there's a game I play with a friend of mine, where I play something which sounds really serious on the piano, and then just as it's reaching its climax, I switch to this cheery little "space battle" theme, dah-bada-da-bada-da-da-da. So there could be a "space battle" track which sounds like epic science fiction music -"Like John Williams"- Yeah, exactly, and then that resolves, but then I keep sticking in these tracks in between the other music, which sounds like totally new and serious compositions, but always turn back into the goofy little classical theme. Then, at the end, there's another one of these, and the listener knows exactly where it's going. But it reaches the climax, and instead of going back to the usual punchline, it just leads to another climax, which is even bigger, and that leads to yet another climax, because it keeps just building and building and it's getting ridiculous. And then it turns into Brahms' Lullaby!- duh-duh DEH, duh-duh DEH -and it's got little hints of everything else in the album, and then at the end, when the listener isn't expecting it anymore, there's the last few notes of the space theme and that's the end of the album.

The idea is to have an album of humor, lots of different kinds of humor which work through the music, rather than just through the lyrics. It would be half instrumental and half with lyrics, but even when there are lyrics, there's funny stuff going on in the way the music is composed. That's something which I haven't seen before, and which I think there would be an audience for.

So? What do you think?

Whereupon he asked me: "Could you do stage shows?" Well, yes, I guess so, I said, not sure what this had to do with the entire marketable vision that I'd just described. "You could do funny stage shows. That could be your thing. Like Victor Borge. People would love that. Just you on a stage with a piano, with all this inventiveness that you've got. Comedy with a grand piano. Or if you want something else to play with, I could get it for you."

Well, I said, I could do something with an N64 controller. And we could do the Jabberwocky gag live, by having a video camera recording me singing backwards, and then you play it in reverse on a big screen while I accompany on piano.



He said that I should sell my work to Cracked.com. He said that they've got videos and articles and pictures, but they hadn't done anything with music. That could be my niche. Well, no, I thought, I've got enough humor to make a single album, which was the idea, but I can't be funny in music, on cue, every week. But I listened as he tried to sell me on it.

And then my phone's battery died, and I needed to go home.

2012, March 1st, 22:55 and 16 seconds

View the eventfulness of my February 2012Daily performance reviews for February 2012:(Rules)

Self-meeting for February 2012

Each day, I pick a character to play, follow the Rules for that character, and score myself on how I did. After the month, all my personalities get together to figure out where we stand and where we're going.
Character list

The plan for February was ambitious. For the first half of the month, a succession of under-eight-hour days covering a wide range of attitudes and interests. And for the second half of the month, the Addict would work on Gamer Mom, write about adventure games, and in general live and breathe Gamer Mom until the game was done. It was a fine plan; however, life took some unexpected turns which we chose to play along with rather than following the plan too rigidly. Whether this was a good idea in the long run is a matter of opinion. My opinion is that experiences such as our first date, and the joy of doing Trial By Jury yesterday in friendly company, do not come along every day and will be remembered for the rest of our life.

During the first half of the month, we did follow the plan and jumped from character to character with consistent exuberance. The eight-hour rule had its pros and cons. On the one hand, the energy was high and we gave equal passion to such diverse activities as the cake awareness conference, finishing the first Sly Cooper game, and working on Gamer Mom. On the other hand, we were unable to go beyond the surface of the characters we played, to write blog posts or find opportunities which weren't spelled out. I think limiting a day to eight hours makes a lot of sense when there is not enough time and when a character is merely a pause between two other characters, rather than something we want to develop into a distraction. Expect me to be playing around with the idea on specific days from here on.

Halfway through the month we met Shoshana, and while it turned out she was not interested in me I feel like my world has gotten a little bit more exciting for having met her. We have not contacted her this week because Yardena said it would be a bad idea, but I expect the statute of limitations on required silence will pass soon and then we can just chat casually as friends. During the second half of the month, Shoshana temporarily became an obsession, and I will take the brunt of the blame myself. I was telling stories, as I do, and ignoring realities, and you can see that at the end of my day I was considerably more attached to the idea of a relationship with her than the Person had been after the date itself. It was always the idea of Shoshana that I was interested in, moreso than Shoshana herself, and I fear I drove the Person to the reckless behavior he did, taking over a day that was intended for the Addict and getting himself banned in so doing.

Am I allowed to be at this meeting?

That's a good question.

I don't know how he thinks he can show his face here, after what he did.

Addict, you yourself once stole a day from the Addict.

I would expect some more tolerance.

That wasn't me. Different Addict. I would never do that.

No, I get it. My being here is awkward. I'll go.

There were way too many distractions this month. It was supposed to be the crunch time for Gamer Mom, where we'd be working on it so consistently that we'd get it out on the internet by March 5th. But it's March 1st now and we've still got around 150 nodes to go, plus more when you count the art.

We should wrap up this meeting as soon as possible. The callbacks for The Importance of Being Earnest are tonight, and then we need to keep working on Gamer Mom. We also need to practice for the Megillah reading next week -it shouldn't take too long, because we've done this many times before, but without practice it'll be a subpar performance.

We must not rush this meeting. I'd like to go over rule proposals, come up with plans for the next month, etc.

Well, do all that in the next few minutes. In an hour and a half Kyler may be free to work on Gamer Mom, and we don't want to waste the opportunity.

Fine, let's just wrap up the summary first. The average score was 6.56/10, which is quite respectable.

About that. I do not like the lax attitude toward the Rules. No good can come of it. I understand that you want to seem like a benevolent leader and not punish people too much, but you've got to cut it out. It's gone way too far.

What are you talking about?

I'm talking about people sneaking in TV as a "mundane activity". I'm talking about people wasting time for two hours, then starting the day and calling it a first activity. I'm talking about the fact that all month long no one exercised, and while you were entitled to take a point off each time that happened you opted not to. Another few months of this "nice parent" approach, and we won't be following any of the Rules at all!

 

What do you suggest?

You have the power, through the conference room, to deny any of us the privilege of a day, for any reason you choose. Do not allow anyone to begin a day if they are not going to follow the Rules down the letter. Do not let people off the hook if you know they've transgressed. And if someone has messed up, don't let it go the next day. Keep guilting them about it until they learn to stop cheating.

I don't think the hard-ass approach will work. We tried that, remember?

No one was doing anything. It was a complete break-down.

We thrive on arguing and challenging. If I set strict rules, they're just going to get broken.

We have strict rules, and they're good rules. If you want to use a positive tone when talking to us, that's fine, but privately you've still got to be a hard-ass.

It's not like I can practice deception when you all know my inner-most thoughts.

Have you tried it?

I understand what you're saying about the Rules needing to be followed. I'm not sure, at this moment, what I can do about it.

What if I enforced the rules? Have a little masculine/feminine thing going.

Don't ever use those words, please.

Call it what you like. Two leaders: one looking at the story, one looking at the rules. What do you say?

I will need at least a full day to consider your proposal. It is a fascinating one, to be sure.

Don't take too long.

We don't have unlimited time to discuss the nuances of management. We have a lot of commitments this month. First, there's Gamer Mom. We should be spending several hours a day on that, or it won't get done. Then there's the Megillah reading on Purim, which is in one week. Then there are all sorts of social gatherings which I expect the Person will want to attend around then, since he'll be back by then. There's D&D this Saturday night. There's The Tenth Man, where we're apparently going to be throwing out the entire performance we've worked on and starting over. And that all needs to be done on my own time, because there are only three rehearsals between now and the show. The next one is on Tuesday, and preferably we should work out a lot of the details before then. Then there will also be The Importance of Being Earnest, hopefully, and that will be a lot of work as well. We need to get back to Dungeon Master, because it is a project worth doing. And months ago we promised to make a fairly ambitious website for the shul. On top of that, we've been talking about continuing the old sections of the blog, and the Explorer's been talking about redesigns for the self-meetings. Bottom line: if ever there was a month that called for me to be in charge almost all of the time, this is it.

Should I even bother speaking up, at this point?

No, I don't think you should.

Worker, we have been over this. You are not taking over full-time. You need to accept the idea that the rest of us are not going anywhere.

Fine, you can back me up! I'll come to you guys when I have problems, as I always do. But if we don't approach this aiming for maximum productivity, it can't be done.

I agree.

We're talking about ten different projects, all of them complicated, in one month.

And don't forget Skyward Sword. I just opened a new part of the surface!

We don't have enough time.

No, we don't.

I'll give you every other day. That's as far as I'm going.

I'll take it.

And understand me: next month, we call you only for the data entry work. Otherwise, you sit out all of April.

Understood.

Okay. Well, as the Worker points out we really don't have much time, so let's not break this into sections.

Ummm... it's way too late to break this into sections. We've just gone through the plans for March.

Whatever. Does anyone have any rule proposals?

No rule proposals per se, just some advice for you. First off, don't go easy on us.

As I said, I'll think about that.

You don't have time for that, not this month. For now, just take my word for it that you need to be harsher.

What else?

Don't give the Addict a day when his heart isn't in it. During the Shoshana situation, we needed the Gamer to distract us, not Gamer Mom work. You tried to kill two birds with one stone, but I think you need to understand that really difficult, high-energy days like the Addict can't be used as distraction. It's hard enough to do a good Addict under normal circumstances; add emotional distress to that and it's hopeless.

I should really write this all into a post.

You should, but maybe not now.

Those are the only suggestions which come to mind at the moment.

Okay then. Let's get started on the month.

Not yet! First we need to make this into a post!

Ah, yes. Okay. Let's make March a good one.


2012, February 26th, 14:57 and 53 seconds

(15) Days of Shoshana

February 12th

February 23rd

1:38:15 Mory: Hello.

1:38:24 Deirdra: Hi. What's up?

1:38:43 Mory: I'm feeling kind of melancholy.

1:38:53 Deirdra: That sucks. :(

1:39:32 Mory: Yeah. It's about a woman, which is probably common for most people but this is a new feeling for me.

1:39:59 Mory: It's the first time I've met a female person (in person) who I believe to have Asperger's Syndrome.

1:40:34 Mory: I just met her a few days ago, but everything she does reminds me of my own personality traits, just sort of transposed a few scales over.

1:40:40 Deirdra: It happens. :)

14:37:57 Aviella: oy

14:38:00 Aviella: just got your email

14:38:03 Mory: Hello!

14:38:26 Aviella: Im at work so I might be on and off from time to time

14:38:28 Mory: After writing it, I realized that I couldn't leave things like that with her and I wrote a seventh letter begging her to please write me.

14:38:34 Mory: Okay.

14:38:46 Mory: I'm working too.

1:41:25 Mory: Well, not to me it doesn't. That's what I'm saying. And I want to just write her and say that I think she's awesome even though I barely know her, but I think that would just come off as stalker-ish.

14:39:56 Aviella: Mory - STOP writing her

1:42:13 Deirdra: Well, generally, the best way to go about it is to get to know the person as soon as possible so you don't spend too much time building a fantasy image in your head.

1:42:24 Mory: Probably a good idea.

1:42:41 Mory: It is certainly a fantasy that I'm chasing.

1:42:49 Deirdra: I think an innocuous "you're awesome" thing can be appreciated by everyone. As long as it's casual and not too intense.

1:43:07 Mory: There's a casual way to say people are awesome?

1:43:14 Mory: That is not a casual sentiment.

14:40:01 Mory: Sorry.

14:40:03 Mory: I will try.

14:40:10 Mory: It's not easy! :(

14:40:11 Aviella: you are coming off as desperate and annoying

14:40:17 Mory: Okay.

14:40:32 Mory: Thank you.

14:40:37 Aviella: she probably thinks you are quite nuts by now

14:40:41 Aviella: so stop writing her

1:44:12 Mory: The trouble is, it's possible I'm only ever going to see this woman at social events.

1:44:20 Mory: And I am terrible with crowded social events.

1:45:03 Deirdra: Hmm... that's a tough one. How do you know each other, and what do you have in common besides Asperger's?

14:41:11 Aviella: and probably resign yourself to the idea that you will never hear from her again

14:41:29 Aviella: I am being painfully blunt...

14:41:37 Mory: Thank you for that.

1:47:22 Mory: How do we know each other... I have a friend, who lives on my street. He got married to someone I really like talking to in her own right, so we're all friends. And then she has a friend who plays Dungeon & Dragons with us, who's also now a friend as of a few months ago. And she introduced me to this young woman I'm interested in because we were at the same social gathering, though she had mentioned her earlier because she said we were similar.

1:48:52 Mory: We're both actors. We both enjoy musicals, though she knows a lot more about that than I do. Beyond that (and beyond the Asperger's Syndrome which amounts for everything) I don't know of anything we have in common because we just met.

14:41:40 Aviella: I dont mean to hurt your feelings

14:41:48 Aviella: but just stop

14:42:10 Mory: Well, of course you are hurting my feelings, but maybe my feelings need to be hurt. Because you're right, I am acting nuts.

14:42:57 Mory: But seriously, I can't stop thinking about her.

14:43:01 Mory: I've tried.

1:49:04 Mory: But it's mainly the Asperger's Syndrome.

1:49:16 Mory: She'd probably be offended if I even brought that up.

1:49:20 Mory: But maybe not.

1:49:25 Mory: I have no idea.

1:49:41 Deirdra: Well, acting and musicals are both good starting points, I guess.

1:49:53 Deirdra: Is there a way you could both be at a less crowded social event?

1:50:15 Mory: Not likely.

14:45:38 Aviella: Im sorry, I hate that I have upset you

14:45:53 Aviella: but she seems to have made it pretty clear that she isnt interested

14:46:08 Mory: I don't know that for sure.

14:46:13 Mory: She doesn't communicate much.

14:46:24 Aviella: thats a HUGE sign, Mory

14:46:28 Mory: All it would take is a little e-mail, saying "I'm not interested, go away.".

14:46:37 Mory: Or it could mean she's busy.

14:46:55 Mory: She is getting a surgery today, after all.

1:51:10 Mory: That is, unless I actually make the first move. We don't exactly hang out in the same circles - like I said we live in different cities. She lives in Jerusalem and though I regularly commute to Jerusalem I don't spend much time there unless I have something to be doing there.

1:51:29 Mory: I'm just totally lost.

1:52:01 Mory: Like, maybe she isn't right for me. I don't know. But I think the alternative is to just go back to the idea of always being alone.

14:47:00 Aviella: "she gave me this lukewarm goodbye and said that there were a lot of fundamental things we clashed on"

14:47:15 Mory: Yes, she did.

14:47:22 Aviella: female translator: not happening, but thanks

1:52:28 Mory: You have to understand: this is the first person I have ever been romantically interested in ever.

1:52:42 Deirdra: *nods*

1:52:49 Mory: Because I simply have never met a Jewish English-speaking Asperger woman who isn't already taken.

1:53:23 Mory: I've been told that I shouldn't care whether she's Asperger. But it means everything to me.

14:47:44 Mory: She could have just said that, then. But she didn't.

14:47:53 Mory: If she had said that, I would have just moved on.

14:48:05 Aviella: because in "social norms" it is inpolite to be that blunt

1:53:42 Mory: Everyone else, I might enjoy hanging out with them and talking, but I always feel like we're different species.

1:54:03 Deirdra: Do you have any friends with Asperger's in relationships who could help you?

1:54:12 Mory: They won't really "get" me, I won't really "get" them, the most we can aim for is amusement and maybe some respect.

1:54:26 Deirdra: Right.

1:54:28 Mory: I don't understand your question.

1:55:15 Deirdra: Like, you've met "taken" Jewish English-speaking Asperger women? Are you friends with any of them?

1:55:38 Mory: Not sure.

14:48:10 Mory: If she were to say that now, I would just move on.

14:48:13 Aviella: so she tried to say it nicely

14:48:19 Mory: But she's not saying anything, and it's driving me crazy.

14:48:27 Mory: This is nicer?!

14:48:35 Mory: This is just cruel.

1:57:11 Mory: The wife of my friend, whose friend's friend is this Asperger woman, may be mildly Aspergery but I don't know. She's certainly never been diagnosed. But she and her husband are the cutest couple ever, so I don't really care one way or the other.

1:58:08 Deirdra: Could you talk to her or her husband and maybe get some ideas as to what kinds of things you can do to get to know this woman better?

1:59:12 Mory: I could, and if I thought they had anything to tell me I certainly would have no shame in asking, but I don't see why they'd be able to help.

2:00:02 Deirdra: Well, they're in the same social circles, so I figured there'd be more specific ideas there.

2:00:02 Mory: This doesn't have anything to do with them.

2:00:10 Mory: They're not in the same circles.

2:00:17 Deirdra: Okay.

14:48:51 Aviella: "In all this time, she wrote back only once, to say very briefly that she'd hoped I'd enjoy the YouTube series."

14:48:53 Mory: I'm giving her the benefit of the doubt and saying she's just too busy.

14:49:03 Aviella: there lies your answer, sweety

14:49:21 Mory: Because if she really does want me to go away, she's being really nasty not telling me so.

14:50:06 Aviella: Mory, you want her to behave in a manner which you can relate to and are refusing to take what she is giving you as her refusal

14:50:20 Aviella: but it is unfair of you to expect her to react the way you think she should

14:50:39 Aviella: she is her own person and will interact in her way

2:01:18 Mory: I don't know, I could talk to the woman who introduced me to her, I guess. But I don't want to dump this on her. She doesn't understand why I care that I think she's Asperger.

2:01:46 Mory: Maybe I should, though.

2:02:09 Mory: Its not a terrible idea.

2:02:10 Deirdra: Well, you don't really have to explain why you like someone; most people understand you just do, and don't care about the reasons.

2:02:21 Mory: Right.

14:51:00 Mory: Her way is mean, then.

14:51:02 Aviella: that is one of your fundamental differences

14:51:11 Mory: I would never do that to someone.

14:51:13 Aviella: no, her way is the "normal" way

14:51:33 Mory: Doesn't contradict what I just said.

2:02:41 Deirdra: You don't even need to mention Asperger's, except maybe in relation to yourself.

2:02:59 Mory: Sure, it makes sense to not speak of a "disorder".

14:51:36 Aviella: no, but your telling her that she has aspergers is also not normal and quite offensive

14:51:50 Mory: Why? It's the truth, and it's beautiful.

2:05:44 Mory: The trouble is I'm torn between all these different impulses. Mainly I just want to write the girl and say... I don't know what. Tell her I've never met any woman who's as much like me as she seems to be, which is true but doesn't seem very romantic. So I think maybe I should leave her alone, finish my game or be in a play I invite her to or something like that so that I'm not just some loser who wants to hang out with her for some strange reason. But then I think, no, if she really is like me then she'll understand bluntness and not want the silly mind games. And then I think, maybe she's not like me at all and I'm just seeing what I want to see.

14:51:59 Aviella: and she was clearly hurt by it - she told Moshe so

14:52:17 Aviella: its beautiful to you, but it is hurtful and offensive to her

14:52:26 Aviella: you are simply not willing to see things from her point of view

14:52:37 Aviella: that is a huge fundamental difference

14:53:00 Aviella: you have the right to your thoughts and needs, as does she

14:53:21 Mory: I don't know for certain what her point of view is. I understand your interpretation, and it makes sense, but I don't believe she's normal. If she's not normal, she might not be acting for the reasons you say.

14:54:11 Aviella: Mory, you know what her point of view is because you wrote about it in your email - I think you dont want to really see/understand it

2:07:04 Deirdra: Hmm, that's a good point. If she really is who you hope she is, a direct approach might be best.

2:07:20 Deirdra: And if she's put off, then you can remove all doubt.

14:54:44 Mory: Bleh. I need a hug.

14:54:51 Mory: :(

14:55:08 Aviella: sending lots of HUGS

14:55:16 Aviella: :(

2:07:42 Mory: http://xkcd.com/55/

2:08:23 Deirdra: :)

2:08:42 Mory: Thanks for talking to me. It helped me put a lot of thoughts in order.

2:08:51 Deirdra: Anytime. Glad I can help.

2:09:05 Mory: I have to write some letters. Bye.

2:09:12 Deirdra: Ta.

14:55:17 Mory: Thank you. This is just too much for me.

14:55:54 Aviella: its hard to allow someone to enter and see our close, emotional side

14:56:09 Aviella: we feel vulnerable and dissapointed when it doesnt work out as we had hoped

14:56:36 Aviella: and it hurts...

14:56:48 Mory: It's not hard for me to allow people to see my personal side. I let everyone see who I really am.

14:57:05 Mory: I just thought there was a chance here.

14:57:07 Mory: I really did.

14:57:24 Mory: Okay, thank you.

From: Mory
To: Shoshana

Hello. This will be a very awkward letter. I state that as a certainty, but I do not apologize for it because if I'm right about you, you may understand where I'm coming from and why I need to write this. And if you don't understand where I'm coming from, then chances are I've misread you (A very likely scenario, I must logically admit.) and I'll know to leave you alone in the future.

I will get straight to the point. I have been obsessed with the thought of you since Wednesday. I know this is not the sort of thing one is supposed to blurt out after two brief and unexceptional chance meetings. So I wish I could back up this sentiment with a long list of things about you which are awesome, as if what I'm saying is some sort of rational argument ("All I am doing is establishing clear facts about your indisputable greatness."), but I can't do that because the fact is I don't know you at all. All I have seen from you in fields where a concept of objective awesomeness would apply is that you have a lovely voice, you participated in a clumsy improvisation, and you seem to take great pride in your clothes, which is a subject I tend to neither notice nor appreciate. So I have no idea what your objective qualities might be, to praise or otherwise comment on them. All I know is what little I've seen of how you talk and how you act. More specifically, you talk with great passion of very particular things, and you act as if what is expected of you is not even a consideration. These are qualities which are not common, especially among women where (I believe) there is greater pressure than that placed on men to stamp out qualities which are not social in nature. Most people simply do not care as much about anything as you care about musical theater or geography. That level of energy is generally reserved for mimicking others, pleasing others, dominating others, etc. Most of the people I've met in my life bore me - I can understand why it's useful in society to have the priorities they have, but I can't relate to it any more than I could relate to the behaviors of some (albeit intelligent) alien species. My impression of you -and I may be totally wrong on this count, I don't know you at all- is that you're more like me.

I will elaborate on how I reached this conclusion, to minimize the risk of any misunderstandings. After all, I may simply be seeing what I want to see, and reading too much into little details which don't signify anything. On Wednesday, I noticed a number of times you responded to me or others very directly, without acknowledging the tone of what they'd said. For instance, I said (and I believe these were my exact words): "So what is it you do, and other generic forms of conversation.". And you simply told me what it is you do, straightforwardly but not brusquely. I think most people would have either accepted or rejected the bored tone of the question, in any event making that second half of the sentence the part they reacted to most, but you moved right past it. My hypothesis is that it did not concern you: you had an opportunity to talk about something you like to talk about, and the details of how you reached that opportunity were trivial. That is not the way most people think, but it is the way I think. If a casual acquaintance says to me "How are you?", only intending to be polite, but I have something interesting to say on the subject of my current well-being, I will damned well say it. If someone won't accept my disregard for social protocol, that's not a person I want to interact with.

For another thing, when you volunteered topics of conversation they were not fluffy ideas to be batted around but well-considered monologues. And you did this often, as though there were a tremendous number of things you wished you could be talking about instead of sitting quietly with minimal social opportunities... but here again I may be overzealous in assuming your motivation is similar to mine. All I know is that when you spoke I got the sense that these were things you had already analyzed and considered in depth privately, and that you could probably keep talking on the subjects for a long time if you believed we would let you. They were also often not topics which would have otherwise come up. This is where I get the idea that you are unusually passionate about unusual things, and that is something I relate to. For instance, I spend a lot of time privately going over the idea of videogames as a continuum of separate-but-linked art forms each with their own qualities and rules rather than a single medium, and when someone actually permits me to speak on the subject I never want to stop because I know it may be months before I am granted such an opportunity again.

There were many other little things you did that jumped out at me, but let's just say I got the sense that you're a lot like me, just transposed a few scales over. I don't know whether we share any interests, but maybe we've got similar personalities. I've met a few men who are like me, but never a woman (or at least, never in person) and I have to admit I never thought I would meet someone like you. That you exist changes things.

..or at least, it does if I'm right about what sort of person you are. I can only know for sure if you tell me, and this is why I am asking so directly. I have explained exactly why I am interested in you. And if you need to know more about me before responding to such a personal e-mail, you can find out everything there is to know about me by doing a simple Google search of my name. (I don't believe in privacy.) If you find my bluntness offensive, you can respond with a simple "Piss off." and I won't ever bother you again. I would understand in that case that you're not anything like me, and it's all in my head, because the idea of total honesty ever being worse than the alternative is not natural to me. The usual tactfulness is a frustrating attitude which I put up with only because the world is so overrun with people I can't relate to. And if you're one of those people who I can get to know but never really understand, then this is all simply a misunderstanding and I won't take any more of your time. But if you are like me, then I really want to get to know you better.

-Mory

14:58:04 Mory: I don't know how I'm going to continue my work now.

14:58:19 Mory: I just want to curl up in a little ball and stop existing.

14:58:29 Aviella: take a deep breath and eat some ice creams

14:58:37 Aviella: and watch something that makes you laugh

14:59:07 Mory: I had some ice cream already. I am full from ice cream. This goes beyond ice cream. And I'm not in the mood for something funny, except for the YouTube series Shoshana introduced me to. :(

14:59:46 Mory: Is it strange that I actually feel physically ill?

14:59:56 Mory: Maybe it's just too much ice cream.

15:00:24 Aviella: its not strange, its perfectly normal

15:00:32 Mory: Argh!

15:00:38 Mory: I don't want to be normal. :)

15:01:24 Aviella: ... too late

15:01:46 Aviella: you are experiencing shock and grief

15:02:06 Aviella: your digestive track is adjusting to the news and is still transitioning

15:02:32 Aviella: dont underestimate good, deep breaths.

15:03:26 Mory: Thank you.

15:04:58 Mory: I'm never going to meet anyone. Shoshana was one in a million, and she didn't like me.

15:06:19 Aviella: I know it feels that way now

15:06:29 Aviella: but I promise you, it gets better :)

15:07:25 Mory: You don't understand. I always assumed I was never going to meet anyone, because the odds of someone I'm compatible with both existing and meeting me are infinitesimally small.

15:07:40 Mory: It's not that it just feels that way now.

15:08:07 Mory: Now it feels like... I don't know what it feels like, certainly worse than the idea of being alone.

15:09:03 Mory: It's just that this feels so bad because even this wasn't supposed to happen. It didn't make sense that I'd meet an English-speaking Jewish Asperger woman who isn't totally repressed.

15:09:12 Mory: There can't be many of them

15:09:47 Mory: There are probably just hundreds in the entire world.

15:11:47 Mory: And I can live with the idea of always being alone, I've felt that way my entire life, it's just that I thought I didn't have to be. And that's why I've been holding on so desperately.

15:12:28 Mory: You're right, I don't want to believe there's no hope here. But you're also right that there's no hope here.

15:13:57 Mory: If you'll excuse me, I need to play my most depressing piece on the piano.




15:21:38 Mory: I think that helped.

15:23:00 Mory: You're not there. Okay.


15:36:56 Mory: Okay. I think I'll be okay. And in a few minutes when I have the urge to write her again I'll resist it, and in a few hours I'll leave her alone again, and tomorrow I'll hold myself back, and eventually maybe I'll be able to live my life. But this would be so much easier if she'd just be honest with me.

15:37:19 Mory: Are you friends with her, or just a casual acquaintance?

16:08:45 Aviella: casual acquaintance

16:08:52 Aviella: sorry, just returned to my computer

16:09:12 Mory: Right. I figured. I was getting some work done, so evidently the piano helped.

16:09:23 Aviella: good, get back to work :)

16:09:34 Mory: Yes sir.

16:09:36 Aviella: I am leaving the office in a few and have gotta finish up some stuff before I leave

16:09:53 Mory: Okay. Thank you again for being straight with me.

16:09:54 Aviella: hang in there, darling :)

16:10:01 Aviella: speak soon~

From: Mory
To: Shoshana

Thank you for writing. I'm fine now, after talking to a lot of people who explained to me (without my biased view) what was going on. I misunderstood your intent, and it is a huge relief to finally hear what it was that you were thinking.

What happened was this: when you said your problem with me was our differing philosophies as evidenced by our different attitudes toward popular culture (The two specific examples you used were Spike in Buffy, and the music on your iPhone.), I thought that made a lot of sense and explained your lack of interest. With all our pop culture-related disagreements, it was about either cliché or following plot convenience. You were okay with entertainment that followed simple patterns, while I wanted entertainment which was different and unexpected. And I observed that that disagreement applied to a lot of other things we "clashed" on, as you put it, since you try to follow social conventions and I reject them as a matter of philosophy. So I was thinking along these lines and I was absolutely ready to move on and hopefully be friends but not any more than that. But then I watched Yu-Gi-Oh! Abridged, and I so thoroughly enjoyed it (even though it predictably repeats many gags and techniques) that the argument you had made no longer made sense in my mind. And suddenly I started noticing a lot of similarities between a lot of the things you like and some of the things I write, which I hadn't thought of previously. I started getting invested in the idea of a relationship again, and since you hadn't outright said that you weren't interested in me as a romantic partner, but had only used a tone which you explained as being because of our differences in regards to pop culture (which I no longer saw as relevant), I thought that was still on the table. So I was planning out how I could change my personality in order to make you happier, and stuff like that. It was all overboard, because since I've never dated I don't have any baseline for what's expected behavior.

It was all based on a misunderstanding, and while I have been going crazy ever since Monday I don't blame you for any of it. This was just me making a fool of myself as usual. You know what? The crazy thing is, even though a few hours ago I wanted to curl up into a ball and stop existing, and even though after each letter I wrote I wished I could "load the game" and undo it, I don't regret it. I never knew I could be so invested in the idea of a relationship, so it's an eye-opener if nothing else.

And I agree, now that it's clearer what was going on, that we'd be better off as friends, if you're not too embarrassed by this incident to see that as an impossibility.

-Mory

P.S. Have you been watching the TV show Smash? I'm really enjoying it; one of the songs from it has been stuck in my head for a week or two.

three comments, the last one being from myself
Rel, Of course said:

Ah - The "What if there is nobody else" trap is one to avoid. First of all, its not being fair to yourself or her if you give added weight to a relationship only because you think it might be your only chance.

also, what girl (or guy) would appreciate knowing that they were a last resort?
bad thoughts, bad.. :-p

It's both kinda cool and weird to see all the cards on the table the way you do yours. Not many girls could handle it, but the advantage of being out there and honest is that you should have a pretty great relationship when you do find the right person (her or otherwise)

Rel the Rambunctious Rasin said:

I think you are too hard on the worker and/or he is too hard on himself.

No matter how you try to slice up your psyche, you are still human - and that's a good thing.

being able to fully successfully divide your mind would greatly affect your ability to be creative and empathetic.

 Mory said:

We neither require nor tolerate creativity or empathy in the Worker. Both attributes get in the way of the work. Empathy, of course, is less of an issue because whenever other people get involved the Worker lets the Person take over. But in a work environment, the quality of the work should take precedence over how people feel, up to the point where the work suffers.

That we push the Worker as hard as we do is quite deliberate: I look at the people I know who exemplify all the qualities I need in a reliable worker, and the one element they all have in common is low self-esteem and the resulting need to prove themselves. Hence the Worker's catchphrase: "I'm not good enough, but today is going to be perfect.".

I'm not worried about what these attitudes will do to me, because we don't allow the Worker to take over full-time. (You will note in the self-meeting that any time the Worker suggests the idea, the Thinker unhesitatingly shoots him down.) We offset the Worker's productivity with other characters, so that no positive aspect of my personality is lost in the shuffle.

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2012, February 22nd, 13:49 and 36 seconds

Obsessed

It is not pleasant to be in a story and not know what kind of story it is.
Is it a romance?
A farce?
One of those independent films that takes itself very seriously even though it's nonsense?

It is new to me to not be the one writing the story.
Will she develop the story further?
Write me out?
Write me in?
There might not be a story here.
I might be imagining all of it.
Wouldn't be the first time.

I've been making a complete fool of myself.
My intention was to just be myself.
But maybe it was too much of myself, too quickly.
"Self" is a complicated concept.
Maybe it didn't need to all be spelled out at once.
If I were in her position, how would I react to this behavior?
I have no idea - no one's shown me anything like this behavior.
By which I mean, interest.
Except for you, you reading this.
You're cool.
You don't talk much, though.

My e-mail notification just went off and I jumped.
It was spam.
Of course it was just spam.
She's a busy person.
I can't expect her to keep up with someone who's just thinking about her all day.
But I can't not be thinking, and I can't not be waiting.
What if there's some bad impression I made that I can do something to fix?
What if there's some way I can start a relationship?
What if bugging her more is going to make her fed up with me?
She's a busy person, after all.
And I am wasting her time with my existence.
But she said I wasn't annoying her.
But she said that she likes to "reciprocate" feelings, even when it's not honest.
She doesn't have any feelings for me.
Or she might have only negative feelings.
Or she might be completely apathetic about me.
But if she does, it doesn't make her less awesome.
If she hates me, I still want to spend more time with her.
But if I think she's awesome and she thinks I'm a creep, then I need to get away from her.
But I need to see her again.
But if I see her again, she might tear my heart out.
But I enjoyed spending time with her.
But I don't think she enjoyed spending time with me.
I'm too bloody weird.
Why did I have to put all that weirdness on full display?
Because this is me.
But maybe she'll never like me.
Maybe she does like me and just hasn't said it.
Maybe I'm a deluded idiot.
No, not maybe.
One way or another, I am a deluded idiot.

We're not dating.
We had one date.
"Dating" implies that there will be more.
I have no idea if there will be more.
She doesn't talk much.
I hate this silence, but I have no right to.
She's never promised me anything.
She has no obligations.

This isn't going to work, is it.
A one-way relationship can't work.
Maybe it'll go the other way, if I give it time.
Maybe if I shut up about myself for a few minutes, this can be a relationship with her.
Not a relationship with the version of her in my head.
I've done the imaginary girlfriend thing.
Doesn't work.

I need to step back, give her some room.
I need to text her, right now.
I need to let her live her life without constant interruptions.
I need to talk to her.
What would I say?
I don't want to say anything.
I want her to say something.
I need to wait.
What if she never writes back?
She wouldn't do that.
I have no idea what she would or wouldn't do.

I just want to show her my music and my games and my screenplays and my comic book edits and my experimental blogging.
Is that so much to ask?
I've asked too much already.
I've asked her to care.
She has no reason to do that at this stage.
And because I asked, there might not be a next stage.
There probably won't be a next stage.
I'm an irritating person.
She's not going to accept who I am.
She certainly doesn't like who I am.
I need to stop thinking about her.

What if there's no one else?


2012, February 20th, 02:05 and 26 seconds

Waiting for the next big blog post

This is a transcript of a conversation on February 17th between the various characters I play.

I need to know where I stand with Shoshana. It's driving me crazy.

You know exactly where you stand with Shoshana.

That's not the point!

I can't... move forward.

This is a lot like Gamer Mom, isn't it.

Oh, spare me.

The 17th was the middle of the Addict's extended day, a marathon of Gamer Mom work which was unfortunately continually interrupted by TV shows and other distractions. The Addict put on a good show of enthusiasm, but there's only so much enthusiasm one can muster while in the mindset of nervous waiting.

It seems like there are massive opportunities within reach, opportunities which I've been dreaming about for years, and I can't shake the feeling that it's all in my head. There's precedent in this blog for imagined opportunities.

You know what, I thought I'd be subtle here and just stick the phrase "imagined opportunities" in bold and leave it at that, but to heck with subtlety. You should search the page (Ctrl-F in most browsers) for "imagined opportunities". Seriously, do that right now. Nothing particularly interesting is said in this dialogue here anyway. Looking back, I particularly like how the 74 post right above Imagined Opportunities totally backed up the argument Tamir was making in the comments, and I didn't even notice.

No, really, it is. Wanting to move forward, but trapped in a strange space where there is no way forward, or at least not yet. Gamer Mom traps the player in a few moments, and maybe life will get better shortly afterward but in those moments it seems like nothing's ever going to change.

This should be a blog post.

It should be called "Trapped in the Present".

There's a word for that - impatience.

You sucked the fun out of it. Good going.

And then there's Kyler, who I am completely reliant on, but he's a world away and there are so many images left.

This is exactly like Gamer Mom.

It's nothing like Gamer Mom. Kyler's on our side. So is Shoshana, apparently.

But I am so scared that I'll meet Shoshana and it will be just this long awkward silence where I have absolutely nothing to say.

So talk about Gamer Mom. Talk about how we're inventing a new genre of adventure game, and how the rest of the adventure games out there all suck by comparison.

That just sounds arrogant, when you put it like that.

It happens to be true.

We are putting a formidable amount of craftsmanship into this baby.

And there's the problem with Kyler, in a nutshell. What we are asking of him is ridiculous. Why is he sticking around? Doesn't he understand how much work there is for him? I keep trying to make life simpler for him, but then I keep running into problems I didn't anticipate, which I should have anticipated.

So let's sit down and figure out exactly what we want of Kyler for the next time we work together, which God willing will be Saturday night. (I hope no D&D session is scheduled for then.)

Let's go through node by node, and figure out how we'd act it out if we were acting it out. That way we can come to Kyler on Saturday night with a clearer idea of what he needs. Maybe write it out in stages - first a general sense of the emotion, and then if he's having trouble a more detailed description. We don't want to impose our own ideas in every single node, sometimes he can come up with something better. And if we don't give him room to have fun, he'll burn out for sure.

I am so not good at this whole "anticipating other people's needs" thing.

I think your attitude needs adjustment. Why shouldn't you be good at anticipating other people's needs?

No, let me rephrase that. From now on, you're going to be good at anticipating other people's needs. We've been going back and forth on what your personality is like, so there you go. You're welcome.

Okay, I'll do that then.

Thanks.



No, sorry, I'm getting nothing.

What, you expect this to be a superpower or something? You just sit there, and radio signals enter your head telling you what the people around you need?

If only.

Just figure it out.

Right. Figure it out. I can do this.

It might help if you analyze the chat transcripts from working with Kyler. See when he burns out, what frustrates him.

I doubt that'd help at all. When he's drawing, he's off drawing. He's not chatting. So if he's having trouble, the only indication I have is that he takes longer. But then sometimes he comes back after all the trouble with a brilliant image, and sometimes he comes back with something unusable. But most often I cause the problems myself, because he gives me an image and I say "That's great!", and then we see how it works in practice and it does not work in practice. Maybe I should just not react to things until I've considered all the angles.

"It is an image. Now wait there ten minutes so that I can decide whether it is a good image. Just sit there, don't move a muscle, I'll be right back with you."

I was serious about the note-taking thing. We should seriously do that.

Sounds better than what I was about to say. Okay, we'll try it and see how it goes.

And what about Shoshana?

Again, this is your job. We're supposed to come to you to figure out how to deal with other people, not the other way around.

But I don't know how to deal with other people!

You take that back.

Oh, okay.

I know how to deal with other people.

Now say it like you mean it.

I'm sorry, I didn't realize how boring this conversation was. It seemed kind of eventful when I was having it. But talking to yourself does magnify everything in your mind, doesn't it? I wish I had some fascinating story to tell you, instead of this. Why don't you go look at the post "Purveyor of Silliness". That's a fun one, I always like revisiting it. Or you can just keep clicking the "I Am Not..." logo on the top right, and chances are you'll get to something interesting. But don't keep reading this dialogue -just copying and pasting transcripts is the bottom of the barrel. This blog used to have ambition and class. Now it's just tired - I can't even do self-reference well anymore. Now, I vs. I - that was the high point. No self-referential post I'm ever going to write will be able to compete with that. It's sad, to have peaked so young. 24 in two days, and already I've said everything I have to say. A year ago, I still thought this blog was going to amount to something. Remember Sequential Motion Pictures? What a terrible post, but at least I had a vision of nonlinear self-expression; that was something interesting. And yeah, it was a failure, but what's come after that hasn't even been trying. I mean, it's all about the fake multiple personalities now. Just a total rehash. I wrapped up the character arcs for the other fonts for a reason. I'd brought it as far as it needed to go. Now I'm just doing it again, with more banal characters.

Is this necessary?

You know, restricting a player's options to just a handful of possibilities is instrumental in creating a clear character in interactive fiction. If the player can do anything, the character has no shape.

Would you please shut the hell up about Gamer Mom for a moment.

I was talking about you.

I know you were. Thank you.

It seems like it's pretty simple, really. The needs of other people (if I care about those people) go before my own needs.

And the game is more important than the people. Never forget that.

Don't be stupid, now.

This is of course a disagreement between the two of you, based on your characters' priorities. But for now the Addict is running the Gamer Mom progress, and the Person is called whenever other people are present. The Addict prioritizes the game over other people, and the Person prioritizes people over the game. So whenever we deal with one or the other, that one is greater than the other. And the priorities swap whenever we swap activities. To put it more simply: whatever we are engaging in in a given moment should be the most important thing in the world at that moment.

I'm sorry, was that supposed to be helpful?

We can't worry about Kyler's feelings if it means harming Gamer Mom.

If we don't worry about Kyler's feelings, there is no Gamer Mom.

That is also true.

Not that I'd want to hurt his feelings in any event. We are, after all, on the same side. I don't want to be the sort of director that I've had to work with in amateur theater, who makes ridiculous demands.

You said yourself a few minutes ago that Gamer Mom was a ridiculous demand on an artist.

Especially if we're not paying him. But hopefully there will be donations, and 50% of that (past what little it costs to keep the game on the internet on its own domain) will go to Kyler.

Maybe it should all go to Kyler. I don't need money.

We need money.

Okay, maybe we need a little money.

We need money.

You're a broken record.

Fine, we need money. I get it. Not that there will be much money coming in from this. Maybe a few dollars. Not enough to justify all the different kinds of hell I'm putting Kyler through.

I'm sure this isn't nearly as much work as some of the animation projects he's worked on.

I'm not sure about that. But also - those are his projects, or projects he's paid to do.

This is his too. Can you picture Gamer Mom without Kyler's designs?

Not now, I can't. They are great designs.

Look, maybe I can rewrite parts of the script so that we'll need less drawings.

Don't you dare change the script.

We just deviated from the script earlier today, when we added in a node to smoothen a transition.

The mundanity of it all! There is as much drama here as in a casual discussion on the intricacies of plumbing. I don't know why I'm continuing this blog, I really don't. There's no point to it anymore, it's become a formless mush. I'll have to ask the Thinker to come up with something new.

Yeah. I feel kind of guilty about that. It shouldn't have been necessary.

And that node there is purely following animation logic, there's not an ounce of gamism logic to it.

It's a problem, and I don't want to ever do anything like that again.

What, you mean a compromise?

I mean compromising the value of the game.

A certain amount of compromise may be necessary, in the name of getting the game released. The deadline is March 5th. We are not progressing at a corresponding pace.

I'm spending all my time on Gamer Mom!

No, you're spending half your time on TV shows which you hide under the title of "mundane activities". Cut the bullshit.

Is that actually how the Rules are being used? TV shows which just aren't getting specified? Something needs to be done about this. Perhaps disqualifying certain activities from not being specifically spelled out in the time allocation table?

No drastic measures are called for. The Addict has this under control, don't you, Addict?

Of course. There is nothing in the world that I care about as much as getting Gamer Mom completed.

Perfect. And Person, where do you stand with Shoshana?

See, here's the thing I really don't understand: why are you reading this? You can't possibly think any of this is interesting. Even I don't think it's interesting, and I love to hear myself talk. You're probably just waiting, same as me. Waiting for something interesting to show up in this silly post. So am I.

Heh. Tell you what. This next year of blogging is going to be awesome. It's going to build on everything I've written these past seven years, and it's going to go in new directions and do things you've never seen on a blog before. My eighth year of blogging is going to knock your socks off, and if (like me) you don't wear socks, the blog will first put socks on your feet, and then knock them off. That is how brilliant what I am going to write will be. Sincerely.

I'm going to be patient. I've gone about ten or eleven moves past what one might consider socially acceptable at this point in a relationship, and while I don't think I was wrong to do so I do think that the next move is hers. But I shouldn't think of it like that. I don't want to create any more pressure than I've already done.

I'm not waiting for her to do anything. We'll meet up, I'll just listen and get to know her better, and if there's something I can do that'll make her happy, rather than vice versa, that's what I'm going to pursue.

Likewise, we'll go over all the upcoming nodes of Gamer Mom so that we have what to say to Kyler if he gets stuck, but once he's pointed in the right direction we need to accept whatever he gives, whether or not it's what we expected. And that means that if there's an image he draws that could possibly be slightly better with an extra half hour of work, but it's decent already, we move on and we don't get Kyler burnt out. If he wants to fix it later, he can do that.

I should talk to him and confirm this way of working. Just keep moving forward, problems get fixed only if Kyler says there's a problem.

I think this attitude does a disservice to Gamer Mom.

Any other attitude would be doing a disservice to Kyler.

Excellent. See, you can handle this. Go on, off with you. Everyone with their jobs.


2012, February 1st, 20:41 and 02 seconds

View my reasonably productive streak in January 2012Daily performance reviews for January 2012:(Rules)

Self-meeting for January 2012

Each day, I pick a character to play, follow the Rules for that character, and score myself on how I did. After the month, all my personalities get together to figure out where we stand and where we're going.
Character list

The goal in January was balance between the play and the game. It is difficult to gauge whether we were successful, given that we did not mark down the time spent on the play that was not mandatory.

I counted up the times. It was 36 hours precisely on Gamer Mom, and 82:33 on The Tenth Man, with an extra 10:48 (not an exact figure) spent on the blog post about The Tenth Man.

Not remotely close to "balance".

Hard to say. Those figures ignore the time spent on Gamer Mom in between days, which was valid because the rehearsals and performances were "previously-scheduled social events". So that's another few dozen hours, possibly. And we estimated at the beginning of the month that over 100 hours would be mandatory for the play, none of which would be counted in the balance against the game. So really, it looks like the game has the lead. There was not all that much time spent on the play in our own time.

What is the point of keeping track of times, if we're not going to record the most relevant statistics?

The statistics don't matter.

We worked on the play and did a decent job, we worked on the game and made progress.

Most of all, I'd like to emphasize that the underlying attitude we were going for -"no time wasted"- was upheld religiously.

And it worked well, like I always said it would. We don't need the fluff, we just need to keep moving.

Music is not fluff. Worker, I thought you understood this.

Music can get us places. So can the game, and to a lesser extent the acting.

This wasn't nearly as clean a month as you're all suggesting. There was lots of time wasted on passive activities such as TV and comics.

That is my right. After a hard day's work, it is my right to relax.

And what's the Person's excuse?

I was... bored?

We may need to rewrite the Person's rules.

You can't rewrite something that's never been written in the first place. The Person has been vaguely characterized from day one.

No, I'm the one who steps up when other people are around!

Like how you blew off the cast party. Good going.

That wasn't me, that was the Addict!

You could have stepped up.

Okay, fine, I admit it. I didn't really want to be there.

How does a party compare to Gamer Mom, on our list of priorities? One activity is a new kind of story, which will be played over the world and needs to be done in this coming month. The other is a party. Kyler isn't always available, we need to pounce at the opportunity.

I just didn't want to go. I didn't think it would be worthwhile.

I have to agree with the Worker that the Person's behavior does not make sense. Person, you wrote the blog post "Yardena", which had no tact whatsoever and would have permanently destroyed our friendship with Yardena if she were even slightly less tolerant than she is.

She gets it. No harm done.

You can't act like that. You're supposed to be the ambassador here. You're not supposed to court alienation.

Can we please talk about my second-class status here?

One thing at a time. First, we will figure out what to do about the Person.

The Person

Summary

It seems to me that the Person should be required to be more sociable.

What, even with people I don't like?

Especially with people we don't like. If we don't like the other person, we get our Person to deal with him/her. It seems sensible.

It's a waste of time, is what it is.

I'm afraid I'm on the Person's side here. Some people, we're just incompatible with.

And for the record, if I had gone to that party I would have been perfectly sociable. But no one was requiring me to be at that party, so I didn't volunteer.

You do not post private things like the blog post "Yardena". That was a blog post about really personal thoughts about someone who did not know those thoughts previously. And then you sent an e-mail to her about the post. I could understand if it were a love letter or about how much you esteem someone, but this was a really messy letter

-post-

whatever, and there was no need for anyone to ever find out about these feelings.

I do think that is the whole idea behind a blog: letting the internet witness interesting aspects of your life. This plays off of Multiplayer in interesting ways, so much so that it could have been called "Multiplayer, Part 4".

And why wasn't it? Because I wasn't consulted. Oh man, what I could have done with this post. And it's just a white page. For shame.

Is there anything in particular I did wrong, or are you guys just ranting for the sake of ranting?

You spent a lot of time watching TV and comics. Don't do that without other people.

It is perfectly legitimate to watch TV and read comics. It gives me what to talk to other people about.

When was the last time you talked with someone about either of those things?

Even if I don't, I share the comics with Avri. So there's a social component to it, that won't be there if I don't read the comics in the first place.

Here's an idea for a rule: "If the Person has been in control for an hour and no social interaction (or direct preparation for social interaction) has taken place, the day must be scored immediately. The one-hour timer is not counting for any character but the Person, and is reset upon switching to the Person. (This rule applies even when the Person did not start the day.)"

Do comics count as "direct preparation for social interaction"?

No, they do not.

They might.

No, they do not.

We do share comics with other people. Avri, and now Yaakov, and whoever else agrees to read them....

Thank you.

Let's put it this way: if the main intent of reading the comics was to prepare for social interaction, for instance if the comics are being read only so that they can be burned onto a disc, then it's okay. But if these are new comics, or comics which are not going to be shared any time soon, then no.

I'll rephrase "direct preparation for social interaction" as "an activity whose main intent is preparation for social interaction". It's longer, but the meaning is clearer.

I think this will do fine. It'll keep the Person focused on other people, rather than using the Person as an excuse to do whatever we feel like doing.

What if the day hasn't been the minimum length yet?

Do we still score then, or does this rule not count yet?

Good question, and whatever we decide will apply to other rules as well, like the Addict's rule to stop when he can't think of anything to do.

I dearly hope that does not ever happen. If the Addict has a day with nothing to do for his addiction, you messed up giving him the day.

Not necessarily. It could be that we thought there would be a lot to do, and then after an hour or two it turns out there's nothing to do after all. What happens then? Do we score? Do we just ignore what we did?

Difficult questions.

I think the ideal would be to transition what's been done into a different character -say, the Worker. Give the Worker credit for what's been done, even though that was not the intent, and let the Worker write an opening statement late.

I don't know, it's a messy solution.

Do you have a better idea?

No. Okay, let's word the rule.

"If a rule requires that the day be immediately ended, but the day has not yet reached its minimum length of three hours, then a conference will immediately take place. During this conference, the Thinker will decide on a different character (or a different version of the same character) for whom the activities engaged in so far would not be out of character, but who would not (unlike the replaced character) be required (for whatever reason) to end the day yet. After the conference, this character will immediately write a new opening statement, which will overwrite the previous statement, and that character will take full responsibility for the entire day including the other character's actions. Use of this (rather obscure) rule must be listed in the notes for the day."

Perfect.

I should note that we have never encountered such a situation yet.

We may have. We may have forgotten about these situations because the default behavior up until now was to ignore activities that didn't neatly fit into the Rules. I'm not saying we did that, I'm just saying that if we did there would be no record and I for one wouldn't remember it.

Very well.

Can I go now?

Plans for February

Summary
The Person
Plans for February

The Person

Now that that's settled, the big question: what are we doing in February?

What's the question? January was excellent at getting things done, and we should have the same attitude going forward. Myself, the Programmer, and the Addict. We can throw out the Person, he wasn't adding anything. And then the Explorer giving some support when called for in the conference room. That's all we need.

Unacceptable.

I'm afraid I'm on the Musician's side here. We limited ourselves to just the four of you (Person, Programmer, Worker, Addict) for January.

For the record, I didn't do much. There weren't any significant challenges.

It was for one month. Now that month is over, and we need to go in the opposite direction. "I Am Not...", as we say.

The direction we were going in made sense. And it makes even more sense with the deadline for Gamer Mom being just one month away. The productive lifestyle is what we need here.

No.

What happens to our creativity, to our restless spirit, when we're stuck in a little cage for month after month?

It's really not so bad.

Worker, you are not going to pull us into yet another argument about productivity. We've been over this ad infinitum. You know the rest of us will never agree with how you see things, so just do your work and don't try to push your values onto the rest of us.

We have one month. One. That's not a lot of time. We need to average around six hours a day on Gamer Mom, at least.

And then what happens next month? What happens the month after that? There will always be important things to be doing; the question is whether we can maintain a complex personality despite that.

The purpose of a "complex personality", as you call it, is to get these things done. Or was that all a lie? You said we needed to be a bunch of different personalities, because no one personality could do everything you've planned. You've said this many times, in fact. So either cut the bullshit and admit this is for no good reason at all, or let us get things done which you've claimed is the entire point of this silly little game.

There's something beautiful about the multiple personality system. It's so different, and interesting.

And occasionally helpful, but let's not get so carried away that the multiple personalities become an end unto themselves.

 

 

I hear what you're saying.

And of course you'll have yet another month where the Worker gets most of the time, and I am left behind as though I'm not an important part of the character.

No. Whatever happens this month, you will have a place in it. The Gamer as well - I'm not going to ignore him just because he doesn't complain as often as you do.

Thank you.

One. Month.

I can work on the game. So can the Explorer.

Not nearly as efficiently as myself and the Addict.

Don't forget the rule that you're not to expect things which go out of character, like telling the Explorer that he must get such and such work done or else.

But I want to work on the game.

This minute, maybe that's true.

Well, maybe not this minute. It's raining outside.

That's exactly what I was going to say - you don't necessarily hold on to interests. You're like the anti-Addict.

Maybe the Explorer can be left out.

What? You told me I could have the first day of the month, and write comments into the Gamer Mom script!

I did tell you that.

We can certainly get more done without him. Same goes for the Gamer.

See if I help you again.

Gentlemen, let's not argue.

I'm no gentleman.

Be that as it may, it's not helping to get angry at each other. Explorer, the Worker has a point. This month may need to be almost as hectic as last month.

Almost? Try a lot more. Last month we didn't care about deadlines. This month, deadlines are everything and that's my time to shine.

Okay. I've been thinking about what you said -"cut the bullshit or let us get things done"- and I have a possible answer for you. Let's say we spend all month on Gamer Mom, at the expense of everything else.

As we should.

Let's say we spend all month on Gamer Mom, at the expense of everything else. Then what?

Then we work on the next thing.

Which is what?

I have no idea. Isn't it your job to figure that out?

It is. And I don't want to reach March 5th with no new opportunities, no ideas, no energy, and just a lingering obsession with this one game.

There are worse things to be obsessed with.

This is your argument? You can figure out what's going on in a week or two after that. There's no problem there. But you know what would be a lot worse? Reaching March 5th and not being finished with Gamer Mom. On March 5th, Kyler is no longer available. If there are nodes which haven't been drawn, those nodes will need to be cut out.

Oh my god no! You can't cut nodes out! The script is so elegant, it won't work if you cut anything out.

But what's better, sacrificing some pride and chopping it down, or not having it come out at all?

Not having it come out at all. Maybe in a year or two, Kyler will be available again, and then we'll release it and it'll be as good as it's supposed to be.

Stop! Stop.

We are not cutting anything, and the game will be ready for release on March 5th.

I propose a compromise.

 

The second half of the month -that is to say the 14th and later- will all be the Addict.

The Addict isn't allowed to have full-time control.

He is if he doesn't mess up. The day can just continue.

Not for two weeks, it can't. One week is the maximum.

We've done it before, with Ruddigore.

That wasn't a clearly defined character.

It was an Addict, pretty clearly.

Sure, but that was before the Rules. Now the Addict isn't allowed to have two days in a row. There need to be two other characters in between.

What is the reason for that rule, anyway?

To avoid situations like January 2011, where a project is over and we don't know what to do with ourselves.

That doesn't make any sense. If we're going to keep extending a day, how is that any different from having a lot of separately counted days?

We'll still have the burn-out next month.

(Which, just to remind you, is exactly what you were warning the Worker about a few minutes ago.)

Yeah. How does that work, exactly, that when I say the Addict should be in control most of the time you say it's stupid, but when you say the same thing suddenly it makes sense?

Because there will be more going on this month than just Gamer Mom!

Not for the second half, there won't. Not if the Addict wants to be able to look at himself in the mirror and not feel repulsed.

I am perfectly committed to Gamer Mom. Don't you worry about me.

The rule limiting the Addict is sensible. It prevents us from losing sight of what matters. Let's not ignore the spirit of the law, just because we've found a convenient little loophole.

The Addict is not guaranteed anything.

You just said he'd have the second half of the month!

Yes, but he still needs to earn it. There is that lovely little rule, which we brought up in the last section, saying that if the Addict can't continue doing what he's obsessed with he needs to end the day.

And then what? You let the Gamer and the Musician run loose, and to hell with Gamer Mom?

To hell with Gamer Mom.

No. No.

If the Addict can't continue, for whatever reason, we see whether a different character can take over.

If there's some other reason the Addict can't continue, like maybe there's something missing in our life and we need to fill that before we can continue, then we'll get whichever character it is that we need. Maybe the Musician, maybe the Gamer, maybe the Person, maybe myself.

No more than one day away from Gamer Mom, and then we give the day to someone who will be interested in continuing. Like you, Worker, or like the Explorer or myself or even the Person if Kyler is involved.

And that's two days, meaning we can resume the Addict. If he's up to it.

And if he's not?

Please. This is Gamer Mom we're talking about, I'll be up to it. This is all academic anyway, since I won't lose interest ever.

Of course not. But we need to plan for all possibilities.

We're not going to go past the one-week limit, are we?

No. After a week, we'll need to find some other outlet. I know the Programmer has a bunch of projects he's wanted to get to, as does the Musician and the Explorer.

I am in the middle of a lot of games.

Or the Gamer. You could even write a new Living In Hyrule post, it's been way too long since the last one.

Yeah, what are we planning for the blog, anyway?

None. Of. This. Matters.

Not your call, Worker. Not your call.

We can have the first official Dialogue, plus I'd like to write a new section of Rules for myself.

I'd like to write another post or two to "I Am Not Myself Today". Maybe one about structure.

Any other ideas?

Not yet. I'll think about it.

Good, tell me what you come up with.

Or I could just write it.

Or you could just write it, sure.

We have one month.

You have made that perfectly clear. Would you like to repeat a few more times? What's that, one month? One month? Just this month, and not next month as well? Maybe we can go until February of next year?

Don't mock me.

Then don't be so mockable. Yes, it's one month. Thank you, now stop annoying everyone.

Thank you for shutting him up.

Bleugh. For the first half of the month... I can't believe all that arguing was just about the second half... for the first half we'll do everything we weren't doing last month. But there's a twist: any day which is not the Addict (and this goes for the whole month) will be limited to eight hours.

What?!

Eight hours. You can do plenty in eight hours. This is how we're going to keep the energy high. Get on stage, do your bit, get off stage.

Okay. I can work with that.

Please, don't think you're obligated to use the full eight hours just because you can. If you're getting tired, stop. Score, take a nap, give it to the next guy.

Are the eight hours to be treated like a hard Rule, or is it just a suggestion?

Rule. Iron-clad Rule.

If you try to go over eight hours, I will kick you off. Just try me.

What if I'm in the middle of something?

Then you'll stop in the middle of something, and continue some other time. Maybe in March.

I don't like it.

Okay, but the next character will like that he'll have more time to work with. Dem's de breaks. If you're worried about going over, then aim for six hours instead of eight hours and you'll have plenty of time.

Time doesn't work like that.

Well, this month it will.

Ah, if only time were so malleable.

It is. Eight hours, strict limit. You start the day at 12:00, it'll be over by 20:00. Though really, be done earlier. It's just considerate.

I take it first activities do not fit into this counting?

No, they don't. But please try to keep the First Activities under an hour. Or if not, end the day that little bit earlier.

Or you can even continue your first activity into the time allocation table, if you like.

But not right away. You should continue the first activity only at the end of your day. Programmer, this is addressed specifically to you.

I have no idea why.

Yes you do.

Now then. Any questions about our grand vision for February 2012?

 

 

No? Excellent. Let's play!


2012, January 29th, 19:38 and 5 seconds

Yardena

I first met Yardena one Shabbat when she was staying by the Feldmans. (She's a good friend of Rachel's.) I enjoyed talking to her, because we have some shared interests -like acting, and the movie Singin' in the Rain. She joined our Dungeons & Dragons game, first taking over Tamir's character while he was away and later making a very complicated new character that she hasn't quite gotten a handle on yet. So I see her every few weeks.

During some D&D-related e-mails months ago, she asked (in Hebrew) what we were up to other than the game. I responded:
Well, right now I'm interrupting the first monthly meeting of my personalities to join this conversation. The others are going to be pissed at me, I'm always treating them like they're not real people. Last time I'm invited to run it, that's for sure.

Or were you asking more generally?
She clarified (Again in Hebrew, which she seems to be more comfortable with than English) that she was.
Adorable smilies, Yardena.

I make computer games, I write, I make music, I do web design, I entertain myself. I don't have any steady job, but I'm usually busy. I only have time to write all these e-mails today because of the meeting I mentioned. We didn't organize it very well.
Her response began with two smilies with hearts in their eyes:
thanks
bay the way... YOU SO COOL!
As I said, she's more comfortable with Hebrew. I try not to hold her writing against her. But how does one respond to something like that? I simply said:
Ummm.. okay. If you say so.
you do all that stuff - you know how to do all that stuff
and
YES IT IS SO BECAUSE I SAY SO
I think that pretty much sums up our relationship. She's very weird, in very different ways to how I'm weird, and she seems to not just respect oddness in its many forms but even admire it. With most people my unrepentant oddness is a liability. Even with some people who I consider to be good friends, I have the sense that my strange life choices are something they tolerate and are mildly amused by, rather than something they totally accept. So it's nice to talk to someone like Yardena, or Moshe, who sees me in a more positive light, even though it's sometimes embarrassing too because from my perspective I haven't accomplished any of what I'm aiming for yet.

I have to admit, I did wonder at first whether I should put aside my time-travel dreams (or the hope of getting as close as I realistically can to that) and figure on dating someone like her - someone who's not like me. I've never dated, partially because I'm too shy around women but mostly because I've never met anyone I consider to be worth dating. (I figure if I ever met someone worth dating, I'd push myself to get past the shyness.) I have yet to meet a person who meets these six criteria:
  • Asperger's Syndrome
  • Jewish
  • English-speaking
  • Accepting of my strange behaviors, like the multiple-personality system
  • Interested in men
  • Not already married or otherwise unavailable
If the person isn't interested in men, there's obviously nothing to discuss. Without English, it would be too hard for me to ever have a conversation. If I dated someone who wasn't Jewish, I'd be running into all sorts of social problems that I'd rather avoid. And if the person doesn't have Asperger's Syndrome, they're not like me and I'll always have the question in the back of my mind whether there was someone better.

My expectations are somewhat more specific than what most people are looking for. There probably aren't all that many Jewish English-speaking Asperger women with a tolerance for experimental identities out there. So I've resolved myself to remaining alone. I can talk to myself, which is rewarding and keeps me focused. But I'm not planning for anyone else to figure in my life too prominently. The more I listened to Yardena talk about herself, and understood how completely different her personality is to mine, the less the idea of dating someone like that seemed appealing. How long-term can a relationship be with someone who's not like me? I barely understand people who aren't like me. But I do enjoy talking to her, which may be all she had in mind anyway. I'm not used to being around people as shamelessly extroverted as Yardena, so I'm not sure whether the little things she says under her breath like "I love you." are totally serious, or (more likely, I think) exaggerations of casual fondness. She does have a marked tendency for drama.

The last Dungeons & Dragons session was at Yardena's apartment in Jerusalem. I had minimal contact with Yardena during the game: her character Lillia wasn't playing a prominent role in the story, and I had my hands full trying to maintain my character Len's diplomacy and leadership in a difficult situation involving impetuous teammates who dislike her, an opposing army she'd formed an uneasy alliance with, and a disapproving god she worships. Diplomacy does not come naturally to me, and it takes my complete and continuous concentration during the sessions to play Len at all competently. That it was in Yardena's apartment was not a particularly relevant part of the experience for me. After the game, Yardena said that as far as she remembered I don't have a religious problem with touching the opposite gender, so could she hug me? I said "Sure.", still bewildered by the question, so she hugged me fondly while I stood stiffly trying to decide whether it made sense to reciprocate or not. Then I pondered my stance on hugs, and Yardena was apparently watching me at that time because she asked me if something was wrong. "No, I'm just waiting to leave.", I said. And so I was, because Harel and Rachel were about to take me back to Beit Shemesh with them. But before I left, Yardena told me she'd come to see The Tenth Man, which Harel and Rachel had told her good things about. I was not willing to confirm that it was a good show (especially knowing that the tickets were too expensive), but she was very insistent that she would be coming anyway.

That night, I sent her an e-mail:
I hope this sounds like an odd question, but was I rude to you earlier? If so, I apologize. If not, never mind.
If I didn’t know you it would have been perceived as rude. But since I do know you, and know what a wonderful person you are (the fact that you sent this mail proves it) I wasn't offended. I generally hug people I consider my friends.
Okay, just checking. I'm not used to affection from other people, and I didn't know what the proper response was.

I was expecting to see her in the audience of the Wednesday show, a mess of a play which I think I gave a particularly strong performance in. When she didn't show up, I figured she'd decided quite sensibly that 80 shekels was too much to pay for a show that might be awful. But the next day, as I was standing around by the stage I heard "Mory!" and there was Yardena waving at me. I didn't recognize her for a few seconds because she was in the lighting booth and I didn't expect to see her there. I went up to talk to her, and she explained that when she'd asked Rafi if she could get a cheaper ticket, he'd told her she could be in charge of the sound for closing night and watch the show while she did that. We chatted for a bit, she wished me luck ("-I mean, break a leg!"), and I went backstage to get ready.

As we were waiting for the show to begin, my mother stormed into the backstage area angrily demanding that I tell whoever was in charge of the sound to play my piano improvisation, instead of whatever songs they were playing. This shocked me: I rarely think of her as being so similar to her nasty mother, who thinks she is morally entitled to infinite amounts of pride from her family and lashes out when anyone denies her that even in tiny measures. (My mother is going to America soon for my non-religious cousin's bar mitzvah a few Shabbats from now, and you can bet her mother is going to make the day a living hell for her because "it would make her happier" if her daughter didn't follow the Shabbat restrictions.) Yardena apparently had nothing to do with the music not playing - it was far back in the playlist, so that it would only play if we started late. Anyway, the play went fine, and Yardena came backstage to congratulate me. She hugged me, and I hugged back because I'd decided that all things considered, hugs are nice. We started talking about the play, and my mother snappily interrupted that we were getting a ride and couldn't let the driver wait. (This, despite the fact that the driver was in the middle of praying in the hall.) So Yardena and I agreed to talk later by phone, and I got ready to leave.

At home, my mother asked me quietly: "Who was that woman you were talking to? Is she... your girlfriend?". (She must have seen the hug.) Embarrased by the question, I began babbling like an idiot: "Girlfriend? Me? Pfft! You think I would have a girlfriend? She's a friend. You don't need to get your hopes up, she's not my type." All I meant by "not my type" was that she doesn't have Asperger's Syndrome, so my mother's reply surprised and intimidated me: "I don't have my hopes up, she's really not your type at all. For a lot of reasons.". "What does that mean?", I demanded, "What sort of person do you think she is?!". "I don't think she's any kind of person", she answered, "She seemed like just a person.".

Yardena called me later, so I went outside (to not wake up my parents) and talked to her for two hours at which point her cell phone battery died and we both agreed it was too late to keep talking. It was a good conversation. She told me what was wrong with my performance, gave me really good ideas about what I could improve, gave me some compliments which frankly I haven't earned yet, etc.. I don't have a girlfriend, but I do have people I enjoy talking to.


2012, January 17th, 15:35 and 41 seconds

The Tenth Man

After two and a half months of rehearsals, Paddy Chayefsky's The Tenth Man is going on stage at Ramat Rachel in Jerusalem. I am playing Arthur Brooks, a troubled agnostic Jew who's pulled off the street by a bunch of strange old men who want a minyan in their dinky little shul in 1950s New York. It's a darn good script, letting some profound ideas emerge from within the banal details of everyday Jewish existence. The question is whether we can do it justice. There will be just four performances in this venue, and after each one I will post how it went. If you're looking for a diplomatic "It was nice." bit of fluff, there's an insubstantial interview Harel did with our assistant director Jeremy that may be more up your alley. I'm going to tell you what I actually think of how we're doing. (Click a date to see its post.)

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April 9

Performance


2012, January 21st, 18:40 and 19 seconds


When I left the house to get to the show, my father said to me: "Enjoy yourself! That's the most important thing.". And I responded "It doesn't matter if I enjoy myself. The important thing is that I give a good performance.", which should give you some sense of where my head was at. It's not that I was nervous -I knew exactly what I'd be doing, in broad strokes and in tiny detail- it's that the play was an obligation and little more. Since I have put myself into this play, after making a small name for myself in other shows (The Matchmaker and Ruddigore), I need to give a performance on the level I've set for myself. I have the utmost confidence in my ability to entertain the usual audience for Jerusalem amateur theater, who are generally surprised and delighted when they encounter even the tiniest hint of competency. (They have seen too many shows which lacked this.) I have less confidence in my fellow actors. My preparation in the day before opening night involved going over the play in abstract enough terms that if they should mess up every line, I'd still be able to convey Arthur Brooks' character arc to the audience and give the play some emotional weight. In this sort of situation, there's not much hope of enjoying the process. But when I participate in amateur theater, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised at having to work with amateurs.

When Lulu showed up, I chastised her for her quote in the Jerusalem Post article: "It’s not a very easy role to relate to.". When she defended herself, saying that she'd said lots of things and the journalist had for some strange reason picked that statement, I explained that I was jealous she got to be quoted, when I would have had something more interesting to say. I like to think my quote would have been: "It's a portrait of Judaism in galut which is as relevant today as it was in the 1950s. I don't think Paddy Chayefsky was a very religious man, but he saw something sad in the deterioration of Jewish spirituality. The generation that still remembers the traditions is dying out, and all their experiences have been reduced to silly anecdotes. Meanwhile the new generation is not interested at all, because they see all of Judaism as a bunch of archaic superstitions. The leadership is entirely disconnected from the people, and aren't doing anything to right the course. What the play is saying, I think, is that underneath all the tedious little details of Jewish life there's something that's worth preserving.". But the chance has gone, and all because I didn't make conversation with the pretty young woman at the dress rehearsal. I tell you, my lack of social initiative is going to get me in trouble some day.

My costume consists of my father's shirt, my father's shoes, my father's socks, my father's watch, my one pair of black dress pants which I bought at a store my father brought me to (and which I only wear because my father likes to see me in "Shabbat clothes" on Shabbat), and a black necktie Rafi gave me which neither he nor Jeremy (the director and assistant director, respectively) actually like but which is apparently the only black necktie they could find. To me it just looks like a necktie - what do I know about clothes? I tied it five times (I read the Wikipedia page for "Windsor knot" to prepare -it's really not as complicated as I thought, it's just a sequence of hand motions like solving a Rubik's cube.), and each time it was either slightly too long or slightly too short. Finally I got it right and Jeremy said it looked better than it had in the past. Good. Jeremy is overly diplomatic, being a politician, but he does have opinions on everything and I respect that.

Somehow the topic came up of the April performance, and Jeremy started explaining that when Rafi left and he took over things would be a little different. He told me I'd get a line put back in which shouldn't have been taken out in the first place, knowing that would make me happy. I said he was like a parent trying to gain his kids' favor to make sure he was the "preferred parent" in advance of the divorce. He didn't care for that comparison. I still maintain that it is a wonderful analogy. Right now, he is winning that competition for me. He missed a bunch of rehearsals, but when he showed up his directing was solid. Rafi's been doing all the work for the play and always keeps his cool, but he's made a lot of missteps. In retrospect, I wish that rather than starting his rehearsals with demoralizing improv games, he had instead challenged the actors to be faster and more comfortable with their lines.

As I got into costume in the bathroom, I heard Neil going over one of his monologues in the next stall. "It needs to be faster.", I called over. "Even here, I can't get quiet?", he said, and I simply reiterated: "I hear how you're doing it, and it's too slow.". Ten seconds later, Neil started over more quietly but at the same speed.

From backstage before many people had started arriving, I heard Harel in the lobby and came out to say hi. "You look like an adult.", he said, with me dressed in the coat and hat I enter with. I attempted a few different "little kid" reactions to this sad statement, and Harel interrupted: "There's only so much you can do, dressed like that.". I turn 24 next month. How did I get so ridiculously old?

On stage after the warm-ups, Rafi continued a tradition of his by giving each of us lottery tickets. It has something to do with having good luck, or something. One person won five shekels, and another won twenty. I refused my ticket: I do not care one bit for gambles. Gerry handed me my kippah: "Is this yours?". "Why do you have that? That was with my stuff!", I demanded. "I've been stealing your things.", he said, and I wasn't sure whether he was joking. At a different point, Lulu joked that she was going to change some of her lines and I should just run with it. Again, I didn't know whether she was serious or not until she reassured me. There are things which one does not joke about!

Lulu told me she heard my musical improvisation from a few days earlier (which I basically sent out because with so much frustration during the dress rehearsal, I wanted to feel like I had something I could actually make good. It wasn't very good, though.) being played as part of the music when the audience came in. I hoped Rafi had used the second improvisation I'd sent him (recorded after he expressed an interest in using the music) rather than the first. The first (fifteen minutes long) was a bit of a mess, and the second (nearly twelve minutes long) incorporated a lot of tunes from the davening, to set the mood. I put my ear to the door, but I couldn't hear the music.

I stayed in that position by the door when the show started. While everyone else was either on stage or having whispered conversations in the lobby (which becomes an extension of our backstage once the audience is inside), I stayed on my own with my ear to the door, listening in for anything I could use as material for this blog post. I heard how the first few lines were delivered, and I ran to Jeremy to say that it was too slow. "When they were just speeding through lines in the last rehearsal, it was really entertaining. They need to be going faster.". The impression the script is supposed to create is that all these lines are very lightweight and trivial, all just forming an atmosphere of mundane realism which gradually reveals the complex truths underneath it. Of course, Rafi had gone in entirely the other direction with the... um, direction, pushing us toward more theatricality. (I went along with this direction by running with his oft-repeated mantra of engaging the audience directly, and making that character/audience dynamic a major part of my performance.) But even Rafi had agreed with me that the beginning of the play works much better when it's fast. Jeremy listened to my criticism and nodded diplomatically.

I ran back to the door and heard the audience laughing hysterically. Even though in my opinion the beginning of the play doesn't work at all if it's paced wrong (and my family, who were in the audience, had a similar impression), the audience was eating it up. They loved all the little bits of banter between the old men. Marvin, who has a tendency toward hammy performances, was having a blast performing for them. One line which he slightly reworded to make it funnier got a huge burst of laughter, and when the laughter died down he gave the second half of his reworded line and got just a chuckle because the audience had already gotten the joke and didn't need it explained to them. (I just sent him an e-mail asking if he could cut out the second half. He probably won't, if only because it's a cue-line for someone else. It should really be the directors telling him, rather than me.)

Some lines were missed, some lines were said twice, some lines were said out of order, but basically the play held together and the audience enjoyed it. Meanwhile I stood outside staring at my reflection to get my not-quite-smile face right, a nuance which I've spent a lot of time practicing at home but which I wasn't sure if I was doing right with the make-up covering my face slightly changing the way it felt. I've never done "subtle" before, and it's trickier than it looks. I wish I could see a video of my performance, so that I'd know whether I took it too far during Act I (which I've decided needs to be much more restrained than the rest of the play). I know I have a tendency to go broad, afraid that the audience won't "get it" otherwise, but I think I was okay here. I hope. I'll try to do less next time.

As I'm on stage I'm kind of lost in my character's own little world, so it's hard for me to know how anyone else was doing. I do know, however, that Marvin ad-libbed at one point "Well, first of all, Foreman's gone alreaady. My name's Zitorsky. Second...", because (as Marvin explained later) Avraham had been using the wrong name so many times when talking to him. That was kind of jarring. Avraham apparently also called Foreman's son Foreman's father several times, which is a mistake he'd been making in rehearsals a lot. "It's always the same problems!", he lamented after the show when it was pointed out to him.

But I think I was fine. I got in all the little nuances I'd planned out, including one bit where I pull my neck backwards as I'm talking which feels really awkward, but doing it to a mirror told me that it's what I need to be doing there and I'm not one to argue with a mirror. Actually, no, I am exactly one to argue with a mirror, so it's good that I listened to my notes instead of trying to act naturally. My Act I monologue was the best it's been, with the presence of the audience pushing me to find new levels of energy. But there were a few points, during the show, where I needed to change the staging slightly, on the fly, to less than ideal situations because the other actors weren't standing where they were supposed to.

I will always remember Gerry as the waiter in The Matchmaker who on one performance forgot his cue to come on stage and left a thirty-second silence. Here he is well-cast as a confused old man. He has few lines, which he usually says wrong, and he's always complaining that his role is too small. My only interaction with him is a bit of goofy staging which Rafi threw in to keep the audience amused, which goes very much against the tone of the play. (When I asked him why he did that, he said: "Something you should know about me is that I always add some craziness into the plays I direct.".) This time Gerry forgot the second half of the little wordless scene between us, and started uncertainly heading back toward his seat early. It's just as well- the gag goes a bit too far for my liking.

There's one sequence toward the end of Act I which has caused so much confusion that on the 17th and 18th we spent hours running through the lines on those pages repeatedly. I'd asked Rafi if we could spend three hours straight just on those pages, but after going through several times Rafi was getting restless and wanted to move on. Now, I know what is necessary for memorizing things, and I know that just because you're able to get through it once or twice it doesn't mean you're ready to perform it. We needed to go through short sections over and over again, because if you do five pages of script together it is too much to process. This is also why I was frustrated that Rafi insisted on doing full runthroughs of the play for all of January, instead of focusing on the scenes that desperately needed focusing on. The issue with the specific sequence at the end of Act I is that it's chaos on stage. By design there is no rhyme or reason to the sequence of lines- everyone is talking at the same time, following fractured trains of thought, and the sense the audience is supposed to get is that everything is moving too fast for anyone to keep under control. In retrospect, we should have seen that there would be a problem there, though I for one did not anticipate it. The actors weren't slacking - they were trying to learn their lines, and they just barely almost knew them. So when we reached that section, rather than trying to maintain the energy on stage I tried to help the other actors get through the scene. This was probably a mistake. I should have barreled through, running over everyone hesitating to remember their lines, and creating the kind of chaos that the scene demands. But instead I played nice, and while almost every line was in there the scene was completely dead on an emotional level, and certainly did not serve as the climax of Act I it's meant to be. I waited seconds (which might not sound like a lot, but it's a lot) for actors to remember their lines, and I overplayed certain emotions because I knew they would remind Joel what his next line was supposed to be and I didn't want him to miss them. I did get every little nuance of my intended performance in there, because it's a lot easier to hit all the beats when you're going in slow motion. But I don't think the audience got much out of watching some old men try and eventally succeed to remember their lines.

My scenes with Lulu went well. Due to the awkward staging, I was never able to actually look at her when I was talking to her, or the audience wouldn't see my face. So I didn't notice that (as she pointed out later) her eyes were literally pink and tearing up the whole time, either because of the make-up or the lights or something. She covered for it well, and if I didn't notice anything was wrong I doubt the audience did.

Later in Act II, there was an awkward pause when Joel forgot a cue. I didn't know whether I should skip to my next line, because I didn't know how much exactly that would be skipping. But after what felt like ten seconds of nobody doing anything at all on stage, I just went for it and the play continued. Apparently I only skipped three or four lines, thank God. I don't actually know every other actor's lines in the script to know when it's okay to do something like that.

Zusha left out a few lines, including my favorite line in the play: "Distribute the macaroons, that all may share this exalted day!". But that's understandable, under the circumstances. The excellent actor who was cast in the part quit two weeks ago because his mother in America was sick. The directors couldn't find anyone to replace him, so Zusha, who has little experience and had been given a tiny part, took over and Jeremy took Zusha's old part. What Zusha did in a week and a half was astonishing. Not only did he remember the vast majority of his lines, but he did a very good performance with it, which (together with a lot of make-up) almost made up for the fact that he's 50 years too young for the part. Word is going to get out of how much he was able to do with so little time, and he is deservedly going to be getting much bigger parts from now on.

During a particularly sentimental scene for my character, I heard a loud snort from the audience. I recognized that snort instantly: it was my father. I think I was doing a fine job with the character in that moment; he just doesn't like sentimentality. Maybe I should do that part better.

The rest of the play was pretty solid. Still too slow, but people remembered their lines and the emotion was carried by my big scene with Lulu which went quite well indeed. The one problem, which Rafi informed me of after the show, was that I wasn't pausing for the audience to laugh. I guess I got carried away. I'll have to be careful of that. At the end of the show, a coat I was supposed to get wasn't where it was supposed to be, so I awkwardly ad-libbed that I couldn't find it. It slowed down the play a bit, but I don't know what else I could have done. Regardless, the play ended on a fairly strong note, I think.

After the play, I asked what people thought of the show. I didn't hear anything particularly negative, which tells me nothing. I was happy that Harel and Rachel said they liked it, even though Rachel must have already known what was going to happen: when I told her the basic synopsis of the play months ago, she immediately guessed exactly what the ending was. Harel said there were moments during my monologues where it seemed like I was talking about myself, rather than the character I was playing. I don't know which parts he was referring to, but he may be right - there's a lot of Arthur Brooks in me, and there's a lot of me in my Arthur Brooks. The pad and pen I use as a prop in the show are the pad and pen I use to record all the details of my life for my performance reviews. And I've caught myself using certain Arthur Brooks mannerisms in my own life. Plus, there's the fact that I normally speak in pompous monologues. So no question, I understand what I'm doing here. I will be glad to be done with this character, though. He is depressing.

Minutes after the show, my father took the initiative to put together a minyan in the lobby for Maariv. Normally I'd avoid davening, since I don't see the point in speaking to an abstract entity, but I'm a sucker for symbolism. The meaning inherent to putting on this particularly play -about not being able to get a minyan together- in Jerusalem is not complete until we see that we're not like that here. In our production we expect that everyone in the audience knows a lot about Judaism, and so it's a lot more heart-warming than cynical in this group.

2012, January 25th, 01:54 and 22 seconds

I can't take it any more. I just want out of this stupid, stupid play.

Excuse me? The script is excellent.

For all that's worth.

It doesn't matter whether it's good or not. You need to do your job regardless.

Right. So maybe I'd feel considerably better about this if I hadn't botched "the job", as you put it.

Did you not remember to keep your expressions restrained?

I didn't remember much of anything.

Please don't say you forgot your lines.

I didn't forget my lines, I just... agh.

Talking will help.

I have no motivation.

That should work for the character, shouldn't it? He has no motivation either, at the start. Just be yourself, and see what happens.

Maybe. It certainly felt forced today.

Let's get some semblance of order to this conversation. Now, we need to build up motivation for the next performance. So the way I see it, putting ourselves into a grouchy mood is counterproductive. We need to be happy about what's going on, so that tomorrow evening we can get out there and do a good job, like we did on opening night.

People are coming to see tomorrow's show. People I know, I mean.

I'm sorry, I don't exactly understand what went wrong tonight. Did you take my advice of aiming for naturalism?

Who can do naturalism, when I'm not getting anything from the other actors?

Please, don't blame them. This is between me and myselves.

No, it's not. We can't just ignore everyone else, we need to react to what they're doing.

And if they're not doing anything we can work with?

Please don't blame them.

Oh, fine! I admit it! I suck. I've always sucked, and it comes out now.

We don't suck.

I do. I suck. We suck. I obsessed about the particular positioning of my face-

Oh no.

Yeah. Maybe naturalism is a good idea.

Maybe, maybe not. I don't know if losing control is necessarily the right approach.

Let me ask, since no one else is, are we actually going to be posting this conversation? I ask because there's really not much time until tomorrow, and I don't see anyone taking charge and writing up some post. So that must be the plan.

Shh. We need this to be authentic. Stop being meta.

I'm just saying, maybe we should spell out what happened.

I suck, is what happened.

Oh fine. This is something I do, talking to myself because no one else cares quite so obsessively, yadda yadda yadda. There are a bunch of personalities - Explorer, you're just going to put a character list up, right?

The same one from the last post.

Fine, so there's no point talking about it.

I meant we should say what happened tonight.

I suck! I suck I suck I suck! How many times do you want me to say it?

That's not true. You did a good performance on Thursday. Or rather, the Addict did a good performance. Where is he?

We should get to work on the game right away. The play's a loss, but at least we can use these hours at home for something. We're halfway through the game, and we just need to keep working at it.

Yes. This makes sense. Enough time on the Person's moping, let's get something done. Either that, or just go over the lines of the play, but the game would fit the whole "balance" idea for the month.

Forget balance. And Addict, you're not who we need. I know I told you we might be able to work on the game this week, but that was when I assumed we'd be able to crank out good performances without trying. Maybe that attitude was to blame. We're not a good actor naturally. We need to work at it.

Our instincts are fine.

We should go with those.

I don't know, we'll need to figure that out. But we'll need the Addict in here, because I don't want a negative attitude. Tomorrow is going to be great, the final performance is going to be great. We need someone to take over those days who understands that.

I think it's a mistake to neglect the game. The play is not one tenth as important as the game.

My god, you're just like Shai! He didn't cut off my line, leaving me to do a solid thirty seconds of adlibbing apparently without him noticing that he was not saying his line which he was supposed to say, and when I confronted him about it backstage he simply didn't care. He said to me "In the grand scheme of things...", and I said he should take it more seriously, and he told me to get a life.

This story does not matter.

What? He treats the play like that, and it doesn't matter? That is exactly what is wrong with the play- people who are just not determined enough to do anything with it.

Like you, today, from the sound of it. What a hypocrite.

You take it back. I was doing my best.

It was an overly controlled performance. Be real.

That's not what we practiced!

Okay, okay. We need the Addict here.

Yes.

The other Addict.

Hey.

Nice color.

Here is the problem. How do we give a performance-

I've already answered this question. Don't act so much. You can work in little bits of theatricality here and there, but for the most part you need to just trust that we're similar enough to Arthur Brooks at this moment to make it work. The aggravation doesn't hurt.

It does hurt if it decreases energy on stage. Let's go through this beat by beat. We came in with too controlled a half-smile. Don't get it just right, just act polite while you're actually miserable.

This is actually going to be you, tomorrow. That's why I'm calling you in here.

Okay, I'll act polite while actually being miserable.

It won't help. Don't you understand, they're recording tomorrow! And my friends will be there, and we can't risk it all on some artsy experimentation!

The logic is sound. Naturalism will make Arthur more relatable.

Oh my that's interesting. This can go together with what Rafi said about talking to the audience.

Let's just go through the problems. First we came in, thinking we knew what we were doing. We never want to do that. Then we ran through the lines because we had this idea of "fast=good", which isn't right at all. Yes, everyone else is slower than molasses. But we need to feel it out.

Again, it'll be you.

Please don't bother me with pronouns, who cares.

So we just sped through the lines, not feeling the meaning behind them. If I see that I'm not feeling the lines, I will slow down and figure out what I am doing.

What, while the audience is watching?

Yes, while the audience is watching. Arthur Brooks is figuring out what his next move is, while the audience is watching. It's not a race.

It should be, the other actors would be more entertaining.

It's not a race. So that's already two fundamental problems in the first few minutes.

Then we exaggerated the smiles. We never want to do that. Keep the smile steady.

You said it needs to be naturalistic!

I don't know. Maybe.

Okay, this isn't helping. We need to figure out which part of the performance was the problem, and which should be kept.

I told you-

I know what you told me. And you're not an expert on acting, you just posed a theory.

The logic, as I say, is sound. If you didn't want to hear it, you didn't need to give me the day where I came up with it.

I don't think I'm going to go for really exaggerated facial expressions naturally.

That just comes of not being confident enough. I am a professional -by "I" I mean Arthur Brooks- and I don't care what anyone thinks. I mean, sure, I care what everyone thinks. But I want everyone to think I don't care what they think.

Is this really the personality you want controlling the Wednesday show?

Let's keep going through what happened. Came in too forced, sped through lines we didn't feel. Then we went too fast inside the rabbi's office, again with the speed issue. It's not speed so much as just phoning it in and not taking the time to care about the performance. That's the real issue.

And why should I care? It's not a good show!

But it can be.

No it can't! Even with all my mistakes, I was still...

 

Okay, I wasn't better than anyone else on stage, I admit it.

Arthur Brooks is a central character. He has a compelling arc, from not caring to getting slowly pulled in to rejecting all of it to being set free. Bring the audience on that journey, and no one else on stage matters. We can carry this fucking show all by ourselves.

Did you not hear me when I said how much we sucked?

Which is why we're going through, and figuring out what went wrong.

We were going through the motions of the phone conversation, rather than imagining someone on the other line. The audience can feel the other character through the phone, and when that character isn't there in my head it looks amateurish. Here there is naturalism, of a sort, but what I'm reacting to is someone who's only in my mind. That shouldn't be too much of a stretch for me. But today, it was a one-sided telephone call. We can't have that.

I think the end of Act I was perfectly adequate. No complaints there.

Wait, so is the idea that the Addict knows everything that happened with the Person? Because earlier, we were pretending we didn't know what happened at the play, so that the Person would have to tell us...

Shhh.

I mean, everyone else messed up their lines, but we covered for it as well as we could have.

So it's "we" now.

I don't care about pronouns! Shut up, we.

In Act 2 the staging was absolutely awful. We started leaning against the wall, and then very awkwardly moved to the front, drawing all the audience's attention and all so that Lulu could move to our right.

And we moved through the invisible wall at blackout! Rafi said not to do that.

Fine, I won't do that. The bigger problem was the improvised staging, and you know what? It is not my fucking problem where Lulu stands. If she's been practicing it a way that doesn't fit how we're doing it, then she'll have to figure out something else. I am going to stay by the door.

Not quite reassuring enough on "I'm sure he will be back soon.", the meaning of that's been lost. Then in the scene in the rabbi's office, I didn't care about what Lulu was saying, and that's a problem.

You know, you keep acting like it's so easy to pretend we're getting energy from the other actors that's just not there. Not once has Lulu spoken those lines there with any sort of passion, even though our next line is "It's nice to hear someone talk with passion about anything". And I get the desire for passion. It's why I don't have any healthy human relationships. But the passion was not there.

Yes it was.

What are you going on about?

The passion was there. And the lines were all there, and it was an excellent play.

What planet are you living on?!

Exactly the planet I need to live on, to make sure that tomorrow isn't like today.

Those poor people, who paid 80 shekels for this...

The people who come tomorrow will get their money's worth. That is my promise to them as an actor, and in order to do that I need to not be reliant on anything at all. This is going to be a great play because I fucking say it will.

Is it necessary to keep swearing?

No.

So we didn't listen to the analyst on the phone, and we didn't pay attention to the astonishing amount of passion in what Lulu was saying.

You can't even remember what she was talking about.

She was talking about her entire life, as one does. Moving on.

The monologue was bad.

What was bad, specifically?

We didn't feel it. Same problem.

Not easily fixed.

Very easily fixed. These are wonderful words we're saying, I plan to internalize them. And to hell with the pauses complaint. Let there be pauses, if I feel like there should be pauses. This is one of the best parts of the entire play, and I am going to give the audience every last drop of resonance from it.

So that was a problem. And then when Avraham cut my line off, I continued saying the line instead of running with it.

It's a very controlled line.

Avraham does not exist, to mess up that line. And the second half of that line does not exist, if it is interrupted. I'm going to flow with whatever happens, and find a way to make it a great performance instead of beating up both myself and the other actors if I miss some little detail we planned. The details don't matter. The broad strokes of the character gradually learning to enjoy life despite himself, that matters.

That's not what's happening in the play.

It's happening deep down.

Again, are we sure we want this guy controlling the day? I think I could do a competent job.

We don't want competent. Today was competent. It sucked.

Thank you.

It was good enough.

Thinker, do I have permission to kick Worker out of here?

No. But Worker, please keep your opinions to yourself.

Then there was the debacle with Shai.

Should we end the line there, or just keep talking endlessly until he deigns to cut us off?

What a ridiculous question. Shai, you see, does not exist.

Of course he doesn't.

No. Him not knowing his cue is not a problem in this show. If the line is not interrupted, it continued and ends: "anything like this nonsense. I mean, for heaven's sake, an eighteen year old girl. There should be laws against being like that, with such an innocent thing..." - ooh, you're right - it is fun to ad-lib! I'll have to do that.

That's just showing off. It could backfire.

It's me having fun.

A good idea. Anything that will make this fun is a good idea.

So yes, I'll give him a moment's pause at the end of the sentence but then I'm continuing and I'm never going to stop. An hour later, they'll still be watching me ad-lib, having the time of my life.

So you're not angry at Shai.

Furious. That'll be the fun of it.

This does not sound healthy.

Oh fine, I won't adlib anymore. It is awfully risky. And also unnecessary.

Come to think of it, it could also spark retalitation, where Shai just cuts me off at the beginning of my line.

Fine, I've already agreed I'm not doing that again.

Then there's the end of the scene, where I entered a bit too late. So just keep that in mind, while I'm running around.

The running was a bit lackluster, too. It doesn't matter if anyone's watching, I need to go back in out of breath.

After the intermission it was a bit of a mess - Zusha had read my blog post, and was so careful to get in the wonderful line "Distribute the macaroons, that all may share this exalted day!" -which did get one laugh, actually- that he threw off a bunch of other people... come to think of it, I don't know what that was all about. Was it him that forgot a line, or someone else messing up cues, or what? But I was fine there. Which begs the question, where did I go wrong?

Ah, yes.

Straightening.

It's so controlled, and all the real emotion which had been there was lost. It needs to be more real, while also being spoken to the audience.

That'll be tricky, but I'll work at it.

And if that line doesn't work, for whatever reason, I'll get right back into it with the line to Joel. Why didn't I do that today?

What went wrong?

Timing.

Yes, you're exactly right. Timing. That's it precisely. I've been afraid of giving that line too slowly. I'm going to take my time, it's a meaty line. That was the problem. And it was all downhill from there, because the emotion that was supposed to be underneath all the rest of the play was missing.

Do we really need to go through this entire thing? It would probably be better to let the Addict start a day, or even better to go to sleep early and start promptly tomorrow.

Let me just keep going for a bit.

The bit with Zusha was fine, the rest of the scene was okay, though I don't know about the ending position and the smile should not be brought back there.

But it's like a leitmotif, throughout the show!

I'm pretty sure you're misusing that word.

What, leitmotif?

Never mind.

I didn't get upset enough at Lulu.

I should have been really upset with her for not letting go of her silly little idea. Instead I forced the energy without the emotion, and the result was some annoying shrieking. Ouch.

Then the little face-off with the Cabalist was a little bit off, but really I think the rest of the play was okay, for my part. Get Act I right, and the rest will follow.

2012, January 26th, 02:50 and 1 second

Backstage during the intermission, I couldn't contain my excitement at what I'd just accomplished. I said to Rafi: "What do you think of how I improvised all of Act I?". He seemed unimpressed. "It was just a few lines.", he said. "No, it was all out of order so I needed to redo all of the staging and add in lines!". "Well, that's why we trained you in improv!".

I have to admit, he had a point. I was so annoyed at all those little improv games, when we could have been focusing on all the fun little details and gotten the play under control. But here I am, after a show which went spectacularly off the rails in Act I (if proximity to the script is your measure), and I had an absolute blast. And so did the audience, all of whom seemed shocked when I said that what we were doing was not what Paddy Chayefsky wrote and what we practiced. This morning, I spent hours going over little details: refreshing the little details I'd come up with before, adding in new details. And on stage, all those details went out the window in a few moments of actors saying the wrong lines. And yet, it was a very good show. The energy was there. The characters, for the most part, were there. The humor was there. All we lost was all the details, and really, who cares about those?

When the show started, I had my ear up to the door listening to my music playing (which I am very proud of), so I heard how the play began. I ran over to Jeremy, who was still having his make-up done. And I said to him: "They're going faster! And it's especially going to be quicker because they're skipping half their lines!". He responded bitterly: "You should not be telling me this before the play's over.". "No, but the audience loves it! It's just inessential lines they're missing, it still makes sense.". He did not seem entirely reassured, but he should have. The play was working. And then of course Neil came in and slowed down the show, as he does. But the pace had been set. I tell you, when we reached the final scene the audience was totally engrossed in the story, you could feel the anticipation. Not bad for a bunch of guys who don't know their lines. I take credit for holding the thing together.

Here's what happened in Act I. I walked in, so happy to be on stage that I may have forgotten to do the little polite smile I'd practiced. But I was acting fairly naturally, so I had complete confidence that whatever I was doing (and I wasn't quite sure what I was doing) would work. I went off to the corner, and found that the door to the rabbi's office hadn't been closed. There was an insane girl on the other side of the door who I wasn't supposed to know about yet, and I was standing right in front of the door as it was open. And I figured, okay, this will be kind of funny for the audience. All I'd have to do to notice her (and send the plot off the rails) is glance to my right, but I'm so absorbed in my writing that I don't see it. Good, let them hold their breath for a bit. But then I remembered that Gerry was going to come over and try to get past me, and I had no faith in him to come up with some clever reason why he can't get past me even though the door was wide open. So I absent-mindedly closed the door without looking through - sure, it was awkward, but better some slight awkwardness than the entire show getting derailed.

So I was standing there, Gerry came in, forgot all the details of what he was supposed to be doing (a very simple bit of staging where he tries to get past me, and ends up silently fighting with me), but bothered me enough that I figured, okay, the audience is seeing Gerry's character being an ass so he's served his purpose here. And then the scene was supposed to move on with Joel coming in to get Gerry out of trouble, and starting to talk to me. Then I sit down (I'd arranged with the directors today that I'd sit in the back row because the other actors were always standing right in front of the seat I was supposed to sit in.), they talk about me for a bit, I ask to make a phone call, they direct me toward the rabbi's office, and then there's a whole bit I'd planned out where I reveal to the audience for a moment how miserable I am, before noticing the girl and recomposing myself, then slowly deciding what to do about her before sitting down and making a phone call. During this whole silent bit in the office, the audience is listening to Avraham give a monologue occasionally broken up by other characters reacting to him.

That's what's supposed to happen. What actually happened after Gerry's botched confrontation with me was an awkward pause, followed by Avraham giving that monologue that was a few pages too early. Don't ask me how it happened, I was writing away and couldn't tell you. But it happened, and I started writing in my pad (without changing my facial expression): "How the heck are we going to get out of this?". Thank God when Joel reached the end of the section, instead of reacting in horror to the realization that I was in the rabbi's office (which would have been horrific, because I was not in fact in the rabbi's office, but was still just wasting time by the door), he segued into his dialogue with me. I took my time with the lines, enjoying what I was saying. And then I was supposed to sit down, but all the seats were taken because everyone was in the staging for later. So I simply stood on the side, and continued the scene as though I wasn't meant to be sitting down. When I went into the rabbi's office, I skipped all the waiting and just jumped straight from beat to beat to beat without waiting for a cue. (The cue lines had already come and gone during the monologue.)

I perhaps took longer than I should have - it takes entirely too long to call a number on a rotary phone, when the entire audience is watching you and nothing else is happening on stage. But without relying on anyone else (because I understood what they'd done, and why they couldn't join in without making everything worse), I kept the play moving forward. I gave my phone-conversation monologue as I'd practiced, and it went well. Then I left the room to rejoin the other actors.

The play kept moving -don't ask me if it was on script, I was in my own little world- and then we reached the problem pages where no one ever remembers what they're supposed to be saying. I moved around the stage more (in patterns I had not planned out), to create a sense of movement despite the long pauses which I anticipated between the lines. I looked in at the girl, came out, and gave my line: "What have you been doing to this girl?", to which the response is supposed to be "The girl is possessed by a dybbuk.". But instead the reply I got from Avraham was "Nothing.". Ah, but I was ready for him! This is not the first time he's made this mistake, so earlier that day I decided what I'd do if he messed it up again. Without missing a beat, I responded: "What sort of nothing are we talking about, specifically?", which got him back on track and we continued. ...until Joel's line, which he confused with another line, so I cut him off with a line that related to what he was saying, and we kept moving from there.

Then I tried out a little bit of staging I'd come up with where I'm about to leave, and it didn't go quite so well because Joel, following me, had his back to the audience. I wasn't able to go as far upstage as I'd intended, for fear that his positioning would get even worse. Still, I think I gave the audience the impression that I wanted to get out of there, so as far as I'm concerned it was fine.

Then in Act II scene 1, in the part I have with Shai, he cut me off too soon (overcompensating for not cutting me off yesterday), and then tried to combine his two lines, so that I needed to cut him off, but it almost worked. Then Joel didn't come in on cue, and when I left the room he started saying his line while forgetting to enter the theater, before deciding to say the rest of his line inside to whoever happened to be there.

So this is the class of problem we're having. And yet, I legitimately think this was an entertaining show, if only because of what a strong reaction we got from the audience. Because the energy was there. If I'd waited for Joel to remember to come in, the show would have died a little there. But I didn't wait, I just kept the show moving and whatever happens happens. And yes, I am going to take credit for the show being at all watchable. If I hadn't planned on everyone else failing, if I didn't know and accept that that was an option, the show would not have been watchable even if I got in every nuance of what I'd prepared. I got in maybe 75% of what I'd worked on. And it was enough.

Here was my opening statement for the day, which will appear in the performance reviews at the top-right of the page as soon as this extended day is officially over:
"Paddy Chayefsky wrote a wonderful play. People are paying good money to see that play. And I have the capability and determination to deliver as much of the brilliance of the play as I can manage. The other actors do not exist. The directors do not exist. All there is is Arthur Brooks and the audience, and they will enjoy the show."
This is what happened. I totally ignored Rafi's instruction of speaking toward the audience. I cut off other actors when I needed to, I covered for them totally messing up Act I, I rearranged all my staging around whatever nonsense they were doing. Arthur Brooks was Arthur Brooks, minus a few tiny nuances which weren't critical, and the audience enjoyed the show.

(There were no horror stories from the second half of the show, which is mostly driven by myself, Lulu and Zusha. We know what we're doing.)

And you know what? I enjoyed it as well. I am proud of this show we put on tonight. I am not proud of my fellow actors, with the exceptions of Zusha and to a lesser extent Lulu (Her crazy stuff is great, but I think there's a lot more she could be doing with the lucid parts.), and I suppose Kalman as well because Kalman's always reliable. But I am proud of my own contribution. And even though Rafi wasn't able to pull the play together exactly, he did at least show me how to have a good time in it.

2012, January 27th, 15:06 and 53 seconds

The last performance was very good. Not a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, though in retrospect it could never have been a masterpiece with this direction, but it was actually close to script and there was energy and the sizeable audience was very responsive. My performance was a bit weaker than the third -the problem with extended days is that my enthusiasm gets diminished as they continue- and my first monologue with Evelyn was a little bit off. Plus, I got a bit confused at times and put my hands in the wrong direction or little things like that. But it was a pretty good performance, and everyone else was as good as they've been, except for Kalman who I think wasn't having quite as much fun with it as he'd had previously... you know what, none of this matters. It came together, most of the audience was satisfied, and now everyone's talking about the cast party which I'll probably blow off. I've got more important things to be doing now.

Now that I'm looking back, the play looks very different. It all looks poorly-conceived, even the parts that I thought made sense. When Rafi said he wanted me to have a prop, I pulled the pad and pen out of my pocket that I never leave home without, and he said that was great. It didn't strike me as odd to be writing things all the time, because this is what I do and I don't even think about it any more. All eight of my regular characters write down everything they're doing -even the Person who we really had to force into it. But apparently the way it came off was that I was a journalist of some sort, writing down notes about the people around me. This was completely at odds with the impression I wanted to give, that I was disinterested in everything around me. And I'm finding out now. Why am I only finding out now?

I'm remembering a lot of reservations I had about the show a month ago, which I pushed out of my mind because there was nothing I could do about them. I think the tone of our production was completely wrong, aiming for theatrical silliness instead of emphasizing the realism of the setting. I think the staging was haphazard throughout, and the characterization was barely there for most of the characters. I think it was much too slow, consistently - Arthur's scenes should have been the parts where the play slowed down to catch its breath, not the parts where the audience woke up because the play was suddenly moving more quickly. I look forward to watching the DVD at 1.5x speed, and seeing how much that improves the show.

Looking back, I can't think of a single decision of Rafi's (past the casting) that I agree with. There must have been one, but I've been running through the experience in my head and nothing's coming to mind. I think Rafi completely misjudged the tone of the script, I think he overestimated the competence of these actors left to their own devices, I think he was careless about important details, and I think he didn't push any of us (myself included) as hard as he should have.

I'm not sure I like what I was doing either. I had an idea I liked for the part, and Rafi said it didn't work. So I came up with another, more complex idea (It took me around five minutes to get into character before entering the scene.), I wrote out details for the entire script based on that idea, and Rafi wanted more of a straight man so I threw that all out and tried to be more normal most of the time, letting the depressed parts be little scary bursts of manic energy tht are then repressed. I don't think I pulled it off. I won't know until I see the DVD, but I retained a lot of little ideas from the first and second versions of the character, which probably don't fit anymore. I barely know who the character is, he's such a hodgepodge of different acting styles and plot functions. But I do know who he is as a person, I think, so maybe what I need to do for the April performance is to throw out everything I have worked on -absolutely everything- and just be on stage.

I suspect it'll be easier to be real when everyone knows their lines better (which Jeremy is going to focus on) and it's not just a big improv game. Maybe that's just an excuse. I don't know.

Thank God the play is over. ...sort of. Whatever.

2012, April 11th, 01:33 and 17 seconds

On Sunday night, I got fewer hours of sleep than I usually do. (Six, compared to the eight and a half that I need.) This was deliberate. Once Rafi left, I threw out my performance of Arthur Brooks and started over. Instead of being a surprisingly controlled person as I tried to portray in January, I played Arthur as a person who is coming apart at the seams. And I can do that more authentically when I'm exhausted. I also was careful not to drink too much on Monday, because it was a hot day and I wanted to be a little bit dehydrated. When Arthur comes on stage, he is not (as Rafi suggested) an enigma to the audience. He is hung over, he is miserable and he is cranky. I couldn't actually be hung over because I don't drink, so I hoped that tired and dehydrated would be enough.

I made a few other changes from the first time. For one thing, I wasn't using my regular voice anymore. This is because I found in rehearsals that when I did use my regular voice, I was apt to reuse other elements of my January performance: intonations, facial expressions, hand gestures. And this Arthur Brooks was an entirely different character: different physicality, different attitude, a whole different acting style really. None of what I had practiced all those times still fit, and slipping into those habits would damage the new character. Doing a different voice helped me get out of that mind-space. So I spent much of Monday, as I had a few days earlier, going over the voice I was going to use.

Well, no, that's a lie. I spent most of the day watching TV shows. I finished watching Avatar: The Last Airbender, which I'd been addicted to, and I watched Game of Thrones and Mad Men. But every now and then I'd talk to the screen, reacting to what had happened, in my Arthur Brooks voice. It's a gravelly voice, very tired and unmusical. But the problem was, when I chose to talk I accidentally used my natural voice half the time and needed to correct myself. I'm not used to using strange voices in normal situations. When I first woke up I spoke to my family in my Arthur Brooks voice and I think they figured I just sounded like that because I was tired, but later on in the day when I didn't feel that I had that excuse I reverted to my usual voice, and indeed when I came to the theater I was talking to everyone normally.

I showed up right on time (two hours before the show), which meant I was one of the first actors there. Jeremy asked me how I was doing, and when I said I was half-asleep, he said "Just the way I like it!". Dena did my makeup and did a very good job of it; then I waited around until the show. There was no warmup, which led me to worry that the actors would have no energy, but they started at a good pace.

I wondered whether I should abandon the voice, since I'd never gotten it right yet, but I decided to try for it anyway. This was a mistake: when I first spoke, I didn't get the right sound but just did my deep Ambrose Kemper voice from The Matchmaker. I suspect I spoke out of the side of my mouth at some point during this performance, though I am not aware of any specific point at which I did so, because that odd bit of facial manipulation was tied to that performance. Once I had committed to the voice, though, accident though it may have been, I knew I needed to keep going with it or disorient the audience. It sounded pretty fake, but it was better than discarding it in the middle.

All my staging was improvised, because Jeremy had not told me any staging and the staging from January didn't fit anymore. There are little things I regret doing -I moved at a few points when I should have stayed still, for instance- but for the most part I'm happy with how it worked out. I also improvised the details of my performance, playing off of what the other actors gave me, which was good because I couldn't have any idea what the other actors would be doing. They made some interesting new mistakes with the script, saying lines out of order and repeating lines and skipping lines and what have you. I tried to keep up with the changes, cutting people off when they were getting themselves into trouble and sometimes letting them cut me off when we could get away with it. (There were other times when I chose to continue saying my line even though someone was trying to cut me off, because the audience would have lost something important if I didn't get those words in.)

But you know what, almost everyone was on their game. It was quite a show. The audience clearly enjoyed it, and I don't think it was an unmerited reaction. And then they'll all have an anecdote to share about this performance, which is that Shai (with Jeremy's permission) added in a fake scene at the end to propose to his girlfriend in the audience. That's what people will remember, moreso than the problems like the unreasonably long pause between Act I and Act II (while the actors got their tefillin on onstage) or the places where people didn't know their lines. I think this was by far the strongest of the five shows we did.

And on that note, may I just say good riddance to this show. We finally got a good show out of it, but it took way too long and had too many frustrations without enough enthusiasm. For my part, I came up with a decent performance but if I had been at this state months ago (instead of being led down the wrong path and having to start over) it could have been something really special. I hope that is the last I will ever have to think about The Tenth Man.


two comments, the last one being anonymous
Harel said:

I love it!
It remains to be seen how tonight will go.
will it be ad-libbed?
will it flow?

I'm waiting to know!

by the way, it was weird and cool seeing our conversation from your perspective.

Anonymous said:

Finally!
Thanks for posting about it.. I wasn't sure that you would and I really wanted to know how it went.

Post a Comment




2012, January 5th, 15:40 and 07 seconds

View my slow crawl out of the gutter in December 2011Daily performance reviews for December 2011:(Rules)

Self-meeting for December 2011

Each day, I pick a character to play, follow the Rules for that character, and score myself on how I did. After the month, all my personalities get together to figure out where we stand and where we're going.
Character list

My personal goal in December was to be a more benevolent sort of organizer, not being too harsh about failures and trying to understand my companions better. It is not my place to say whether or not I was successful. What is clear from the performance reviews is that self-improvement was achieved in small measures, and that this self-improvement -like most self-improvement- was slow and gradual. Comparing the first few days of the month which dragged on pointlessly with the last days of the month which had a lot of energy and enthusiasm, it is clear that there has been a noticeable change. And though I said it was a gradual process, and this is true, we can also see one particular event in the middle of the month which turned things around. I am speaking, of course, of the conference room program, which we will be writing this self-meeting in for the first time today. The ability to speak to each other is key to having a successful relationship with each other. Without the ability for casual conversation, the Rules are abstract to the point of being academic for all except myself and possibly a few others. If we can actually talk to each other, as we would talk to other people via the internet, suddenly our characters and situations require significantly less suspension of disbelief to engage with. If there was one mistake I made this month, it was not prioritizing the conference room above all else -even Gamer Mom, which is by far the most important thing we're doing in the bigger picture. The conference room, in focusing our personalities and decision-making processes, allows us to achieve all the other things on the agenda. From the plan, there were two elements we did not get around to: creating marketable music and building a blog post to house debates between us. The other half of the plan -Gamer Mom and the play- were reasonably well-represented. If we had started the month with the conference room, I believe we would have dealt with all the bullet points on that list.

Not on the list, but also on display in the time allocation tables: The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks, which reversed the trends we criticized in the "Living in Hyrule" chapters (which we ought to get back to), the social protest and its continuing debate, and some confusion regarding the Person's place in the group, which was addressed in the last blog post(s).

I didn't get a single day.

That's true. But it's not like we haven't been playing piano.

We haven't exactly been pursuing it.

I would like to point out that this conference room program is incomplete. I raised some issues, and they have not been addressed. In addition, we have not implemented several simple but important features from the design document.

This will all be dealt with next month.

No, it won't.

There is absolutely no time, with everything we've got planned. There's a March 5th deadline for Gamer Mom, which means at least a week of being addicted to that. And the play The Tenth Man opens on the 19th, so we should have a weeklong addict for that as well.

We don't necessarily need to have a full week for each. In general, I'm hoping to have shorter days in January.

That might not happen. I don't like ending a day before I'm done.

If you're not done, but you've fulfilled your obligation to work on the challenge for three hours, end your day and come talk to me. I may give you another day right away to finish up what you're doing, or I may decide that something else is more urgent but you'll get another day immediately after that. I'm not looking to leave everyone with unfinished business.

That is a sensible recommendation.

I'd like to point out that through no intent on our parts, the month was fairly symmetrical. It's like the seventh 74.

"The first day is frustrating, yes, but the seventh is satisfying."

I was speaking more to the convenient coincidences behind that post, but yes.

I have no idea what you're talking about.

What the Explorer is saying is that when you put in an effort, it ends up more beautiful than you intended due to God's presence. It's a religious statement.

I wish you'd stop speaking in riddles.

I just explained what we were talking about.

You shouldn't need to explain anything. If there's something that's so obscure it needs to be explained, it probably shouldn't be brought up in the first place.

Bl'bah.

Whatever.

Rule proposals

Summary
Rule proposals
Plans for January

Summary

Okay, let's get down to the nitty-gritty. I'd like to propose a new rule for the Worker. He shouldn't be able to watch TV or read comics if it's not in the schedule. We've had too many occasions where there's a free minute somewhere, a TV show sneaks in and there goes the rest of the day.

"When adjusting the time allocated to passive entertainments in a previously-declared schedule, the starting time can be made later (but not past the declared end time), and the ending time can be made earlier (but not before the declared start time). However, no passive activities may be added to a previously-declared schedule in time which had not already been allocated for the purpose."

I'm not sure I even understand what that means.

Don't move lengthen or add time for comics or TV. If you want those activities, you're going to have to allocate them.

Oh, also: "The first activity of the day may not be a passive activity."

I have no objection to these rules.

Excellent.

And I'm glad you brought up first activities, because I'd like to change the idea there. I think what we've been doing is clumsy. There is no reason to declare a first activity both on its own and in the time allocation table. But I do like the idea of starting the day on the right foot. So let's separate the first activity from the time allocation table.

The question, then, is how that fits in with the strict list of what may be done outside of a day.

It's not outside a day, it's just a part of the day that's not in the time allocation table.

Though, since you bring up the permissible activities outside of a day: we need to add conversation as an acceptable unrecorded activity. That way the conference room becomes a safe place, where we're not worried about going over the mundane activities quote but we can take as long as we need to get our heads on straight.

It's a fine idea, but entirely separate from the matter of unrecorded first activities. I will need to consult The Rules.

Okay. This isn't complicated, but it requires some editing of the "Activities" section. I will do that now.

Done.

Could you also write up the other rules we discussed?

Of course.

Done.

Okay. Are there any other proposals?

I propose you let me have a day.

Any other rule proposals?

No?

We will move on, then.

Plans for January

Summary
Rule proposals
Plans for January

Rule proposals

Let's figure out what we're doing in January.

Well, it's obvious, isn't it? We've got the play. That is set in stone. And we've got Gamer Mom, which is also set in stone. That doesn't leave a lot of time.

How much time would you estimate we'll need on Gamer Mom?

200 hours, I'd say. 200 hours by March 5th.

That should be 100 hours in January, and 100 hours in February.

That seems sensible.

No, that seems ludicrous. This is the time to be dealing only with the play. How is it that two weeks before opening night, so many of the nuances of the character are just idle thoughts, and not actually represented in the performance? We have two very different ideas here: the man who is completely broken and fools the world into thinking he is okay, and the everyman who stumbles into a scene of weirdos and provides someone for the audience to relate to. The first is my take, the second is the director's. I need to find a middle ground, so that we can both be happy and have a play better than either one of us sees it. This takes a tremendous amount of time. This is the time to be committing all available hours to the play.

The play must not come at the expense of the game.

The play is just a hobby; games are our life.

Speak for yourself. I really believe The Tenth Man can be something special.

Of course. I wouldn't claim otherwise.

There really isn't much time.

13.5 hours in a day, 23 days left to January. That's a total of 310 hours we have to work with if we waste no time at all in an entire month. Which honestly, is impossible.

100 hours on Gamer Mom. And a bare minimum of 104 hours on The Tenth Man, if you do the math. That's assuming we spend no time on it at all at home, but just go to the rehearsals and performances and call the job done. So that leaves 106 hours left in the month. I can understand spending 30 more hours on the play. Maybe 40. But if we leave ourselves only 50 hours of recreation and unanticipated activities over the course of an entire month, we are going to go insane.

Insanity would work well for my performance of Arthur Brooks.

Tempting, but it would mess us up in the future months. Plus, it would harm the Gamer Mom work. So no.

Addict, would 35 hours be enough?

Three days' worth? Heck no.

Look, those are the numbers. So either we push some of the Gamer Mom work to February, which seems like a bad idea, or we don't go on stage with the absolute ideal performance we can possibly have.

That is unacceptable. Over the last two shows, I have acquired a reputation for daring performances. If I give a performance in The Tenth Man which is underachieving, I lose that.

I really think I can get audiences to like this unlikable person. I think I can have people rooting for the impossible romance he finds himself in, even though it makes no logical sense. Or maybe because it makes no logical sense. I can create a character who seems like he came from an entirely different world than these old men, a world which is more sensible and yet empty.

You'll have to do that in 30 hours.

Let's not jump to conclusions. We're talking about options.

What if it turns out that Gamer Mom is actually more work than the Worker anticipates? Kyler starts another project on March 5th, it never gets done, and everything gets derailed for years.

Nothing is getting derailed. Calm down, everyone. We can figure this out.

I feel that I am owed.

Then you will be sorely disappointed. January is not your month.

I have yet to have "my month". The implicit policy from the old blog of treating music as an addiction akin to TV is still in full effect.

There is simply no time, Musician. I have no days to offer you.

I am going to lower your score each and every time you have a day, Thinker.

Fine! I don't expect I'll have any days this month, either. We can only have people who will make progress on our practical goals. That leaves just the Addict, the Worker and the Person.

What? How did I get into the list of productive people?

These two activities have social implications. That means you're part of the discussion here. Musician, you are not. Go away.

You may regret this.

We did promise to work on the website for our shul. How is this not also "set in stone", as the Worker put it?

There's no deadline.

Then we should set a deadline, no?

Fine! The end of February. That's the deadline.

In the meantime, you can be helpful by figuring out how to resolve the two visions of Arthur Brooks.

I think I can handle that, thanks.

I think the Programmer's challenge-oriented approach might work better, sometimes.

I'd be willing to give it a shot. It does sound like an interesting problem.

Fantastic! Then we have four characters, who will be the only ones in January.

A little piece of ourself died as you typed those words.

None of this is actually addressing the problem.

Yes, it is. With the other four characters out of the discussion, we now have a greater chance that whatever we decide here will not be strayed from, which means we're using every last bit of time available for the task at hand.

We could make up a new character who can handle Gamer Mom and The Tenth Man. It worked in December 2010.

That's an interesting idea. Who would you be thinking of?

Someone very interested in drama, and in the potential of little moments. Someone with an eye for the visual and the emotional. Actually, forget the new character. I volunteer to run the entire month.

 

 

 

 

 

 

You'd watch movies and act random. We need someone reliable.

So let's make a new character, who's exactly like me but reliable?

That doesn't even make sense. Your whole nature is as an agent of chaos.

I prefer to think of myself as... no, actually, that's good. Agent of chaos. I want to be an agent of chaos.

Excellent. Then you have no place in this conversation; come back in February. And we're not making a new character, because we don't have the time to tweak and test him. We're working with who we've got.

Suit yourself.

Okay. Four characters: Addict, Worker, Person, Programmer. But mainly the Addict and the Worker. The Person and the Programmer are just to keep the month from getting stale, really.

Gee, thanks. It's so nice to feel wanted.

Think of yourselves as understudies.

It does make sense to have understudies.

But mainly we're relying on the Addict and the Worker. The Addict is only allowed to return after two days of other characters, so the Addict's days should be as long as possible and the Worker's days should be as short as possible.

I don't understand.

That way we can squeeze two Workers in between Addicts, and have flexibility about which activity each Addict is pursuing. But "as long as possible" is going overboard. I'm afraid that after reaching an average of over 7/10 for the month, which is quite necessary in January's case, the Addict will simply take the rest of the month without needing to worry about quality.

Fine. Not as long as possible. But on the long side. We'll keep in conversation during the day, and see when it's best to end.

We're still not addressing the problem. It's simple math. There are not enough hours.

We could sleep less.

No, we could not. I know what you're like without eight and a half hours of sleep. I'm not interested in going there.

You know, most people don't sleep so much.

Maybe they don't put as much energy into each day as we need here.

Or maybe they do, and we've just gotten too used to having this much sleep.

It doesn't matter if you're right. We can't risk it when so much is on the line.

Fatigue would become Arthur Brooks.

No.

Please stop dancing 'round the issue.

Let's figure on 85 hours of Gamer Mom.

Oh, damn. I messed up my calculation. I forgot the last day is a self-meeting.

 

 

Right.

Oh, and also I wasn't accounting for mundane activities.

For God's sake!

I think whatever we decide on, by the way, should leave in time for TV and comics.

And we can't neglect the blog for another month. We just can't.

People! We do not have an infinite amount of time!

This is why we are looking to you to decide how the time will be spent.

Now, let's do the calculations properly.

Let's figure that we have an average of ten hours per day (not game-day, but "day" in the conventional sense) that's not claimed by sleeping, eating, other mundanity, brief lapses into addiction and unexpected events.

That seems high. What if some social opportunity comes along?

Let's say an average of nine hours per day that we can actually plan for. We have 23 days, not 22, and the self-meeting will be the first of February. So we have 207 hours to work with.

That is nothing.

Now you're catching on. If it's a hundred hours on The Tenth Man just with the transportation times and not even adding in all the extra work of trying to do a good job, then 100 hours of Gamer Mom is a fantasy.

I don't want to leave it all for February.

We don't need comics and TV.

Sherlock is awesome. I would like to watch it.

And that's not an option. We're forgetting about the transportation. During that time, we'll be playing games on the Nintendo DS. That will serve as the entertainment this month. No comics, no TV, no music, minimal internet use. The purpose they serve is not needed when we've got another kind of entertainment available.

There still aren't enough hours.

Gamer Mom has to go.

No.

Gamer Mom stays.

You're making this very difficult. This plan is absurd. We cannot give equal attention to the game and the play. We simply cannot, and no amount of stubbornness will change the fact.

I'd like to sleep on it. We'll meet again in the morning, and conclude this meeting so that the Addict can get started with Gamer Mom.

Good night.

Good morning.

Have you come to a decision?

Good morning.

I have not quite decided yet.

Let's put all our energy into the play, like the Explorer suggested. December 2010 showed results.

It showed results because there were no distractions at all. Nothing but the play. That is not an option in this case. Gamer Mom is a higher priority than the play. If I were convinced that we could not do both to the expected level of quality, I would say that the play should suffer for it. Thankfully, I am not convinced of this.

Now, let's rethink our calculations one last time. December 2011 started late. January 2012 is also starting late. It's not the end of the world if we decide right now that February 2012 will be starting late as well.

This doesn't match up with how the rest of the world calculates time.

Nor does our use of the word "day", but that's not hurting anyone.

We really shouldn't be calling those "days".

I know it's shocking that I of all people would suggest such a thing, but this is not the time to discuss semantics. There is a precedent for lengthening months when the work is not done. It will not be possible to do a hundred hours of Gamer Mom by February 1st, for all the reasons brought up and others. But doing it by February 5th is quite a different matter.

If that's the case, then we can stop at February 1st and simply do less this month.

Yes, I suppose we could do that. That way we get a coherent story of February as a focus on Gamer Mom.

Actually, yes, that does work much better. Thank you.

Here, then, is the plan. We will not worry about the number of hours as we go.

We really should.

We will instead worry about maintaining balance between the play and the game. They are equally important in this month, and to neglect either is inconceivable. So if we feel that we've been spending more time on the play than the game, we shift our focus to the game. And vice versa. On the subject of vice, I will allow comics and TV for the simple reason that if I ban it, there will be a flood of wasted time just as we're starting the critical month of February.

Thank you.

Of course, these activities are only allowed for the Worker, and the new restriction which the Worker has kindly agreed to means that all such time needs to be scheduled so that it does not get out of control. I will expect every schedule to be run past me before it is declared. I will be generous in the first half of the month. Possibly less so as we get to crunch time.

You're talking about just twenty or thirty hours of private work on the play, if we follow that strategy.

I will not deny that the time on the play will be limited, especially since we do have other concerns: the health of the blog, adding the final touches to the conference room which should have been in last month.

We do not have time for the blog.

We will find time for the blog.

Nothing fancy, no interactive posts or really ambitious ideas. But at least we can write about Fear Itself, about Ocarina of Time, and about adventure games.

That's an extra forty hours tacked on, easily.

And what of the changes to the way we run the blog? Shouldn't those be done as soon as possible?

Absolutely not. That will be February, or maybe even March. For now we coast on what we've got.

I don't like it.

Noted.

What about the shul website? We did promise.

Again, not this month.

It's bad form to promise to do something and then not get around to it.

I am aware of that.

Basically, what is going to keep us focused on Gamer Mom and The Tenth Man is not any policies I set, but simply the influence of the Addict and the Person.

The Person is not known for getting things done.

He will be now.

You can't simply make up new personalities to suit a single month.

It fits with where the Person has been. These are important social obligations, as I have previously pointed out.

And what if he decides to spend an entire day just hanging out instead of working?

Person, please do not spend too much time with other people (other than Kyler and the Tenth Man cast) during January.

I can't guarantee that they'll be enough.

This is why you have Shabbat.

Okay. What of game night? Can I try to catch the tail end, as we did this past week?

Yes, okay.

You are imagining that there is more time than there truly is.

End your days quickly, except for the Addict. Don't sleep for longer than 8 hours. And never mind the numbers. This is going to be a fun month, for all of you.

That's it, then? "Balance"? That's your plan?

Yes. We'll see how it goes.

Have fun.


2012, January 4th, 12:15 and 27 seconds

261211002.htm

Humankind, I can explain...

I'm not sure what I should be doing now.

I guess I could end the day, but I feel like there's something I'm forgetting to do.

You were going to write to the blog.

Yes, I was.

People are actually reading the blog, which is really odd.

And it's a problem, because there's nothing new there.

But I don't remember what it was I wanted to write.

Well, look at what's going on right now. You're basically-

"Cheating on the Human Race", that was it.

Yes, that was one idea for a title.

Was that the social game?

Yes. The idea is that you're trying to figure out how to approach normal people, when you've essentially replaced them with yourself.

Yes. Is there a way I can word this, so that it won't have a creepy sexual undercurrent?

No. Embrace the sexual undercurrent.

[shudder]

:)

"cheating" is the right word. It creates a sense that what we're doing is taboo.

It sounds like bestiality.

Nonsense.

Well, it does.

The title gives the wrong idea.

No better title is popping into mind. We can think about it.

But no implications of bestiality.

Fine.

Are you sure you want to write this post yourself? It takes a long time to write an interactive post.

Well, it's best if I do it. But honestly... no. I'm not sure this is what I want to do with the rest of the day.

I have the sense that there was something else, some simpler post I had in mind.

Maybe you should have written it down.

Sure, but I didn't.

You know, I really like "Cheating on the Human Race". It's catchy, it's provocative.

No bestiality!

Fine, fine.

This is yet another reason why I should write it myself.

So do that.

Maybe I will.

Look, this is obviously a turning point for you.

Guh. Don't remind me.

It was a lot easier to just ignore you guys.

What's changed?

I don't know. All I know is that when I tell people about this program, they don't react like I thought they would.

What is it you thought they'd think?

I don't know, that this is a bit of strangeness that intrigues them. Or something. I don't know.

What difference does it make if other people are interested? Is our entire life just an amusement for other people?

Well, yes.

I mean, don't get me wrong, it would be great to actually do things. I'm all for working on Gamer Mom, for instance. That can get me actual respect. But while I'm not being respected, sure, I'll settle for amusement.

Interesting.

Oh, go on, say it. You think that's pathetic.

No, actually I'm not sure how I feel about it. I guess I just never considered the idea of creating amusement being such a goal of being strange. But maybe that's all it is.

Of course you're trying to amuse people. What's the whole blog?

It's a story I'm telling my future self.

Sure.

Then why is it on the internet?

The public nature of a blog gives the story legitimacy in my eyes. But the intended audience is not the public. It never has been.

"Legitimacy"?

Yes. It says that this is not a story I'm ashamed in. And that creates expectations about how this story is going to be ending, i.e. there will be a point to all of it.

Most blogs on the internet don't have a point.

Their writers are treating them as tools of communication. I Am Not... is a story.

And the purpose of a story is to entertain, no?

Point taken.

 

I suppose strangeness is about eliciting reactions, in a way- by seeing something that you don't expect, it expands your worldview a little. [The Trip: Diversity (and lack thereof)]

Citations, now. What the hell have I gotten myself into.

There's something inherently idealistic about nonconformity.

See, that I don't buy. I could be okay with conformity.

Really?

Sure, why not?

All that work, to end up as someone who'll always be second-best next to the natural normals.

No one's naturally normal. You learn it as you go along.

True enough.

But better to aim higher, no?

I don't know. I really don't.

 

Then why are you here? Why did you vote to keep this game going?

I don't know.

I was really surprised, I've got to be honest. I thought you weren't interested in any of us, because we're not "real" people or whatever.

You're not.

And yet...?

And yet nothing. You're not.

I don't get it.

You know, when I tell people what I'm up to and they practically back away because they don't know what to make of me, I should want to throw away everything that's causing that. I should want to reassure them that it's not so weird really. It really is very awkward to tell anyone about this. I mean, I can't quite claim to have multiple personalities because that implies a lack of control. And this is all so rigidly controlled.

All multiple personalities might be something like this. [Semantics, Part 3]

You can't actually believe that.

There are some things about this text entry which need to be fixed. First, only the part of the line which is visible should be drawn. Drawing so much offscreen is slowing the program down. So we'll need to figure out which part of the line actually needs to be drawn. Actually, that should be very straightforward. Second, when switching characters textX should immediately be set to textGoalX without the scrolling. There's no sense in thinking the caret is in the same place for two characters. A separate problem is that when a new character is brought in while another character hasn't finished typing, the program thinks the text is for the new character. That's just a simple oversight.

It makes sense. If it were an act, in the same way that any persona is a controlled act, I think multiple personalities might look exactly as they do. Which is not proof of anything, but it means that this isn't an outrageous idea. Regardless, what we're doing is in some ways unique.

There are plenty of people who talk to themselves on the internet. We didn't invent the idea.

Most people don't take it this far.

This is true.

Most people are content with a little bit of quirkiness. This here is full-fledged uberquirk.

The word "quirk" doesn't even belong here. I think the word you're looking for is "insanity".

Or possibly "disorder".

Ugh. Don't even joke. This is all a conscious decision, we don't need to make a new category just to make people feel better about being quote-unquote "normal". This is a choice.

The program is slowing down. We've never had a BlitzMax program run for such a sustained time, and maybe this just happens. Or maybe I need a new graphics card. Or more RAM.

We'll manage.

I was saying that it's awkward to tell people about this "game", or whatever you want to call it.

And I'm really embarrassed when they react like that, but somehow it feels right, you know?

I don't know what it is that you would consider "right" about this situation. Like I said earlier, I didn't expect you to be onboard.

It's just, like, maybe this is who I can be. I can be that weird guy.

That doesn't sound dignified.

But maybe it's enough.

Maybe it's enough if I'm really, really, really weird.

We are that.

You know, there is a goal in all this.

We're not just being weird for weird's sake, I think we can actually accomplish great things like this.

Maybe. Maybe not. For now, all there is is the scared look on people's faces when they hear.

And there's this conversation.

Yes! And there's this conversation. And y'know, one on one you're not so bad. In the whole group it was like this really aggressive "Fictional Character Pride Parade", and I just wanted to run away. But in the moment to moment of this thing, it's really not so bad.

I don't understand you. Having pride in this system is going to alienate you from other people. That's obvious. You can't say "I spent two hours talking to myself yesterday.", and expect the person to still see you as someone they can relate to.

So, what? I should hide my face?

At very least, you shouldn't go around announcing the most extreme examples of your strangeness to the world. You're out leading the parade, and it just doesn't add up in my head.

I can't tell whether this is a lapse in your characterization, or if you're lying, or what.

Don't insult me. I know who I am.

Then explain it to me, because I don't know who you are. I... I ought to know who you are, but I have no clue. Give me something to work with.

"I spent hours talking to myself today." There you go.

:D

I don't get you at all.

Well, it's the first date.

I guess it is.

 

Do you have any idea what you're going to be doing next?

Not a clue.

Figures.

If I might interrupt...

By all means.

The Rules let you switch to any one character. Switch to me. I'll start by working on Gamer Mom from 21:20 to... say, 23:00. Then we'll write out the post together until 1:00. I have no hesitation about working on things like this, and you are the one who actually wants to write it. Let's work together, and see what happens.

We can split the post into two sections, so that you have this big open dialogue between Person and Thinker on the one hand and then a "normal" conversation on the other with a normal person.

Working this conversation into the post, to give a frame of reference. I love it.

Do any of you have an idea for a better title than "Cheating on the Human Race"?

That's a good title.

How about "Humankind, I can explain..."?

That's not bad.

It's a bit informal, no?

No, that's fantastic. We can have two titles for two connected posts. One formal and comfortable, the other informal and awkward. It's perfect.

You mean that the other title would be the filename.

Exactly.

It's already 21:21. We should move this along. And then at 1:00 I can watch Doctor Who-

Ha! An ulterior motive!

Always.

Okay, let's get going then. Don't want to keep the Doctor waiting...

Good luck.

Judging by the reaction it provoked, I probably shouldn't have blurted out that I regularly chat with myself and have made a computer program which has no other function than to enable this behavior. Ah well, the cat's out of the bag. The truth about me would have come out sooner or later. How do I play this?

"Doesn't everyone talk to themselves, now and then?"
"I'm not crazy. I just find that it's a good technique for planning and managing my life."
"Yes, I'm crazy."
"I was joking. Ha ha."

"I don't."

"You should try it some time! It'll change your life."
"Oh, you're one of those."
That was an exit line if ever I've heard one.

"You know, I can't say I've ever considered that. That is an interesting suggestion. But I don't know how long I could stand talking to myself. Otherwise, a very.. um, yes. Interesting suggestion."

Wow, talking to oneself as a burden... this is a person who needs help.
Maybe multiple personalities aren't for everyone.

I advise: "See, that right there is the sign of an unhealthy relationship with yourself. Like any relationship, it all starts with communication. If you're not willing to talk to yourself, how can you work out your problems?"

"Well, some people go to therapists. Me, I'm not crazy, so I don't think I have anything to worry about."

"Bah, therapists. They don't know you like you do. Think about it."

I admit: "It is a struggle sometimes, to face myself and be totally open about everything. It's always worth it, though."

"I'll just take your word for it."

"One of what?"

"A normal person. Shudder."

"What's wrong with normal people?"

"You mean besides the lack of personality, the mindless conformity, the all-consuming greed and the pointlessness of their existence?"
"Oh, nothing. I'm joking."

"What is wrong with you?"

"Nothing! I am a liberated oddball, do you hear me?"

An awkward silence ensues.

This is excellent. I've efficiently established myself as a weirdo, and if I don't press any further on this subject I may even be seen as the harmless, noncontagious kind. A change of topic is needed, right away.

"So... play any videogames?"
"The play I'm in is coming along nicely."

(Oh my god that was the worst thing I could possibly have said. What is wrong with me?)

"Sometimes.".

Oh, how delightful. I think we'll call this interaction a success.

"Oh?"

"Yeah, I pretty much know what I'm doing. I thought I knew what I was doing before and the director didn't like it, so I've diluted it to fit in with his vision, and now it's fairly easy and simplistic so I'm looking to see if maybe I can find new challenges in the nuances of the voice of it. I'm not entirely sure what he should sound like. Maybe I should record myself doing the lines a bunch of different ways, and see what works best. But I don't really have time to do that this week, because I've got to finish the blog post I'm working on first. There's never enough time."

I'm not getting a response here, having not left an opening for one. So I continue. This person has obviously become a third wheel in my conversation, but it's better than awkward silences, right?

I continue: "There are so many things you think about that you don't know you're thinking about, just because it doesn't seem important enough to reach your consciousness. But the other thoughts all affect what you're doing, whether you like it or not. By defining eight aspects of my personality and then having those aspects talk to each other as fictional characters, I'm taking everything that I might not have been aware of on a conscious level, and putting it out in the open as a debate."

"I don't think you can reduce a person to just eight personality traits."

"That's true, but it's a good shorthand."

Uh oh, I think there's something to that criticism.
Show how the Rules have improved my life.
Concede that I might be full of shit.

Maybe this isn't about my real subconscious. God knows I'm having to fight aspects of my personality which I never put there. Maybe this is all just fooling myself into thinking I have control.

I should defend the practice. I can work out the ideas as I'm talking.
The world doesn't need to hear my nonsense. I should keep it to myself in the future.

"Even if this isn't a perfect representation of my psyche, truth comes out in fiction. And with a fiction as diverse as this, with eight different sides all with different perspectives, I always find a way to put the truth into someone's mouth."

Hm. I don't think anyone's very interested in whether I'm a hypocrite or not. Shame- I would have enjoyed a rigorous argument. Maybe later, with my selves.

I remain silent after that, thoughts floating around in my head and getting lost because my brain doesn't keep HTML transcripts. I have no desire to stop playing at multiple personalities, and I will defend my right to irrationality if necessary. But I don't need to get into this argument if I'm going to lose it. What I do in the privacy of my home is my business, and I need to stop trying to make it others'.

"Sometimes I get stuck in one way of thinking. And that's a trap. After a while your habits and attitudes become a hindrance, when you're trying to do new things. So I switch to whatever character will not run into those pitfalls, and either I let that character take over or I let that character argue and advise the character in charge because they're coming from a different perspective."

"You are a very strange person."

I don't think I've explained the idea clearly.
We're ending at "strange". Not "crazy". That's a win.

"Every day, I pick one of these characters to run the day. And there are specific rules for those characters, and at the end of the day I score on how well I represented the behavior of that character. It's just acting, really. Just without a stage. Well, my blog's the stage. Anyway, what's improved since I've made this new computer program is that in the moment to moment of life, whatever rules I've set can seem kind of abstract. But characterization in a dialogue is a lot more clear-cut. I can easily see whether I'm losing the character, and try to get into the head of this character better if that happens. So that bleeds out into the rest of my life, that understanding of who I am that day."

"Most people don't need to go to such lengths to know who they are. And who they are isn't some made-up character."

"All personas are fictional. And most of them aren't really being controlled on a conscious level. This is better."

"Thanks."

"On the other hand, I might just be rationalizing a silly idea." Why did I start this, again?

Because multiple personalities are awesome.
Because my plans are too big for any one personality.

"Multiple personalities are something that I've thought about for a long time. Like eight years, or something like that. And at some point I just decided to stop thinking about it and go for it. And because I'm insanely analytical I decided to do it systematically, and here I am now." That sounds kind of pathetic, now that I say it out loud. "It's not as dysfunctional as it sounds. We actually get things done... on... rare occasions."

"Sounds brilliant."

"The... core of my rationalization revolves around the idea that my plans are too massive to handle unless I split my personality. I mean, I am planning to invent or reinvent five different art forms. And I actually have plans, going decades into the future, to pull that off but it just seems like it's too much for any one version of myself to pull off. So maybe if I keep switching between characters, and find or... unlock all the potential there, all the different potentials there, then maybe I can do what I feel like I need to do."

"You know, having multiple personalities generally doesn't lead to reinventing art forms."

"Okay. Well, we have plans."

"Okay then. It's good to have plans."

"Well, at least you know you're crazy. That's good."

"Oh yes, I have no illusions or desires about being what most people would consider sane. Being crazy is way more interesting. I never know what I'll do from one moment to the next!"

Elaborate on that thought.
"There was one time..."
Pontificate on the virtues of being crazy.

"It's like... my parents were wondering why it is that I don't consider any woman I've ever met to be dating material, and I told them -truthfully- that I'm only that interested in people like me, and that I haven't met any other people like that except for me. So they said that I shouldn't hope for someone like me, because that can get boring. That it's better to be with someone who surprises you. But the thing is, I always surprise me. When I'm talking to myself, it's magical because I actually do not know what I'm going to say next, but when I say it it feels like I've always known."

"You've... always known what you were going to say next. I can't imagine how that works out."

I haven't made myself clear.
I've said too much already.

"Well, yeah, obviously these characters and the things they're saying and doing don't come out of thin air. But when I'm limiting my perspective to one character or the other, that character doesn't necessarily understand any other character. He's in his own little world. They're like different colors that the light is passing through, losing some of what it had along the way so that it can have a solid color on the other end."

Judging by this awkward silence, I don't think I'm getting through.

"It's like I'm actually removing aspects of my personality, because it's like something in my game The Perfect Color. If you try to do everything at once, you end up with a gray mush. So you actually need to decide what you're going for beforehand, and not pay attention to anyone who doesn't like what you're doing or thinks they know better. Life is like that."

Nope. Still not getting through.

"Do you know the Legend of Zelda series of videogames?..."

"Whatever, you know what I'm saying."

"I think you were saying you're crazy."

"Yes. That. And also other things, but whatever."

"There was one time I wrote an interactive blog post that contained every other blog post on my blog as its choices. It took me two months, and that was after a year of laying the groundwork and preparing. The idea of the post was that it was just me arguing with myself, revealing the subtext behind everything else I'd written and presenting it all as this big argument between different versions of myself taken from different points in time as I was writing the blog. I'm not sure if it's a very good post, but I just like the idea of a blog post which contains the entire blog it's in. Sometimes I can't see whether what I'm doing makes any sense on a basic level because I'm so fascinated by these high-level big ideas. It's a failing of mine."

"Uh huh."

Say more about the blog.
Say something else that's crazy.

"Now, of course, the blog is a lot more sensible. It's all the eight versions of me arguing about where we're going, in an orderly fashion at the end of each month and also making statements at the beginning and end of each day. The whole multiple-personality idea that the program's a part of is just because I wanted more material for my blog. My blog took over my life quite a while ago. It's why I've ever done anything."
"Uh huh."

"It's true. Without the blog, I wouldn't be where I am today. Which is not much of anywhere, really, but I am doing things like making games and acting in plays and writing screenplays so there is that."
"Okay."

"I still would have been composing things without the blog. That has no connection."
"Naturally."

"My blog is at www.thebuckmans.com. You shouldn't go to it, you probably wouldn't like it."
"Okay."

"I have a piece of music that's called "Variations On V.O.V.", which is made up of seven variations on its own structure. It's so complex that when I was writing it, I had a piece of paper which was a key to the structure of the whole thing, and without that piece of paper I didn't understand anything I had done but with it it all seemed elegant, like the whole thing made perfect sense and couldn't possibly have worked any other way. I wish I had a key like that for life, where I'll see what the brilliant idea was that led to all the things I'm doing now. I should have written down a clear mission statement when I started all this, but instead for some reason I wrote it all cryptic and incomprehensible. So only that version of me understands what the hell we've been doing all this time, and honestly I'm a bit skeptical whether even he has any idea or if he's just making it up as he goes along like the TV show LOST. I'm honestly a bit afraid now that I'm saying this that maybe there isn't any big idea, or that maybe it's even worse if there is a big idea but no one will ever see it because it's too abstract. So in the end all it is is random notes being played."

I have nothing more to say on the subject, nor (apparently) does my companion. I suppose we'll have to leave it there, then.

"I don't understand why everyone chases this ideal of normalcy like it's something to be proud of. Congratulations, you are just like everyone else in the world. You could die tomorrow, and no one would notice except the standard role-fillers who will find someone else to replace you in their lives. I mean, sure, they'll grieve, but then they'll move on because there's no shortage of boring people out there. The world is positively littered with them. But if you're crazy, then you're one of a kind. No, I guess that's not true either. There are categories of crazy. I guess I don't know what I'm talking about."

"What's wrong with categories? I have no problem with any of the categories I'm in. And if I did, there's no one forcing me to do anything. But I don't generally think to myself: 'If only I were less normal and more crazy.'"

That is insulting!
Just answer the question: "What's wrong with categories?"

I snap back: "No, of course you don't! You'd have to not be exactly like other people to not be comfortable with being a cliché!"

"Hey, you don't know me."

"And I don't think I want to. Good... day. Good day."

"There's nothing wrong with categories unless you're not precisely the kind of person that the category was invented for, to such a degree that the stereotype actually is your path to self-fulfillment. If you're even the tiniest bit different from what's expected of you, then you just throw away what you really want to be doing and replace it with what you think you're supposed to be doing so that everyone you know can think of you as just another member of a group they think they know well instead of actually getting to know you as an individual. And as it happens, I don't believe anyone in the world actually is who these groups are supposed to be to such a degree that it's not stifling, so yeah. Categories suck."

"The majority of people are perfectly happy. If you're crazy, I can see how you wouldn't be happy. But that's not because of the people around you. It's because you're crazy."

Well, I walked right into that one. Touché, or something.

"Were you joking, really?"

"No."
"Yes. I am normal. I am a manly man who drinks beer and talks with friends about sports. I leave the toilet seat up, and am mocked for it."
"Does it matter? Chances are you've already made your mind up about me, one way or the other."

"Then why did you just say you were joking?"

"I don't know."
"Because I thought it would be funny? Clearly I was mistaken."

...and that's the end of that conversation. Good going.

"Alternatively,", I offer, "you might have no sense of humor."

"I have a sense of humor. You're not being funny. More like disturbing, really."

"Okay then."

"You leave the toilet seat up."

"No."

"Sorry."
"At some point, you should probably stop repeating what I'm saying and say something for yourself."

"Would it be any better if I said I watch popular TV shows regularly?"

"Hey, it's none of my business if you say you talk to yourself. I don't really care what TV shows you watch."

"So it wouldn't be any consolation if I said I watch The Simpsons?"

"What do you want?"

"Nothing, we're just having a conversation."

"Okay."

"I... would have no idea what to say to someone like you."

"Oh. Okay. Sorry."

"Hey, I didn't say anything."

"You don't need to. I see what you're thinking."
"But if you were to say something, what would it be?"

"Don't drag me into this. If you want to talk to yourself, that's fine. But don't pretend you know what I'm thinking. I didn't say anything to you."

"No, you didn't."

There is no reply.

"Do you think I'm crazy?"

"I'm not going to tell someone they're crazy. That's between you and a psychiatrist."


eight comments, the last one being from myself
Blogger Kyler said:

I was thinking about scheduled gamer mom work time as well.

Blogger The Reish Galuta of the Geula said:

Doesn't the conference room slow down your thought process? I mean you can think a lot faster than you can type, so in order to have a proper conversation you need to slow down your thoughts.

 Mory said:

It does slow down my thought process, but it also focuses it. It's an acceptable trade-off.

Blogger Kyler said:

Can you provide an easy to find legend for all of the characters' colours on your blog. I can never remember who is who.

Blogger Kyler said:

"Bah, therapists. They don't know you like you do. Think about it."

Hilarious line

 Mory said:

Thank you. And thanks for suggesting a reference. I'm going to include one whenever it's called for from now on.

Blogger zusha said:

hey! ya it's zusha the dude from the play ;) can i ask a new comers question..?
when you write in this program, then the program is the one that responds to you or is it you breaking up your thoughts into many characteristics?

 Mory said:

Hello, Zusha. I'm not entirely sure I understand your question. It's just a chat room where I talk to myself. If you're asking how I think of these personalities -myself vs. others or different versions of myself - it's more like I'm splitting my opinions. We all can see things from lots of different angles, but we limit ourselves to one way of looking at things because that's the persona we've chosen. By switching back and forth between personas, I'm not dismissing the ideas that occur to me but engaging with them and seeing where they lead.

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2011, December 6th, 13:37 and 39 seconds

View the colossal shark-jumping of November 2011Daily performance reviews for November 2011:(Rules)

Self-meeting for November 2011





Well? Say something. Let's see what new string of nonsense will come tumbling out of your mouth as justification for choosing this over letting me have a decent life.

I'm not sure I want to hear this. I think it might just make me sick.

The problem was the Panic Mode rule. It's as simple as that. I recognized last month that it was not having the appropriate effect, and we tried it for another month but it was still a bad rule.

I had a decent month.

Look, it's just... god.

Yeah? Let's hear it.

The problem was me.

You don't say.

Please. This isn't easy for me. Why do you think I've put off this post for almost a week?

Because your entire game has collapsed, inevitably.

A vote.

What?

I would like to put it to a vote. The whole system. We will vote on whether or not to continue playing as these eight characters. The alternative is to go back to where we were in the performance reviews a year ago, and find a different way forward. A less radical way, perhaps. This is all my idea, to treat life as though we have multiple personalities, and I am failing to make it work. That becomes more apparent from month to month. So we will vote. Of course the Rules will change drastically if we choose to continue, because there must never again be a month like November 2011. We spent more time out of character than in. We watched TV for days on end, without even acknowledging the problem save for late-night bouts of crippling depression. The Panic Mode rule would go, replaced with rules that give positive reinforcement rather than punishment. Some more rules would be added to my character page as well, because my self-centeredness is the reason we are in this mess. In retrospect, asking the rest of you to come up with your own plans for the month and stick to them was an admission of defeat on my part. I didn't understand or care about any of you enough to be the proper leader you need, who you can trust and feel comfortable with. I tried turning the Musician, who is frankly a genius, into a simple productivity tool, and when he was not the character I wanted him to be I was angry. I did not allow for failure, which is a terrible attitude. Even in failure, I need to be accepting. Only then can there be a healthy group here. I came to these conclusions in talking to our mother and to Moshe, and it is my hope that if we finish the conference room program quickly we can talk to each other in ways which lead to such understandings. This sense of isolation that you all had, and the fear of stepping up to the plate that ultimately brought down the entire system, all of that is on me and I would need to change that about myself. But first we need to put the system to a vote because we never have voted on the system itself. We just moved forward, with me assuming that we'd all be on the same page. But that kind of team can only come through honest and constant communication. We start today, with this vote. If we vote to stop, we stop. I'm not going to be a dictator. Now then: Do we continue with The Rules?



Everyone will need to vote, even the Addict.

I vote no.

He speaks!

I'm not interested in music, or games, or acting. I want to watch TV. It takes minimal effort, but lets you believe -for however long you're watching- that there's a whole world that continues from episode to episode and is still there even when you turn the show off. Even the most lightweight shows can give a sense of comfort that actual life takes years to reach, and when we're talking about the really great shows of today (and today's television has a lot of bright spots) there's also much to think about, and discuss, and write about. I could fill twenty posts just with thoughts from the TV show Homeland. And don't get me started on the strained relationships of The Amazing Race- there's truly fascinating drama ther. For instance, back in season six-

Please don't ever speak again.

Whatever. My vote is no.

What we are doing is unnatural. We need to be open to all opportunities at all times. By deciding at the beginning of the day what sort of day we should have, we are guaranteeing that much of the day's potential will be completely ignored.

If you're referring to the restriction on piano, I imagine we'd be taking that out as it was part of the Panic Mode rule. I still wouldn't be playing any music because it just doesn't interest me, but anyone else could come up with themes and count that as "mundane activities".

And be penalized for it. No thank you.

Only if mundane activities exceed one quarter of the day, which is a generous allowance. Any more than that and music can become a dangerous distraction.

I was a more prolific musician, once.

What if I made an exception in my own rules for music?

Programmer, that will be entirely unnecessary. The Musician has made his feelings clear, and we're going to accept them.

Well, I don't give up just because things haven't gone my way immediately. This is a very interesting project we're engaged in, and I think with continuous tweaking it can work. We had one bad rule which wasn't discarded quickly enough, and we'll need to be willing to make drastic changes during the month to deal with things like that. But let's not hrow out the baby with the bathwater, eh?

Is that a vote for the Rules?

Yes, it is. I vote to continue.



Explain to me what it is that I can possibly get out of pretending to have dissociative identity disorder.

Certainly. I mean, it's not truly split personalities, but that's neither here nor there so I'll just tell you what the benefit is. During the course of whatever you work on, occasionally you reach problems you don't know how to deal with. Correct?

Yes. That's when I ask other people.

Instead of other people, you can ask us.

It's a poor substitute.

Hello, Person.

Other people will actually know the answers. You guys only pretend to.

Exactly.

Everyone just pretends to have the answers.

Spare me the philosophizing.


Please, let me think for a few minutes.

It seems like this is all just crazy for crazy's sake.

It's not. There's logic to it. Just give me a minute to find it. Honestly, I was expecting you to just vote "no" offhand, so I didn't think about this from your perspective. But if we continue I'll need to be taking everyone's perspective into account on a regular basis.

Well, you know exactly what my perspective is. I want to work, I want to be happy, I have no use for stories and silliness. Sell me on this. What do I get out of being one of eight?

You get a team backing you up. Everything you need, everything you can't get by yourself, we're here for you.

So if I say that I want to be making money, on a regular basis? What if I point out that that is a universal necessity in this world? What will you do to get money?

I don't know. It's a tough question.

It's not tough at all. It's called a regular job. If I tell you that I need a regular job, with regular hours and a steady paycheck, what do you say?

I say okay.

What?!

Really.

Really. I can't get out of the common sense that we do need to be making money somehow.

Thinker, what are you doing?

I'm trying to not ignore a position that makes perfect sense in favor of holding onto the status quo.

It's funny you put it that way, because I think holding on to the status quo is exactly what you're after here. You see you might lose the Worker, so you're making unrealistic promises to keep him in your good graces.

Making money is unrealistic?! What planet do you live on?

Programmer, this isn't about "losing" anyone. It's either all of us or none of us, but the Worker raises a good point.

I can't believe I'm hearing this. You know that a 9 to 5 job is unfeasible while we're following the Rules!

Then we need to find a way to make it fit!

I am not going to restrict my activities to the end of a day, when I have no energy left!

A rigid schedule takes out all control over what we accomplish in life. You must see that.

I do. But we can't keep leeching off of others forever. We've been saying as much for months.

Yes, we need money. But within this system we're building!

And how is that supposed to happen, when apparently making money doesn't fit in your system?

We can talk about this later, my point is that I am open to all possibilities.

We won't have many possibilities if the Worker gets his way.

It's odd, don't you think, that I'm expected to work for all of you and be what basically amounts to your slave while even the tiniest thing I say is ignored and I'm made out to be the enemy. To hell with all of you.

If this is the sort of organization that we're going to have from now on, then I won't be a part of it. I change my vote to no.

Same here. I'm not going to be stifled under a suit.

Calm down, please. Everyone calm down.

No, I will not calm down. There needs to be logic underneath what we are doing. We can't just be throwing in ideas and seeing what happens, or we get to situations like Panic Mode.

That was your idea!

Yes, and after seeing how it worked in practice I said that we should get rid of it because it wasn't working.

So let's get a job, see how it goes!

You can't back out of that so easily. We could be losing months.

You mean we could be making money for months. Or do you want to be living in someone else's house your whole life?

Please calm down.

I'm not going to just fill in the cracks in the Worker's life. No way. I'll be voting no.

Calm down! I would like to talk!

No, this is great. If everyone backs out, it means I win. Well, the Addict and I.

Musician, you are not helping. Now this is all really a misunderstanding, so if everyone would please calm down long enough for me to explain, that would be terrific.

I'm listening.



I did not mean to say that we'd just get a job and damn the consequences.

And there it is.

The Worker wants a way to make money on a steady basis. We can help him get that.

That is not what you said.

Then forget what I said! It was poorly stated.

You were perfectly clear:

If I tell you that I need a regular job, with regular hours and a steady paycheck, what do you say?
I say okay.

Not much ambiguity.

Okay! I get it! I suck! Fine! I am trying my best here, same as any of you.

Their best? Did you see the performance reviews?

I wrote the damned performance reviews!

I don't know if you can be in charge if you lose your temper like this.

You're right. You're all right, I need to try harder.

So when the dust settles, you're back to completely ignoring me again. What a surprise.

I'm not ignoring you. We need money. But we're not going to work for someone else.

Then how will we get money, pray tell?

Music.

No! What the hell is wrong with you, that you go back on every single-

Let me finish. Worker, you will deal with musical arrangements. I thought I could get the Musician to do that, but his heart isn't in it. But surely you recognize that some of the Musician's themes are marketable.

I do recognize that.

Then the two of you will work together. He comes up with ideas, you work on them until they're ready to sell. There's your steady money.

And why is this better than a desk job?

You're not getting a desk job, as everyone has just made perfectly clear. I'm sorry about that.

Sure you are.

I want you to be happy, and not just because we're ostensibly in the middle of a vote. But you need to understand that without the multiple character system you're not going to have more control. You're going to have much less, because you won't have a voice. If Mory Buckman is one character, rather than eight, then that is not a character who will be satisfied with a desk job.

He can still work on music, the same as I can.

You are reliable in a way that we never were before splitting into different characters last year.

What about the old Thursdays?

In which we looked for ways out of having to work, and then begrudgingly got some token work done before rushing back to addictions? That was the prototype. You are the real deal, and we'll be lost without having you on some days.

Okay, fine, there's no need to flatter me. I vote yes.

For the record, if you had given me some time to think about my answer instead of bombarding me with questions, I could have told you why this is better for you an hour ago.

I'm agreeing, I'm agreeing.

Okay. So let's see where we stand after all that. Programmer, what is your vote?

To be clear: we're not going off to get a job that'll eat up all our time?

No. We control the schedule. We're agreeing that we will make money, for now, by having the Musician and the Worker produce music together.

That sounds like a good plan to me. I want to continue with the Rules.

Excellent. Explorer, you said you were voting against The Rules, but that seemed to be a reaction to the idea of a job.

It was. The fact is, I think this game we're playing is one of the coolest things we've ever done. It's exciting.

That's a yes, then.

You'd better believe it. I think we're just getting started here.

I agree. So that's the Addict and the Musician against continuing, and the Explorer, the Worker and the Programmer in favor. I also vote yes, which puts the vote at 4 to 2.

I vote no.

Really?

Why?

Because we don't play games anymore. Games used to be a regular part of our routine.

I don't remember that.

Now there are so many restrictions on who can play what that most of you don't play games at all. And our life is all the poorer for it.

In November 2010, there were 11 hours and 39 minutes of videogames, not counting Wii Fit which is no longer included in time allocation tables. In November 2011 I count 23:54. More than double the specifically allocated videogame time from this time last year, and that's despite all the days we lost. So I think you're remembering games being a bit more central than they actually were. What's changed is, before there were ten minutes of a game here and there. It was spread out. Now it's mainly you, playing for many hours at a time. But the actual time spent playing videogames per month hasn't gone down.

This was an uncharacteristic month. What about last month?

Let's see... I count 19:54. But there were also quite a few hours of playing together with other people, which were not always differentiated from other kinds of socializing. We're not gaming less.

Okay, I stand corrected. I vote yes.

That makes five to two. The only one left is the Person.

I'd like to change my vote to an abstention.

That's surprising.

I'm just thinking that it would be nice to have someone do the annoying work of making music.

And back to making me the slave.

Worker, you know you'll probably enjoy the work.

Harrumph.

Musician, if you want someone to help you, that sounds like a vote for continuing the multiple personality system.

Except that it still means listening to you.

I touched on this earlier, but our relationship is going to be very different from now on. I tried treating you like you only existed to make money, and I profusely apologize for that.

Nothing's changed. You still just want me to make money.

No, that's the Worker's job. You just do what you do, and don't even worry about the score.

Thinker...

Okay, what I mean is that you shouldn't worry about the two points given for quality. If you aren't particularly inspired one day, just end the day early and I'll give you another one soon after. You have nothing to prove to me. The burden of proof is on me, to show you that this system can work to your benefit.

Oh, what the hell. Yes. Let's try this crazy thing.

So again we're left with just the Person. You've been very quiet.

Yes.

What is your vote?

I don't know.

Thoughts?

I've been screwed by you guys before, and I can't say this past month hasn't been a mess. Along with that, my life is kind of awful because I don't spend much time with other people and it seems like your solution is just to force me to spend more time with all of you with this conference room that seems like it's just going to pretend we don't need other people. And we do. We need other people. The Thinker wouldn't even be having these little epiphanies of his about positive reinforcement if not for other people's advice.

But I should have seen that negativity wouldn't work. Our father was always negative in our childhood, and it didn't get us to do things. If we had talked it out, I might have thought of that sooner.

I don't care. Just let me finish. I want to be with other people, and as long as you hold on to this silly idea that all we need is fictional characters to talk to, it'll be harder for me to get to that point. With that said, there is something I like about being able to tell people about this gloriously bizarre life. The sorts of people I like to be around don't see a problem with defying the norms, they find it interesting. And tha tells me there's something to it.

What if I said we could try to meet new people?

Don't bother. I'm not that gullible. But seeing as how I have no ideas of meeting people for myself, I say let's keep going. Also, having so many different kinds of experience in a month means more topics of conversation with people. So, like I say, there's something to it. And I have to be honest, you guys are really good about letting me take over whenever there are other people. So that's yes.

Then the vote is... seven to one. I really didn't picture it going like this.

The Addict only voted against because he's still in TV mode. On a different week, he would have voted differently.

Never mind the Addict. The clear consensus is that we're continuing. Then let's get to work. First, the Rules.
...Done. I'm not going to provide a link, because with one edit going on top of another the Rules have gotten really messy and I'm not sure how to deal with them. Programmer, I'd appreciate it if you could look for a more elegant way to organize the thing.

Okay. But I've got some more important things to deal with first.

You mean the conference room.

Yes.

I think we'll get the Addict to do that. Anyway, I've taken out Panic Mode and eased up some rules here and there on the condition that the average score for the month is above 7/10. Whoops. I forgot to change my own rules.

I'll do that.

No, I've got it. Give me a minute.


Okay, I've changed my rules. None of you will have to worry about the details, but I'm going to be a lot less selfish and hostile from now on.

I'll believe it when I see it.

Yes. We have not much time and much to do, so we will start with the Worker. You ready?

Always.

Then let's get started.


2011, November 25th, 2:16 and 52 seconds

Back to Kyler's comment

Dear Imaginary Friend...

Well, since you ask. Everything's awful. It's nothing.

I'm supposed to be playing eight different personalities on a regular basis, because I have ridiculously ambitious goals and I've fallen in love with the idea of a coordinated team of different versions of myself tackling the challenges together. I think that would be a clever story. But I look at the characters I have to work with... I look at myself, for that matter... and the whole thing feels like nonsense. What keeps me going is blind faith in my blog; that is to say, blind faith that when people look back at my life it'll be a story worth telling. But I'm telling you, I really don't see how we get from here to there. I keep trying new ways to push us in the right direction, and somehow it all ends up with me as a single personality, the same one I've had for close to twenty-four years: I am, in fact, a lazy bum. I don't like that person. I have no respect for him whatsoever. I want to see the oddball gamist who looks like he can do it all, because he's got a personality for every occasion. I want to see the person who rises above the usual restrictions of human behavior, so that he can reshape the landscape of art and entertainment and actually make it stick. I want people in the future to wonder why they're not as awesome as that Buckman guy was, and in reading this blog, understand that he was not really a person at all, more a fictional character who was constructed piece by piece from a lot of different kinds of personalities.

Well, I'm not happy with these personalities I've come up with. The Explorer -my God, I hate him so much right now- he's supposed to have this child-like exuberance, to cultivate enthusiasm and fresh ideas which can trickle down to everyone else. But the Explorer days have been out of character: it's basically just giving the old lazy version of me an excuse to not care about anything for a few hours or days. Then there's the Musician, who I thought was going to be our way into some money, except that he refuses to work on anything commercial. Well, that's not accurate. It's more like, he refuses to treat any of what he's doing like work. He just sits around all day waiting for inspiration to hit. Sometimes it does, and something moves forward, and sometimes inspiration doesn't hit, and a day is wasted. And even if something does move forward, it's a crapshoot which piece of music that'll be. Maybe something I can sell, but more likely some random musical idea that's never going to go anywhere.

Then there's the Worker, on the other end of the spectrum. He's reliable, he's efficient, he doesn't get distracted easily, he is everything I thought I'd be building when I was writing part 2 of the blog. And he keeps saying we need to step back and let him take over full-time, which drives me crazy. As soon as he doesn't have the rest of us pulling him back, he'll throw the Plan to the wind and settle down into a normal happy life. That is unacceptable to me. What, my entire point in life is just to serve society in some small capacity while churning out some Jewish Asperger kids? With all due respect to the majority of civilization, I'd rather die. ... Well, it's just not enough, is it? I went through a decade of suffering in the school system, and this entire character arc on the blog involving fictional characters and all these years of soul-searching and whatever the hell it is I'm doing now, just to be yet another interchangable "productive member of society"? Can you see how that might be just a tiny bit of an anti-climax to the story I'm telling here? No, a Worker life is out of the question. I'm not even going to take the idea seriously, sorry.
I've been going to a lot of rehearsals for the play I'm in, The Tenth Man, and I have no idea how I'm doing in that but I suspect the situation is not good. The directors are probably wishing they'd gone with someone else, someone who actually knew what he was doing. Or someone older, maybe, who could convince the audience that he's a successful lawyer. Or someone more normal, so that when I talk about how depressed I am the audience would sympathize instead of just wanting me to stop whining. Or someone who's actually felt things like love in his life, so that the scenes where I say I'm not in love would look like a guy who's in love but doesn't understand that, rather than a guy who legitimately is not in love, never has been in love and possibly never will be. Seriously, the three laws of Nonazangian Nonoccurence apply to my personal life. You remember Nonazang, right? No? Never mind. The point is that it really shouldn't be a stretch for me to be this character because hey, it's just a bunch of aspects of myself, right? It seems like every night I'm on the verge of breaking down, questioning what the meaning of all of it is and knowing there's no one that's going to answer because the other characters only hang around at the end of every month, and other than myselves there's really not anyone. No one actually cares whether I post to the blog, no one cares if I tell my silly story about abstract concepts. I guess I just like to... imagine there's someone here, or something here or whatever. Because if there isn't, I've got nothing.
That's nice of you to say. But what good is potential, without being able to fulfill it? That's what the Rules are supposed to be for. They don't work, and for the life of me I can't tell why. I tried being really strict about planning, and everyone ignored me. So this month, I thought, I'll be a benevolent leader. I'll create a group based on trust. Everyone will set their own goals, I won't force them to do anything they don't want to, and then when everyone works together nicely we'll all have this nice loving relationship where we know we can't live without each other. I'm just doing this because the other way didn't work. 13-20 September 2011. 26-27 October 2011. When I push for something, but I can't muster the enthusiasm for it, it not only doesn't get done but it also makes me so depressed that I can't do anything else, either. Because then I'm face-to-face with my own lack of self-control, and if I back down from the planning it's breaking character but if I stick with the plan it'll only be paying lip service.

Bullshit! I have to believe that that is complete and utter bullshit. The problem is that I'm not trying hard enough. My god, I've turned into my father. "Stop blaming ADD, the problem is you're not trying!", "But I can't!", "I don't want to hear that! You can't leave your room until you've finished your homework!". Did I ever do my homework? Not a day in my life. I would sit in my room twiddling my thumbs and feeling alternately sorry for and angry at myself, I'd wait an appropriately ridiculous amount of time, like an hour and a half or something like that, and then I'd come out and lie and know that if I sat there once I could sit there again so it wasn't the end of the world if he caught me. I have turned my entire life into that grade-school experience, with this "Panic Mode" rule that I thought was oh so clever. The Programmer said at the last meeting that he thought it was a bad idea, and I didn't listen. Stupid! Well, I guess I have no one to blame but myself. As always. [sigh]

The idea was that there should be penalties for not being consistently excellent. That way, I have no choice but to excel at whatever I do. Except, no, there is another way it can go, which is that I stop caring about everything and then life is easier. More miserable, but easier. Yay. I'm sorry, I don't know why you're even listening to me, no one should have to ever put up with this nonsense.

I want to get my life together. I want to have self-control. I do not want to watch TV. I want to be rational about things. I have no clue what that last sentence means so scratch that. I want nothing more than to create. There is no satisfaction in all the worlds to rival the joy of creating a new experience. This is truth. This is fact. Tomorrow I am going to be great, not because I am telling myself this, but because the things I legitimately want to do: work on Gamer Mom, work on the conference room program, create music I can sell, just to name a few random thoughts off the top of my head, these things that come from my basic nature as a creator are my god I can't even make it to the end of the sentence it's all such poor writing. Do you think you could possibly put in a period somewhere in that string of words?!

No, I'm sorry. Really. I don't... I don't blame you for leaving. I would have left. I wish I could leave. But, if you don't mind, I'm going to keep pretending, just for a little bit, that there is someone on this blog who cares. I need this. Just... I just think it's great, to have someone who cares. Ugh, this entire post is just a rehash of "the mundane and The Imaginary!". But written worse. I'm sorry for having wasted your time.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Buxner in Concert

I start with four notes, and say: "You spot it as you're walking one day." Those four notes again. "It's lying on the ground, as though someone just angrily threw it away."...

I sing the melody line for the first four bars of "A Lonely Journey", quietly, very slowly and with minimalistic accompaniment. That gets the audience familiar with and interested in the main theme. Then I stop singing and switch to piano. I don't shy away from the tedious repetition at the end; I make it longer, and speak over it: "It's over as quickly as it began."...

I talk about The Rules, and then play "Variations On V.O.V." and the three following movements...

I play "Fugue State", with expert precision due to the eight hours a day I spend working on it. It repeats the rhythm with entirely different notes, in a difficult bit of composition which took me a long time, with one small comic tangent which is the same note-for-note in the two versions. Then it starts on a third melody line with the same beat, and at that comic interlude it drags it out immensely and ridiculously...


2011, October 31st, 21:01 and 10 seconds

View the struggle of my October 2011Daily performance reviews for October 2011:(Rules)

Self-meeting for October 2011

I think this was a mostly successful month.

Please tell me you're kidding.

Not at all. It's a redemption storyline, as I told you was an option after the first day. The theme of the month was panic, and how that precipitates a downward spiral into the usual addictions and lack of control. We started out with no control at all, our failures feeding on each other until it seemed like there was little to life but the failure.

You're exaggerating.

I'm dramatizing.

Could you possibly "dramatize" within the confines of what actually happened?

Okay, I'm exaggerating. It wasn't as bad as I make it sound. But certainly we were losing control. The new rule -that if we go under 6/10 for the month, we can't have certain kinds of entertainment-

I'm starting to think that was a bad rule.

It's a wonderful rule!

You came up with that rule!

Yes, but now that I see how it works in practice...

What happened this month won't happen again.

Let's recap what happened and not get too sidetracked. We're in danger of making a post that doesn't stand on its own.

Very true. We started out with little control. I'm sure we all had the feeling that panic mode wasn't going to end, and that we therefore would not get the entertainment we sought, and it followed that there was no harm in entertaining ourselves -prolonging panic mode in the process!

I would like to say, for the record, that I didn't mind. I just do my thing, I don't care about comics or the web.

That is true. You had four days, with an average of 9.25/10! Truly remarkable.

I'm sure you will take that into account when allowing days in this coming month. If the characters with higher scores don't get to play more than the characters with lower scores, then what is the incentive for any of us to do well?

We're getting sidetracked.

But you know I'm right.

Yes! Yes, you will have at least 60 hours in November. You have my word on that.

Where is that time coming from, exactly?

Getting back to my summary, the failures fed on each other but we started taking our days more seriously and got back into the mindset where the average score from the month actually mattered. We worked our way up, and then we fell back down, and then we finally made it past 6/10 and ended with our heads just barely over the water - an average score of 6.11/10. If the last day had gone under 4/10, which it almost did because of a lack of desire to exercise and deal with hygiene, we would have ended still in panic mode and the story would be very different. But we did make it through, by the skin of our teeth, and that's the important thing.

Plans for the month aren't the important thing?

No.

You've never acted like that before.

I can't force anyone to do things they don't want to do. The plan was good, and it would have been great if everyone played along from the start, but it took some time for some of us to get into the mindset where the plan seemed like a good idea, and I respect that. At the end of the day we did accomplish what I wanted us to.

Did not. "whimsy and entertainment will need to (temporarily) take a backseat to efficient productivity." Those are your words. I don't see that.

By the end, we were avoiding comics entirely. That's not as far as I wanted to go, but it took effort and next time we'll go farther. One step at a time.

"Efficient productivity" is my department. I was called on three times. How do you explain that?

You're not the only one who can make progress! We had a sextuple Addict!

Yes, FreeCell is exactly what I think of when I hear "productivity".

You're being petty.

Speaking of "progress", I'd like to either get rid of the rule that says I can't be productive, or take my game-restriction out of the panic mode rules. As it was, I could find absolutely nothing I was allowed to design a day around during panic mode.

It was an oversight. I'll change your rules so you can be productive from now on.

That would take away something that sets the Gamer apart from the group. This world doesn't matter to him as much as virtual worlds. It adds a different perspective to the group, and I don't want to lose that.

If I take him out of the panic mode rules, like I did with the Person, it takes away the motivation for him to get out of panic mode. If the score stays low, he keeps playing games forever.

True.

I'm not opposed to the idea.

Then definitely true.

Hey!

I've got it. The Gamer's days during panic mode will be no longer than 12 hours in length, and must be immediately followed by the Worker.

What?

Clever. You restrict it, and you pair the Gamer with the character who will balance him out.

Wouldn't one of those be enough? I'm okay with the twelve-hour thing, really!

He can't take a day without giving me one as well? I love it.

Can we talk about this?

The pairing with the Worker is what actually makes sense for panic mode. The idea is that to get out, we need to be more productive than usual. Which I admit, I am reconsidering...

No, see, this is what I'm saying. It's absolutely perfect. After this past month, everyone is going to be taking the threat of panic mode very, very seriously. We know how bad it is. We know the constant guilt we've felt.

Again, for the record...

Not you! I get it! Anyway, even the... you know, I didn't even say we all felt it! I just said "we". That applies to me, and at least a few others.

Okay, sorry.

I liked you better when you were stoic and mysterious. Anyway, even the Gamer now is afraid of panic mode, because of the new psychological component where he doesn't want the Worker to get a day. I hope this doesn't backfire and get the Gamer to ignore the Rules altogether.

Well, that's why I threw in the twelve-hour thing.

Ah, excellent.

I'll go ahead and add it in.

You all suck.




Over the course of October, we:
  • Reached node 86 in the programming of Gamer Mom
  • Started on a new tune
  • Posted not one but two interactive blog posts
  • Strengthened a few relationships

That's not a very long list. What about Angles and Circles, which you said you'd figure out what to do with? What about the plays? What about finishing Gamer Mom, instead of just taking a few steps with it? I could have accomplished more than this, all by myself.

You probably could have. But we're doing more than just accomplishing things. We're still doing character-building.

Enough with the character-building! You really think the Musician and the Programmer are better off now that they've had days where you conveniently look the other way if they mess up? If you want this ideal get-together thing or whatever it is you want, stop talking about it and do it already!

Okay, how about this. For November, we'll each write our own parts of the Plan.

Great, more Randomly Capitalized Words. That'll make what you're saying more worthwhile, for sure.

I would like to figure out where Angles and Circles is going. I don't know if that'll take one day or five, but that's my goal. I'm going to declare that intention at the beginning of the month, and you can all join me. My thinking is that you'll care more about the plan if it's your plan.

I'm not much of a talker. Just give me the days, and I'll use them.

That's fine. But the thing is, if you say what you want, the rest of us can help you get it. So, for instance, the Worker can spend some time on your music as part of his "helping other people" goal. But no deadlines this month. Or at least, no deadlines that we all have to listen to. You can make your own deadlines, but we don't have to listen. I'm just finding that when deadlines are missed, it creates a depression that outweighs the motivation the deadline created in the first place.

Without deadlines, we don't get anything done. We just sit around doing nothing, like we did this month.

Well, we'll see. I'm still new to this whole planning thing, and I'm feeling it out as I go. But like I said, I think this was a pretty successful month. We're in a better place emotionally and as a group than we were at the beginning.

Whatever.

From now on, I want all of us to remember what it felt like to be stuck in panic mode, and how hard it was to get out. And I want all of us to do our hardest to never have to panic ever again. Agreed?

Sure. Give me some days, no panicking necessary.

Oh, would you please shut up.


2011, October 24th, 01:46 and 22 seconds

Advanced Freecell

Here's a little variant of Freecell which I play with a Sticheln deck when I've got nothing better to do. The deck is 1-12 in six suits. Instead of red going on black and black going on red, each color can go on the two other colors that are related to it. That is to say, purple can go only on red or blue, and blue can go only on purple or green. The deck is dealt into nine piles rather than eight, and you can hold five cards instead of four. Here's a quick and dirty computer version. I know some of my readers are colorblind, so I included symbols for the suits. Click to select a card, double-click to send a card either to the foundation or the free cells. You can only undo one move at a time, so be careful.


seven comments, the last one being from myself
Blogger The Reish Galuta of the Geula said:

Advanced freecell is quite fun. This could actually be a commercial success as an app I believe.

Forget your 6 month projects, this one is going to be your first big hit. :)

I love the symbols by the way, they are great.

Tamir said:

I was enjoying this until I lost because I couldn't hold more than four cards. I'm confused. That's a bug, right? You said I could hold five, and there's that fifth empty rectangle...

 Mory said:

You can hold five cards. I don't know what the problem was, but let me know if you encounter it again and I'll look into it.

Blogger Kyler said:

Hey Mory,

I feel like I can relate all too well to your Dear Imaginary Friend...

I guess in some sense I am the Imaginary friend. I exist on the internet, providing some art and responses to emails and things of that sort. There was even the brief Skype call. But I am not that far off from being an Imaginary friend. I read your blog. I imagine what your life is like and what is happening on the other side of the earth, so in a sense, you are my imaginary friend.

I suspect that your blog is one of the most monumental pages on the internet. The more you add the better it gets. Sometimes I wish that my blog could be as interesting as yours.

But back to how I feel I relate.
Right now I too am feeling like I am in a rut.

I finished school. I finished as well as I possibly could. I am really good at school. But real life has little to do with school. I am getting a few odd jobs. Not enough to really sustain myself, but enough drag on the time that I can try to be an independent artist.

And I feel like I have every possibility open to me. The possibility of the dream of just being an artist, full-time and independent is right in front of me for the taking, but I don't really know how to grab at it.

I apply for festivals and get rejected, and I tell myself that rejection is part of the process, that I just have to try harder and submit to more places.

But than the motivation runs out and I feel like I am stuck in one place and don't know where to go.

I have a few projects that are all crawling forward, with tiny spurts of progress, but I can't pick up momentum.

I'm thinking about posting the Summit online publicly because it has been lazing around way too long and I don't believe that the festival circuit is going to bring me any meaningful success.

I know that I am going to get out of this slump and that is what keeps me moving forward. I'm learning little bits of stuff everyday, and making little bits of stuff too. And that will get me through.

Well that was a long blathering comment.

Kyler

Anonymous said:

Re: Imaginary friend:

First of all, I wish it were easier to post comments on the relevant posts. but its not my blog, its yours.

I'll spare you the platitudes on what kind of life is worth living and stuff.

I've always been impressed that you actually DO things. You say you develop games, and then make them. You say you compose music and then do it. you decide to write a blog of the likes hasn't existed and do so.

I was thinking about Kyler's comment about how he wishes his blog was your like yours. well, i wish mine was more like yours too.

Anonymous said:

the previous comment was unfinished and this stupid thing posted it. I hope it made sense, because i have no idea where i left off.

 Mory said:

Sorry, I should have put up a new commenting section a long time ago. I'll add a new one now. I used to have comments for each post (way back when I used Blogger instead of writing the blog with a text editor), but I was always disappointed when no one wrote. I feel like this is better. Though, if the comments really start pouring in all of a sudden I'll have to rethink things.

If you'd like to make a change to a comment, write me the corrected version at Mory@TheBuckmans.com and I'll be happy to edit the text.

Post a Comment




2011, October 23rd, 13:20 and 4 seconds

A Matter of Control

Many people have their lives chosen for them. God gives 'em a handful of personality traits, society gives two or three tracks that mesh with those qualities, random happenstance narrows the possibilities down to one which seems to work well enough, and there goes life. That's not me. The plan I've chosen for my life (which includes inventing or reinventing a minimum of five art forms) doesn't mesh with my personality traits, and I've decided that that doesn't matter. Chance does not govern my life, nor does society. Some people run through their days on autopilot, because their lifestyle is preset. But for me, every morning is a new life decision: who will I be today?

I will be the productive Worker, following a rigid schedule with robotic efficiency.
I will be the carefree Explorer, moving from place to place in search of interesting experiences.
I will be the meticulous Programmer, hungry for a new challenge.
I will be the single-minded Addict, who knows what he loves and won't waste time on anything less.

What activity goes first? (This one will get the biggest burst of energy.)

Gamer Mom is my highest priority, being a game that so many people will be interested in.
I haven't worked on Trial by Jury much. Gilbert & Sullivan will be a fun start.
The blog needs work.

I watched two episodes of Phineas and Ferb. Now how should I start the day? It ought to be something exciting.

Gamer Mom is exciting. It's the most exciting thing in my life right now.
I'll watch one of the twenty movies sitting on my hard drive.
I'll walk to Tel Beit Shemesh, and sit in one of those ancient caves for a few hours.

Mental warm-up! Which puzzle game should I play?

I'll continue the second Professor Layton. Not particulary challenging, but varied.
SpaceChem will be a real challenge.
"Advanced Freecell" is always fun.

What will be the subject of today's addiction?

The blog
Gamer Mom
The works of Gilbert & Sullivan

I watched two episodes of Phineas and Ferb. Don't worry, the episodes are short. Carry on.

Three hours of Gamer Mom, then Trial by Jury for 1:30, and finally the blog for 1:15. Then two hours of TV to unwind, and we'll score early.Three hours of Trial by Jury, then Gamer Mom for 1:30, and finally the blog for 1:15. Then two hours of TV to unwind, and we'll score early.Three hours of the blog, then Gamer Mom for 1:30, and finally Trial by Jury for 1:15. Then two hours of TV to unwind, and we'll score early.
Five hours of Gamer Mom, the blog for four hours, Trial by Jury for 45 minutes, and then three hours of TV.Three hours of Trial by Jury, then a quick runthrough of Cox and Box, a little more work on The Tenth Man, and then Gamer Mom for four hours and we'll finish with TV.Five hours on the blog, then Trial by Jury for two hours and Gamer Mom for three hours. We'll finish with 2:30 of TV.
Six hours of Gamer Mom, four hours of organizing and editing comics, 45 minutes of Trial by Jury and 3:30 of TV.Two hours for each of the three plays I'm in, then the blog for four hours, and finally two hours of TV.Six hours of the blog, four hours of organizing and editing comics, 1:30 of Gamer Mom and three hours of TV.
One hour of Gamer Mom, then an hour and a half each of all three plays I'm in, three hours of comics editing and two hours of TV.Three hours of Trial by Jury, four hours of organizing and editing comics, then write a blog post about comics for three hours and end with two hours of TV.One hour of blogging, then an hour and a half each of all three plays I'm in, three hours of comics editing and two hours of TV.

Well, I don't really have the energy to do that right away.

Find some energy, deep down!
It's the Explorer. Just do whatever you feel like; this shouldn't be difficult.

Well, I don't really have the energy to do that right away.

If I try hard enough, I can convince myself that the blog isGamer Mom is19th century comic operas are the only thing in the world I care about!
I can't be bothered.

I watched two episodes of Phineas and Ferb. Not really enough time for a puzzle game now, so I'll just go ahead and declare the challenge for the day.

Find a way to figure out in Javascript whether a font has loaded, so that I can program "Living in Hyrule"'s resizing function more elegantly.
In Angles and Circles, if you get too close to a line you start sliding for no apparent reason. I know that game's been shelved for now, but we'll probably get back to it eventually. And anyway, I'm curious why that's been happening.
I'll look into ways to limit program access during panic mode or for certain characters, hopefully which won't require regular root user shenanigans.
Figure out how to connect Linux to Windows printers via a network.

"I'm not good enough, but today is going to be perfect.". By the way, it's getting kind of late to eat lunch, since I've watched another eight episodes of Phineas and Ferb. (Good show.) Should I bother starting the day yet, or should I have lunch first?

Lunch first. After all this time of breaking the rules by watching TV without keeping track, an extra lunch thrown in won't make a difference.
No, protocol matters. Just one more episode to get the show out of my system, and then Gamer MomTrial by Jurythe blog without delay. I can eat lunch once I've gotten back on track.

It's getting kind of late to eat lunch, since I've watched another eight episodes of Phineas and Ferb. (Good show.) Should I bother starting the day yet, or should I have lunch first?

Lunch first. After all this time of breaking the rules by watching TV without keeping track, an extra lunch thrown in won't make a difference.
No, protocol matters. Just one more episode to get the show out of my system, and then Gamer Mom. I can eat lunch once I've gotten back on track.some highbrow movie that'll get me inspired. I can have lunch a few minutes into that.I'll go. I can bring a sandwich with me.straight into programming. I can eat lunch once I've gotten back on track.straight to the Linux thing. I can eat lunch once I've gotten back on track.the blog without delay. I can eat lunch once I've gotten back on track.Gamer Mom without delay. I can eat lunch once I've gotten back on track.I'll start with, say, The Gondoliers. I know nothing about that one, and I may be in it next year. Ooh, I can listen to the phonograph record!

This is getting a bit silly- it's 5:30 PM, and all I've done today is watch Phineas and Ferb and eat lunch. This is what I underwent that whole long character arccharacter arc for?!

I can still salvage my plan for the day. I'll start now, do everything I would have done if I'd started six hours ago, and just end the day tomorrow afternoon. Nothing happened here.
But there are things I was planning to do tomorrow... why does this have to be so complicated? Okay, I'll just get a few hours of Gamer Mom in, a few hours of Trial by Jury in, a few hours of blogging in, a few hours of Gamer Mom in, a few hours of "exploring" in, a few hours of exploring in, a few hours of programming in, in a few hours of fighting with Linux, a few hours of blogging in, a few hours of Gamer Mom in, in a few hours of Cox and Box and Trial by Jury, and that'll be it.
Not good enough... maybe I should ditch the plan entirely?
This isn't right, and I don't understand how I got here. I need for the Thinker to take over.

What a delightful show. How do they stay so consistently entertaining?

Enough Phineas and Ferb already!

What a delightful show. How do they stay so consistently entertaining?

Enough Phineas and Ferb already!

I think I started on the wrong foot. Let's try this again. What will be the subject of today's addiction?
Gamer Mom is what I decided I was going to work on. Trial by Jury is what I decided I was going to work on. The blog is what I decided I was going to work on. I'll just do some Gamer Mom, like I said I would. I'll just watch a movie, like I said I would. I'll just sit in a cave, like I said I would. The fontAngles & Circlespermissionsprinter thing should only take a few hours. The blog Gamer Mom The works of Gilbert & Sullivan
Forget Gamer Mom, I'll practice Trial by Jury. Forget the play, I'll give my neglected blog some attention. Forget the blog, Gamer Mom is more important. That moment has passed. I'll replay Flower instead. My head's really not there right now. I'll just set up the printer, play some puzzles and call it a day. I haven't officially allocated any time yet. The printer can be handled just as well by the Worker, so I'll pass the day to him. The works of Gilbert & Sullivan The works of Gilbert & Sullivan Gamer Mom
I haven't worked on the blog in a while. I really should do that. Neither of those is nearly as important as Gamer Mom. Trial by Jury would be more entertaining, so it's more likely to lure me away from TV. Neither of those sounds quite awesome enough. I need to think of something else, something really mind-blowing. There's nothing in my Rules that calls for a practical task, so SpaceChem (if I may indulge in a bit of selfishness) actually is the most surefire way to get a good score for the day. Maybe setting up the printer is just too boring a "challenge" to fill a day. I should pick one of the more interesting problems to deal with. Gamer Mom The blog The blog

Enough messing around. Let's play the Thinker.
I'll just read blog posts for hours until my life makes sense.
I'll close myself in my room and not let myself out until I've figured out what's wrong with me.
I'll browse the web.

A wise decision.Sounds good.Makes sense.I think that's probably the best choice. If I gave up the most basic part of my plan, I'd be demotivated from making a plan tomorrow! Rigidity would certainly have led to burn-out. With less time left, it's necessary to be more careful in selecting activities.That's the spirit. Everything will be sorted out in no time! On an unrelated note, I've watched the rest of the season, and am now in the middle of the first episode after that.

Numbskull!
Nitwit!
Ne'er-do-well!

It's getting close to the end of the day. But according to the Rules, the "day" hasn't actually begun yet.

By the Rules, the day was supposed to start at the instant I started watching TV this morning!
If I overlook these hours, I might be able to recover from this lapse of control.

Yes, but I didn't start the day then, and that provides a neat little loophole now.

This is a zero-point day. Period.
If this is a zero-point day, and tomorrow happens to be a zero-point day, that screws us for the entire month! Or you could just look the other way, we'll give you your lovely "Mory 3.0" day, and no harm's done.

If we just "overlook" lapses in control, that'll become acceptable behavior. And before you know it, the entire set of Rules has lost all its usefulness.

Settle down, 3P0. It's just a bit of entertainment.
We're scoring. Now.

Let's see... UltraEdit, new day, 0 points, notes: "I didn't make any formal notation for the day, and did nothing other than watching TV. I deeply apologize"... am I wording that right?

Well, the day's already screwed. Might as well watch more Phineas and Ferb.
No! Under no circumstances am I to watch more TV! I am in control of my life!

It's decided, then. Today never happened. (Great episode.) Now then, there's another two hours until I go to sleep. What should I do with it?

More Phineas and Ferb?
No! I am in control of my life, and I'm going to make something out of it!

I watch another episode.


2011, September 28th, 17:41 and 10 seconds

View the well-meaning awkwardness of my September 2011Daily performance reviews for September 2011:(Rules)

Self-meeting for September 2011

This is going to be short, not because there's not a lot we need to talk about but because there are less than four hours until the Rosh Hashana holiday that will take up the rest of the month.

It's a shame you didn't remember that at the beginning of the month.

Yeah, he's a bit of a moron.

It's especially a shame because if the musician had more time he might finally come up with some music that's marketable. We don't have anyone else who's allowed to make money on a regular basis.

You make money.

I rely on other people's schedules. You won't let me take over full-time, so there you go.

And if you took over full-time, you wouldn't be able to protect yourself against the big bad Addict.

Low blow.

I apologize, it was a mistake, it happens.

It wouldn't have happened if you'd actually taken your job seriously.

Point taken.

Don't just say, "point taken"! That's meaningless!

I'm sorry. Calm down.

You let me down.

I know, and I'm sorry. I was making an effort to give the explorer opportunities this month, and there's not time for everyone.

But apparently the Addict gets as much time as he wants.

Enough. We don't have time for bickering. I set 11 objectives for the month, and we've hit 4 of those. Four.

I don't like Achievements.

I don't care. I want to know what went wrong.

The Addict went wrong.

No, that only happened because the worker was overstressed because we saved everything for the last minute.

I have a solution for that. Or at least, something to try. I've noticed that our average scores for the month aren't what they were in earlier stages of the game, when we tried to hit 7/10 each month to "level up". That was a good incentive, which had us scrambling desperately to reach 7/10 and stay there.

I could do without that hanging over my head.

I think what we're doing now is ten times crazier than what we were doing then. Of course we're not getting the same scores - we've fried our head.

Don't be cute. Programmer, continue.

I'd like to institute a "panic mode", to be activated any time we dip under 6/10 for the month. Until we get back over 6/10, there will be no TV (whatsoever), no comics (even editing), no movies, no music for anyone other than the Musician, and a strict limit of two hours of gaming per game-day.

Wow. I vote yes.

There are legitimate reasons to watch things with other people sometimes.

Then we'll leave you out of the rule.

And me too. I can't make progress with a two-hour day.

You can make progress on other things. It doesn't have to be gaming.

I hate this rule.

Okay. Shall we vote?

Yes, of course. I vote yes, obviously you're voting yes, and the worker has already voted yes which makes three out of eight.

Seven, really. The Addict never shows up.

I don't care either way.

One abstention, and I take it the Explorer votes against?

Right.

I'm torn. On the one hand I see the idea behind it. But on the other hand I like that other guys can give me music to work with. I guess I have to vote no, unless you take out the bit about music.

Music can be an addiction like any other.

That was my thinking.

Then my vote is no.

Same goes for me.

Then the vote is tied, three to three.

Like I said, if you take out the bit about music you have my vote.

If that's the game we're playing, then you'll have my vote if you take out the ban on movies.

Why would I take out-

It makes the most sense to take out the limit on games. When have we ever gotten too addicted to games to do other things?

These all seem just as arbitrary.

I don't want to take out any of these things! The rule is defined correctly. If the musician gets what he wants, he doesn't have an incentive to push the average score up to 6/10, which really isn't so high when you think about it. If the explorer gets to watch movies, he doesn't have an incentive to be more creative. And if the gamer wants to lose the limit on games, he'll do things other than gaming to get to the point where the limit's gone. And if any of you is the one that gets us out of panic mode, and it's clear that it's your high scores that did it, don't you think we'd be thankful enough to give you a few more days? You're all coming out of this with more opportunities.

It does make sense. I'll change my vote to a "yes".

Then the vote is 4 to 2. Would anyone else like to change their votes, before we wrap this up?

What's the point? It's over.

Okay then. The rule will be added. Programmer?

On it.

You didn't say anything about web browsing!

I didn't think of it until just now. Does it change your vote?

I voted no!

Exactly my point.

People! Must we be so petty? Regardless, it's possible that this might change things for someone. Does anyone want to change their vote?



No? Okay then. Programmer, I think it's a good rule and hopefully it'll discourage us from having more months like this.

What, these meetings weren't enough?

Please cut it out with the crabbiness, all of you. It's quite irritating.

But justified, in some cases.

Fine! What would you like?

I would like for you to not promise me I'm going to get days, when you have no intention of letting that happen.

Now, you know very well that's not what happened. It was an honest mistake.

The fact that you were able to make such an obvious mistake, which a double-check would have revealed immediately, shows how much you're committed to leading us.

I will double-check my decisions from now on.

That's all I ask.

You're right.



Okay, anything else anyone would like to bring up?

What, you're going to ignore the big elephant standing in the room?

What, the Addict?

No, not the Addict. I'm talking about the fact that we had 11 objectives, and we did 4 of them.

I mentioned that. But if you're saying that we should talk about that more-

That's what I'm saying. How is it that we messed up so spectacularly?

The new rule will help.

To hell with your rule. I mean, don't get me wrong. I shouldn't say that, it's a good rule. But it's not enough. It was the end of a week, and still no one had lifted a finger to meet the deadlines because apparently I'm the only one who cares about that.

Apparently.

That's not what happened. You need to look at the performance reviews before making accusations like this, Worker. We're talking about the 11th to 15th, right? I had a few character-building days-

What a waste of time.

I had a few character-building days, and during one of them (though I had no obligation to do this) I met one of the goals.

No you didn't.

I most certainly did, I finished Uncharted.

You finished a game. Whoop-dee-doo.

Again, I do not appreciate your tone.

What about the actual goals? By which I'm referring mainly to Angles & Circles.

I ran into a problem. I needed the addict to figure out how to get around it.

If I may speak on behalf of the Explorer, I think it turned out to be an unrealistic goal and it would have been fine if we'd continued without making it.

What? You said the deadlines were set in stone!

Are you talking about this?:

Plans may be added as the month advances and throws life's randomness into the equation, but these deadlines will stay fixed. This is going to be the sort of month that proves the value of the game.

Well, you were right. We proved how much the game was worth this month.

We did a few things...

Those were your words. What do you think we've proven?

That we still have a lot of work to do.

Understatement of the year. But let's focus on the fact that you said the deadlines were fixed, and then totally left me thinking there was more than I could possibly deal with!

Programmer, do you have any ideas?

Could you possibly be specific about the problem?

Certainly. I set a goal for the month which turned out halfway through the month to be a bad idea. But that was seen to be the case on the Explorer's day, and he has no obligation to worry about such things. So the next character suffered because I hadn't had time or reason to notice a problem. Now the Worker feels that he should have been informed of a necessary change, and I don't see how that could have been possible given the situation.

Uh huh. Couldn't the Worker have paused the day, thought about it, and recognized the problem? Planning is allowed during breaks.

The worker wouldn't necessarily have recognized the problem.

What was the problem?

We couldn't continue on Angles and Circles without deciding what we're doing with the game in the big picture.

That sounds like a job for the Thinker, not the Addict.

Sure, whoever.

It's really simple. The Thinker should have noticed a problem during the performance review. The Thinker has control for a few minutes every single day for the performance reviews - he should be able to deal with things like this and warn the others about necessary changes.

That would require the Thinker to act like he's responsible for all of us.

Sure.

I'll do my best to keep an eye on all of you.

That's not good enough.

It's all I can do. If you think I'm not doing my job properly, you can always take off points during my own performance reviews.

I think I'll do that.

What, and push us closer into panic mode? You wouldn't dare!

Panic mode has nothing to do with it. If I'm doing something wrong, it's your obligation to the group to let me know.

Well, it's kind of hard for me to notice you're doing things wrong, when I don't get even a single day!

I think it's time to wrap this meeting up -we're running in circles.

No plans for the month?

Plans for the month. We're running into all the holidays now, so we'll need to make the most of every minute. I'm thinking the Worker on Motza'ei Shabbat, to do Gamer Mom, post the Hyrule post, and maybe start learning the plays if there's time. I don't want to tell you how to manage your time, you'll see what you've got.

I should be able to do all that.

Great. After that I want a triple day for the Addict, to do things on the blog.

You can't be serious!

There's too much that needs to be done on it for a short day. I'm not satisfied with the pace of two posts per month. Don't worry, we've taken out the loophole in the day-extension rule, so we won't have a repeat of the Phineas and Ferb incident.

I think we could be using our time better.

Then make the most of the time you've got, and that'll make me more likely to put you in control more often. Beyond that, it's not your call.

You owe me three character-building days.

I was supposed to get, as well.

Programmer, I think we can skip you; I don't think you've ever had trouble staying in character.

I guess you're right. Though, I'm never called on much, so who knows.

If we start seeing a problem, then we'll talk. Musician. I know I owe you... no, you know what? The Programmer has every bit as much to gain from this as the Musician, I owe you both. But I can't give either of you 48 hours in the coming week. It'll have to be after that, but I promise I won't forget about you.

And what about the rest of us?

Wait for your turn. I'm sorry this is taking so long, but we only have so many days to work with.

Maybe we should cut back on social days. Like, maybe we don't need to put everything down every time Moshe wants to come over.

Hey!

Worker, you are out of line. It is the Person's right to get control whenever a social opportunity arises. I'd like to get back to the plan. Please don't interrupt me.

After the Addict, I'll come in to figure out what we're doing with Angles and Circles. Then the Explorer, maybe dealing with Angles and Circles but definitely continuing Gamer Mom.

If I feel like it. Not promising anything.

You want to work on Gamer Mom because you recognize its importance. Don't be a troublemaker. After him, we'll have two Worker days in a row because there will be so much to get caught up on. After that the Musician gets three days in 48 hours, and then the Programmer gets three days in 48 hours. I don't know specific dates yet, I'll need to sit down with a calendar. Though, maybe I shouldn't say specific dates because we saw how that can backfire. My plan for this next month is to focus primarily on Gamer Mom, but to be making significant progress on everything else as well: the blog, Angles and Circles, "Eshet Chayil",

I'll need you to take a look at that before I get my three days.

Fine. Then somewhere before, after or between the Worker's two days I'll take another. As I was saying, we'll work on Gamer Mom, the blog, Angles and Circles, "Eshet Chayil", the three plays, and Dungeon Master, in that order of importance.

It's too much.

Of course it's too much, but this is the life we've picked.

What about the Fear Itself editing?

Are you kidding me?

No. I'd like to do that.

And what about me?

I don't think Marvel Comics, or Uncharted 2, should be very high on our list of priorities right now! We're coming into Tishrei now, the month of all the holidays! Even without any distractions and interruptions, which isn't going to happen, we don't have a tremendous amount of time! Maybe we should just be focusing on Gamer Mom, and forgetting about everything else?

We need to work on the plays.

And we need the musician to get a good start on making something we can sell!

Eagh! There are fifty minutes left in the month. I would like to wrap this meeting up.

You can't avoid your responsibilities.

I know that, damn it! Over the holiday I'll think about our priorities, and then immediately after Shabbat and before the Worker starts, I'll take an hour and write out what I've decided.

Conveniently enough, that takes all of us out of the discussion.

How meaningful a discussion do you think we're going to have with fifty minutes until the holiday?

You're right, let's wrap it up.

Thank you. If you have more objections to my leadership, bring it up at my next perrfomance review! That will be all.


2011 September 11th, 04:12 and 27 seconds

Perpetual motion


four comments, the last one being from myself
Blogger The Reish Galuta of the Geula said:

Septamber?

Are all months getting colours now?

 Mory said:

Yes, I've been doing that for three months to make the old months look different. Thanks for catching the typo.

Blogger The Reish Galuta of the Geula said:

The link to the Deku nuts post is missing from the Living In Hyrule title page.

It's secret functionality hidden in plain sight (like the deku nuts).

 Mory said:

No, it's there. You might be loading from cache; if you reload that frame, you'll see it.

Post a Comment


2011, September 9th, 00:18 and 22 seconds

A Light Unto The Nations

Last month, I had a conversation that completely changed my political leanings. It was the 9th of Av fast, commemorating the destruction of our holy temple in Jerusalem two thousand years ago. Common religious thought says that we lost the symbol of our religion because we didn't have enough love in our national character to deserve it. When I was in high school from seventh to ninth grade, I was in the Yeshiva run by Rav Yisrael Ariel of the Temple Institute, which actively prepares for the building of the third Temple. He instilled in me a yearning for the Judaism of old, centered aroud a physical and cultural landmark. But still I find the 9th of Av fast a hollow experience, in that it suggests a sadness without calling for any corrective actions. I don't want to sit around and mourn, I want to stand up and rebuild. I want to immediately respond to all the crying about the glory days with the question "What are we going to do about it?". So when the city organized a panel talking about social issues, I walked to it (in my uncomfortable, acceptable-for-the-fast shoes).

The discussion centered around the recent protests all over the country. I first heard of the protests from my mother calling the protestors "spoiled" Tel Aviv kids. I didn't understand what all the hoopla was about: ostensibly these protests were about the price of housing, but it was getting a disproportionate amount of press for the subject. After a while I'd started hearing both sides of the argument: there were a lot of legitimate social problems that were being protested, but the protestors were also using the opportunity to try to knock the current politicians out of power, and replace them with more left-wing candidates. There was some idealism on display, but also the desire to attend a fun social event during the summer vacation. The class split is wider than in other countries, but the economy is doing well by capitalistic standards. I found that my view of the protests changed depending on who I was talking to, because everyone seemed to be making sense to me. The protests have ended now, and still I have no idea where I stand on the subject. Not only do I not know if they were a positive development, but I don't know if they made any impact at all. They were huge protests by any measure, and politicians will be making reference to them to back up their rhetoric, but I suspect the next elections will be between all the same parties with all the same platforms (or lack thereof). Or maybe this really has changed the whole discussion, by making the issues about us rather than about an external threat. Then again, there was a terrorist attack toward the end of the protests.... At the end of the day, I don't know what the story was.

So when a panel of people more qualified than me to understand what's going on all disagreed with each other about what was going on, I felt more confused than ever. When it ended, I started chatting with a neighbor named Itzik. The details of the conversation elude me, but as we walked back to our street, and then for an hour afterward, we tried to make sense of what the point of Judaism is, and where Israel fits into it. We talked about the anthropomorphization of God, and Jewish values in law, and the religious landscape as it exists today and as it used to be, and where we might be going. I brought up the common idea of Judaism as "a light unto the nations", and Itzik threw me for a loop with his follow-up question: "What if we've already achieved that?". If the idea of Judaism is to spread ethical values and social justice throughout the world by setting a good example, then mission accomplished! Compared to the world of antiquity, our modern world is very humane. Most of the western world are built on a foundation of rationality and Judeo-Christian ideals. But if Judaism has fulfilled its purpose, I countered, then why aren't we at the end of the story already? Where's our Messiah? Where's our Temple? And he laughed at a little at the childishness of the remark. Itzik does not place much faith in an "end of days" scenario to magically solve the world's problems.

But then, what's next? If we've already served our purpose, then maybe the Kharedim with their radical isolationist attitude are actually making sense. The work in the world is done, and now our reward is to sit around learning Torah all day, not needing to worry about anything going on outside. Replace "Torah" with "The Legend of Zelda", and I can get behind that attitude. But then Judaism is no different from any other selfish lifestyle out there. It's not about any particular religious purpose anymore, it's just a culture. (I do not consider "preserving and enforcing the arbitrary status quo" to be a valid religious purpose.) Itzik told me that the idea of being so rigid about Jewish practices and so obsessive about studying is a fairly recent historical development, trying to undo the damage to the Jewish people inflicted by the Holocaust. If that's the case, then Kharedi Judaism may have outlived its usefulness. And on the other end of the religious spectrum you've got the secular Jews, who want Israel to be a social-democratic country like any other. But then, why here? Why not just move to anywhere in Europe or North America?

I have this underlying axiom, that Jews are not supposed to be like everyone else. With all the sexist, racist and conformist elements in Orthodox Judaism, the idea of a "chosen people" has me holding on to the Jewish story as a worthy cause. Not to suggest, God forbid, that we're somehow superior to anyone else, but just that we've been given a unique burden of being an example for the rest of the world. Every move we make is scrutinized by the rest of the world, and our job as Jews is to make sure that our example makes the world better rather than leaving it in the same place. That's all. Orthodox Judaism will hopefully lose its prominence over time, giving way to more inclusive and enlightened denominations, but the one idea that must always hold is the "light unto the nations" line. As long as the world isn't entirely just, our job isn't done yet.

And where does that leave Israel, a tiny Jewish country in the middle of a region that mostly hates us? Well, that's the most important part of the religion, isn't it? Israel is the representation of Judaism on the world stage. It was founded so that we'd get some peace and quiet free of all the persecution, but if that's the whole plan then it's doomed to destruction again. If we wanted to be ignored, maybe a predominantly Muslim area wasn't the best spot. Antarctica might have been a better choice. In the Middle East, minding our own business and hoping everyone leaves us alone isn't an option. It's simply not going to happen. We'll keep fighting for our lives until one day we lose, and then a majority of the Jewish people will all be wiped out at once. If the plan is just to keep pushing off that event for as long as possible, I'd rather be living in America like my brother with his nice job and his boring non-Jewish girlfriend. I don't care for no-win scenarios. But if the plan's to make Israel an extension of the "light unto the nations" principle, then maybe we've got something to offer the world.

The third Temple can't be exclusive to Jews. I think that would be a fundamental misunderstanding of the point of Judaism. We need to have people coming from all over the world, from all walks of life, to recognize the glory of God and bring some of that goodness back home with them. On second thought, maybe the Temple Mount wouldn't be quite big enough for that. But the country is. The State of Israel should be our third Temple. Israel isn't about learning Torah, it's about looking after the civilians in war and providing a reasonable life for the poor and taking in refugees from Africa and sending humanitarian aid wherever it's needed. We've started in that direction, but there's so much farther to go. Our politicians are good with strategy, but short on compassion. And as the people who've democratically elected those leaders, the same must be said of us.

If Israel and Judaism are to actually do God's work, I can't hold on to my old political positions. I've always just wanted to be left alone. I voted Yisra'el Beiteinu in the last national elections, because they seemed to have the harshest stance on how to deal with the Palestinians and I wanted to get rid of that safety risk. In the last local elections, I voted for the guy promoting unity only because there wasn't a candidate who was strongly anti-Kharedi (which I would have preferred). But if this isn't just any old country, I can't be thinking like that. As an Israeli voter, it is my religious obligation to keep the bigger story in mind. The Muslims are our enemies right now, but they won't always be. These are our cousins and our neighbors. They share our core beliefs, though they might be losing sight of those ideals under all their cultural aggression. And we can't be an effective example of what is good and right in the world while the best-known fact about Israel is that we're fighting the Palestinians. That we're justified in our fight is irrelevant - we are under greater scrutiny than other countries, and we must do better.

The two-state solution is un-Jewish. These are people who are living in our land, and we're aiming to turn a blind eye to their abuse by their rich little would-be dictators. The Israeli majority seems to be okay with the idea of declaring borders between us and them and then letting them all suffer like all the other countries in the Middle East. It's not going to work out for us, either. Do we really want a country with a lower quality of life sharing space with us? I don't know much history, but I find it hard to imagine that that wouldn't lead to violence. And on the other side of the political spectrum are the people like my mother, who'd love to just bomb 'em all and send them running to the other Arab countries. "This is our country!", such Israelis cry, "Get out of it!". No one has an actual solution that's going to work out for the local Arabs, it's all just about getting them to stop killing us.

We need to stop thinking like that, right now. They are living in our country, and it is the compassionate (and therefore Jewish) thing to do to make them feel welcome. We need to immediately, and very publicly, offer full Israeli citizenship to every Arab who's been living here for a while and hasn't been involved in any terrorist activity. We need to take responsibility for the so-called "Palestinian Territories", and the longer we wait the harder it'll be. Their leaders' efforts to declare statehood at the UN this month can't result in anything good for either side, and I wish we'd give them Israeli citizenship to preempt that. The oft-mentioned "demographic threat" to Israel doesn't concern me: if this is a country of ideals (as it should be) rather than bloodline, the existing laws rooted in Jewish values ought to be enough regardless of the demographics. And if Jewish values aren't strong enough to make this a uniquely Jewish country, then why the hell not? As to the threat of Palestinian nationalists undermining the country from within, Moshe had a very good idea: we should have a law stating that traitors to the country will automatically have their citizenship revoked. I would extend that idea to include all people who organize violence for any reason, be they Arab or Jewish. If someone sets aside rocks for the express purpose of throwing them at people on Shabbat, as far as I'm concerned that person has permanently given up his right to be a part of this holy country.

In the first year or two of integrating with the Palestinians we'll need to be prepared for a lot more terrorist plots in our borders, and that means that a lot of the money from the defense budget needs to be moved to the police. Maybe some of the people drafted into the army can be put in the police instead. We're really good at defending ourselves from outsiders, but not as good at maintaining order and enforcing laws. That needs to change. That'll take a lot of money, and the recent protests have brought to everyone's attention just how much of the country's wealth is controlled by a handful of rich families. We need to tax them more.

All of what I'm saying boils down to: we need to start acting like the Jewish people we tell stories about, and not the Jewish people that other people tell stories about. That goes for myself (as self-absorbed a person as I know) as much as anyone else: I have no excuse to put my silly little life in front of worthy protests that I might help with. (People who know me, you may hold me to that.) I need to stop thinking the world revolves around me and start acting like a part of the world. And the same goes for my political leanings. I'm not pining for the good old days anymore. They might have been good for us, but the rest of the world was a mess. That's not good enough. In the next elections, I'll vote for whichever party supports inviting the Palestinians into Israel and aggressively upholding a high standard of ethics and justice as befits a Jewish country.

Hmph. That party doesn't exist, does it.


Monday, November 4, 2013

The strangest phone call I have ever had, part 2

I walked with Yardena to the bus stop as she left for work. We hugged for a while, and then the bus came and she was off. I started walking toward the park which I'd once stumbled into, with lots of nooks and crannies where one might be creative. When I got there, I called Tuvia and pitched him my idea.

2011, August 31st, 18:50 and 59 seconds

View the utter mess that is my August 2011Daily performance reviews for August 2011:(Rules)

Self-meeting for August 2011

Perspective
New rules

Last month it seemed like the worker had gotten under control. So this month, the plan was to keep going with the other characters, and to give each character the chance to figure out who they are separate from the group. But here we are at the end of the month, and instead of having gotten comfortable with all the characters we've lost the perfect worker. What happened?

It was a bad plan, is what happened. There's too much to do to waste time thinking about things.

That is not a helpful attitude.

I see two problems. The first and most significant is an addiction to comics. The second problem is going to sleep too late, and being tired all the time. This is tied to the first problem, since we all stayed up late reading comics. Clearly addictions are the absolute evil we need to avoid, because they break down everything we build up. I propose a new rule: if in a performance review we ever see that some activity is turning into an addiction, we're not allowed to do that activity for a week afterward, with no exceptions.

Useless. I mean, it's a fine rule, but it changes nothing. I first noted the comics addiction on the 25th, and I said we shouldn't read any comics for a while. We kept reading comics anyway. What good is making it a rule going to do? Anyway, I'm not sure that's the problem. It is a problem, and we do need to be more careful, but it doesn't explain... yestrday, for instance, where there was no comics activity and the worker couldn't keep it together.

I was very tired.

Okay, so that is a major problem, and the fact that the computer shuts down automatically at 3:00 ought to help in that regard.

Unless you stay up reading, like you did last night.

Point taken.

The problem with the month is I didn't have any say in it. You gave me one day, where my activities were dictated by the schedule. If I'd had other days, I would have given you all ideas on how to be less stuffy.

Again, I don't think this is the main problem.

The main problem was a lack of enthusiasm, and the explorer could have helped that.

Thank you.

Without enthusiasm, none of these rules and none of these plans and none of these characters are worth anything at all.

The explorer was criticized for a lack of enthusiasm in his one day.

I already said that that was because my activities were dictated to me, instead of arising naturally from my personality.

I suppose it's possible.

Let's please not take this idea too seriously. We are very very busy these days. I know it doesn't look like it from the sluggishness of this past week, but let's not forget that we are in the middle of no less than eight projects of various types.

We need deadlines.

Yes, we do. We also need to be always moving forward. How's this for a theory: we lost interest in the game because the entire point of the game this month was about wallowing in our own flaws instead of moving forward.

That's an interesting thought. Just as you need to "stick to the plan" precisely or lose all your momentum, so too should we never waver in following the direction for the month. Once we feel like what we're doing is separate from the plan, we lose the plan. That means that the monthly plan needs to always be flexible enough to allow for changes. Maybe that was the problem.

That was in no way similar to what I was saying.

Are we giving up on the character exercise, then?

No, I still think it's important to get each voice right. But let's make that just a small part of the month, and we can include deadlines for everything else.

What if each day of the exercise is just a few hours, and you immediately follow it with another exercise day? It could be the same character, or a different character...

I like the idea of having two instances of one character in a day. Cut the personality down to the essentials, and come up with different variations.

We have to restore the rule about not following a bad day with the same character. It's an important rule.

Okay. No exceptions this time.


I think I understand what everyone wants here. Deadlines, shorter character building, a more active role for the explorer, a limit on comics, and sufficient attention given to everything we need to be doing. I'll write up the plan for September tonight.

We were going to capitalize the names of characters.

That's true. I guess I've gotten used to writing the characters' names uncapitalized, and I didn't even think about it. But it should be capitalized, Explorer, you're right. Should I edit what we've written?

Just move on already. No one cares.

I'll move on. I know the programmer had some rules he wanted to run past us, so we'll let him do that.

Perspective
New rules

The first rule I'd like to suggest is a point incentive for staying in character. For a while now we've been losing points for breaking character, but that's been a one-way street. Now if you particularly excel at playing your character, you get one point.

Just one?

Just one. I don't want to give the impression that as long as you're being yourself, you don't need to care about any of the other rules.

A wise precaution. I doubt anyone will object to this rule. How will you word it?

It'll go after the line about losing points for breaking rules or principles. "Conversely, if the activities of the day present a particularly believable representation of the character, one point will be added (with the maximum still not exceeding ten)."

Did we need to hear that?

No, I guess not. Just add it in, then. No need for the whole fancy arrow business; this is the sort of rule that should have been there from the beginning.

Thank you.


Okay, next rule. We should only allow a day to be extended if it's going well.

That's not a clear rule.

Can you word it more clearly?

Oy, again with the wording!

You said it wasn't clear.

Never mind. Spend fifty years working on getting the words just right, I don't care.

Ignore him. Can you word the rule more clearly?

"If twenty-four hours have passed since the last scoring period, the score for the day must immediately be estimated. (A precise calculation may not be possible before the closing statement and performance review.) If it is estimated that the score for the day (were it concluded immediately) would be 7/10 or higher, then the day may continue. Otherwise, the day must conclude immediately, and the formal review will take place."

Fascinating. There, I think we did need to hear the precise wording.

Isn't that backwards? If you don't have a good score yet, maybe you need the extra time to get it up there!

That's not what we've seen happening in practice. If the day's going badly enough to score under 7/10, there's some essential problem with the approach that's not going to be fixed by just carrying it on longer. We keep hearing the excuse "The day isn't good yet!", followed by the day getting even worse. This will stop that.

I love it.

It does seem like it might work. Any objections?



Seriously, this is a big change. If you don't like it, now's the time to speak up. There won't be another chance.


My scoring goes by progress. With a longer day, I necessarily make more progress. And I'm not sure if I'll always be able to get a seven in twelve hours.

It's more than twelve hours. It's twenty-four hours from the last scoring. So let's say you get eight and a half hours of sleep, you take a half hour to start the day, we'll take off another hour of expected mundanity, you've still got fourteen hours. If in fourteen hours you can't get things done, you're playing the wrong games.

You're right, I take back what I said.

Any other criticisms or concerns?

What if I'm out with friends, and there are more opportunities that I'll miss out on if I don't keep going?

If you're out with friends, you should be having a meaningful enough time to get that 7/10.

Maybe not. Maybe we're just starting out.

In this hypothetical situation, what were you doing for a full day up to that point?

Maybe it was a decent, but not a stellar day so far, and this social opportunity will push it over the edge. Maybe it's a solid six-pointer so far.

He has a point. Six out of ten is respectable.

If it's 6/10, you're still allowed to repeat the character. You can end the day with six points, start a new day as the person, and have a full twenty-four hours to do whatever it is you're doing.

What if it's five out of ten?

Then you've screwed yourself out of the opportunity. Play better, and that won't happen.

I don't like it.

I don't care. It's a good rule.

Programmer, could you possibly lower the cut-off to 5/10?

Five out of ten is a mediocre day. We don't want to extend that.

Okay, I understand what you're saying, but it's not a huge difference.

Seven is the right number. Do you think five makes more sense?

No, but maybe a compromise would be in order.

"Compromise". I can see why you didn't get anything done this month, you don't hav much intellectual integrity.

That is not called for. That is really not called for.

I say we put it to a vote. Musician?

Yea.

Explorer?

I have no problem with it.

This isn't right. You're voting because you know you'll win this way!

You're damned right. Worker?

Anything to reduce wasted time.

I vote for it.

Thinker?

Fine, I get it! You can have your rule.

I vote yes, if anyone cares. Let's put in the rule.

Now if we're done with that little drama, I have a rule of my own to suggest. I would like to formalize a policy we've already been following but could pursue more rigidly: whenever our plans rely on other people, we need to confirm the schedule shortly before relying on it.

Now that's a rule I can get behind.

Like I said, this is nothing new. So let's just add it in. Programmer, do you mind if I just add it in with yours?

Sure.

Done. What do you think of the wording?

It's fine.

Okay. Does anyone have anything else to add to this meeting?



Then we'll end it here.


2011, August 8th, 02:46 and 7 seconds

This needs to be said.

Today I allocated eight hours of my day for data entry work. It was as rewarding as always, with a bunch of new forms thrown in with fun new rhythms to learn. I was working (as usual) on the opposite side of my boss Hadas's desk, and she noted at one point that as I was copying data I was swaying around as though I were playing piano. I hadn't noticed I was doing that, partially because I was too tired to be particularly self-aware and partially because I was just absorbed in the work. I told her that data entry uses the same skill as piano, and she laughed. But it's true: my practice with using my fingers quickly in piano and computer games make me uniquely qualified for this little job I've got. I don't need to look at or think about the keyboard to know exactly what I'm pressing on, so that I can be typing 6 digits per second in a brisk 4/4 meter without having looked at where I'm placing my fingers, and I'll still feel instantly if I've pressed the wrong key. Two women came in at one point to ask Hadas a question, and when they saw me typing away furiously with my head buried in the paper I was copying from one of them asked "Don't you need to see what you're writing?". Having not been aware enough of their presence to immediately process the auditory data of the question, I turned to her and said "What?" while my fingers finished off the string of numbers I was on. She laughed, and Hadas said I was one of a kind, to which I gave a dismissive wave.

Later, in between two files, I got a text message from Dena asking if I could go with her to a movie (Captain America: The First Avenger) next week. I responded that as it happens, I'll be within walking distance of the theater at that day at that time, since I have a rehearsal of Cox and Box scheduled, so that would work nicely. I kept working for a few hours after that, until Hadas wanted to leave. I estimate that there are six and a half hours of work left on this particular group of subjects, so next week after the movie, I'll set my alarm to wake me up early again and put in another day of work. As Hadas and I drove back to Beit Shemesh, she told me what she thinks of the current protests (essentially, that it's political mudslinging masquerading as a social agenda), to which I have no opinion. When I got home I opened the check from my work in the past few months, had dinner and read a short letter from Aviella, who I've continued to correspond with regularly since we starred in Ruddigore together. Then I took a two-and-a-half hour nap, woke up, planned out the rest of the evening, bought the latest "Humble Indie Bundle" collection of independent games, studied the programming techniques I'll need to know for the adventure game Gamer Mom which I'm doing with Kyler, practiced Cox & Box for an hour, and then sat down to write this post. In ten minutes I'll be done with this and I'll go back to working on my collection of backup stories from The Avengers, which often have incorrect chapter numbers that I need to fix in an image editor. And finally I will award myself the perfect-10 score that I deserve for today's work, and go to sleep content.

By any measure, this is a great life. I am happy. I am productive. I have social opportunities equal to my current interest in social opportunities. I feel that my work is not only rewarding in itself, but also rewarded with money and new opportunities of all sorts. I want to wake up tomorrow, and have another day just like this one. I want to make the most of the day after that as well, and the day after that, and so on for the rest of my life. I am satisfied here.

Let me tell you what tomorrow is going to be like. I'm going to wake up at 12:30. I'll get out of bed and head toward the TV to exercise, but get sidetracked by the computer. I'll sit down and waste two hours browsing silly web sites that I've been to thousands of times before. Then I'll begrudgingly get dressed, eat lunch and go back to web browsing. At a certain point I'll be too depressed to go on, so I'll read a book or some comics or play a game or something. I'll keep looking for more distractions and time-wasters, believing in the absence of common-sense that there's enlightenment to be found somewhere in the tedium. At the end of the day I'll put off writing a closing statement because nothing I can possibly say will make that day seem worthwhile, but maybe if I give it a few more hours in the day after that my thoughts will come together and I'll see that I haven't just wasted twenty-four hours. What's actually going to happen is that the few hours in the next day will drag on, until I've wasted two full days and have absolutely nothing to show for it.

I know there are reasons for this behavior. But they're stupid reasons, detached from any kind of reality I'm familiar with. And even if there were a legitimate excuse for it, it still couldn't live up to this life I've carved out for myself which is pretty damned close to perfect. I've figured out how to live, and there's no use wandering around aimlessly any more.


2011, August 1st, 02:34 and 42 seconds

Show the very slow progress of July 2011Daily performance reviews for July 2011:(Rules)

Self-meeting for July 2011

Not much to say, because the month has gone well.

I haven't gotten a turn yet.

Yes, well, progress has been slow. But character building takes the time it takes, and then you have it for life.

I would think it's a constant effort.

Sure, but it's like riding a bicycle. Once you can do it, you never forget.

It's not worth arguing.

Why, is there something you'd like to say?

No.


Okay. I have to congratulate you on becoming the character we needed you to be.

There's more work to do.

Good attitude.

I think if you gave me more time, I could get everything in our life under control.

Shut up!

I think what the explorer means to say is "no". But it's good that you want to keep going. That's exactly the kind of self-confidence I was hoping for.

I'm serious.

Shut. Up.

Good, very good. Worker, do you have

By the way, are we capitalizing our names now? It seems inconsistent.

You know what, yes. From now on, our names will be capitalized. We should have been doing that from the beginning.

Okay, Thinker.

Unless... I guess we could hold off on capitals until we earn them.

Names Capitalized. Move on.

Oh fine. Worker, is there anything you can say that you've learned about how to play your part? Because it would be best if we could take that and make a rule out of it, so that you never have trouble remembering your lines.

No rule. I just try to do what needs to be done.

I like that, very... what's the word.

Stoic.

Are you sure? Let's see... "one apparently or professedly indifferent to pleasure or pain"

I have a complaint. Your "moments of reflection" make no sense at all.


Explain.

Well, if I'm in the middle of doing something, suddenly stopping in the middle is just an interruption, just because it's 7:40 PM or whenever.

I did notice that you weren't pausing the game.

It's a waste of time.

What if there were some sort of script to follow, so that you're checking whether you're still in character?

It's a waste of time.

Explorer, do you have any thoughts?

Butterflies.

Excuse me?

I'm picturing butterflies fluttering by. It's very dreamy.

Any thoughts that are relevant to the three "moments of reflection"?

It's a waste of time.

You've said that already.


Oh, fine, I'll take the rule out. But I haven't given up on the idea, it just needs more tweaking.

Another complaint I'd like to make is the schedule. There's no reason that we should be ending days at 3:00 while the rest of the world is asleep by midnight. We should switch to a more normal schedule.

It's... hm. I don't think "normal" is necessarily something we're going for.

Don't be repressing me, you.

It's just causing friction between us and the rest of the world, for no good reason. It makes it awkward to do things like go to work and not be tired all day.

You are free to go to sleep whenever you want. And so are we.

Well, that doesn't exactly work, does it? To keep changing sleep schedules?

You never know. Maybe it would.

No, but you know, that's ridiculous. Usually I won't be following myself, which means someone else will be going to sleep at some godforsaken hour, like you going to sleep at 5:30 some nights, and then I'm going to be tired all day.

I think we're all capable of being considerate of such considerations... that's a terrible wording. I think we can take into account such-

It's ridiculous.

Noted. I don't think you'll find anyone with your point of view, though.

What about the Person?

I don't know. Person?



What?

Would you prefer to go to sleep at a normal hour?

I don't know, I generally stay up late on Friday nights talking to people. But I guess during the week it could be cool to be awake in some different hours, sure. I rarely chat with people out of the country, anyway. But right now it doesn't make too much difference. Maybe when you give me enough time to myself to have a social life, I'll care one way or the other more.

Thank you.

Weirdos.

Let's move on and talk about the blog. I'm disappointed you didn't write on it more. It's there for you.

Is it?

It's there for all of us.

Here for all... never mind.

I had more pressing things on my agenda.

Why don't you quickly run through what you've accomplished.

I don't know. I guess I got some work done on Gamer Mom, and Angles and Circles. I probably should have done more.

Mm hm. Well, I guess we can wrap this up.

You haven't been exercising.

That's true. I should have.

Yes.

But I get so tempted by the computer, and I get stuck there instead of going to the Wii.

I was like that too. But you have to push past it.

But what if there's something really interesting in my inbox?

There isn't.

Or some blog that's updated? And here we'll imagine it's an interesting update, and not something silly.

It's always silly. But even if it isn't, you don't belong on the computer until you've started the day properly.

See, I don't think like that.

You should.

I'm always looking for things that might get some thoughts out of me.

Are you thinking particularly profound thoughts immediately after waking up?

Sometimes.

No, you need to be more awake than that. Look, after exercising and showering and what have you you've got hours and hours to read your precious blogs.

That is true. It's just an addiction, isn't it.

Exactly. Some habits are useful. That one isn't.

So just push past it. I'll try to do that.

Maybe you should try doing stranger things, instead of always relying on habits.

Not a very good cake if it's made from stale ingredients.

Right. And I'm saying this because I want my turn already.

I know. Thank you, I'll try.

You'll try what?



I'll look for insight in new places.

Good.

Thursday will be yours whether I'm done or not, so that you can see... what's the name of the movie?

The Tree of Life.

Yes. So I doubt I'll be done in just two days, but you will get a day regardless.

I don't want a day. I want to have a lot of days. I'd do more for the blog than you do.

Let's please not forget how much work there is to be done in Gamer Mom and Angles and Circles, and soon Cox and Box as well. Life goes on whether or not you're playing an exercise.

We'll have to call you and the addict more often, then.


I mean, the addict.



So. What are the things I need to remember?
  1. Look for insight in new places.
  2. Start the day with exercise and hygiene, rather than thoughts.
  3. Make use of the Worker and the Addict frequently.
Am I forgetting anything?

No, I don't think I am. On to August, then.


two comments, the last one being from myself
Blogger P.A.W. said:

I’m curious: in choosing a non-Nintendo console, why did you choose a PS3 over an Xbox 360?

For PS2 compatibility old PS2s are cheap (in the UK; but maybe not in Israel?)

 Mory said:

In a word: Flower. The downloadable game by Jenova Chen is one of the main reasons I'm buying a PS3. But there's also Heavy Rain and Uncharted 2, both of which it seems from internet chatter like I have an obligation to play as a gamist involved in interactive stories. The XBox 360, on the other hand, has no exclusive games I'm interested in. Buying the Playstation 3 wasn't (just) about being fed up with Nintendo, it was about wanting to play particular games.

As for PS2 compatibility, which due to a mistake I don't have, it's not as big a deal as I thought. The main games I wanted for PS2 were Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, which are being rereleased as a bundle for PS3. There are a few games I want from PS2 that I won't be able to play, but not enough to buy a system over.

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2011, July 31st, 21:36 and 55 seconds

Nintendo stretches itself too thin

Nintendo's 3DS system was expected to be a hit. It was the successor to their massively popular DS handheld system, with a neat new feature -a 3D screen!- and more modern technology powering it. But just five months after launch, Nintendo is already reducing the price from $250 American dollars to $170.

This is shocking for a few reasons. Firstly and most obviously, to cut the price this soon is an admission that the launch was an utter failure. I don't know sales details, but obviously these are not happy numbers. And the 3DS isn't that radically different in its business strategy to the DS, so the question is "Why is this necessary?". In CEO Satoru Iwata's statement to the press, he vaguely alluded to the difficulty of selling a 3D screen that only impresses "those who have experienced the system". Around the internet, I've seen a lot of people saying that the price cut is a response to Sony's announcement of the Playstation Vita, a more powerful (and expensive to manufacture) system whose price has been set at $250 to undercut Nintendo. One site actually blamed the relative strength of the Japanese yen for Nintendo's financial problems. And I'm sure all three factors contributed to Nintendo's decision. But it's not like any of these issues were wholly unexpected for a company paying attention to its product, its competitors and the world economy. You don't suddenly reduce the price five months in, which Nintendo has admitted "may cause ... the loyal fans who supported Nintendo 3DS from the beginning, to lose trust in us", because you suddenly noticed some variable that could reasonably have been predicted before launch.

The second thing that's shocking about the price cut is that as I'm learning now from sites doing the math, $250 was actually a reasonable price from Nintendo's perspective. When they announced the 3DS, I was certain it would be sold at $180. But evidently the technology behind it is advanced enough that they couldn't set it at that price and still make a profit. When Sony sells their Playstation Vita, they'll most likely be losing money for each and every system they sell just to have that $250 pricetag which makes them look good next to Nintendo. Once they've got their market share, they'll make the money back with the expensive games they sell. I don't believe that business plan will work in this instance, but it's how both they and Microsoft have done things for years. Not Nintendo, though. As a matter of policy, Nintendo has never sold hardware at a loss. Sony and Microsoft are huge companies who don't blink at financial risks in one of their many divisions. But Nintendo doesn't have that mindset. Or rather, they've never had that mindset until right now. Apparently at $170, they'll be losing around 15 bucks on each sale. Clearly this is not a typical price cut.

This last business-quarter was the first in Nintendo's long history in which they failed to make a profit. Generally when a company's not doing well, they start firing employees to save money. Nintendo is taking a different and altogether more likable approach. Along with the price cut, the bosses at Nintendo have apparently volunteered to take massive cuts to their paychecks. Iwata's salary has gone down by a whopping fifty percent. The other managers lose thirty percent, and all the directors lose twenty percent. This is being framed as a way "for the management to show its accountability for the level of the operating loss of this time and the prospect of no interim dividend".

They seem to be doing everything right to deal with this situation. They're taking a loss to gain new customers, they're appeasing their shareholders, and they're even reassuring their fans by giving away twenty old Nintendo classics as free 3DS downloadables (which most likely costs Nintendo absolutely nothing). But the fact remains that Nintendo is not doing well. The company that created the Wii, which still (as far as I know) has more of the console market than either Microsoft's XBox 360 or Sony's Playstation 3, somehow isn't making a profit. And if you think that's because of what Sony's doing, or because the 3D screen is too hard to sell, then you're not seeing the big picture. This is about the iPhone. Every single decision and announcement Nintendo makes these days is a reaction to the iPhone, and it's not enough.

The 3DS is taking an early price cut because without it, their hardware business will be dead within a year. And the bosses all took pay cuts because Nintendo can't afford to lose a single employee right now. If the company doesn't expand dramatically over the next few years, Nintendo's business model will quickly prove to be unsustainable.

By my estimation, Nintendo has around thirty games in active development at any given time. These range in scale from cheap experiences that can be completed in an hour or two, to Super Mario and Legend of Zelda games with big budgets and generous helpings of content. These games are made by a wide variety of studios, most of them owned by Nintendo but some simply working under Nintendo's supervision. These studios are not all equal in size or ambition. Handheld titles which will be played for just a few minutes at a time aren't given the same budgets or lengthy development schedules that, say, a role-playing game from Monolith Soft. A game that's going to be played on a small screen during a bus ride isn't as polished and deep as a game you spend hours playing in front of the TV.

Expensive games for consoles aiming for technical excellence, and cheaper games for handhelds. This approach has served Nintendo well for decades. But then the iPhone/iPad happened. Suddenly there's a huge market of people wandering around with powerful internet-enabled computers in their pockets, with a built-in store that sells simple and addictive games for a dollar a piece. Nintendo tried to compete directly, by selling their DS update DSi entirely on the basis of their online store. It didn't take off, not to anything near the extent of Apple's offerings. It's hard for me to say why, given that I neither have nor have ever seen a DSi. Actually, that there might be a hint. The gamers most likely to be interested in downloadable Nintendo games likely already owned the DS or the DS Lite, and the DSi, with its internet access and camera, might not have seemed like a necessary purchase while all the new DS games in stores could be played with an earlier model. But like I said, I don't have any experience with the system. It may simply be more awkward to connect it to the internet than an iPhone bought from a cell phone company.

For whatever reason, Nintendo's online store never got big enough to be the bulk of their business. So while they're still steadily releasing downloadable DS games -at the expense of the online Wii store, which has completely dried up- being an iPhone-wannabe isn't their goal. The only way to compete in the long-term with Apple is to go in the other direction. The games need to be so clearly superior to iPhone applications that no one will even consider them to be in the same category. Hence the 3DS and its 3D screen which -for technical reasons involving viewing angle and the limitations of touch screens- Apple is not likely to ever compete with in their handheld products. With the 3DS screen seeming like a window into another world with depth, every game played on it might be a special experience in the way that Avatar was a cultural event. (Well, maybe not that special. But that's the hope.) Consumers will continue to pay a premium despite the much cheaper competition, because they're getting a different class of experience. It's a fine business plan. Just one problem: Nintendo isn't built for it.

The 3D hardware is not enough in itself to impress people. To make the 3DS seem special you need software that shows off the 3D effect with dazzling imagery. If you put a 2D game on there and throw in some 3D gimmickry, gamers start making the Apple comparison again, in the same way that cheaply-produced 3D movies are turning moviegoers off of expensive 3D tickets. Good graphics require powerful hardware, so the 3DS is powerful enough that $250 dollars seemed like a reasonable price. And graphics are expensive on the software side as well. The reason videogame teams these days are so much bigger than in ten years ago isn't because the gameplay is so much more sophisticated - it's all about the presentation. So 3DS games, fitting the "premium" theme, are more expensive than DS cartridges at $40, which is just ten dollars cheaper than a Wii game. When you're talking about a game that's forty times more expensive than the most popular handheld games of today, you need a really high caliber of gameplay to justify it.

There aren't many teams at Nintendo capable of consistently producing large, technically-accomplished and excellent games. There's the EAD team in the Kyoto headquarters which makes Zelda, there's the Tokyo team that does Super Mario Bros., Project Sora (also in Tokyo) which is known for Super Smash Bros., Retro Studios in Texas that revives whatever series Nintendo's not interested enough to do themselves, and maybe a handful of others. These are the guys who have always worked on the console side while the larger number of small teams made handheld games. Now Nintendo has the console people working on the 3DS. The Tokyo platformer experts are making the sure-to-be-lovely Super Mario 3DLand, Retro Studios is helping out on Mario Kart 7, Project Sora is making Kid Icarus: Uprising. Each of these games will be what the 3DS needed at launch.

But while all the big teams are working on 3DS, who's making console games? Well, no one, as it turns out. There's The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword coming out later this year, but other than that the Wii release schedule is almost empty. There are a bunch of small throwaway games like another Rhythm Heaven, a new standard Kirby and some Mario Partys. Few third-party developers make games for Wii because the system is so different from the other two systems and the Wii fans are such a different audience to what they understand that it's barely worth the hassle to make a Wii version of anything. So for hardcore gamers like me awaiting the next big thing, there's nothing. There aren't even many small/quirky experiments coming for Wii to fill the gap, which might seem strange. But I strongly suspect that most of the small teams are now being given projects larger than they've ever done before, and it would surprise me if Nintendo hasn't been hiring a lot of entry-level progammers and artists to fill their ranks. Small teams are fairly useless to Nintendo's new strategy, and until those small teams get bigger the company is relying on a mere handful of studios to meet all their demand.

If you only look at the handheld side of the equation, it was absolutely wrong to release the 3DS when they did. All they had for launch titles were fun but small and unimpressive games like Pilotwings Resort and Steel Diver. It was vital to have Super Mario 3DLand at launch, which with its midair floating can really show off the appeal of 3D. But they weren't ready with it yet because it had only been a year since the Wii's Super Mario Galaxy 2 and it takes the Tokyo team longer than a year to make a great game. The 3DS was launched early, I am convinced, to distract from the Wii. If they waited until they were actually ready, Wii fans would practically forget Nintendo existed and jump ship to Sony and Microsoft. Getting them to buy a new and exciting system, Nintendo hoped, would build momentum through the empty months until the cool 3DS games came out. Launching the 3DS without its games was a calculated risk. It didn't work.

And what of the Wii owners who weren't interested in handheld games? For them Nintendo "announced" the Wii U, a name which sounds like something you'd say upon smelling something nasty. It wasn't a real announcement, because they had absolutely nothing to show. They hadn't finalized the hardware, they hadn't decided how they were planning on selling it, and they weren't ready to announce any games for it! Nintendo's always internally throwing ideas around for their next systems, and then they throw most of those ideas out and stick with whatever seems best. For E3 they just pulled out one of their prototypes -a controller with an iPad-style touch screen- and hoped that would be enough. To their credit, very few journalists seem to be paying attention to the fact that the Wii is being ignored, so I guess Nintendo was successful in changing the message.

To say that the Wii U announcement was premature would be an understatement. Nintendo didn't seem at all sure whether Wii U games would actually use two screens, or if they'd just use one screen but you wouldn't need a TV, or if the touch screen was meant to be used separately from the games themselves. (These are incompatible ideas.) They sent mixed messages about whether the use of multiple controllers (for multiplayer) was actually technically possible using their hardware. There was no attempt at new branding, so many people walked away with the impression that it was a new controller for the Wii rather than a whole new console. Iwata wisely did not point out that everything they were describing could be done right now: the Wii and the DS can communicate wirelessly, so the only thing stopping developers from making Wii games with a touch-screen controller is that no one cares. Nintendo tried this sort of thing with the Gamecube-Game Boy Advance connectivity. It was fun, and no one cared, so Nintendo hasn't made a big deal about connectivity since.

But whatever. Nintendo didn't need to present a coherent launch plan for Wii U, they just needed to reassure the world that they're still alive and kicking in two separate markets. But that's not really the case. The 3DS is DOA, and the Wii has been abandoned. The best studios Nintendo owns are currently rehashing old ideas to keep the company afloat in this transition period. The next step, which Nintendo wants to reach as soon as humanly possible, is to promote all their smaller developers to the same status as the big guys. They want everyone who was previously working on handheld minigame collections now working on new, exciting and big projects. That means combining departments, promotions everywhere, new hires, expanding the group that handles outside companies, etc. This doesn't happen overnight, and you don't want to tell shareholders that you're going to be sacrificing a year or two of profits for the long-term, so the only options left are empty gestures: cut prices, cut paychecks, give out lots of free games. (And if those games get more people to notice the online store, all the better.) Don't get me wrong, they're nice gestures. But they're not going to change much. In order to not be seen as irrelevant at this point, Nintendo needs to restructure itself from the ground up and launch the Wii U with five new games like nothing they've made before, all while simultaneously saving the sinking 3DS from being another Virtual Boy. Best of luck with that. I'll be buying a Playstation 3.


2011, July 3rd, 18:20 and 47 seconds

View the embarrassment that is my June 2011Daily performance reviews for June 2011:(Rules)

Self-meeting for June 2011

I'm just going to start, and whoever pays attention pays attention. I'm going to be in charge here, because this entire multiple-personalty system was my idea and I'm more invested in its success than the rest of you. However, I recognize that as I am now, I am not worthy to lead you. I have been disrespectful, distracted and lazy. And my rules, rather than helping me to overcome these traits, allow me to indulge them. So before I spend even one minute as the self-appointed leader of our life, I'm going to rewrite my entire character page. Please wait for me.



Excuse me, programmer? I need your help for a minute.

Of course.

Thanks for your patience, guys. We'll be done in a few minutes.

Wait'll you see how the rule change works. It was my idea.


Thank you, programmer. At the rules, you'll have to go all the way in to see the new version.

That's so that you can compare the new rules to the old ones. From now on we won't lose anything when making edits. It'll just keep getting deeper and deeper. Which it how is anyway, in real life, but now the format reflects that.

Please take a minute to review the changes, and then we'll begin.

I like the part where you say you won't go over fifteen hours. We'll see if you can stand by that.

Oh, now I realize I should highlight the changes when you get to them. But that means I'd need to use <div> tags instead of <spans>.

We should be doing that anyway, it's bad code.

Does anyone have any problem with me, assuming these revised rules, deciding on how we move as a group? You can rest assured that it's in my best interest to let all of you be the most extreme possible versions of yourselves, because that will make the best story.



Okay then.

June was a disaster. The goals were to be distinct and coherent characters, and to reinvent the blog as a home for all of us. Instead we devolved into an amorphous lump. If the first month of The Rules had gone like this, we would have immediately declared the game a failure and gone back to one personality. Which is essentially what we have here anyway, because if you take out the names, colors and statements from the performance reviews you can barely tell who's who. Despite the scoring, despite the opening statements and despite the shell script, the multiple characters are becoming a thin façade for the person I was at the bottom of this page.

The most important cure to this problem is belief. True belief, the kind that shapes worlds, is not something which can be established once and then forgotten. It is an act of willpower that must be constantly maintained. If we do not believe we exist, we will not exist and all that will be left is the ambiguously-defined person.

Hey!

I call it like I see it. We still need to work on you.

You don't even have a color yet! You're just there.

Anyway. In order to remember the rules at all times, I'm instituting a new rule about "moments of reflection". At three preset times each day, we need to stop whatever we're doing for a few minutes and ask ourselves whether we're satisfied with what we're doing. Hopefully this will cut down significantly on out-of-character behaviors.

You didn't tell me about this.

I wanted to move quickly and the details weren't challenging. It would bore you and be a waste of your time to have to deal with this. And it would slow us down. We need to be speeding up. I've already set up an alarm on the computer, and we'll see how it goes. Anyway, what was it I was talking about? ... I see I mentioned the blog.

Did you?

One of the goals for the month was to make the blog a place we could all live in. But that didn't happen, even though the ingredients are all there. Ultimately we were all too lazy to make that a reality.

Some of us have more important things to be doing.

Okay, let's move into the review for the month, and we'll start with you. You had two days, with an average score of 2.5/10.

That is a lie! A ridiculous lie. I had a perfectly good day, and because the programmer has a stick up his butt I got a zero.

You didn't write anything down.

So what?

So you got a zero.

The programmer should never have been put in charge. He doesn't understand us.

Hello, musician. I understand what you're saying, and I do think the 5 you got for your only day was unduly harsh.

I was following the rules.

So we'll change the rules. That's what these meetings are here for. But let's save that for later. Programmer, you had two days with an average score of 3.5. The explorer had two days with an average score of 4. The gamer had two days with an average score of 6, the addict had one day worth 7, the worker had two days of 6 each, and I had three days with an average of 4, which included both the only day above 8/10 and one of many zeros for the month. Overall the average score is 4.25/10, the lowest of any month since the beginning of the performance reviews. Hence my introduction: June was a disaster.

This reflects on the programmer more than on me.

It reflects on all of us, as a group. If you mess up your day, you're hurting every single one of us because we won't think you're there to be counted on when we need you. On page 4 I'm going to propose a plan for July to scale back in the short-term, but for right now we are going to look at what went wrong, and how to prevent it in the future. Programmer, I'm going to need you to pay close attention to what everyone says here, so that you can come up with the rules we need.

You're giving him more control over us?

We are a group. The programmer won't do anything that goes against our natures, I promise you.

Person, you say you were fine and the programmer scored you wrong. But a close examination of your days shows that you've been misplayed. On your first day, you sat by yourself and practiced your "bored" pose, and then you wondered why it was you hadn't formed a connection with anyone. If you're going to be antisocial, what's the point of having you? The rest of us are antisocial, we don't need you to step in to be antisocial for us.

I'm not antisocial.

Debatable. Regardless, for your character it's unacceptable. What the hell were you doing playing Lode Runner while your grandparents were downstairs?!


In your second day, you ignored all of us by not holding yourself accountable to our standards. And then you act indignant when you're scored accordingly?

It wasn't important to write anything down. I was doing things with people.

And that's your strength, or at least, it's supposed to be. You need to show us that you're good at dealing with people, or else we'll let you take control less and less. Tell me, do you want interactions with other people to be handled by me, or by the addict?

Okay, I see your point.

If you want to get anywhere at all, you need to be a lot less self-absorbed.

I have a suggestion.

Excellent. Let's hear it.

Well, first of all I think we need to write the interactive post I planned. But we can also add a line into the person's rules saying he always needs to put real and fictional people ahead of himself.

I don't know how effective that'll be, given that that's supposed to be obvious anyway.

Obviously it's not so obvious, or he'd be acting like that. I can't give you anything more specific, because the scoring rules already reward proper socializing. I don't know why this line is needed, but we can add it in anyway.

Do you have any objections, person?



No.

Good.




..It's Asimov's laws of robotics. You expect me to follow the laws of robotics.

Sure.

Is this a joke?

A more methodical approach to life won't hurt you. You've been coasting, and that's no use to anyone. This is better.

How am I supposed to function as a member of society when I'm following rules like a robot?

By introducing new rules whenever they're needed. Try these out for a few months, and we'll see how it goes.

It's demeaning.

Let me make your position perfectly clear. On June 22nd I went to see Carousel, with all the people from Ruddigore starring in it. And while I was there I was able to recall the actor character I'd built up there, with whom conversation with absolutely everyone was easy and enjoyable without losing a fundamental honesty even in the face of social etiquette. This is the character you are competing with. He has made friends. You have not.

I have plenty of friends.

Not since The Rules. That's what I'm looking at.

Can we please move on? We are ridiculously late. Again.

From now on, the addict should always have the last day of the month to manage the self-meeting. It should be unscored and should not take into account the once-in-three-days limitation on pulling out the addict.

Okay. Write it up.

I don't know, you want to leave it unscored?

If it's scored for the previous month, it changes the numbers so we can't discuss them at the meeting. If it's scored for the following month, it means that every single month is going to be starting the same way, and I know you're not the only one here who'd have a problem with tha. So no score. Thankfully the addict is entirely trustworthy. Even if he's not scoring, if he's writing it down and staying in character we don't need to worry about him.

I'm not sure about this, but we need to move on so I'll let it stand for now.
Programmer. Let's continue with you, because you've got the opposite problem to the person. You need to be more self-centered.

Why?

Because dealing with us is not your forté. I appreciate that you stepped in when I left, and under the circumstances I think you did a fine job. But that's not who you are. In your days, you were so worried about what everyone else might want that you entirely ignored your own self-fulfillment. Put frankly, the "challenges" you've given yourself this month were not challenges. They were busywork of the sort you should have left for the worker, and storytelling of the sort you should have left to me. If you are specifically requested to get something done, and it seems like they actually need you for it, by all means help out. But otherwise you're better off working on your own projects. Do you understand?

Yes.

Good. I don't think we need to add a rule for you.

I'm going to make an edit anyway.

Gamer. Gamer? I guess he's not coming. Well, his rules are fine but he didn't follow them. They explicitly say no reading, which he was guilty of in both cases. These are very common-sense rules, but he doesn't understand them because he's not nearly as rushed as he should be. I don't know what else I can say about that except that if he doesn't stick to the script he'll find himself being called upon less and less.

This page is entitled "New rules". If you're not going to put in new rules, don't waste our time. I would like to remind you that it is July 3rd already. What the heck?

I had D&D.

What a shocker.

I was playing.

Worker, your point is taken. These comments should have been on the first page, so I'll just hurry up and then get on to my last proposed rule. The worker needs to take mid-day naps when he's tired, the explorer needs to be more lively and enthusiastic, and the musican should stand up for his deserved time more. If we still see a problem we may need to write rules to encourage these attitudes, but for now I trust you all to make the necessary changes to your lifestyles.

How do I differentiate between a day where I'll be able to keep going without rest, and a day where I need a nap?

Good question. Programmer?

You don't know when you're tired?!

If your usual sleep schedule was disrupted, you can automatically assume you're going to need a nap and plan accordingly. Otherwise, you can rely on the thinker's moments of reflection: if you see that you've been drifting off of the plan, don't even bother to write up a revision. Just go to sleep, wake up an hour later and figure out what you're doing then. You are not expected to keep going if you're falling asleep.

I would actually emphasize that you're not just not expected to keep going, you're actively discouraged from continuing if you're tired.

That doesn't make sense. If he's being paid for his work, he shouldn't take a nap in the middle. Consistency in rules is important.

Fine, maybe you can take a nap unless there's money involved.

I'd rather say that naps are always okay at home, but out of the house you need to keep yourself awake.

If you're tired, sleep! This isn't rocket science!

Worker, are you going to be okay?

Yes.

Good. The last rule I'd like to propose is that the thinker, gamer and explorer are all off-limits when there's any sense of urgency in the month.

I don't like this rule.

It applies to me as well as you. I just see that we don't thrive under pressure.

What if I have a deadline for Angles & Circles? I can only get the addict to work for me once every three days!

The worker can do the work.

It's not a good idea to keep rushing all the time. You need a break now and then.

So we can give you the day!

Music can be pretty intense.

No moreso than the gamer.

But more than me.

Sorry, you're outvoted. It's a bad rule.

Can you reword it, then?

I have no idea what you're trying to accomplish with it, so I can't accept that challenge.

Fine. I just thought I'd put it out there.

Overview
New rules
Grievances
Plans

I'll give the post over to the rest of you now. Any problems during the month, other than what we've gone over?

Yeah, the programmer had no right to ignore our personalities when scoring.

What, you should be given a free pass whenever you want it?

He's just doing his job. I don't see what this argument is about.

Enough of this! Your personalities are tied to the rules. If you're not happy with the rules, now's the time to suggest changes. If you don't want to change them, you'll follow the rules as they stand.

I see absolutely no reason why I should need to exercise.

You're sitting down all day, playing piano. You need to exercise or the next personality gets an atrophied body to work with. Any other stupid questions?



You'll deal with the rules, all of you.


Our life is getting stale. Where's the excitement and spontaneity?

Excitement and spontaneity don't get you anywhere.

But they do inspire and reinvigorate.

If you want to do things that are different, no one's stopping you.

No, it's a good point, and I think we should make a rule about it. The whole point of this game is to avoid falling into repressive patterns of behavior. If we're falling into a routine, the whole system is pointless. Explorer, do you have any ideas?

Me?

Sure, you're the one who raised the issue.

I don't know. But I'm thinking that the general behavior section of The Rules is going to get awfully crowded soon.

We can hide the ones which aren't active. They're not huge edits, anyway.

Okay, do that. No, but wait. If you click on the links before this, they'll reappear. So what good is that doing? Better we should put all the rules for one section at once.

But we've already put all of them.

Fine, for now let's just put the rule without a link. I'll have to figure out how to clean it up later. Maybe I can use the sidebar. I don't know if there's enough room there under the SVGs.

But we haven't decided anything yet!

How about this: every week, something unexpected... no, that's too hard to define.

I've got an idea. This is the explorer's idea. So every time the explorer gets a day, he schedules strange days for the rest of us.

I could do that.

Excellent, it's settled.

Anything else?

Yes. How much longer is this break in the game going to be, exactly?

Let's wait and see if anyone else has anything to say.

I think everyone needs to be a lot better. I'm getting embarrassed by the lack of things to talk about.

Yes, well, we're not going to be writing any rules about that. That's broader strategy.

Whatever it is, just do it. Be better.

Yes. We can all take that advice. Thank you.



Okay! If there's nothing else, we'll move on.

We've spent months building up these characters, getting comfortable with the rules, etc. But we've gotten complacent, and even though we're each of us very far from where we're supposed to be we use the fact that it'll be someone else tomorrow to not stick to the script and not care. So let's forget everything we've learned, and start back from square one. We'll cut back on the number of characters this month, and no one goes anywhere until they show that they can repeat their performance consistently. For this month, we're going to cancel the rule that you can't keep going if you get under 6/10. If you absolutely can't proceed without one of the other characters' input, ask for them and you'll get one day off. But then it's back to you, and you'll have to get it right. Does everyone understand what we're going to be doing?

Yes.

I don't like the idea of everyone being on their own. I can handle that, but sometimes other personalities need me. And you're saying that I can't go to help them unless they specifically ask for me.

That is what I'm saying.

Honestly, that scares me.

Good. That shows that you need this. Learn to exist on your own, without expecting anyone else to take over. Once it feels like you could keep being yourself forever, that's when the next personality steps in.

Neat.

We're going to start with the addict and the worker.

The addict doesn't need the strengthening, does he?

No, but I'd like him to spend a day playing Zelda. We haven't been active enough in the community playthrough, and there's an opportunity there that's lessening each day we wait. As soon as he finishes with Zelda, you get your chance to show us what you can do. And then you'll keep going until we see that you're stable.

That sounds like fun.

Then I'll join, because I'm behind on the blogging. So far my only successes have been in telling the rest of you what to do.

I'd object if it weren't true.

I'm looking forward to using my new ruleset to figure out who I am and what I can do when I'm on my own. After me, the explorer.

Yay!

I'm hoping you'll work on Angles & Circles, but of course you're free to do whatever you want. About the scheduling rule: you don't need to follow it this month.

But I want to.

Well, yes, but we can't keep up with all your requests because you might have a lot of days.

Don't worry about that. I'll get it right quickly.

We'll see how it goes. After the explorer, if there's still time in the month we'll do the gamer and then the programmer and finally the musican.

There's no way we can do all this in one month.

This will likely continue into August and even September. We need for every single character to have a chance to shine.

What about me? You didn't mention me.

You can't really be scheduled, since you rely on other people. If an opportunity should arise, you'll have the day. By the way, everyone - if days need to be put in which don't fit the plan, it's recommended that you use the addict or the worker.

So that's why the worker is going first.

Yes. But also, there are some work days coming up. That could be the addict, but I think it's healthier if it's the worker.

We'll see how much we can get done this month, and then we'll continue where we left off the next month. So the next self-meeting will be shorter than usual.

Thank God.

Or it could be the same length, if something's going horribly wrong. But I think we'll be fine.

Past this prolonged exercise, the focus of the group will be 80% on the musicians' more marketable projects, Angles and Circles and Gamer Mom. Beyond those three things we'll just be worrying about maintaining sanity and energy.

And chaos!

That's what I meant by "energy".

There's going to be a new D&D game starting while the other one is on break, and we'll probably be meeting more often.

We'll figure out how to deal with that when we come to it.

And what about Dungeon Master?

Good question. We can have some addict and worker days this month, and I'll work on it myself. I guess we can add that in to the category of things we'll be focusing on. I think four main subjects of focus is plenty.

Will that keep everyone involved? The musician, the explorer with Angles and Circles, I have Gamer Mom, the thinker with... hm, what will you be doing?

This doesn't have to work like that. We're not always going to be involved equally in a month. Sometimes one personality is needed more, and sometimes he's needed less. For instance, the person won't have much to do while we're heavily working on the creative things, but once we're done or farther into it, there may be a lot more socializing as a result of the work or of the resulting self-confidence. Everyone will have their day, and the exercise now is to make sure that when that happens we know exactly how to deal with it, almost like an instinct.

I'd like more games.

Now you show up? Last page would have been the time for comments like that. We're ending the meeting now.

Darn.

I think we're done here. See you all next month.


four comments, the last one being from myself
Blogger Kyler said:

What software are you working with for your piano piece?

It is a really nice piece. It feels a lot like your other pieces but with more nuance and depth.

 Mory said:

I use QTractor. Hopefully I'll be able to get more "nuance and depth" into all my recordings, now that I'm one step closer to knowing how to use it properly. The piano soundfont is something I downloaded off BitTorrent; I don't remember what it is exactly.

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Interesting Fear Itself article, could you post your full reading order? I'm about to take the plunge and like your take.

 Mory said:

Wow, I didn't notice your comment until now. Not good; I'm putting the verification back on. The trouble is, I've been getting so much anonymous spam every day that I've been ignoring anonymous comments. I imagine you'll have already read Fear Itself by now, and you probably won't even see this response, but here's my reading order anyway. I made edits all over the place, so just reading the issues in this order isn't necessarily going to make any sense. But it's not as heavily edited as, say, my Avengers Vs. X-Men edit, so here you go:

Part 1: A Stone's Throw From Chaos
1. The Avengers 13
2. Fear Itself Prologue: The Book of the Skull (just an abbreviated version of the flashback, ending with edited narration; nothing set in the present)
3. Fear Itself 1
4. The first part of the Speedball story in Fear Itself: Home Front, starting with a two-page flashback to Civil War that I put together.
5. Fear Itself 2
6. Iron Man 504
7. Youth In Revolt 1

Part 2: First Responders
1. New Avengers 15
2. Alpha Flight 1
3. Thunderbolts 160
4. Thunderbolts 161
5. Thunderbolts 162
6. Fear Itself 3
7. Avengers 15 (I made significant edits, but it'll sort of work in its original format. I recommend ignoring the talking heads under the big establishing shot of Red She-Hulk running away from Hulk.)
8. Avengers Academy 15
9. Iron Man 505

Part 3: The Fear
1. Fear Itself: Spider-Man 1
2. The second part of the Speedball story in Home Front.
3. Avengers Academy 16
4. The first five pages of Black Panther: The Man Without Fear 521 (I titled this "The Hate-Monger", and added a "To Be Continued" at the end.)
5. Speedball from Home Front 3.
6-11. Youth In Revolt 2-6. (I put page 18 of issue 1 -the page that starts with "Good god! It's one of them!"- with edited coloring and a Fear Itself-themed header saying "Previously:" at the beginning of issue 2, because so much has happened then that the reader may have forgotten what's going on. Just look back at the last three pages of the first issue before moving on.) This goes all the way past the end of Fear Itself, but this is intentional. It spoils very little, and gives a small sense of resolution for this part of the story.

Part 4: Loki's Quest
1. The Mighty Thor #7. DO NOT LOOK AT THE RECAP PAGE, it spoils the end of Fear Itself. I removed it in my copy.
2-5. Journey Into Mystery 622-625

Part 5
1. The Avengers 14, edited to take out all the talking heads. You can get a similar effect by just ignoring them and looking at the pretty pictures. :D
2. Fear Itself: Spider-Man 2, without the last page.
3. Black Panther: Man Without Fear 521, starting from page 6.
4-5. Black Panther 522-523
6. Speedball from Home Front 4
7-10 - Uncanny X-Men 540-543
11. Speedball from... okay, this one is tricky. I mixed together the last three issues of Home Front. If you're reading from the original issues, just read through until you get to a part that's all optimistic and about people getting together to help each other out, then immediately stop. It's not how I did it (I had a smooth transition to the last page of Home Front 7's Speedball story, through a little bit of Home Front 6.), but it's close enough and it's the only way to avoid spoilers from the last issue.
12-14. Avengers Academy 17-19
15. New Avengers 16
16. Fear Itself: Spider-Man 3
17. The Avengers 17

Part 6: Humans and Gods
1. Fear Itself 4 (I think there was a page here showing Attuma that I took out to preserve continuity, but since I don't have the original issue anymore I can't say.)
2. Fear Itself 5
3. Iron Man 506
4. Journey Into Mystery 626
5. Iron Man 507
6. Journey Into Mystery 627
7. Iron Man 508
8. Fear Itself 6
9. Iron Man 509
10. Journey Into Mystery 628
11. Fear Itself 7, but only up to page 30 (the page that ends with Odin saying "No.")
12. Journey Into Mystery 629
13. Fear Itself 7 pages 31-38, which I call "The Days After". The "epilogues" which are actually just teasers for other series, I left out. The story ends when it says "End".

Part 7: Comic Book Heroes
1. Journey Into Mystery 630
2. Avengers Academy 20
3. Fear Itself 7.1
4. Fear Itself 7.3
5. Journey Into Mystery 631


It's amazing how proud I was of this collection at the time, when looking back at it now it seems so simple. I made some significant edits, but only a few. With Avengers vs. X-Men, it's a whole different reading experience in my version, complete with ten pages recapping the state of the Marvel Universe at the beginning and completely removing the original miniseries' ending. (It was redundant, with the other things I included.) It's not just an order, but an actual linear edit where I disassembled every issue and reassembled the whole thing into something structured more like a novel. I don't think Fear Itself could have been edited that way, though - it's not nearly as tight a plot.

I should probably put my edit of Avengers vs. X-Men up on BitTorrent.

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2011, June 17th, 4:28 and 30 seconds

My latest piano composition

My earlier post showed how this piece developed. I finished it earlier this week, and by "finished" I don't mean that every note is in place, but just that I can start playing it and get to an ending. This is usually where I stop the composition process.

You'll note that this sounds a lot better than all my earlier MIDI recordings (not that there isn't a long way to go still). I've learned that I was going about the recording process backwards. I was connecting the MIDI data to the synthesizer program to make it sound like whatever instrument, then feeding that into the recording program. At the end of the day I'd an audio file that I couldn't do much with. The proper way to do this (which I used here) is to connect the MIDI data to the recording program to save the performance itself rather than the audio. Then the recording program's output is connected to the synthesizer program, to make it sound how I want. What this means in practice is that after recording, I can edit the performance on a note-by-note level without messing up the sound of it. I can change the lengths of notes, take out notes that weren't meant to be there, change the dynamics... that last part is the biggest deal for me, since I can never get the dynamics right with my keyboard. What I did here was play it consistently loud the whole way through, then go back through note-by-note and add the right dynamics. It took a long time, and I could spend a whole week on this recording just tweaking the volumes and lengths of each note. The rhythm is still crap. I haven't figured out how to use the metronome yet (Not sure if I could keep up if I did, though.), and in any case the tempo is supposed to keep changing here so I don't know how much use it'd be. I should be able to change the timing after the fact -the trouble is, I don't know how to move the pedal presses along with the notes. So when I tried shifting the notes to compensate for my bad rhythm, the pedal was being pressed in all the wrong places. So I've left the rhythm how it was (blecch).

About the composition itself, I'm of two minds. After all my experimentations and that little music-box improvisation, a lot of ideas were on the table and I don't feel like I've left any there. I think that was probably a mistake. The word that was floating through my head as I compiled the thing was "definitive". I wanted to make this the only version of the two themes that I'd ever need, and I wanted for all my fond memories of playing with the theme to fit in directly instead of just being forgotten or alluded to. I did accomplish that, and by the end of it I have said everything I want to say on the subject. But I only managed this by radically switching styles in the middle World of Goo-style. That game at least had the structural sense to integrate the two halves together in the end, but the jazzy style I'm switching to is totally abandoned in the end. It's one piece which is wrapped up, then I jump into a second piece which sounds completely different, and then I awkwardly transition back into the first. That's the structure of my first composition ever. How is it that after eleven years, I'm still using the same ridiculous format?

I may need to rewrite the ending some day.


This is where I'll put any posts related to the Marvel Comics crossover "Fear Itself".

Click a link on the left to read a post.

A second look at Avengers #15, which is essential more for Spider-Woman than for Fear Itself

This post contains spoilers for Avengers #13-15, Secret Invasion, and some older Bendis stories.

I recently had an interesting argument with Colin Smith of the blog "Too Busy Thinking About My Comics". I carried it on too long, to the point where he threatened to ban me if I didn't retract and delete what I'd said (I honestly had no idea that the term "mud-slinging" was offensive to some people.), but it started with a legitimate clash of ideas. Smith's philosophy holds that each and every issue of a comic should strive to be the best entertainment it can be. In commenting on his posts, I've crystallized my position that much of modern pop culture relies on faith in delayed resolution, and that the entertainment landscape is better for it. This line of argument began during his scathing review of The Mighty Thor #1 by Fear Itself's Matt Fraction, where he condemned the issue (fairly) for failing to provide any entertainment, while I argued that the story's continuation might justify the long set-up. (Since then, it has.)

The argument this time around was centered around The Avengers #12.1, which spends a considerable amount of time showing Jessica Drew (Spider-Woman) tied up while naked. In isolation, I understand how someone could take issue with that. It certainly seems like a sexist statement, if you don't know that in New Avengers Annual #3 a few years back Bendis had a whole issue where Clint Barton (Hawkeye) was tied up and naked, until his female colleagues in the Avengers came and rescued him. Having read more Bendis comics than Smith, I know that stripping, tying up and torturing enemies is just the sort of thing that Bendis villains do, regardless of their victims' gender. That certainly is disturbing, and I confess I'd never noticed before how often he wrote that sort of thing, but I don't see how the label of "sexism" can be applied to perversion that doesn't take gender into account at all. The bigger problem with Avengers #12.1 when read as a standalone story is that it had no resolution. Jessica Drew is tied up, the Avengers come to rescue her, a plot is set into motion, and... that's the issue. It's not a particularly good read, if you don't read any more after it. But if you choose to stick around, the very next issue is Avengers #13 which puts a spotlight on Spider-Woman's frame of mind, and in Avengers #15 there's some emotional pay-off.

One issue of a Bendis comic, taken on its own, is nearly meaningless. There will be fun dialogue, some cleverly gimmicky storytelling, and really good art (since Marvel gives him their best pencillers). But you don't start to really appreciate what he's doing until you take a step back and look at the big picture. This is a writer who has complete job safety for as long as the comic book market still exists (which is to say, another year or two), and who has patience to match. He's been writing some of these characters for seven years, and every line of dialogue he gives them is shaped by those earlier stories.

I didn't give Avengers #12.1 any thought when it came out four months ago. The "point one" issues are meant to get new readers up to speed. It did that, and not in the most engaging of ways. So I didn't even intend to include it in my collection, let alone refer to it in blog posts. But when Colin Smith put a spotlight on the way Spider-Woman was humiliated there, I had to take a step back and ask what Bendis's bigger picture was. And just like when I reached the last issues of Dark Avengers and suddenly understood the genius of Bendis's long-running Sentry story, it was only when I took that step back that I noticed just how consistently miserable Spider-Woman has been for the entire time Bendis has been writing her. It's a story which I've never paid much attention to until now. And when I noticed that, suddenly I thought back to my post about Avengers #15 and realized I'd missed the point of it.
Next page
I've never read Jessica Drew's old stories. The first I saw of her is when she joined Bendis's Avengers team. He wrote her as a spy who'd gotten in over her head and needed the help of her friends in the Avengers to cope with being a triple-agent. But then it turned out (in Secret Invasion, also by Bendis) that that wasn't really Spider-Woman, but an alien shape-shifter queen that was fooling everyone. The truth came out, the whole world saw "Spider-Woman" leading an invasion force, the Skrull queen was shot, and then the real Spider-Woman was found. She didn't know anything that had happened since the beginning of Bendis's Avengers run, but suddenly she was back in the world and everyone thought of a supervillain when they looked at her. (I don't understand why she didn't change her look. If I were her right then, I'd definitely change costumes and possibly hair color.) Wolverine invited her to join the Avengers, for real this time, and the initial reaction of her new teammates when they saw her was irrational anger. That sort of reaction messed with Drew's head. Here's her internal monologue two issues later in New Avengers (vol. 1) #50:
"I don't know how this turned into this, but it's my fault. And everyone hates me. One day as an Avenger and I fail completely. Why am I even here? These people hate me. They look at me and they see Skrull and loser and Skrull loser ... I hate that this is the sum of all the parts of my life. Well, if this is how I gotta go, I'm taking as many of them with me as I can!"
Ouch, that's bad narration. So over-written. Now I remember why it was that I edited that page out of my copy of the issue, and why I didn't collect Bendis's seven-issue Spider-Woman: Agent of S.W.O.R.D. Skrull-hunting angst-fest. That series was more of the same, only more so. And every single time she's on panel since she got back three years ago, there's some variation on "I'm really not good enough, I don't understand why you keep treating me like your friend.". She's been angry and reckless, running off on a bunch of suicide missions that the Avengers need to bail her out from.

I like that after Siege, Bendis put her not on the Secret Avengers team where her spy skills would come in handy, or even the gritty street-level New Avengers team, but on the main Avengers team alongside Captain America, Thor and Iron Man. They've got a god, a billionaire, a historic soldier, a Hulk, an alien who builds time machines between panels... These are the guys who save the world from threats of preposterous scale. So far in this volume of the series they've prevented their entire timeline from collapsing and stopped someone from gaining absolute control over all the abstract forces of the universe. And Spider-Woman's one contribution to the story was choosing to go on a dangerous mission on her own, getting kidnapped and stripped naked and tied up and needing to be rescued by the others. Over and over she's been saying that she's not cut out to be an Avenger. And Ms. Marvel, who's always strong and noble and an all-around role model in this comic, keeps trying to reassure her that they're all equals and friends. But Spider-Woman doesn't actually fit into this group at all.

In personality, Bendis has been writing Jessica Drew like Adam Warren's parody character Empowered, whose specialties are getting tied up and losing her powers. Bendis should probably be aiming for more subtlety than that. I expect Spider-Woman will have an Empowered-ish long-term arc of slowly gaining self-esteem, but first there's this romance with Hawkeye. And that is an interesting pairing.
Clint Barton died in Bendis' first Avengers story, Avengers Disassembled. It was a silly death. To be honest, I don't like Avengers Disassembled at all. It's all shock value, without a story attached to it. The five-issue arc was titled "Chaos", and it is that. In my collection I edited the whole five-issue arc down to a 56-page prologue for House of M, because chaos isn't entertaining on its own but it can make for a good opening to an action movie. I'm really proud of having come up with an edit that makes the material readable (which it wasn't), by cutting it down to the bare minimum of random chaos, and letting the focus of it be the character of Wanda Maximoff. (I think that was the first time I'd done such a significant edit.) Anyway, the idea there was that Wanda Maximoff went crazy and started reshaping reality in ways that killed her friends. Hawkeye was one of the casualties, and the token attempt to make it seem like a heroic sacrifice wasn't successful. It just felt arbitrary and cruel.

In House of M, Wanda brought Hawkeye back to life, for no more reason than she had for killing him, and his story continued in New Avengers #26. That issue was Bendis and Alex Maleev, same as Spider-Woman: Agent of S.W.O.R.D., but the tone was different. Jessica's return to the Marvel universe was overloaded with self-hating narration. Clint's return was... quiet. Much of the issue was silent, and when people talked they didn't say much. Hawkeye was too lost and confused to have any coherent narration. He gave up the brightly-colored costume, searched for Wanda (for "closure", as he put it), found her having no memories or powers, had very confused sex with her, and left. That was the entire issue. So basically, Clint had gone through such random nonsense that he couldn't make heads or tails of his life anymore. In a superhero universe there must be some clinical term for the psychological condition where you're emotionally unstable on account of living in a freaking superhero universe. That's what Hawkeye's been going through, and he's "dealt" with it by sleeping with everything that moves, fighting a lot and being the first to volunteer for each opportunity to torture bad guys for information. At least, that's my interpretation of his motivations, from how Bendis has been writing him. But maybe he's just overcompensating for not having any superpowers.

For whatever reason, he is angry and impatient - just like Spider-Woman. I'm expecting this relationship to be really messy. It got off to a good start in Avengers #13, where Spider-Woman used her pheremone powers on Hawkeye because she couldn't imagine that anyone could like her without being manipulated into it. These characters are seriously messed up. Both of them were raised by super-villains, and I think Bendis is trying to bring out that latent craziness that other writers might try to downplay.

The first page of The Avengers #15 (yes, I'm actually going to talk about this issue) is priceless. Spider-Woman mopes about how worthless she thinks she is for nine panels, and then the angst is deflated with two panels of Hawkeye's comments:
"I don't know what it is about her... she's so angry all the time, but it's so damn cute. Don't tell her I said that, it'll just make her angry.
Also adorable was the moment where Hawkeye, upon being saved by Ms. Marvel, playfully says "I love you.", and Jessica looks like she's trying to escape off the side of the page. That Bachalo is a clever one.
I've edited a few pages out of my copy of this issue. First off, there's a page of interviewing where everyone chats about The Protector, which is so out of place it's bizarre. Noh-Varr is not a major part of this story, and no one has anything interesting to say about him on that page. I notice the issue is 23 pages long, one more than the usual. What I suspect is, that page there was a last minute addition when it occurred to the editor that any new readers joining for the Fear Itself crossover would have no idea who this guy in a ridiculous costume who saves Spider-Woman is. The other part I've taken out is the establishing shot of the Hulk's rampage. It's a lovely image, but underneath it is tedious exposition reiterating the Fear Itself status quo for the benefit of newcomers. The issue doesn't need or benefit from that when in the context of a comprehensive Fear Itself collection. But now that I'm looking back at that page, I'm thinking, it is a very exciting picture. I'll have to play around with the pages to see if there's some non-awkward way to cut out the talking heads but keep the establishing shot. Otherwise, there's another establishing shot right after it so it's not needed.

The talking heads didn't work for me in those two cases, and it does bother me how neatly all this documentary footage fits together, but there is a fun idea behind it that comes across in this issue. During Civil War, Secret Invasion and Siege, Bendis's Avengers tie-ins were fairly disconnected from the action of the crossovers. The rest of the crossover might have been a spectacle, but Bendis carved out a little quiet corner where he could push his characters forward without interfering with the plot. Here he's trying to make his little story more connected to the whole. His characters are right at the front lines of the battle - what's that like for them? The trouble with characterization during a battle is that it tends to get drowned out by the noise. There's all this intense emotion the characters are going through, moment by moment, but after so many punches and explosions we're not exactly in the right frame of mind to appreciate it. That's what the documentary style is for. We jump away from the battle for just long enough to understand what was going on in the battle. If you just see Spider-Woman save a bunch of kids, it's another beat in the battle with no significance to the plot. But if you stop and reflect, you see that maybe that's kind of a big deal for her. Finally, she's not totally useless in a fight. In her long-term arc, that's an important moment.

I don't think the documentary style has completely worked so far except for Avengers #13. I have that as the first chapter of Fear Itself because I like the thoughtful tone it sets for the rest of the crossover. Issue 13 worked because there was only a hint of the plot. But the plot itself, once we get into it, isn't at all engaging. It's a bunch of monsters on a rampage. Wow, that's creative. #14 tried to make it seem epic by taking the battle seriously, and Romita knocked that out of the park. But it was totally undermined by some attempted character-building which fell flat. (I wish I had access to the unlettered art, so that I could include that fight without any dialogue at all.) #15 has the opposite problem, where the character stuff is fun but the battle feels so generic that you could swap the Hulk with any other enemy in any context and it wouldn't change the issue much. (I have a similar gripe with the New Avengers issues.) #16 was awful, existing only because Bendis felt like it should exist (showing Steve Rogers' emotional state) but without any good idea of what he should be writing in it. Coren and I wrote a script like that recently; we threw it out and started over from a different direction and now it's pretty cool. That's what Bendis needed to do there, but he has way too many commitments per month to be willing to do that.

 2011, August 31st


2011, June 2nd, 20:32 and 59 seconds

Self-meeting for May 2011

Okay, let's call this meeting to order. The first order of business

Hey, who elected you?

Well, I can't wait around for the rest of you to get your act together. We're just wasting time.

Cool it. We're not gonna get anywhere with an attitude like that.


This is silly. Let's get started already.

You're not in charge here.

Actually, the question of who runs the meeting is of vital importance. The whole nature of the discussion will be dictated by the faux-social hierarchies we decide here, and this will apply in the future

Does anyone object to the person running the meeting?

Why the person?

Because he'll be unbiased. I doubt he cares one way or the other about anything that happened this month.

The person would be interesting.

You're wrong about the person's interest. The people most creative will give the person more topics to socialize about with other people.

That'll be good for me.

Actually, that could make for a fitting perspective, given the intentions for this past month.

Great. Any objections? No?

I want to make it clear, though, that this agreement only extends to this particular meeting. We will need to speak about more permanent faux-social hierarchies soon.

Fine. Whatever. I'd just like to start this as soon as humanly possible, because it's 1:43 AM on June 2nd and ideally this should already have been written by the end of May 31st. I don't want to drag this on any longer.

Incidentally, no one's officially been in control since the beginning of the month. This is a problem.

I'm not certain what we can do about that.

Honestly, this is utter chaos! Is the person here?

I'm here. Hi.

Would you mind starting this meeting already? It's obvious no one's going to let me do it, and I can't take one more minute of this time-wasting.

Sure. Is everyone here?

I'm here.

The programmer.

I think our names ought to be capitalized. That should be the first thing on the agenda.

The thinker's here, and I heard the musician and the gamer earlier. What about the explorer?

What?

Okay. The addict?



Has anyone seen the addict?

He's sleeping.

That's no good. This meeting can't start until we have all eight of us. If even one of us isn't present, this isn't a fair system.

For God's sake.

Let's just start. If the addict needs to say something, he should be here.

And what if we have something to say to him? What if we're not happy with his performance?

We're going to start. Please be quiet for a moment.

Excuse me, but we aren't displaying properly here. This should only take a minute to learn to fix.

Fantastic.

We'll wait.

Okay, it's displaying now. But it's not exactly pretty. I may need the explorer's help later to get it set up right.

Yay!

Okay. Thank you. Worker, you can stop glaring now. In fact, stop trying to rush us along. We have absolutely nothing planned until Friday, when Dena will be home and I'm hoping to watch The Voice with her. It's 2:14 now, and it looks like we'd be best off continuing this meeting into tomorrow. The alternative is to keep pushing on until it's way too late, and we'll all be too tired to have a decent conversation. Would you prefer that?

I wonder which of us could stay in character most effectively while tired. That would be useful information.

We should start with a summary of the month's goals.

Okay. Let's see... I'll just copy and paste what I said.

Each day, I'm going to pick a different character. At the end of the month, when I look back at who I've been overall, I want to see a cohesive character who is defined first and foremost by his creativity. The nature of that creativity should be very diverse. I want to get the impression of a person so multifaceted and strange that one never knows what he will do next. This is not my natural state -I am a person prone to easy and repetitive patterns of behavior.- so the performance will likely require the careful and respectful collaboration of all eight of my personalities.

The post should be a fixed width, to give a sense of us all shoved in here together. And there shouldn't be the usual margins.

This isn't the time. You can fix it up tomorrow, before we publish.

Okay. And I haven't made up my mind yet whether there should be spaces between us. I need to play around with it a bit to find out.

It seems to me that there are four components to the plan.

I'm going to make the blockquote bigger.

It seems to me that there are four components to the plan.
  1. The eight of us should in retrospect, together form one cohesive character.
  2. This unified character should have no attributes more prominent than "creativity", which is a complicated word. This may actually be two separate points depending on how we choose to define the term.
  3. The output of that "creativity", whatever that means exactly, needs to be diverse.
  4. Finally, a suggestion that the first three are probably only possible through respect between characters.
Those are the key points we'll need to review.

I don't like how the blockquote just sort of sits there. It definitely needs to be a different color, something that stands out but doesn't look too out of place here. Do you think it could be a shade of pink?

You fascinate me. Tell me, what is it about this post that so engages you while bigger projects like Angles & Circles don't seem so urgent? Is it just the quantity of work?

I don't know. I do love Angles & Circles. So what do you think, could pink work? I'll need to test it out.

Not now you won't.

Thanks for stepping in, I might have had to kill him otherwise.

I'll bet.

What is that supposed to mean?!

Would you please all stop attacking each other?

We can start from the fourth point -respect between characters- by noting that there's not much of it.

Wrong. We are all sitting here, putting our plans on hold for a few hours, all for the sake of a dream of something halfway between multiple personalities and a single definitive self. We're engaging each other's ideas. Accepting each other's existence. This is respect. Now, working like a well-oiled machine, that's what you actually want but that comes with time. It starts with respect, and we've got that in spades.


No, I don't see it. The exact phrase was "respectful collaboration", and the context was the two pieces of music in "The Rules".

I know that.

I'm sure you do. The idea is that we shouldn't just be thinking about ourselves, we should care about each other. I think about everyone, as does the programmer and the worker.

Excuse me. How does you taking forty hours (plus sleeping) on conversations about comics, after you specifically and personally said that that time would be assigned to me, the musician and someone else... how does that count as "thinking of everyone"? That is thinking of you. You stole that time from us.



You're right. I shouldn't have taken so long, especially right after I had the addict doing what I wanted. But what I said was a suggestion. I understood that things could change, and we'd already gone off script from the day that was supposed to be the explorer's.

Yeah, what was that about? I didn't get enough days this month!

It was urgent that I get in there before any more bad days happened. The worker seemed totally lost, so I wrote the "sd" script to give quick guidelines and point people in the right direction.

There, you see? Respect.

You lost a day yourself!

Does it sting that I only got one day this whole month? Yeah, it stings. But I knew that when I had a day, I got a day. I was able to just run with what I was doing and no one said to me "My turn now, get off the stage.". So you want a few extra days? What do I know, maybe you need it. And if I have some prolonged musical inspiration, you guys can wait a while until I'm done. Respect.

I have two things to say. First off, I didn't properly get even a single day this month, because the day that was supposed to be mine kept getting interrupted by you idiots. So respect? Not so obvious that it's here.

Ouch.

Secondly, it's 3:38 AM and I am falling on my face. Tomorrow.

Tomorrow.

It is 3:23 PM on June 2nd and still we haven't finished this post and gotten back to life. This is absolutely unacceptable.

I agree. The trouble is, the next month hasn't really started yet and the last month is over already. So if someone's running a day by the Rules, where does the score go?

Does it matter? There needs to be a day in progress.

Tell me, what were you doing earlier today?

There is no "today" because we're not keeping time!

You were reading comics, that's what you were doing! I saw you! How you can be entertained by such passive activities, I have no idea.

Well, what am I supposed to be doing? There's no schedule, no plan, no discipline... Where is the person, anyway?

Just a second.


Sorry, what were you asking?

What were you doing just now?

E-mails. There's a big battle going on, with a giant worm about to devour a nearby building.

Dungeons and Dragons.

It's better than comics!

Shut up.

Ah good, we're here. So yesterday we were discussing the concept of respect between characters, and what that entails.

What do you guys think of how the post looks?

Pretty darn good.

Yeah. I left out the borders, so that the person would just sort of be part of the background.

Speaking of which, can I take back my vote for the person to run the meeting? He's driving it into the ground.

I volunteer to take over.

Back to "Yardena"

Just a second, someone wrote another e-mail.

I don't believe this!

Hee hee. She said I'm cool.

Yeah, the person can't be in charge. Terrible idea. Neither can the thinker,

What?

because he's just going to keep talking forever without taking any of us into account. We can't have a meeting where no one is willing to listen to anyone else.

I'm listening.

No, you're not. You deal with flesh-and-blood people, that's all you know. Fictional characters are just imitation-people, as far as you're concerned. The first thing we need is a schedule for the meeting. That's the worker's department. We need to give him points to include. I'd like to specifically focus on creating rules to maintain momentum throughout the month. Anyone else?

First off, I'd like to get back to the May 2011 plan, and assess whether or not we've achieved anything. Secondly, and maybe this should even be first, I set more specific goals for everyone at the start of the month and no one seems to have really followed them. We've also drifted off the general structure of the month, in which the worker and addict were supposed to be a lot more prominent. The addict ended up only being used for the blog

Keep your talking points for when we're all thinking about them. Does anyone else have anything to suggest?

Yeah. Each one of us needs to quickly say what they've done this month, one after the other. I don't know what that's gonna sound like, but that's the point of all of this.

We need to get out of this house. Immediately.


Why?

Yesterday I wanted to play around with accents, and I needed to be careful not to be too loud because someone might hear me.

I'd like to sing.

I can't dance, I can't talk out loud, I can't play music while I'm doing other things...

Sure you can.

A building dictates how it's used. And I have been in this one building for too many years now.

Just now, this lady was saying that I'm cool for doing lots of different things, and I was thinking: "Me? I live in my parents' house, I don't have a job, I spend more time talking to myself

Selves.



I spend more time talking to myself

You mean selves.

It's not a good situation. How is it that Dena's already moved out, and I'm still here?

Whoa, whoa. Ageist!

I don't see how we can get out.

We just need to do it. There's too much thinking around here.

Okay, well, we can talk about this when we're planning for next month. Are there any other points to raise?

Why didn't I get a day?

Because we didn't need you.

And what about what I need?

You have Shabbat. Every single Shabbat, a seventh of our entire life.

Okay, I don't think we can squeeze anything else into this meeting. If there's anything else, it'll have to be next month. Now, worker, I know you want to get out of here. That makes sense. So let's plan out the rest of the post, and make it as few sections as possible while working in everything everyone wants.

Okay. I'd like to be out of here by 7:00, so how much time does that leave for each section...?

In the interest of expediency, I'll do it myself. First we'll each summarize the month. Then we discuss what we've said, and why some characters get more days than others. That's the first section. Then in the second section we'll figure out how that fits in with the general and specific plans we had for May. The third section is about what we can do in the future to fix the problems. And the fourth section plans June, leading straight into the next performance reviews. Does anyone have any problem with this plan?




There should be a menu, with links to each of the sections.

That's a very good idea. It should only take a couple of minutes.

No! No. Let's just get started.

Are you sure? I'd really like to do this.

We've wasted enough time. It can be a linear post, no one cares.

I notice the gamer hasn't said much.

Nothing much to say.

Here's how this works. You say what you've done, and then you give up the mike. I want a real stream of back-and-forth, back-and-forth, rapid-fire cutting. Okay, I'll go first.


Well?

Hey, don't underestimate the value of silence for setting a mood!

This is so cool.




I improvised a bunch of Zelda variations.

I drew in the top of Angles & Circles!

I only got one day, for playing D&D and going out with the family, and the worker watched TV because he thought I wasn't "busy" enough or something. Who gives him the right?

Sh, keep it moving, keep it moving.

I did what everyone else wanted.

All right.

I wrote a chapter and a half of a book, and played a lot of Fluidity, which is

Keep it movin'.

I programmed sd, then I improved sd, then I did the whole new PR system.

Yeah. That was good work.

No commentary yet!

Well, I don't think I can properly review everything that happened this month under these restrictions.

No! You've got this, keep going.

What is the point of this exercise?

There's a beat. You gotta go with the beat, feel the beat... thinker - go.

I co-wrote a very short screenplay, and, um, I invented a good character for Dungeons & Dragons, and I wrote a review of Secret Avengers but the programmer seems to think it's not ready to go up yet.

It's not. But it'll be awesome. Trust me, I'm doing it justice.

It shouldn't be too difficult. It'll mostly be the same code as Living in Hyrule.

The addict. The addict should be here, where's the addict?

Sleeping.

Still?

So what was the point of this whole bit?

Be quiet for just a second. I'm rereading the session. I need to see how it sounds.




Yeah. Awesome. Look at this. You don't know what the next line is gonna be! Is it going to be a gamist, or an awesome musician, is it gonna follow the plan or take a weird left turn... if we're one person, we're one person who can do anything, and knows it, and loves it.

O-kay. Are you just going to go praising yourself here? Because it's kind of painful to watch, and you could have done that without putting us through that tedious silliness. Can we just review the scores and move on?

You're a buzzkill. And I love you anyway.

The average score for the month is 6.75/10, just barely too low to level up. I got five days, with an average of 5/10.

Wow. That's pretty bad.

Yeah. I'll do better.

You've said this before.

Well, this time I mean it.

You've meant it before.

What do you want from me?

Excuse me, but this really is very simple. You did badly because you were too vague. Plan with more specificity, and you'll be fine.

Specificity. I'll do my best. (Specificity.)

I got three days, with an average of 8.33/10.

Very respectable. I had four days, and my average score was 7.75/10.

I didn't get a day.

But that day you supposedly didn't get was a big zero. Passivity builds on itself, this is a problem you're going to have to deal with. It's no one's fault but your own if you can't keep control of a day. I got a 5 and a 9, for an average of exactly 7.

Average score: 7.5/10
(2 days)



And the addict got an average of 8/10, for following up on all our blog projects. That was much appreciated. In fact, I think we should all give as many of our days as we can to the addict. He's reliable, he doesn't get distracted, he's capable of anything.

Out of the question. He'll burn himself out. It also is the equivalent of wandering around in a fog, since the addict is only ever capable of thinking of one thing at a time.

How many simultaneous "things" do you think are needed for most activities?

No. It's out of the question to rely on the addict like that.

I had a problem I couldn't deal with.

What's that?

The bottom of Angles & Circles. I gave it to the worker, and he kept trying it over and over but it didn't go anywhere. And now I'm scared to go back to it.

I'll figure it out.

Really? That's not the sort of thing you usually think about.

I promise you, by the end of my next day, you'll have a way forward.

Thanks.

So that's why you weren't working on it. Interesting. In the future, you should definitely hand things like this over to me.

I'll keep that in mind.

By the way, I would like to point out the obvious and say that the programmer has won the month. 8.33? Kudos.

I just dealt with the problems in front of me.

That's a good attitude. I wish others here had acted like that, just doing what needed to be done instead of acting like children. The thinker made reasonable demands

Oh, are we on that already? New section.

You were talking about the thinker's plan.

Really? I had no idea.

It's just good form to repeat that at the beginning of a page.

I was supposed to keep all of your projects going. I did that, to the best of my ability, but it got a lot harder when your projects all mysteriously dried up. The explorer should have been working on A&C, the programmer should have been programming a rename function, the thinker should have written the second Dungeon Master script by now, and the musician should have worked on something a little bit more substantial than an improvisaton! Oh, and the addict was not meant for the blog. He was meant for everyone! This has just been a complete failure of a month.



I disagree.

What happened this month was a progression from a scattershot approach (which is what my plan was calling for) to a more unified "team" approach that revolved around the blog. Until very recently, there was no place on the blog for you, or for the gamer, or for the programmer, or even the explorer once you get down to it. It was one stream of thought: mine.

I had the performance reviews.

Yes, given a lesser status and maintaining the dualistic "1.0 vs. 2.0" conflict. The unified person, comfortable with all his many aspects, was not welcome in his abstract home until just now. Can you imagine this post right now being written in February? Unthinkable. It's a regression

It is a regression.

It's not a regression, I meant it would have seemed like one. The problem with the old blog wasn't that it sense of self was fractured, it's that those pieces kept arguing with each other and insisting that there's only one "right" way to think. Here we are, having a frank discussion about where we're going, and each of us has different ideas but we're willing to listen to each other. So yeah it's actually the second day of June already, and during May we didn't have the kind of understanding that would have the explorer pass his things to me, and the gamer helping others, and all of us willing to end our days and "pass the mike", as musician put it. (Those names really should be capitalized. Can we take a vote on it?) But we were going for a character who was creative but also cohesive, and that took a month just to put into position. It's the blog that's the glue. The blog needed to be set up just right, so that every single one of us will have a place here. That's what's going to make this version of life different.




Does anyone have anything to add to that?

It was well said.

I still want to know why I only got one day.

You only got one day because you weren't needed. The worker was carrying everyone's projects. So he got five days. I was trying to set a course for all of us, so I got four days. The programmer was helping with the blog. The gamer was contributing to the blog as well. You were giving us nothing. If you want us to stop treating you like you're wasting our time, stop ignoring us.

You're going to need me.

I'm sure that's true. So I hope for all our sakes that you learn to fit in somehow. We're people too. You need to accept that.

So, what, you want me to put aside what real people want from me because it clashes with what you want?

Yes. That is exactly what we want.

I don't care. You're right, we're going to need you to deal with the outside world.

Have we come to any sort of consensus about May?

No.

Let's move on. It bothers me that we haven't been exercising.

Well, that's fixed simply enough. A penalty for not exercising?



Does anyone object to a penalty for not exercising before the day?

Sometimes it's not an option.

That's rare, and I'm talking about a penalty of one point. Hardly a day-killer.

That would do it.

Excellent. I'm also going to apply this to general hygiene and not staying awake past 3:00 AM. Objections?

I can live with that.

I'm editing the Rules post to fit.

There should be a link between here and there, but I want this post to end already and it has been going for soooo long.

You too?

You know, this has taken a lot longer than I thought it would. We've spent enough hours on this; the rest will have to wait for next month. Also, I'm anxious to take the new PR system for a drive already.

No! We still haven't decided where we're going from here!

Fine. Any quick thoughts?

Quick?

You can say whatever you want, but say it in the plans for the month. We're going to end the meeting here.

Thank God.

Please, if you have comments for each other, pass them back and forth during the month. We can't wait for the meeting to do everything. Also, come to the next meeting prepared. We should schedule it for the last day of June, so we don't run into this time-wasting again. And we should all come prepared, so that we have a decent shot at actually getting through everything. And another thing I've decided during all this: attendance is not mandatory. If you've got nothing to add to the conversation, don't wast our time. Okay, let's publish the post now.


2011, May 26th, 00:21 and 29 seconds

start day

mory@Mory:~$ sd explorersd workersd gamersd musiciansd programmersd thinkersd addictsd person Be quick and playful. Whatever you write will set a direction to start in.



Look around you: you're trapped in a small box. Get out!
Keep some paper handy- you'll need it. No boredom allowed today.

mory@Mory:~$
Be extremely specific about the times. If you can't, don't even start. Prioritize wisely, as more energy goes to the earlier activities.



You're not perfect, and today you get better.
No time wasted, no distractions, no lingering.
Go!

mory@Mory:~$
Don't plan on anything too passive or practical.



The plan, in itself, is worthless.
Make this a day to remember.

mory@Mory:~$
Any thoughts?



Forget the past, present and future. You know exactly what to do.

mory@Mory:~$
What's the challenge today?



Analyze, plan, succeed.

mory@Mory:~$
Hey. How's it going?



Step outside of yourself for a moment. No, you're not there yet. Keep going.

mory@Mory:~$
I am obsessed with
Why?



Tomorrow, this won't matter so much. So don't hold back, and don't wait. Today, there is nothing in the world as important as

mory@Mory:~$



Have a nice day.

mory@Mory:~$
Who will I play?

explorer
worker
gamer
musician
programmer
thinker
addict
person

Opening statement:

Opening statement:

Opening statement:

Opening statement:

Opening statement:

Opening statement:

What should I need today?


Opening statement:

Opening statement:


2011, May 16th, 15:36 and 29 seconds

MIDI experiments

Monday, September 19, 2013

The idea

It's a Legend of Zelda fan-fiction concept album, entitled "And Then The Princess Is Kidnapped...". The idea is, using mostly instrumental music, to tell a full story which might have been a Zelda game, but wasn't. At first it's mostly variations and mash-ups of themes from the entire Zelda series, with little bits of original thematic material mixed in. The farther the story goes, the more the original pieces take center stage. But of course, this is just a dream of mine.
  1. Prologue: The Deku Tree's Prophecy
  2. Kakariko City
  3. The Curse
  4. The Chase
  5. Radulf the Librarian
  6. Princess Zelda's Theme
  7. An Afternoon with Zelda
  8. Vanishing
  9. Escaping the Guards
  10. The Pool of Reflections
  11. Secrets of the Underworld
  12. Boss Fight
  13. The Hunt (reprise)
  14. Fairy Kingdom
  15. Spirit Launcher Track
  16. Norog Mines
  17. Ainurad, Norog Overlord
  18. Spirit Convoy
  19. Death Mountain Outpost
  20. Requiem of the Wind Fish
  21. Hero's Theme
  22. Happy Mask Shop
  23. Radulf's Plan
  24. Forest Mini-game
  25. The Infinite Battlefield
  26. Ganon Battle
  27. Finale
  28. Epilogue


Tuvia listened to this idea, and asked me whether I had specific imagery in mind for these pieces. I did. Great, then there can be video clips. He said that acquiring the rights to the music would be too expensive to be worthwhile, but that if it's in some way promoting the game series, maybe we could get Nintendo to pay me to make it. What I heard as he spoke (having some familiarity with the way Nintendo does things) was: "Not a chance in hell, kid. What else you got?"

I've had my MIDI keyboard for a while, but for the most part I've just used it as a way to record audio files that sound vaguely like they came from a piano. I downloaded a collection of other soundfonts, and have been playing around with the various "instruments". The first thing I recorded with them was an improvised duet on my recent work in progress, with the "string ensemble" and "music box" voices. Well, to be more accurate, I started by improvising randomly with the music box voice just to see what I could do with it, but I quickly realized that what I wanted to do with it was play that theme. I tried playing it the way I do on the piano, but I immediately understood that that wouldn't fit. The piano is a very versatile instrument (though I've fallen into a bit of a rut in how I tend to use it), in a way that the music box is not. For that matter, most of the voices I'd downloaded had a particular personality to them. That personality would dictate what I played on them. The music box had a very hollow sound which was charming and fit the theme well, but its simplicity would not suit any complicated harmonic progressions. At least, that's what I felt. So I picked a different key from the one I normally use (to break out of that thinking), and recorded a duet between that and the strings (to add texture).

I didn't want to upload this file, because I don't like it very much, but I've been talking about it so much that I'm going to have to now. I'm not going to embed it, and I'm warning you now that it's four minutes long and is the equivalent of an old man rambling on and on because he's forgotten what it was he wanted to say. But if you want to hear it, here it is. Anyway, what I learned from playing that is that it's not easy making music by yourself. If the other voice were being played by another person, I'd react to him and he'd react to me and together we'd get somewhere. But when I'm on my own, communication only goes one way. So for instance in this file I first recorded the beginning of the music box's melody, and then I came in with the strings afterward (while listening to the first track) and accompanied. I was going for "mysterious", but I think I ended up with just "messy". It keeps running into situations where one instrument thinks it's finished but the other one wants to keep going. Also, I wasn't using the sustain pedal because I wanted to get away from the piano kind of thinking. That was a mistake, and there's a lot of awkwardness here in the strings (as I try to hold down all the notes with a limited number of fingers) that was wholly unnecessary.

I liked the aesthetic of what I'd done, but not the structure (as haphazard as anything I've ever done). So I started playing something which I know like the back of my hand: my variation on "Zelda's Lullaby" from the Legend of Zelda games:

The idea was a good one. When I know exactly where I'm going, it's a lot easier for various instruments to join in. I first played the piano accompaniment, then the strings, then the flute with the melody, and finally a pan flute adding in little bits of emphasis just because I felt like it was missing something still. Here, for comparison, is the original version of the tune from A Link to the Past. You can see that I've taken it in a totally different direction. This is a variation which I've played countless times on the piano, just because playing it makes me happy. I'm really happy with how this arrangement turned out. Part of that was due to letting the piano do all the work holding the music together. I'd have a much harder time trying to come up with an arrangement for Zelda's Lullaby which didn't have the usual piano arpeggios.

I didn't intend to keep going with the Zelda themes, but the next voice I tried on was called "Tremolo Strings", and when I played an octave in the bass with that I immediately thought of how cool the Dark World theme from A Link to the Past would sound with it.

This isn't a theme I've played with much, so my comfort level was much lower. That's why the beginning is almost exactly the same as the original, unlike my usual Zelda variations which are different right from the start. The thing at the end feels like an afterthought. I should have ended the improvisation earlier. Also, I need to hold back a bit with how I use the strings in the future. Some things which would have sounded perfectly fine on a piano sound painfully shrill with synthesized strings.

And since I already had enough Zelda music to make a blog post, I threw together one more improvisation:

Here's the original. You can see that I've diverged from the original more than with the others, to the point that I could imagine some people not hearing the resemblance between this and what it's based on. That's because the original is limited by its context. It existed solely to give a quaintness to The Wind Waker's opening cutscene, and has never (as far as I can recall) been used since. My version, being much simpler in its style, could be expanded upon and reused in other games in many different contexts. (Usually when I play this tune, I imagine it being peaceful and quiet. With a harp, say.) The original tune didn't have a name as far as I know, but for some reason I think of it as being called "Legend". It needs drums here, but I couldn't find a good drum soundfont on short notice. The voice I'm using for the melody is "Blown Bottle", because I tried just about every single soundfont in the collection and that was the only one that had any "chemistry" with the electric guitar.

Overall, I think these are excellent first steps into music with different kinds of sound. At some point I should try using these soundfonts on something that's less of a known quantity.





2011, May 4th, 21:20 and 44 seconds

Hey. I don't have that much to say, but I figure - I've got as much right to write on this blog as anyone. We're working on that new idea for format and everything, and I really need to have a presence here moving forward because otherwise I'll get drowned out by all the others with their big loud ideas. I've only had one post so far, and I was just writing that on behalf of the person. I just want a blog post for myself, and I'll finish it up quickly and get back to work. Don't worry- I made a spot in my schedule for this. I'm not slacking.

So what I'm going to talk about is just what life is like (Where else would I start blogging?), and for that I really need to back up to yesterday so you get some context of how this works. The gamer got yesterday, taking his sweet time playing through the Legend of Zelda series, when a letter from Hadas came saying there was data entry work today. Of course this changed the plans, because the gamer was supposed to keep going for a few more hours and then today was supposed to be the programmer, seeing if we can switch to Fedora from Kubuntu because Kubuntu is way too buggy. (I need to know what all the other personalities are doing, because I'm kind of working for all of them this month.) That involved getting Harel's help, and he was only free today. Thursday was supposed to be the explorer making the game Angles and Circles and Friday/Saturday night would be me continuing each of those three projects. I think the thinker came up with an elegant plan for the first week, taking into account a lot of variables of where I need to be next week, but then you get e-mails out of the blue and all that planning isn't worth much anymore.

Well, if I had data entry it meant I needed to leave the house at 8:45 AM to get a ride to work with Hadas, and that meant switching time zones again. (I normally go to sleep at 4:00 AM and wake up at 12:30 PM.) So I left games night early, and when I said I was leaving someone looked at me with thtis look of utter shock on his face and he said "Really?". I've never done that before - we're always the first one there (It's next door.) and the last one out, because it's not like playing a game that goes 'til after midnight is messing up any schedule of mine. The Rules allow any character to interrupt their performance for "An event involving other people which was scheduled in advance", so even if it's someone who has absolutely no reason to be there -like the musician- I can still go to games night. It's an important thing to go because many weeks that's my only contact with any other people in the middle of the week, and a depressed actor can't play any role well. Anyway, I responded to everyone's surprise at games night by saying "I have to get up early for work tomorrow.", because it was both true and would make people wonder if I was Mory's evil clone or something. Which isn't far off, come to think of it. Not that I'm evil. It's just a joke, don't take it too literally.

After games night, we couldn't go to sleep yet because the gamer gets scored for progress, not good intentions. He'd been going too slow, and then that letter came and a ten-point wasn't looking likely. But still - better five points than three. So instead of going to sleep immediately, there was an hour and 12 minutes of frantic writing to get as much done as possible without being a wreck today. I only got to bed around 1:00 AM or so, but unfortunately that's still early by my standards. I went to sleep, and woke up at 2:30 refreshed enough by that little nap to keep going. I just couldn't get back to sleep after that, and I think I only got four and half hours of sleep or so total. So when my alarm woke me up at 8:20 AM, I was falling on my face and I needed to keep saying to myself over and over: "I'm not good enough, but today is going to be perfect. I'm not good enough, but today is going to be perfect.". And I forced myself to get up, get dressed, eat a bagel with cream cheese, and get out ready to give the day my all.

Hadas was running a bit late, so I sat on the patio in the hot sun (remembering why I rarely leave the house) and noticed a bird cage out on the other neighbor's side of the patio which I'd never noticed before though it must have been there for a long time. A minute or two later we left.

When she turned on the car, Bohemian Rhapsody started playing and that started a whole conversation about entertainment that goes places versus entertainment that's accessible. That lasted all the way to Jerusalem. When we got out of the elevator Hadas remarked that she can't stand Seinfeld because it's "about nothing", and I said that "All sitcoms are about nothing!", and that's exactly when we walked into the office. It took some willpower to prevent myself from following my train of thought to the show Community, and how that's a sitcom that knows it's about nothing, even though it has the obligatory (and half-hearted) excuse for the characters to be together. I reminded myself that I'd seem a lot more professional if I didn't introduce a new topic of pop-culture conversation inside the office, and just followed the imaginary conversation about Community in my head for a minute until it went away.

The work was more monotonous than usual, since it was mostly the same two kinds of pages over and over. I probably could have done it a bit more speedily if I weren't so tired, but I was efficient enough. The office was really busy, so the only room for me to work was on the other side of Hadas's desk. I had a laptop with a USB keyboard (because a number pad is essential), and a big binder with all the pages that I was copying. It probably doesn't bring out my best side to be working in the same room as my boss (especially when that boss speaks English). It's harder to keep censoring my silly comments when there's no separation. So okay, I'm no good at pretending to be professional. But I do the work quickly, and I get paid, and Hadas keeps hiring me, so maybe I'm professional enough. No, I'm not professional enough. I'll have to work on that.

As I was working on those two forms, Hadas designed the database for the next thing I'd be doing. Unfortunately, that part involved text. You do not want to have to decipher text written by a doctor. Such. Terrible. Handwriting. And they couldn't spell, either. Sometimes Hadas told me to keep the typos ("bening" instead of "benign"), and sometimes she told me to ignore them ("protectioin"). In the end I signed every one of the pages I'd entered, passed them off to the girl who'd be verifying my work, marked down my time and left.

I took the bus home, drifting in and out of consciousness along the way. When I got home I marked down my time and collapsed in a chair. I desperately wanted to get to sleep, but the Rules say an opening statement has to be written within an hour of completing the first activity of the day. And the worker is particularly useless without his opening statement. ("my" opening statement? I never know which pronouns to use here.) So I had a drink, and started planning out the rest of the day. I added up the TV shows on my hard drive to estimate the time it'd take to watch them (taking into account factors like that I take more time to absorb some shows and that I watch some shows at 1.50x speed): I kept taking things out until I had it at a manageable (for today) 5:25. Most of that time is catching up on 30 Rock, which I'm far behind on. But I've also planned to watch two episodes of Amazing Race, because I've got these little side-videos for the season that my parents have started watching and I want to know whether it's worth watching (and whether to tell them about it) before they reach the part where it starts. Anyway. Bottom line, 5:25 of TV. I intended to continue the day until the middle of Thursday, to have enough time to reconcile my own needs (with the data entry and everything) with what I have to do for the others. When I was finished planning it out, I slept for 2 hours.

I woke up, wrote a message for the programmer ("please fix sd"), and got started on this. I'd better wrap this up now- I've only got one minute left allocated to this activity.


2011, May 3rd, 03:12 and 26 seconds

Performance reviews for May 2011

Each day, I'm going to pick a different character. At the end of the month, when I look back at who I've been overall, I want to see a cohesive character who is defined first and foremost by his creativity. The nature of that creativity should be very diverse. I want to get the impression of a person so multifaceted and strange that one never knows what he will do next. This is not my natural state -I am a person prone to easy and repetitive patterns of behavior.- so the performance will likely require the careful and respectful collaboration of all eight of my personalities.

Back


Back

2011, April 19th, 20:15 and 7 seconds

A work in progress

Over the years I've found countless musical themes I liked. Most of them are very simple and straightforward melodies, because for all my insistence that music ought to go somewhere and sound interesting and surprise the listener, I grew up hearing nothing but popular music and that shaped my sensibilities. A lot of composers nowadays are content to create an atmosphere or aesthetic without focusing on a clear melody, but it doesn't take much to create an atmosphere. Here, I'll show you what I mean:

I threw this together in just a few minutes, with the barest hint of an idea. It's pretty enough, and I don't feel like any note there needs to be changed, but there's nothing there that you'd want to remember and nothing worth caring about too much. It's a disposable kind of music. If there were a catchy melody to latch on to, you'd be more invested in where it goes. When I'm trying to make a "composition" rather than a fleeting improvisation, there is then pressure to not lose the listener's interest at any point. The music needs to keep moving and developing. At every moment I need to be doing something new and interesting. And in the end there needs to be a satisfying resolution. These are not simple demands.

Typically when I come up with a theme I play it over and over and over again on the piano, and I'm happy to hear the melody each time I get back to it but I also know I should be doing more with it. I know that any one of my themes could be the subject of a fantastic composition, if only I approached it from the right angle. But usually I don't find that angle. Of the hundreds of themes I've tried to work with, maybe twenty have gotten all the way to having endings I'm satisfied with. At least half never got past the initial improvisation stage. And many have already been forgotten.

The composition I'm working on now is not in any way atypical. The theme came from an improvisation, it's going through a convoluted process of continual inspiration, refinement and censorship, and it's not likely (statistically speaking) that this will be the rare tune that makes it through. In this post, I'm going to walk you through the process of my latest composition attempt, step by awkward step. Imagine hundreds of earlier stories no less messy, and you'll have a sense of all my experiences as a composer.

It started when I played this:

Two things immediately jumped out at me from this tiny little idea. Firstly, I was ashamed to have played something so blatantly derivative. The first four notes came from the main theme of the late TV series 24, and were also very similar to the title music of the game The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. And the chord progression in the second half reminded me of the song Dust in the Wind, which I'd heard very recently. The second thing I noticed was that it was pretty, and I wondered where it might go. So I made a very slight adjustment that would avoid comparisons to 24 and Zelda:

I then played it over and over, careful to avoid the original chord progressions, and each time I would try to launch from the theme into an improvisation, to figure out what came next. But nothing came to me, because I found that with the tiny changes I'd made I no longer found the music as pretty. It felt like a diluted version of the original idea, which of course it was. So though I played with this theme for a while, I couldn't go for more than twenty seconds into any improvisation before stopping, either because I was hitting some note that came from the things I wanted to imitate, or because I was already bored, or because I'd already wandered off to places that had nothing to do with the theme. I decided to abandon the theme.

A few days later on a whim I picked it up again and started with a 6/4 chord instead of the chord's root position. Which is to say, the lowest note was an F instead of a B-flat like it normally would be. What this does is it prevents you from feeling like you're starting somewhere stable, so already from the first note you feel like the music needs to be moving somewhere. It sounded cool, which didn't surprise me because I've had a lot of fun in the past with taking chords that ought to be in root position and making them 6/4 chords. It always sounds interesting, whether or not it works. Anyway, the theme now had a very different kind of energy than it had started with. It had been calm and soothing; now it was vaguly ominous and impatient. In the span of an hour or so, I got the arrangement to a place I was happy with and even managed to move forward a few more measures.

I wasn't sure whether I loved the continuation or hated it. For one thing, I quickly realized it came from a tune for "Cottleston Pie" from Winnie the Pooh that I heard once on The Muppet Show. (Specifically, from the words "ask me a riddle".) I also wasn't sure I should be switching keys so quickly. You'll note that immediately after the part I already had, I go from B-flat minor to E-flat minor, wich isn't strange at all except for being so early in the piece. I couldn't make up my mind whether it sounded beautiful or jarring. So I played around with it a lot, seeing if I could easily separate it from "Cottleston Pie" (I couldn't.), or whether it would sound better without switching keys (It didn't.). Ultimately I decided to keep it. I figure the song is obscure enough, and as Steven Sanders once said: "The degree of your originality is directly proportional to the obscurity of who you steal from.". And I also decided that anything that could add momentum and musical interestingness was a good idea. Plus, I couldn't think of anything else to do with the piece, so it was "Cottleston Pie" or nothing.

As the days went on I kept adding to the music, a few measures at a time. It was like I was leaving a riddle for myself each time, and the next time I sat down I'd come up with a brief answer and immediately another riddle. The riddle was "Now what?", and not much would satisfy. I kept inadvertently stepping into pieces of music I'd heard, or other pieces of music I'd composed myself. And even worse than plagiarism or redundancy would be straightforwardness -this composition had begun with little harmonic games, so I felt that if I delivered anything other than a relentless stream of harmonic games with ever-increasing whimsy, I wouldn't be doing justice to the theme! After a few weeks, I had a piece that had plenty of momentum, but didn't seem to be going anywhere in particular. I sent this file to Moshe and Aviella, as an excuse to get more comfortable with the MIDI keyboard I'd just bought:

You'll note that toward the end (at 1:21) I ran out of music and started improvising in order to give the audio file some (false) sense of resolution before sending it. The very first few notes I improvised were channeling a tune from the Phoenix Wright games, and I hurriedly changed what I was doing, after which I had no idea what I should be doing. Par for the course.

It became apparent that I couldn't just keep pushing myself into the unknown. For one thing, the piece was already starting to get tiring to listen to. There needed to be a break from all the racing forward, and each time I tried anything that would qualify I felt like the composition had become utterly pointless. So I tried a new direction. I noticed that what I'd come up with so far was similar melodically (though not stylistically) to a theme of mine from years ago:

That's all there ever was of it -that theme didn't make it far through the process. And not for lack of trying: I pulled this theme out at least once or twice a year, flipping it around, trying to approach it from different angles, and never getting anywhere. I've always really liked what I have of it, but it stubbornly refuses to budge past that point. So I decided to mix the two themes into one composition.

I've done this sort of thing in only two of my previous compositions. There was one time years ago that I came up with a theme which was fun, but didn't seem strong enough to sustain a whole piece, at the same time that I was halfway through a composition with a similar theme. I didn't notice how well they fit together for a while, but when I did I found a way to work the little theme into the bigger piece, without compromising any of what I already had. It actually works quite well, I think.

The other precedent (and the one closer to my mind) was the last piece I completed, from this past October. There was one theme I wrote down in my music notebook (just a few measures) maybe five years ago, and there was another that I came up with on the day we left for our trip to America in 2007. Neither had ever developed substantially past where they started. But the two themes had a similarity, and I built on that. I inserted the two themes into copious atmosphere (which gave them more direction), and I ended up with what I think is a very fun piece that more than does justice to both themes. Here, listen for yourself. The two themes are introduced at 0:26 and 1:07.

See? A perfect marriage between these formerly separate themes. At first they alternate and compete for attention, but the farther you go the more intertwined the two ideas are. Anyway, I wanted to do something like that here, both because I was stuck and because the older theme was at a dead end. So I started building from what I had toward the other theme, the same way I did in the last composition.

(This starts from the middle of the version of the piece I sent to Moshe and Aviella - around 42 seconds into that file.)

I could see that I was getting closer to being able to play the other theme as I always did, but the closer I got the less satisfied I was with the direction I was headed. I really like that old theme, and I'd love an opportunity to finally use the harmonies and rhythms I had there. But this new theme has its charms too, and I was losing them. One theme is bright and bouncy, the other is dark and mysterious. One is in B-major and stays there, the other starts in B-flat minor and keeps moving. One is in 4/4 time, the other is in 3/4. One is jazzy, the other is more classical. So yes, there are strong similarities between the two pieces which can be built upon. But this isn't an obvious match.

On a recent Shabbat I spoke to Coren, a fellow musician, about my composition problems. I told him that everything I was doing made perfect sense, and yet it sounded like the pieces didn't quite fit together. Not just the new part which worked in the other theme - the whole thing. I liked the first twelve measures. There's a question, an answer, and a continuation. It's pretty. Everything past that point made me uncomfortable. But I couldn't figure out why. Everything I was doing made sense: it all surprised the listener and built on the theme(s) properly and sounded interesting and I knew from experience that combining two themes could work. And as I said all of this, Coren repeatedly insisted that music isn't supposed to make sense. He asked me where I wanted the music to go, regardless of where I thought it should go. And I said that really I just wanted to play the beginning over and over again. That's always what I want to do with my themes, but it's not very interesting, is it. They deserve better.

I told him about "A Lonely Journey", which is still my favorite thing I've composed. I wrote a piece which started with a pretty theme, moved forward chaotically, got to a variation, returned to the original version of the theme, moved forward differently, got to a different variation, and repeated until I eventually completed it with a bombastic ending. And then I threw out the whole thing, analyzed it thoroughly to figure out which parts were indispensible and which parts were wasting the listener's time, added in a new variation, and wrote a whole new piece based on this theme using what I'd learned. I explained to Coren: "There was a point I was trying to make here. I forget what it was."

Anyway, talking to Coren made me realize that I didn't like what I had. So I scrapped everything past the first thirty notes and started over.

Taking Coren's advice, I included what I believe is the only repeat I've used since my third composition, a decade ago. I don't like repeats, as a rule. Music should be moving forward. If a listener has already gotten the gist of what you're playing, you're wasting his time by playing it again in exactly the same way. Maybe if there were some different kind of harmony or something, you could keep his interest like that. Anyway, I put in a simple repeat and I don't know whether I like it or not. I also don't know if I like anything that comes after the repeat. Somehow in this recording I improvised my way into playing the other theme note-for-note the way it was originally, and it doesn't feel entirely out of place. I wasn't expecting the transition to be that easy. But I don't know if I'm comfortable anymore with keeping that theme the way it was. This piece is its own thing, and I shouldn't shape the whole thing around that moment.

The problem is, if I don't include the second theme as it was, I'll never be able to use it anywhere. That's me declaring outright: "This theme may never be made into a complete composition.", because I like some of the bits of it that are in here and if I manage to complete this I won't want to repeat myself later. And it's not like the theme was moving anywhere anyway, but the reason I kept pulling it out year after year was that I hoped it could find a structure that suited it. This isn't really it. I mean, after I play the second theme in the time signature of the first theme (immediately before and after the repeat), I still need to basically stop everything and start again in order to begin the real transition, and then when I switch time signatures it's another break. That's a clumsy way of moving a piece forward, no? So I started messing around with other ways to combine the two very different pieces, and came up with this:

I don't know what that is exactly. I thought it might be a way to get from the ambiance I'm starting from to where I'm going, but it seems like more of a "child theme" for later in the piece. Which means that now I've got yet another thing to try to force the piece into. On the other hand, it sounds like a cross between the Titanic song and the end of the Felicity theme in the style of the music used in the trailer for Peter Pan! So maybe I'll throw it out, or just change it...

I have no idea where this is going. It may well be that these ideas aren't going to coalesce into anything I'm happy with, in which case this is just another theme to throw to the pile. But maybe the next time I go to the piano the pieces will fall into place. It's unlikely, but somehow I've completed other compositions and I can guarantee I didn't go any easier on them. We'll see.


2011, April 3rd, 17:15 precisely

Performance reviews for April 2011

The Rules are a really huge step, and I have no idea whether this kind of character-building can work in the real world. I need proof of the method's legitimacy. So I'm going to set myself goals which are mildly unrealistic for one person to do in one month. If I can really act like multiple people, I'll be able to handle it easily. And if I can't, I'll go back to the one-character approach. During the month of April, I expect:
  • An average score of at least 7/10
  • 30 hours of work on Angles & Circles
  • Two more blog posts
  • Significant progress on at least one piece of music
  • To finish inputting all the scores from games nights
  • To finish the book Otherland and return it
  • To stay up to date with all the TV shows and comics I want to follow, including the ones which are starting this month
  • To finish playing at least one game, and
  • To rewatch a TV season and reread a comic book run.
These goals reflect the sort of meta-character I'd like to play on a regular basis. How I operate moving forward entirely depends on my performance this month.




Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Buxner in Concert

I start with four notes, and say: "You spot it as you're walking one day." Those four notes again. "It's lying on the ground, as though someone just angrily threw it away."...

I sing the melody line for the first four bars of "A Lonely Journey", quietly, very slowly and with minimalistic accompaniment. That gets the audience familiar with and interested in the main theme. Then I stop singing and switch to piano. I don't shy away from the tedious repetition at the end; I make it longer, and speak over it: "It's over as quickly as it began."...

I talk about The Rules.


Go back

2011, April 1st, 3:47 and 34 seconds

The Rules

The Dialogues

I am playing Mory Buckman, an experimental blogger in the early 21st century. The goal of the game is to get points.


The game is played in distinct rounds (I will refer to them as "days", not to be confused with the usual meaning.) of variable length. At specific events the game will pause, either after a day concludes or in the middle of a day, but the game will eventually resume (beginning a new day, if necessary). In each day, a set of behaviors and attitudes will be displayed which I will call a "character". With certain exceptions which will be defined in the "standard characters" section, this character should never be broken while a day is in progress. During a break in the game (while no character is needed), only these seven actions are permitted:
  • Scoring the past day
  • Sleeping
  • Using the bathroom
  • Planning
  • Celebrating a religious holiday
  • Exercising
  • Conversation
  • An event involving other people which was scheduled in advance
If anything else is done (including reading, eating, drinking, playing piano, singing, opening any program on the computer other than the one used for scoring, etc.), a day must be in progress. If the last day was merely paused it resumes, and if that day has already been scored (and is therefore no longer in progress) a new day begins.

Starting a day
A day has started when I've written down the starting time on a piece of paper. I then must get into character for the day. This is done with two actions, which will both be taken but in either order:
  1. Writing an opening statement. This may be long or short, depending on the character and the day, but it should be something which only the character I am playing would say. It's a good idea, after writing the opening statement, to sit and think about it for a minute or two.
  2. A character-appropriate first activity. This may or may not be an activity which the character is going to focus on throughout the day, but it should be something that gets my mind to wherever it needs to be.
Note: an opening statement can and should be written before the day begins, because this action is considered to be "planning" for the day, which is allowed during a break.

If a day has been in progress for twenty minutes and no first activity has been declared, then I will write a collective title for what I have been doing for the past twenty minutes and declare that as my first activity.

As soon as I take a break from whatever my first activity was declared to be, I will write down the time of conclusion. The activity may be returned to later, and if so that will be reflected in the time allocation table but not the "first activity" field. From the minute the first activity is concluded, I have one hour to write an opening statement if I have not done so already. If an hour has passed from the end of my first activity and no opening statement has yet been written, I am no longer entitled to write an opening statement and a blank space will be written in its place.

Activities
When I decide that I've started an activity, its start time is written on a piece of paper. If at any point it cannot validly be said that I am focusing on that activity, an end time must be written and the activity is no longer considered to be in progress. I can return to that activity later and write a new start time; the total time spent on each activity will be counted at the end of the day.

For the purposes of the time allocation table, every single minute of the day past the first activity is allocated to one and only one activity. However, not all activities will be judged by the character to be worth mentioning. If for whatever reason a minute was not accounted for, it counts toward the total for "mundane activities". (Note: if the first activity of the day is mundane, it will be singled out in the "first activity" field but not in the time allocation table.) If at the end of the day mundane activities exceed one quarter of the total time in the day, at least one point will be reduced from the day's score. Note: The first activity is not counted in the time allocation table, but only in its own field.

Ending or pausing a day
At any time and for any reason, a day may be paused or ended. This is signified by writing an end time for any activity in progress, and then writing an end time for the day. If the day is scored, the day is immediately ended and no further progress can be made on it. If the day is not scored, then the day is paused and it will be continued when a new start time is written. The minimum length of a day is three hours, and the maximum length is one week.

There is a procedure of steps that must be taken before scoring at the end of a day. First, I will fill out the time allocation table, subtracting the sum of used time from the time in the day to find "mundane activities". Then I will fill in the first activity field. I will write a closing statement reflecting the character's thoughts on the day. A seemingly chaotic day may be scored well if the closing statement successfully paints the time allocation table as a coherent story. Then a performance review is written to justify the final score.

If I am not already familiar with the character I was playing, the scoring is entirely subjective and is based mainly on two criteria:
  1. Whether I like the character
  2. Whether the character's actions during the day add something I like to the ongoing story of my life.
If it is a character I know, character-specific scoring rules will apply. If rules or principles have been broken, points are taken away after any applicable character-specific scoring rules. Conversely, if the activities of the day present a particularly believable representation of the character, one point will be added (with the maximum still not exceeding ten). The scoring should follow the harshest possible reading of the rules, but the review itself should gently emphasize the positive in the day.

Standard characters







Multiple personalities might not be the most obvious direction for the blog, given the setup so far. There's the distinct possibility that all of this is just a colossal distraction, and will not get me closer to my ideal self. Rules are needed to prevent each character from going his own way.
The explorer has been cooped up for too long in a little house. He longs to find new opportunities, real or virtual, and he doesn't care where they come from. A metalude, a tree branch, a book, the internet... as long as there are new things to see, the explorer will go there. Normally he's easily distracted, but he could sit and stare at a random object for an hour just because he likes the way it looks. The explorer is an overgrown child, and he insists on seeing the world as a place worthy of his interest. When that fails, he watches movies and doodles onto little pieces of paper.

Opening statement: Short and vague. Anything beginning with "I wonder..." will do, or "Remember when...". Any question or random thought offered is going to be followed up on somehow, because the explorer tends to fixate on small ideas.

Closing statement: Long and appreciative of whatever I've experienced. If I don't have anything to say, I've been living the whole day wrong. The statement will conclude with an idea for a day that someone else should follow. If the average score for the month is equal to or above 7/10, the statement may conclude with an idea for a day that someone else should follow.

Edited on July 3rd 2011


General rules:
If I notice something that piques my curiosity, I must immediately put down whatever else I'm doing and give the new curiosity 100% of my attention until my interest is no longer being held.

If whatever I'm doing has failed to excite me in any way during a 20-minute period, I immediately must either stop or look for a way to be engaged while doing it. Actually, twenty minutes is already a long time. If I'm not interested by something for ten minutes, I should already be thinking ahead to prevent possible boredom. I may not get bored, under any circumstances.

Piano playing counts as an activity. Whether it is composition or improvisation is irrelevant.

TV is off limits, except for episodes which I've already seen.

Scoring rules:
At the end of the day, I need to ask myself: "Is there a place that I know better now than yesterday?". If the answer is no, then my score may not exceed 5/10. If the answer is yes, then my score will be at least 3/10.

If I have spent more time watching movies than being creative (includes game creation, writing, piano, and even lengthy thinking), my score may not exceed 7/10.

My score (before external modifiers) will be determined (on the scale from the minimum allowed to the maximum allowed) by answering the question: "How much do I care about the places I've been to today?". I should justify my answer with things I said in the closing statement.
The worker needs to feel useful. He likes to organize, and set things up, and learn new skills and put them to use. He wants to know that his abilities are appreciated, but if they're not he'll still put them to use. Data entry is the height of entertainment as far as he's concerned, because he can continually challenge himself to be more efficient. Everything which doesn't serve a purpose or hone a marketable skill is a waste of time, but there are two wastes of time he'll indulge in. Comic books are enjoyable because they allow for organizing later, and TV shows are a great way to unwind from all the running around.

Opening statement: A full schedule for the day, down to the minute. The activities are ordered according to priority, with time-wasters coming last. The statement ends with the sentence: "I'm not good enough, but today will be perfect." If the average score for the month is equal to or above 7/10, the first half of that sentence will be left out.

Closing statement: A list of accomplishments from the day. Also, I need to specify and justify each and every deviation from the schedule.


General rules:
The schedule in the opening statement must be followed at all times. If a change in the schedule is necessitated, the rest of the day must immediately be replanned in its entirety.

The first activity of the day may not be passive. When adjusting the time allocated to passive entertainments in a previously-declared schedule, the starting time may be postponed (but not past the declared end time), and the ending time may be advanced (but not before the declared start time). However, no passive entertainments may be added to a previously-declared schedule for time which had not already been allocated for the purpose.

I need to be sociable and friendly with any person I come in contact with. If my schedule needs to be changed to accomodate someone else's timetable, the revised schedule must leave enough time to get everything done that I had planned (with the exception of time-wasters). When notifying other people that I need to get back to my schedule, I must be polite but forceful.

No gaming (except for Wii Fit, but that can be played before the day begins because it's exercise). Making games is acceptable, and it's best to be extremely specific in the schedule about which aspect will be worked on.

No web activity unless it serves a practical purpose.

Scoring rules:
If TV-watching is the longest activity, the day gets 0/10. If comics are the longest activity and little of that time was spent on organizing them, the day gets 0/10.

The schedule (or if there were changes, the last revision of the schedule) is scored on a scale from 5 to 10, for the following criteria:
  • How many things needed to be done? (3=good, 1=not enough)
  • Do any of the activities affect other people, or make me money?
  • Are these activities helpful for my future plans?
The day is then scored on a scale from 0 to whatever the plan received, based on how accurately the day reflected the schedule.
The gamer is restless. He always wants to keep moving, to get as much out of the day as possible. World to world, activity to activity. The gamer prefers virtual experiences to real ones, because they're more easily controlled. He can decide what he wants to get out of an hour, and if he doesn't get it he can move on to something else. Whatever he does, he always has the nagging sense that he could be getting more out of his minute. This essential hunger leads him to be very critical of everything he experiences.

Opening statement: A brief list of intended activities. The more specific the goals, the better. They do not necessarily have to be games, and some of them may be in the same game. A strong plan will contain at least three different Forms. The list may not include any plans with clear practical value.

Closing statement: A critique of the day's most notable experiences.


General rules:
I am under no obligation to run through the list from the opening statement. If some other activity holds my interest, I can spend all day with it and not worry about the plan.

No reading, watching movies, watching TV, listening to music, or any such passive activities. Whatever I do, I'm going to be the driving force behind it. The only passive activity allowed is getting other people to play games.

Frustration is to be met with an increased determination. I may abandon an activity because I have something better to do, but I may not abandon an activity for being "too hard" or even for becoming tedious.

Thinking or writing about a particular game counts as time spent on that game, and is added to whatever time is spent playing it.

Scoring rules:
What is being scored is progress. I look at how my status has changed in each of the game worlds, and decide whether the sum of this progress is substantial. Whether I enjoyed it or not is irrelevant. For calculating progress, minigames are considered to be separate games in their own right (rather than insignificant parts of a larger game). I decide -on a scale from 0 to 10- how much progress has been made by myself as a player, by my avatars in their respective stories, or by the avatars of other people I've been watching, and this is my final score for the day.
The musician doesn't care about anything except for music. He wants to surround himself with music, and live inside the music as though it were a tangible place, and in general is utterly detached from anything which isn't abstract.

Opening statement: Anything at all. Any rambling thought or feeling that happens to pop into my head, and it might have absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the day.

Closing statement: Try to verbalize some of the feelings, structures, ideas, etc. that I've encountered in music during the day.


General rules:
Only two activities will be listed in the time allocation table. They are:
  1. Music
  2. Mundane activities
No further distinctions may be made.

Scoring rules:
Eight of the ten points are determined by how short "mundane activities" were relative to the length of the day. If they took less than a tenth of the day's length, a full eight points are given. If they took more than half the day's length, that's worth zero points.

The other two points are based on what was played during the day and how I feel about it. One point is given for "That's not bad.", and two points are given for "My god that's amazing.".
The programmer has a keenly analytical mind, and relishes the opportunity to test it. If he finds a challenge he can't overcome, he turns it over and approaches it from different angles and searches the web for ideas and runs experiments until a solution has been found. The programmer is frustrated by unclear goals, and delighted by rule system games of all kinds.

Opening statement: A specific and nontrivial challenge is stated, along with an initial plan of approach. The challenge will be overcome, but not necessarily by this method.

Closing statement: An overview of the solution, if one has been found, or a description of the problem as it stands.

Edited on July 3rd, 2011


General rules:
No entertainment may be indulged in which does not have clear rules. (Passive mystery stories are acceptable.)

Once I start on a puzzle of some sort, I must either solve it by the end of the day or spend no less than three hours attempting to do so.

Web browsing (including e-mails, RSS feeds and blog-reading) are all prohibited except when in the service of solving a problem. Maintenance and programming for my own blog are allowed.

Creative work is only acceptable if it involves either programming or comparable problem solving.

Scoring rules:
If the problem mentioned in the opening statement was either solved or tackled for 5 hours in total, four points. (Otherwise, no points. It's a binary thing; there's no reward for a job half done.)

The other six points will be distributed based on an estimation of how much I stretched my mind during the day. If there was no mental stimulation at all I get no points. (The worker could have done better.) If I had to pause and think for just a few minutes I get two points. And if I learned an entire new way of thinking, that's six points. (If I exerted my mind for reasons unrelated to any problem-solving or programming, I still get the points.)
The thinker sees life as a series of interconnected blog posts. He believes that planning is the cure to confusion, and that stories give inspiration valuable for everyday life. What he does not believe in is actually doing things. He would rather spend years writing about the gloriousness of inactivity than spend five minutes applying himself. He says that a distance from the world is necessary in order to see the world clearly. The other characters might benefit from his perspective, but they'll still have to do the work.
The thinker sees life as a series of interconnected blog posts. He believes that planning is the cure to confusion, and that stories give inspiration valuable for everyday life. His dream is to tell stories himself, with enough conviction for these fictions to become true.

Opening statement: A brief summary of the past few days, as they relate to my life today. The purpose is not to commit to any actions, but simply to put the day in an interesting context that I can make sense of later.

Closing statement: What ideas have come to me, and how these ideas play off the backdrop presented in the opening statement. The closing statement may include plans and messages for other characters.


General rules:
Blogs, books, newspaper articles, and the time spent thinking about all of these are all lumped together into "reading". Comics are not. General thoughts about life can be attributed either to whatever activity sparked said thoughts, or to "the blog".

I may only watch a TV show that I really care about. Such strong feelings will provoke interesting thoughts. Other shows are distractions.

When I am following a train of thought, I need to go wherever it leads and do whatever it suggests to sort out my feelings on the subject.

Three hours into the day, I should already be trying to tie my activities together into a single coherent line of thought.

With the exception of activities which are literally everyday, every single action should be accounted for regardless of how insignificant it may seem.

A day will be between five hours and fifteen. If the day has had fifteen hours, stop immediately. Whether I feel I've reached the end of the thought is not a factor. This rule does not apply if the average score for the month is equal to or above 7/10.


Before getting lost in my own thoughts, I must first look at the other personalities' recent achievements and problems. I am here for them.

Scoring rules:
What is being scored is the closing statement, moreso than the time allocation table. From 0 to 10, I am being asked to indicate the value of whatever thought I have conveyed. That means whatever I think it does.
Scoring rules:
On a scale from 0 to 4, decide how original the thought in the closing statement seems. Of course nothing in the world can truly be original, so imagine we're actually using a scale of 0 to 100. A 4 on that scale would represent a thought which is new to me, while a 2 is something which just extends the ideas I've already had a little bit further than I've thought of before. (Even if some day God should grant me an idea that's truly original, no more than four points for originality.)

Then on a scale from 0 to 6, judge the coherence of the day as a story which culminates in that thought. Long activities that have nothing to do with the final thought will reduce this score.

Add the originality points to the coherence points to get the full score. Any other character or characters may add or subtract a point from this score (each - multiple characters can use this rule for one day), for any reason at all. To do so, that character must present himself in the performance review and announce the change.

Edited on July 1st, 2011

The addict has a one-track mind. Once he gets an idea in his head, he can't focus on anything else.

Opening and closing statements: Love letters to whatever pursuit I've chosen to be addicted to.


General rules:
Whatever my first activity is is to be treated as the subject of my addiction (regardless of what the opening statement was about). I may repeat this activity, I may write a blog post about the activity, I may do other activities which are peripherally related. I may not do anything else.

If I am unable to focus on my chosen activity, or if I can think of nothing left to do with it, the day must immediately end.

The addict may not be played if one of the past two days was played by the addict, even if the subject of the addiction is different. However, since I am talking about game days rather than "actual" days, it's perfectly okay (though a difficult strategy) to pause the game for long enough to sleep in the middle of the day!

The addict's focus may not be:
  • A TV show
  • Comics
  • On the web, with the exception of this blog
  • Overly general - I can be addicted to a particular gamist's games, but not a particular kind of game
  • Entirely reliant on other people's participation
Otherwise, anything's fair game. This rule does not apply if the average score for the month is equal to or above 7/10.

Scoring rules:
The final score is the total number of hours spent on the subject of the addiction or related activities, minus time spent on anything else, plus 2. The minimum score is zero, the maximum score is ten. No other rules apply.
The person is paralyzed without other people. The other characters are often paralyzed when in the presence of other people. So all the characters are willing to turn control over to the person for a few hours. He'll do whatever makes sense for whatever social situation he's in, and then pass control back to whoever called him.

Rules for switching characters:
Control may be passed to the person at any time. The person may choose at any time to pass control back to the previous character. If the day was begun by the person (rather than passed to him by someone else), the person may choose to switch to any one character during the day.

If a day has been played by two characters, and both characters were active for at least a third of the day, the closing statement can be given for either one of the characters, and that determines which character's scoring rules apply.

If a day has been played by two characters, but one of those characters was active for less than a third of the day, then the closing statement and scoring will follow the other character's rules and anything done by the less-active character may be treated retroactively like it was a pause in the game. (Either all of it is ignored, or all of it is taken into account. No picking and choosing.)

Opening and closing statements: Talk about the other people who are on my mind.

General rules:
The concerns of other people, real or fictional, must always take precedence over my own concerns except for cases which will clearly lead to my immediate or eventual harm. The concerns of real people must always take precendence over the concerns of fictional people.

If I have been in control for an hour and no social interaction (or an activity whose main intent is preparation for social interaction) has taken place, the day must be ended immediately. This one-hour timer is not counting for any character but the Person, and is reset upon switching to the Person. (This rule applies even when the Person did not start the day.)

Scoring "rule":
Decide how meaningful the day was to me, taken on its own. Use whatever criteria seem appropriate.

Scoring "rule":
Decide how much positive change has occurred in my relationships with other people (real or fictional), compared to how much progress I estimate I could possibly have accomplished given the scenarios I was present in. If most of the potential for maintaining, building and strengthening relationships was reached, 10 points. If opportunities were entirely missed, zero points. If there was no potential at all, zero points. (I should not have spent a majority of the day as the person in that situation.)

Edited on July 1st, 2011

General behavioral patterns

If I get a 5/10 or lower, I may not play a character with similar interests on the next day.

I should always have at least a week planned out in broad strokes.

If I run into a situation which I don't know how to handle as whatever character I'm playing, I should schedule a character who can bypass the problem for before the next time I repeat the character who's struggling.

If other people unexpectedly become involved in a day, immediately switch to the person. I'll work out the details later.

The last day of the month is the addict, even if another addict has been played in the past two days. The subject of addiction must be a meeting of the personalities, which will be posted on the blog. The addict must play normally, including taking notes, but the day will not be scored and the time allocation table will not be posted on the web.

Edited on July 1st, 2011

If I continue a day after an interruption of over 5 hours, I should treat the next activity as a "first activity" to get back into the right mindset.

Always exercise (with Wii Fit) and tend to general hygiene each morning.

The game enters a mandatory break at 3:00 AM, regardless of character. The game may only continue after 7:00 AM, and no activities (including web-browsing, reading, reading comics or anything else) may be undertaken until that time.

In busy TV seasons, schedule two workers per week. I'll be watching the TV shows one way or another, and it's best not to mess up any days in the process.

A thinker should be scheduled for the earliest possible time as soon as I start to have feelings that I don't understand.

If I ever go a week without playing more than three hours of games (other than Wii Fit) which I didn't make myself, I should schedule a gamer.

If I'm having trouble playing a given character, don't wait for problems. Immediately pause the game and do whatever I need to do to get my head back in it. Reread this blog post, recite motivations out loud and repeatedly, jump up and down to build up energy, whatever.

It's a good idea to schedule characters who aren't similar to how I've been feeling. I should force myself to stretch my personality, rather than expecting characters which won't be a stretch. In fact, I may sometimes want to forgo scheduled characters just because they'll be too easy to play.Never demand anything from a character which does not fit their nature. Never put pressure on the Musician. Never expect the Worker to improvise. Never require the Explorer to focus. Never force the Gamer to be productive. And so on.

Before starting the day, figure everything out (while writing the opening statement) and get into the right frame of mind. Only when I'm sure I'm ready should I actually start.

If I'm feeling any kind of anxiety at all, do not play the addict!

If any kind of depression starts coming, or if I feel like I'm on the verge of burning out, do not delay in scheduling get-togethers with friends. It cannot be overstated how important this is.

I need to be very, very careful about when I choose to watch TV. There are all sorts of minefields to navigate with an activity so passive.

Unless I am playing a character who would not logically attend a social event, I should not pause the day when attending. If I do pause the day for this purpose, it is good form to specify this in the notes for the day.

Once a character has written an opening statement, no other character (other than the person) may be in control until the day has been ended. The penalty for breaking this rule is being banned for two weeks. A banned character may return early if (and only if) a majority of the other characters feel he is needed.

Back to performance reviews



If a game is in progress at 2:00 PM, 7:40 PM or 1:11 AM, I must pause the game at each of those times for at least one minute and consider my behaviors. I should specifically focus on whether the day is shaping up to be a reflection of the principles whatever character I'm playing stands for. If not, I may not continue the game until deciding how I will correct the problem.

Edited on July 1st, 2011



If twenty-four hours have passed since the last scoring period, the score for the day must immediately be estimated. (A precise calculation may not be possible before the closing statement and performance review.) If it is estimated that the score for the day (were it concluded immediately) would be 7/10 or higher, then the day may continue. Otherwise, the day must conclude immediately, and the formal review will take place.

If my plans rely on another person's involvement, and I do not know for certain that that person is 100% trustworthy on matters of time and place, the schedule should be confirmed with that person at some point within the twenty-four hours before his or her participation is required. If the person doesn't follow through and I didn't confirm, I have no one to blame but myself. (If I did confirm and the person doesn't follow through, blame away.) This rule may not be invoked to justify not being trustworthy myself. If a date and time has been agreed upon, I must be ready whether or not I have been reminded.

Edited on August 31st, 2011

At each multiple of 24 hours after the last scoring period, assuming that at least six hours have passed in the day, the score for the day must immediately be estimated. (A precise calculation may not be possible before the closing statement and performance review.) If it is estimated that the score for the day (were it concluded immediately) would be 7/10 or higher, then the day may continue. Otherwise, the day must conclude immediately, and the formal review will take place. This rule does not apply if the average score for the month is equal to or above 7/10.

If my plans rely on another person's involvement, and I do not know for certain that that person is 100% trustworthy on matters of time and place, the schedule should be confirmed with that person at some point within the twenty-four hours before his or her participation is required. If the person doesn't follow through and I didn't confirm, I have no one to blame but myself. (If I did confirm and the person doesn't follow through, blame away.) This rule may not be invoked to justify not being trustworthy myself. If a date and time has been agreed upon, I must be ready whether or not I have been reminded.

If the average score for the month after a scoring is under 6/10, the game immediately enters panic mode. During panic mode, the following rules are in effect:
  • No one (not even the Worker) may watch TV.
  • No one may read or edit comics. This even applies to the daily strips and regular webcomics.
  • No one (not even the Explorer) may watch movies.
  • Playing piano is only allowed for the Musician.
  • There will be no more than two hours of gaming per day for anyone except the Gamer. This does not apply to game-like activities that make money, such as data entry.
  • Web-browsing, with the exception of e-mail but including blogs, news sites and reference sites, may only be done by the Thinker.
In cases where the activities are a form of socializing, these rules do not apply to the Person. Comics are always forbidden, because while sharing comics might be social, the actual reading and editing is never a social activity. Web browsing is also forbidden for the Person, simply because forums are too dangerous an addiction to risk during panic mode. If the Gamer has a day during panic mode, it must be no longer than 12 hours in length and it must be followed by the Worker.
Panic mode ends immediately after scoring a day that pushes the average score for the month to 6.0/10 or above, or when a new month begins.

Edited on October 31st, 2011

Edited on September 28th, 2011

If a rule requires that the day be immediately ended, but the day has not yet reached its minimum length of three hours, then a conference will immediately take place. During this conference, the Thinker will decide on a different character (or a different version of the same character) for whom the activities engaged in so far would not be out of character, but who would not (unlike the replaced character) be required (for whatever reason) to end the day yet. After the conference, this character will immediately write a new opening statement, which will overwrite the previous statement, and the new character will take full responsibility for the entire day including the other character's actions. Use of this (rather obscure) rule must be listed in the notes for the day.

I reserve the right, as the programmer or the thinker, to add more rules here later. Suggestions are also welcome.
Now for the tricky part: these characters need to work together, to collectively form the version of myself that I've been hoping for. He doesn't need to be perfect, he just needs to be capable of navigating ridiculously varied and massively complex situations. I also need to avoid the extremes the earlier versions of me fell into: I can't lose sight of the rules, and I can't focus so much on the rules that it all becomes about finding loopholes.

2011, March 13th, 21:25 and 54 seconds

A treasure hunt

I am going to define a "song" as lyrics sung to a tune. There were seven short songs by this definition scattered through the blog prior to May 2010. Or, there would have been songs if I'd had a good way to record them. Instead, the songs either were referred to, were alluded to without details, or had their complete lyrics displayed, but there was no music. Some of these songs were serious, and some were very silly. Some were complete, and some were just rough ideas. Some of them had lyrics I didn't write. One of them I wrote with the intention of only ever sharing the lyrics. Others I've always been looking for an excuse to share with you in their original forms. I have now recorded myself singing all seven songs, with accompaniment where appropriate, and I have linked to these recordings from the original posts. Some of the songs are out in the open, accessible by just holding down the Page Down key for long enough. Others are so well hidden that I doubt anyone will find them. Happy hunting.


2011, March 2nd, 4:22 and 16 seconds

Performance reviews for March 2011


2011, February 28th, 3:16 and 47 seconds

Finally: My family game night

When my mother asked me what I wanted for my 23rd birthday, I couldn't think of an answer she'd consider valid. Both my parents were insistent that I have enough games, and why on Earth would I need yet another one? How about a good book, or... a good book? (It's taking me months to get through the two books I'm already in the middle of!) Or driving lessons? (I don't want to drive cars.) Or going out to a fancy restaurant, maybe? (Food is gone in an instant, leaving just the barest hint of a memory behind.) My father bought a Megillah, because as he says (though I have no memory of this) he's always wanted for us to have our own Megillah I can read from on Purim. That's pretty cool. Today I heard him refer to it in a phone conversation as a "birthday present" for me, though he's never put it in those terms for me. I just wanted another game or two, but they didn't want to get me something I'd appreciate; they just wanted to share something they'd appreciate with me.

"Are there any educational games you want?", my mother asked me. "Define educational.", I answered. They said I was being unreasonably rigid in my interests, and I said that my interests were very broad- there are a lot of different kinds of games! And I laughed, not because what I was saying was silly but because I knew that they had no idea what I was talking about. Games were one thing in their eyes, and they could only ever be that one thing: a waste of time. They didn't understand what it was like to get a truly new experience, or to get lost in a foreign world, or to reinvent themselves for a few hours. And while I felt like my values were being ridiculed, at the same time I pitied them. I wished they could appreciate the things I appreciate.

My mother kept asking what she could get me, and I kept failing to respond. With everything they'd given me in life already there really wasn't anything left (short of new games) that I wanted. Except for that one thing, which of course was out of the question because everyone but me seems to always be too busy with the real world. I didn't expect any real connection with my family, anymore. I'd moved on, and gotten myself friends to fill the gap in my life where it felt like a family ought to be. I've got Moshe now, and Avri and his board game club, and Harel and Rachel, and Aviella, all people I can be myself around without always worrying. With family, I know that my very existence could be offensive to them and they'd still pretend they didn't despise me because you're not allowed to despise family. But now I have lots of people who I don't need to second-guess, so I didn't get my hopes up when I asked once again if they'd play games with me.

But they said yes. My parents and Dena and Miriam all accepted that on some evening, they'd all come home and play games with me.

Hearing this consensus, my mind raced with the possibilities. I ran through the list of my favorite videogames, imagining how I could present these experiences to involve all of them. But then I remembered what I'd said once about that, and I stopped myself. I wasn't nearly as desperate this year, so I could think a bit more logically. Even if I found a way to get every single one of them to truly experience, say, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, they wouldn't enjoy it. And then what? Did I really want to put my favorite experiences up for being judged by people who I expected to be incapable of appreciating them?

My mother doesn't like for anything to ever be tense. My father doesn't like ever feeling like he's not in complete control. Miriam doesn't like anything that's challenging. And Dena doesn't like things that don't fit into neat little socially-acceptable categories. The challenge wasn't to get them to appreciate my favorite experiences. That was unwinnable. The challenge was to find a game in which they could appreciate some of what I love about games.

I surprised everyone by picking not videogames (as I've always tried to give them) but board games. Three games, in a very particular order: Clue: The Great Museum Caper, Shadows Over Camelot, Robo Rally. The first of those we've owned for over fifteen years but never played, and the other two I borrowed from Avri. These are games which involve skill but also teamwork, with rulesets that pull the players in to very specific miniature worlds.

Part of the reason I wanted to start with The Great Museum Caper is that playing a game called Clue is something our family does have experience with, though we haven't played that game in years and even when we did it wasn't more frequently than one game every two or three years. But still, starting with something like Robo Rally which even looks alien would alienate all of them right off the bat, whereas if we can say we're playing with "Colonel Mustard" and "Mrs. Peacock" there's the illusion of familiarity. I say "illusion" because The Great Museum Caper actually is absolutely nothing like Clue. It's a very clever and surprisingly complex game that just happens to be branded "Clue".

The game has a very nice 3D board representing an art museum, with famous paintings spread throughout the rooms and security cameras placed strategically. Three players are guards, and one player is a thief. The thief doesn't actually move around the board, but writes her moves on a pad of paper behind a shield. The guards need to work together to figure out where she is, and catch her. The thief tries to steal as many paintings as she can get away with, disabling cameras to aid her movement. When she's spotted, she needs to escape the building before the guards catch up to her. You play the game four times, so that each player gets to be the thief, and whoever stole the most paintings as thief wins.

I was worried that there would be unrest, because it was a four-player game and we were five players. But the game was a major hit. We took turns sitting out of rounds, and all five of us got to be thieves. Dena was the first thief, and got three paintings before escaping. Everyone else was caught. My father was really sneaky, and we were chasing him around for a long time. But then, immediately after taking a painting (thereby letting us know where he was) he asked "So to disable a camera, I just need to step on it?", which was not smart. My mother immediately ran to the only nearby camera, and caught him. I made a similar mistake, stopping on a point where two cameras intersected (thereby letting the guards know precisely where I was). My mother didn't even make it out of the room she started in, because she doesn't know how to be sneaky. But every one of us enjoyed the game, such that we would have all been up for another five rounds if I hadn't insisted on bringing out the next game.

After a break for pizza, I explained the rules for Shadows Over Camelot. "We are the Knights of the Round Table", I announced, "tirelessly fighting against the forces of evil!". The game is cooperative, but normally there's one randomly picked player who's (unbeknownst to all) playing a traitor, and that player secretly sabotages the other players' plans. We didn't do that, because if there were a traitor then everyone would need to understand all the rules perfectly, and I didn't have that kind of time. If we were all on the same side, then the rules could be clarified at any relevant point without raising suspicions. Another rule I did away with was that each knight has his own personal ability, again to simplify.

After The Great Museum Caper, we were all thinking in terms of both cooperating with each other and serving our own interests (The traitor would have added a lot of welcome drama to the proceedings, but the time limitations were what they were.), and now those attitudes would go into a big world with lots of small games inside it. Unfortunately my father sat out of the entire game, because he'd just gotten a phone call notifying him that a patient of his had died, and needed to go to the family. The rest of us worked together. Dena (playing as King Arthur, fittingly) did much of the heavy lifting in the Quests: she searched for the Grail, she jousted with the Black Knight, and she single-handedly fought off the Pict invasion. My mother helped out wherever she could, and eventually stood against the siege engines rolling toward the castle while the rest of us travelled. I served as advisor to all the other players. And Miriam did whatever we told her to do. With our teamwork, the forces of evil were no match for us. (I hope we can come back to Camelot some day, playing with all the rules this time.)

My father came back in time to see the tail end of the game, not understanding much of what he was seeing. Over my objections my family insisted on a break for birthday cheesecake, and then I tried to explain Robo Rally.

A large part of the reason I wanted Robo Rally is that my father is a fan of The Amazing Race. It's a reality TV show where teams of two race around the world having to deal with all sorts of challenges without letting tensions get in the way of their teamwork. My mother watches with him, and I thought it would be very interesting to see how they dealt with a similar structure in a game. (Again, the existence of a traitor in Shadows Over Camelot would have led neatly into the sort of backstabbing that Robo Rally inspires. Ah well.) We were three teams, two teams of two and me. (I figured this would be balanced because I have so much experience with the game.) I had picked out a very simple board and decided where I'd be placing three flags. They were close to the starting points, because it was already late and I wanted to have a full game.

In Robo Rally each player controls a robot on a board filled with obstacles. You give the robot five commands, and it executes those commands one after the other. You move around, you go onto conveyor belts to move faster, you push the other robots into pits, you shoot lasers at each other, and eventually each team needs to get to the three flags, in order. My father played with Dena, and my mother played with Miriam. This was not entirely balanced, as it turned out that Dena picked up the rules faster than any of the others and both my mothe and Miriam struggled with basic visual coordination throughout.

I rushed ahead of everyone else to make up for being alone, so they all shot me in the back as they chased after me. After getting the second flag I stopped for repairs, which was possibly a mistake because it prevented me from catching up. My mother got more coordinated over the course of the game, but it's hard to say if Miriam was even trying. Her movements seemed to be entirely random and counterproductive. My father started out strong, getting the first flag right away, but then he stubbornly decided to try the same dangerous route to the third flag (Dena got to the second flag on the second turn.) over and over, each time falling of the board. When my mother accidentally bumped into him, pushing him off the board yet again instead of letting him win, he cursed and he pounded the table and it was a litle bit scary but I was so happy to see it. He wasn't just my father, he was that little robot who just wanted to make it to the finish line. He lost all three of his lives, and Dena hit the third flag giving them the win.

We finished Robo Rally exactly four hours after starting Clue: The Great Museum Caper, and I felt like I had a real honest-to-God family with relationships and everything. I always wanted for my family to experience the same things I've experienced, but I was wrong. Experiences are personal and subjective and they're not like me. But in the right social situation, those differences can drive some really compelling interactions. On that Robo Rally board, with my father furious at my mother for knocking into him and me trying to stay ahead of everyone and my mother trying to keep up while pretending not to care and Miriam being ridiculous and Dena moving forward steadily unnoticed, I felt like we were a real family. For a few hours, we existed in the same virtual space. And in those few hours, I felt like I got to know them better than in years of living with them. We can be a family, after all; we're just a bit out of practice.


three comments, the last one being from Moshe
Moshe said:

Sorry for once again being late, how ever, many happy returns.

I do think that it was an excellent idea to use more physical interaction games, than virtual ones, (a nice compromise) to bridge the world you live in with ours. :)

pleased that everyone enjoyed them selves, so do try something like this in the future.

Tamir said on March 10th:

About yesterday - I'd like you to know that I got exactly what I wanted, which was a window into your world. I enjoyed myself greatly, and Zelda has been swimming through my head all day. Don't be too surprised if I come back for more. (Just gotta figure out how to make time for it...)

In any case - thank you.

Moshe said:

links Mory Links!
You need to put a time stamp so we know which comment is related to which "performance review", its getting a little confusing.

09 March 2011:
Its great to hear that you've got the last bit trip game, I know how long you've been waiting for it.

10 March 2011:

you could ask someone more skilled in ether the piano or in voice for assistance.

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2011, February 7th, 20:58 and 41 seconds

Sequential Motion Pictures

I recently made a new character -an explorer, who'd have the right kind of passion to stick with Angles & Circles through whatever hardships it dictated. One of this character's quirks is that he loves movies almost as much as he loves exploration games. So I've been downloading lots of movies which I've always been curious about but have never seen. The danger, of course, is that movies are a very passive activity. Once you start believing that a world will go on whether or not you move a muscle, it's easy to fall into a dead calm and never get out again. So I anticipated that I'd continually need the blog to remind me of who I was and why. But on the day I defined this character, I reread assorted blog posts and didn't see where I could go next. So on the following day, I had no urgent need to keep the blog in mind. Movies floated to the top, Angles & Circles didn't stand out, and as I explored and drew I had to suppress a sense of hopelessness, of existing in nonexistent space. I felt alone, and insignificant, and before exhaustedly collapsing into bed I concluded that I'd bitten off more than I could chew with this character.

I woke up in the middle of the night from a particularly strange dream. It was not an unpleasant dream; I woke up because I decided (while dreaming) that I needed to be conscious enough for a revelation about my place in the world. That is precisely how conscious I was. The revelation was that it was my duty to make a blog post depicting the dream I was having. Once I had given myself this important message, I fell asleep again. I have no recollection of what the dream was that I was supposed to write about. But in the days that followed, the sense of purpose I had felt remained. It was my duty to make worlds that people could get lost in, as I'd been lost in that dream. Because it's good to be lost every now and then. In the light of a movie projector, you know exactly where you are and there's no need to move on. But in the dark, you feel around and find your way.


When I woke up that morning, the song "Singin' in the Rain" was stuck in my head. I ran to my computer, wrote in my opening statement, and started to watch the movie I'd downloaded on a whim a few days earlier and had not thought of since. I had no idea where I was going, but I was happy again.

There are some things which are called "classic" just because they're old. The 1952 musical Singin' in the Rain is not one of them. It's a passionate love letter to Hollywood. Though, it was made in Hollywood, so I guess it's Hollywood's passionate love letter to itself. I can respect that. The film exists to propagate a belief in the magic of Hollywood, where life is simple and true love is real and song-and-dance numbers are the preferred method of communication. This Hollywood can't exist, but for the viewers of a good old-fashioned musical like Singin' in the Rain it somehow does exist, and that reassures. When I finished watching the movie I wanted to dance, and it barely mattered that I've never done any real dancing and am probably way too clumsy for it. In the movies, everyone can dance. So why not I?

Under the screenplay credit in the film's opening, is written: "Suggested by the song". Interestingly, that song was 23 years old when the movie was released. (Here's the original version, and here's the remake.) The other songs weren't much newer - they were all taken from other MGM movies from around the 1930s. Our modern views of anything from 60 years ago are so tinged with nostalgia, that it's easy to forget this was meant to be a nostalgic experience even then. It encourages the audience to see their familiar, popular entertainments as a kind of miracle. It took songs which everyone already knew, repackaged them into a mostly conventional plot, and tried to convince the audience that when they indulged in these happy clichés they were witnessing something incredible. No, that's not fair to say - it doesn't try. It does convince the audience. It convinced me. Part of that is Gene Kelly's dancing. And part of it is the way the three heroes are so naïvely passionate about what they're doing, in defiance of any elitists who might scoff "That's not art!".

But there's also a particularly subtle bit of sleight-of-hand going on in the script. You see, Singin' in the Rain pretends to demystify Hollywood. The beginning of the movie does not take place in anything approximating the real world -if it did, the rest of the movie wouldn't work- but there's an acknowledgment of Hollywood's essential phoniness. The setting is 1920s-era Hollywood, which is shown to be glamorous and larger than life. We see actors arriving to a film premiere, smiling cheerfully for the cameras. The personas these actors present are fabrications, their wonderful lives a performance for the gossip papers. We meet an actress who is adored by all, except for everyone who knows her. And we meet a respected actor, who lies about his past in order to seem sophisticated. "Ah!", the viewer says, "Here is a movie about the true face of Hollywood!". We are shown that movies are silly things where actors stand in contrived poses and act however love-story formula dictates.

And then the movie suggests that it's only silent film that's like that, and when sound was added suddenly we were seeing things the way they really were. The romance between the two actors at the start was fake, but the romance with this other actress is totally real! Holding a dramatic pose is ridiculous, but doing a tap dance is perfectly natural! The movie can convince us of these strange ideas, because the script has been carefully calculated to get us onto the movie's side. We've already decided that we are witnessing the real film industry, so when it starts rebuilding the Hollywood fantasy, we've already let our guard down too much to question it. The big love song is set on an empty movie set, with a large fan simulating wind around a dirty ladder, and they're singing a 1930s love song at each other, and for a minute I jumped between thinking things like "You can see that this is real love, not like with the other actress!" and wondering "If this is an empty set, then where's the orchestration coming from?". I realized that I'd lost sight of what was real and what was not, and I shooed away that thought because I wanted to believe. In the movie, we see people who through nothing more than passion for their medium and their friends are able to make magic. That's a world worth believing in.

In the real world passion gets you nowhere without unbelievable amounts of hard work. The film's female lead, Debbie Reynolds, once said: "Singin' in the Rain and childbirth were the two hardest things I ever had to do in my life.". And for all the comedy the movie gets out of Reynolds' character dubbing over another actress's singing, it's ironic that some of Reynolds' songs were dubbed over for the movie by a more experienced singer! In the real world, nothing and no one can ever be perfect enough. But in a movie, everything can be just so.

There's a cute little moment in the movie where we see people in the business reacting to their first glimpse of a "talkie": "It's just a toy!", "It's vulgar.", "It'll never amount to a thing.". Later in the movie, the first sound film is a success and it makes everything they're doing look like a relic of an earlier time. But in that moment, the filmmakers are oblivious. This scene comes shortly after a conversation in which film is argued to be inferior to live theater. I find that interesting. I also find it interesting that just a few months after Singin' in the Rain in 1952, Hollywood made its first color 3D film. The general public is not loyal to one format over another. If an entertainment is successful, it is because it gives its audience an experience they value. If a stronger experience elsewhere can get them what they're looking for, they will move on.
There are a lot of production companies for amateur English-speaking theater in the Jerusalem area. There are musicals and dramas and comedies and Shakespeare and childish religious shows and everything in between. And this is odd, because there's not that much demand for amateur English-speaking theater in the Jerusalem area. The production companies were (and continue to be) founded by people who love theater. And people like me join their productions because we love theater. As long as people like us live in the Jerusalem area, we'll be putting on shows. The audience is not a huge part of the equation.

What do we have to offer audiences, anyway? For free they can download stories off the internet, whose every moment was carefully calculated and precisely timed. On a film budget you can create whole worlds, and inhabit them with famous and world-class actors. We cannot compete with that. Our shows are more chaotic, more awkward, less immersive, less skilled. And we're charging as much as a hundred shekels per seat. Why would people bother coming to the theater?

The simple answer is that in many cases, they aren't. Some of these production companies just put on obscure plays in cheap venues, reusing props and costumes and whole sets to keep to a tiny budget. They could try to put more effort into advertising, but there's not much point. The audience isn't there. The actors' families and friends show up, some people who were curious and have time to kill show up, and hopefully enough money comes in to keep going for another day. These shows are being put on because their directors want to put them on, and people volunteer to be part of it because they want to be part of it. Some companies actually charge their actors for the privilege of participating, and people still work with them. It's just too much fun to turn down.

The production company of my last show only does productions that people will come to. Mainly Gilbert & Sullivan, but also Rodgers & Hammerstein and other musicals that people will have nostalgia for from having seen the movie adaptations. This company gets bigger audiences than the others, and therefore has bigger budgets to work with and a more expensive stage to act on. They can charge more, and get away with it because from the audience's perspective it's practically professional. They charged a hundred shekels a ticket for our show, plus five shekels if you wanted the programme. (So even though I was the lead, most of the people who saw my performance don't know my name.) The theater we were in doesn't have enough dressing rooms, and it's in a location with no parking nearby. (If you park on the same street, you come back from the show to find a different kind of ticket waiting.) And understand: this is what you can afford when you only do shows with guaranteed audiences. See, people already have passive entertainments in their lives. They don't need us.

So many people who couldn't be bothered to come have asked me for a DVD of the show. There will be a DVD, soon enough, and of a good performance. But my gut reaction is to be annoyed at them, because they should have seen me in the intended context. Then again, why? What's so great about theater? If they had come, they might have seen us on a bad day! And if they missed a line, that's too bad because the play just keeps moving on. The sound couldn't be perfect, because there are so many variables in a live performance. But at home they can just rewind and listen again. Let's be honest: if I could see plays on my computer screen instead of sitting in a theater, I'd probably do that too. Why would anyone want to see a work that's still in the process of growing? When it's already found its way and isn't so flawed anymore, and when you can see it without having the whole day revolve around it, then it'll be ready to be watched.

A happy story
A difficult plan

At some point years from now I'll make the game Through the Wind, a platformer mimicking dance. The player's avatar will be very vague in its appearance, so that he can more easily pretend it's him. If he is not particularly skilled, the controls themselves will subtly stretch as he plays so that he may experience the expressiveness of movement. But if he does have some competency with a controller, the game will expect him to discover the expressiveness himself. And a player dedicated to the art will practice more complex motions, to evoke emotions for an audience in the room, watching him play. Three methods of communication, all relying on a control scheme which I've long since planned out in the broad strokes. A player may switch between modes at any moment, exploring the possibilities available to him.
Through the Wind is an ambitious game which I'm not qualified to make. The entire experience is built on the sensation of moving a body through space, and I have minimal control over my own body. I am not familiar with dance even as an audience, but to make this game I would need to intimately understand how it feels to dance, from personal experience. I am the wrong person for the job, and following the philosophy I've been cultivating on this blog that means I will need to become the right person for the job. The character I will play will be a dancer, obsessed for several years with improving himself at ballet. The more I think about the details of this plan, the more I am intimidated and want to never make Through the Wind. But in the end the details will fade away and all that will be remembered is a charming little story.

Of the handful of times I've gone to a movie theater over the past year, almost all involved 3D glasses. So the way I see it right now, Avatar permanently changed the medium. 3D used to be a novelty, and now it's an expected part of the movie-going experience. A recent trailer for the movie Thor advertised: "In 3D! (and 2D in select theaters)", as though a flat image is now the novelty. It seems the only movies considered unsuitable for the third dimension are low-budget dramas. But I hope that changes soon. Dramas should be in 3D too.

The last movie I saw in theaters was Tron: Legacy, on (what I later found out was) the very last evening it was showing in local theaters. I took Moshe with me, who had never seen a 3D movie before. He did not like the effect. He said that throughout the movie, he had trouble focusing his eyes. And I can see why he might have had a problem. The format and presentation was far from perfect. The image is dark and seems to have very jerky movement, the exit sign in the room adds a slight glare that bounces off the glasses, and neither the glasses nor the screen are ever perfectly clean. These weaknesses were exacerbated by the way this movie was photographed, with very quickly panning cameras in all the establishing shots. In 3D (both because of this particular technology, and because of a general principle), it takes a little bit longer to process the images in your mind. So establishing shots need to take their time. But these are nitpicks, which can be corrected with practice. Occasionally there were images that took their time, and they were just a pleasure to see. When the camera stands still, everything you're seeing takes on an air of realness, that was certainly beneficial in a movie set almost entirely in a virtual world.

I went to that movie expecting a spectacle. Nothing more, nothing less. I expected to see the world of the 1982 Tron, fleshed out with modern techniques and presented in 3D. If it were not in 3D, I would not have cared much about this movie. At most, I would have downloaded it to my computer a year or two after the fact. But when it's in 3D, it's an event. It's a trip to another world. The movie worked better as a story than I expected, and not quite as well as a spectacle (due to the aforementioned quick camera pans). But overall, I felt I got my money's worth. It did not concern me much that the plot was clichéd, the ending was vague, some of the action scenes were confusing, and some of the characters (including the hero) were uninteresting. They weren't what I'd come for. But I was delighted to see those 3D car races, and walls made out of dots, and the view from a flying transport. Images like that are why movies matter, and while they'd be neat in 2D, in 3D they're an invitation to come in and wander around for myself. I know I can't. I know I'm not going to get that from Hollywood. But my brain is tricked into thinking I can, for two hours, and that's worth the ticket price.

3D displays are the inevitable next step, in the long road of progress that leads to the revolution. I don't know if the specific technologies used in today's theaters is going to last more than a few years more, given all the drawbacks, but once no glasses are needed and all the kinks are worked out I expect for 2D to seem hopelessly quaint. Our computer and TV screens will be 3D, our cellphones (hopefully with video chat standardized, finally) will be 3D, every major street will have 3D advertisements jumping out at us. When that day comes, Hollywood is going to need to adapt. Everything they do will need to be in 3D, or it'll feel fake.

A few decades after that, I expect the movie-theater culture to start dying out. Because once we start seeing reality in virtual worlds, we're going to expect them to behave like reality. No more of this staged nonsense. Why should I spend an hour on the bus going to an imitation of the old theatrical venues, when I can stay at home and get a more personal experience on a videogame console? Why should anyone go on a date to a dark room where they sit quietly and passively accept whatever's fed to them, when they could instead travel to a virtual world together -in private- and go wherever they want? Why should kids be encouraged to simply accept the worlds they see, instead of being given environments where they can make their own worlds?

For now, I'm satisfied with watching a virtual world passively, because I don't expect much forward thinking from the entertainment industries. But in the back of my mind as I watch, there's always the dream that it's going to be more personal. I'm going to be able to walk around and find my own way through the maze. I'm going to be able to feel the walls, and control the cars, and be the character and choose the ending. This can all already be done, so I know Hollywood is behind the times. But no one's moving forward, yet.
The first time I saw 2001: A Space Odyssey, I had no clue what to make of the plot. But I adored the experience of watching it. Kubrick's direction is such that when I saw the empty world at the beginning of the movie, with the precursors to man doing nothing in particular, I felt like I was there at the dawn of man. And when it showed a spaceship moving through space to the sound of the Blue Danube Waltz, I felt like in some small way I understood the vastness and emptiness of space. And when the hallucinogenic part of the movie started, I just accepted it without asking questions. It was like a concert, but made of places rather than sounds. The characters, the plot, that was all irrelevant to me. It was already one of the best movies I'd ever seen, just because of what it was showing me. After reading articles on the internet I feel like I have a slightly better understanding of the plot, but I'd be lying if I said that's what I'm thinking about as I'm watching. I'm just watching, and enjoying watching.

Avatar was a great movie, because it existed to let James Cameron show us Pandora and Pandora is a great world. But I can only imagine how great it'd be if it hadn't tried to tell a story. I don't mind the story, taken on its own. It's predictable and derivative, but it was done well enough. But it had no business being there. It damages the purity of this journey to another world to have it follow a plot and characters. I wish James Cameron had just made a "nature documentary" giving a tour of Pandora, with no plot whatsoever, showing us all the things cool enough to come to the theater for. No one would have come to see it, because people still think the point of a movie has to be a story. But in Avatar the point really wasn't the story, so it would have been a purer experience.

Nowadays, it's perfectly possible to watch every episode of a TV show, for free. (In America, it's sometimes even legal!) So TV writers tend to expect that you've seen every episode, in a way that they'd never have gotten away with a few decades ago. Even procedurals tend to have long-running character arcs and subplots. The appeal is straightforward. When you see a standalone film, you believe it exists as you're watching, and then when it ends you snap back to reality. But if you know you'll be entering that world again soon, then it's there in the back of your mind even as you're not watching. After a while the characters just seem to be real, because you meet them regularly. The kind of continuity that is now commonplace on television allows the characters to behave closer to our expectations of them, because real people do grow and change and remember where they've been.

In theory, this serialized film format should have more potential than the one-off movies, because there's so much more you can do in three years than in two hours. But in practice, TV tends to be even more bland and unambitious than most films. Television is the lower-class film, the cheap product you churn out to make advertisers happy year after year. And while it's exactly the same medium as film, whenever it starts to act like film in its direction and scope we gasp and say "I had no idea TV could be this good!". TV shows are not taken very seriously by the people making them. Any one of those actors or writers or directors would jump ship in a heartbeat for a movie deal.

One of my favorite current TV shows is The Walking Dead, a zombie show based on a comic book of the same name. It was created by Frank Darabont, the director of The Shawshank Redemption, and the network prepared someone to replace him for the second season because they didn't expect a big shot movie director would stick around. But by all indications, Darabont has a tremendous amount of enthusiasm for what he's doing and doesn't plan on leaving, so the other producer left for another show. I'm not normally a fan of zombie stories, but it's just really really good. The directing, the acting, the production values and everything else are much better than you'd expect from a TV show. As a result, the show's ratings are the highest ever for cable. I expect what other networks will learn from this is that horror shows sell, which is a shame, because the lesson is actually that people are starved for serialized stories that don't act like second-class citizens of Hollywood.

Seeing Toy Story 3 in 3D was probably the most powerful experience I've ever had in a movie theater. And it's about a bunch of dolls in a day care center, which just goes to show -like I always say- there's no premise that can't become a great story in the hands of the right storyteller. It's all about how you do it. And I can point to specific moments that made me laugh or cry or worry or cheer -quite a lot of them, in fact; but taken on their own it's not entirely clear how they work. These scenes were not made in isolation- they're part of the bigger picture. And in the case of Toy Story 3, even looking at the entire movie as a whole doesn't show the big picture, because the filmmakers relied on the audience having seen the movie's two predecessors as well.

The first Toy Story came out in 1995. I remember seeing it in theaters, and having my little mind blown. Our parents bought it for us on VHS (as they did with most new Disney releases), and I watched it over and over and over until every line was burned into my brain. After that I developed more of an interest in all the stuffed animals we had lying around. I imagined that not only did they all come to life when I wasn't looking (as Andy's toys did in the movie), but soon they'd let me in on their little secret and I'd talk with them all the time and eventually we'd make movies together about them playing sports against live-action sports teams who don't respect them because they're stuffed animals. (My imagination was limited.) So while I never played with Toy Story-branded toys, those characters are very much linked in my mind to my childhood feeling that playing pretend was as important as reality. (I haven't changed much.)

The third movie begins with a ridiculous action sequence featuring the toys, out of what might have been the greatest adventure serial ever, ridiculously over-the-top and childishly derivative. Not only does this remind me of what uncensored imagination was like, but it also reminds us directly of the first and second movies, by repeating catch phrases ("Ride like the wind, Bullseye!") and plot points ("I brought my dinosaur, who eats force-field dogs!") from the silly stories Andy told before. So right from the first moments the film (very deliberately) gave me two levels of nostalgia, and as soon as the scene's over it abruptly jumps to now, where most of the toys are gone and there are no more games to play. The most depressing moment (for me) was when they quickly mention in passing that the Bo Peep doll is gone, because she was a major character in the first movie and it's such an unceremonious way to write her out. The second movie had a happy, optimistic ending. So to start from this really empty existence for the toys is very dark and depressing. And it fits with what the second movie was building up: the idea that for toys, being discarded is inevitable. The film plays up Jesse's reactions a little bit more than the other toys', so that you think back to the song "When She Loved Me" and feel like you knew it was coming.

My point in all this is that the movie was playing me like a harmonica right from the first two scenes. And it never let go of me, all the way up to the last few seconds of the story. When the big emotional moments came, I had already had an hour and a half of conditioning (built upon fifteen years of memories) setting it up so that I'd be in exactly the right frame of mind for it to hit me like a bag of bricks. I can't even think of the death scene for a second without tearing up, and in the moment it happened I was so caught up in the emotions that I was certain the movie would end then and there with a black screen and all the toys were going to die. It felt real, and it felt personal, and until this movie I thought only videogames were capable of affecting me like that.

I've rewatched the movie on my computer, but it's just not the same. Toy Story 3 was a particular moment in my life, when I legitimately had no idea what to expect from moment to moment (I walked into that movie expecting some sort of third act where the toys' sentience is revealed to the world.) and the illusion of reality was maintained. Each time I rewatch it'll be less real, until eventually it'll just be a movie I like rather than a special experience. Also, I feel the 3D was very important. It gave the impression of actual toys moving on the floor (rather than images moving on the wall). And the first act had a lot of slow or static establishing shots, giving a very clear sense of the room around them. By the time they're doing the big escape scenes, you're already aware of the day care center's layout, and you believe the toys are actually there in physical space so you're on the edge of your seat. There is no point in the movie where the director reminds you "This is a 3D movie.", which means that in your head, it's not. It's just real, and you don't question it.

It's hard to believe the Nintendo 3DS is coming out this month. An actual glasses-free 3D game system, that I can carry around with me. It's going to be priced $250, which is $70 more than I expected. But still- that's a price that within a year or two I could probably save up enough to pay.

There are all sorts of really promising games lined up for it (including a new Paper Mario!), but honestly the thing that excites me most is The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. If you've been reading this blog for any length of time you know how much that 1998 game means to me. I got a Nintendo 64 from my grandfather just so that I'd be able to play the original version, which I finished doing a month ago. But now they're remaking it, in 3D. The gameplay all looks to be relatively unchanged except for the control scheme (and having a constant map on the bottom screen -I'm concerned about how that'll change the opening), but the graphics have all been redone in 3D. I can wander around Hyrule, for real this time. I'm not expecting much in the way of originality from any of the launch games, but a more convincing version of Hyrule is worth $250 to me.

You probably think I'm being ridiculous. Why would I spend so much money on something that's just a slightly enhanced version of what I already have? But I don't really have it yet. I've shown Ocarina of Time to so many people now, in so many formats, and still I haven't seen a single person's face light up with the revelation that there are other worlds to exist in. Some find it entertaining, some get bored, but no one has the moment I had. Through its skillful manipulations, it made me believe that Hyrule was real and I, not a mere character but I myself, was on an epic journey through it. If I can hand the game to one person someday who is trapped in reality, who sees this little vision of another world as real as any, and in so doing free that person from her own preconceptions, then it will have been worth all the money in the world.

A film, once shipped to the theaters, is fixed in place. This is the strength and the weakness of the cinematic medium. Every detail, every quirk, every mistake is immortalized. Images and sounds and sequences get burned into our heads as the only way the story could possibly go, which gives the work the impression (especially after many viewings) of being definitive. And yet, the work is inherently dead, because it can never grow after the last edit. A later filmmaker sensing potential and opportunity may create a remake, or a sequel, or a spin-off, but this will be frowned upon by those who love the original. Film is not supposed to keep going. You put all the pieces together just so, and then you put it on the wall and keep it there forever. Film is taxidermy.


Every time I start watching a movie, when the studio logo comes up I'm filled with excitement and anticipation. I am about to witness something which is one of a kind. Every moment was slaved over for years, to present this unchanging rectangular area in which I should receive an uninterrupted stream of entertainment. As I watch, nothing exists except for the world which is being presented to me. The real world doesn't exist. The screen doesn't exist. The rest of the audience doesn't exist. I don't exist; I am simply a disembodied consciousness, silently watching. When the end credits roll and the lights turn on, I may smile but I'm disappointed. I have now seen the movie, and all potentials are now closed off. The movie is exposed for the simple sequence of images it was, the accompanying experience being a trick of the light. I may watch the movie again someday, but there is nothing more to discover.


2011, February 2nd, 12:39 and 20 seconds

Performance reviews for February 2011


Monday, November 4, 2013

The strangest phone call I have ever had, part 2

I walked with Yardena to the bus stop as she left for work. We hugged for a while, and then the bus came and she was off. I started walking toward the park which I'd once stumbled into, with lots of nooks and crannies where one might be creative. When I got there, I called Tuvia and pitched him my idea.

The album starts out with Brahms' Lullaby reinterpreted as a loud late-night party, like so... -"I love it, it's Brahms with syncopation! You know, there are people who...".

2011, January 20th, 23:00 and 11 seconds

Portrait of a Shape-Shifter

Today marks six years since I began this blog.But I'm not sure if that's true.I'm not sure this is the same blog.
Its style has changed.Its location has changed.Its author has changed.
Hours and years for a single page.A never-ending vertical worldmaking your browser cry.
The posts are interconnected.You'd only see all the patterns...You'd only see all the contradictions.
I didn't actually expect you.Feel free to wander.Find a little corner here you can own.
But I can get lost in my own head.Don't fall in with me.There is no map.
Six years of introspectionhave filled in the old cracks.So now I make new ones.
Don't fall in.Or do.I'd enjoy the company.

Tell me, weblog: why am I sitting here, writing this? There's nothing left to say. My plans have been shot to hell, because you don't really care about my plans, do you? I wrapped up the whole story last year. I'd been working toward that for a long time, and then I reached the end. I had a plan. I'd give you a grand finale, and then add a post:
Here ends Part II.

There will now be a three-year intermission.

Three years away from you, focused on doing things rather than thinking about things, by the end of which I'd have my life together. Everything would fit together into a neat little order, once I didn't have you picking away at the tiny little cracks and making everything worse. After those three years I would have brought you back in medias res, with an entirely new person writing. A woman, quirky and Asperger-y and fun and giving absolutely no indication of what had happened to me, and then after three posts of the readers wondering "What the hell is this?" it would turn out that without your meddling I'd gotten myself a life, and this was my new girlfriend who I'd be co-writing with. A real girlfriend, not some fictional substitute. And it would turn out that I'd already finished most of the gamism plan, and had moved on to the five games already.

But I can't do that, because you keep stopping me. Don't you see?, it's you, holding me back. I could respect myself, if there were ever a minute you weren't there to remind me of my failures. And you distract me. You say, go be an actor! Go be someone you're not! Go do something silly, so that I get a new post out of it! But I don't have a post to give you. I gave you the Ruddigore story, and now I'm right back to square one, not trying to get anywhere in particular. I haven't worked on any games in ten days, and you've got no problem with that. This is what you wanted: not progress, not hard work, but just endless storytelling. You want me to keep writing, even though I have nothing left to say. So here I am, babbling like an idiot, with a few people actually showing up these days to hear what I have to say, who are probably angry at me right now because you have me sitting here and wasting their time.


Well? Say something, damn you. Speak in that silly little robotic voice of yours and give me an order already! Why do I have to guess what'll make you better? I feel like I give, and I give, and no matter what I do it's never going to be enough for you. Tell me what you want!



Hh. What good are you? All you show me is who I've been before. But day by day I'm changing, because of you. You never let me stop. And the more you make me change, the less coherent you are. I can't just leave you like that. You know I can't leave you like that. Eventually, the whole story will need to make sense from beginning to end. I tried doing that, in I vs. I, but it wasn't enough. I only spent two and a half months on that. You deserve better.


How can I have anything to write? Tomorrow, you'll want me to be someone who disapproves of whatever I say here! Each post needs to reflect the entire narrative that's led into it. When I started a blog, I was writing about whatever random things I had on my mind. But that's not good enough anymore. You keep needing to be bigger and bigger. At first I just needed to talk, and then I needed you to make sense, and then I needed to give you momentum, and then you needed to be an epic, and eventually you'll need to be the best blog on the internet. And if I don't take the next step, then what was the point of all of it? I need to make a continuation that justifies all the build-up. I can't live up to that. I can't be the writer you need.

I'm sorry.



Well? Say something, damn you. Speak in that silly little robotic voice of yours and give me an order already! Why do I have to guess what'll make you better? I feel like I give, and I give, and no matter what I do it's never going to be enough for you. Tell me what you want!



Hh. What good are you? All you show me is who I've been before. But day by day I'm changing, because of you. You never let me stop. And the more you make me change, the less coherent you are. I can't just leave you like that. You know I can't leave you like that. Eventually, the whole story will need to make sense from beginning to end. I tried doing that, in I vs. I, but it wasn't enough. I only spent two and a half months on that. You deserve better.
Declaration: "This blog trusts its writer."

How can I have anything to write? Tomorrow, you'll want me to be someone who disapproves of whatever I say here! Each post needs to reflect the entire narrative that's led into it. When I started a blog, I was writing about whatever random things I had on my mind. But that's not good enough anymore. You keep needing to be bigger and bigger. At first I just needed to talk, and then I needed you to make sense, and then I needed to give you momentum, and then you needed to be an epic, and eventually you'll need to be the best blog on the internet. And if I don't take the next step, then what was the point of all of it? I need to make a continuation that justifies all the build-up. I can't live up to that. I can't be the writer you need.

I'm sorry.

SpaceChem
No fatigue here
Deliberate plagiarism
With all the tedium that I've come to associate with programming, it's easy to forget that I used to find it very exciting. You come up with some zany idea, analyze it until it fits into logical patterns, and once you've gotten it right you can press a button and it starts moving on its own. Come to think of it, I'm not sure I've ever had this experience, exactly. I'm really just remembering what I thought I could do but never had the patience to find out. After all, programming isn't easy. It's all well and good to say "I'm going to make an artificial intelligence program!", or even "I'm going to make a small game!", but it always turns out to be radically more complicated than you'd expect.

I've been thinking about my early programming because that more than anything else is what the puzzle game SpaceChem reminds me of. The game is a work of genius. It creates tiny little rules to learn, and then puts more on top of that, and so on until you think you can deal with any logistical problem you're faced with. And then you discover that that's just been the warmup, and actually each level is going to have many such logistical problems interacting with each other. And once you've mastered that, a whole new layer gets added on top... and through all these jumps in scale, the game never loses sight of the basics. You're doing the same things over and over, but in much bigger contexts.

Ostensibly the game is about separating molecules, and reforming the atoms into other molecules. How this works in practice is very abstract, the general idea being creating paths of commands to follow on 10x8 grids. You have two machines running on the screen simultaneously, and you need to use them to make them into sustainable loops that will do some task over and over without messing up. (As the game progresses more variables get added in as the programs are running that need to be accounted for.)

It's a very technical game, made by a programmer for programmers. And I confess, I mess up around as often as I used to when I was a kid using Visual Basic. But I've got a different attitude now. Often I'll build big machines only to realize at the end that my approach was based entirely on faulty (and overconfident) reasoning. When that happens I delete everything I've done in the level and start over, but that's when the game gets really fun. Suddenly I've got to flip everything I think I know around, and think out of the little box I've gotten comfortable in. When I flick the switch and the machine works, it's a great feeling.
"Event fatigue" is a phrase one often hears in discussions of modern superhero comics. It is a phrase I cannot relate to. I think I understand where the sentiment is coming from, though. What is being referred to are the modern "crossover events", in which many comic books from one publisher (sometimes over a hundred issues!) tie together to form some massive storyline over the course of a few months or a year. This is the shining example of what is possible in a shared universe: the stories that result are more complex than any one writer could have come up with, because ideas bounce back and forth between literally dozens of different writers, affecting hundreds of characters. The editors often say that you don't need to buy all the comics to enjoy the crossover, and there's something to that. There's usually one central miniseries where the broad strokes of the plot can be seen, and the other writers (at least at Marvel) do try to make their subplots work even if that's all you're reading. But you are missing a lot if you don't read it all. Each month I read a majority of Marvel Comics' output, and part of the joy of reading and collecting is the way that the stories all intersect and build up a consistent and cohesive universe. The really good event tie-ins add nuances that make you see the other comics in a new and more interesting light. And often you'll feel like something hasn't been fleshed out enough, but some writer in a different series sees the opportunity and jumps at it. It's the best kind of collaboration. So to say that you can forgo anything you're not already interested in isn't quite right.

I think the reason some people are sick of crossover events is that each issue costs four dollars. I have an advantage, in that I'm getting them all illegally. I can read every single comic without needing two jobs to pay for it all.

It's also a thrill for me because it's a hobby of mine to collect and edit these comics. So a massive crossover gives me more to play with than a bunch of standalone series (an increasingly rare breed of superhero comic). I haven't had a really difficult editing challenge since "Civil War" in 2006, and ever since I've been waiting for something of the same caliber. Marvel's doing a new event called "Fear Itself", which they're claiming wil be even larger in scope than Civil War. (Which will be quite hard considering that Civil War tied into a good 70% of their comics and radically changed the direction of their entire universe for a few years.) I have no idea what it's going to be about, but I can't wait to find out.
I enjoy taking good music, messing around with it on the piano, and seeing what comes out. I've had a lot of fun doing that with the Legend of Zelda music, over the years, and now I've been doing it with Gilbert & Sullivan. Or rather, just Arthur Sullivan. By the time I'm done, the original lyrics are no longer appropriate.

I took a really emotional love song from Ruddigore, "The Battle's Roar Is Over", and turned it to minor and made it into a jazz piece. I played it at the cast party, and even though I was mirroring the original almost note-for-note some people didn't recognize it because the sound of it was so completely different. I've also composed a happy and sweet version of a very sombre and creepy song, and I took a musical theme that Sullivan used for one verse and discarded, and made a full song out of it (No lyrics, but it sounds like it could have lyrics.) I've also got some rough ideas that play with "In Sailing O'er Life's Ocean Wide", and even though it doesn't go anywhere it's fun to play.

I've been wondering if there's anything I could do with things like this. Unlike the Zelda music, there's no copyright on Gilbert & Sullivan. I can do whatever I like with it, without fear of lawyers. (Really, all art and entertainment should be like that. But sadly, it's not.) I'm not just changing the keys and rhythms, I'm also mixing in themes from other songs (when musically appropriate) and having lots of fun with it.

This isn't the first time I've considered plagiarism as a viable medium. In a way, I've always known that that's my musical niche. Even the stuff I do that's original isn't really original. It sounds like lots of things I've heard. And I need to keep struggling to not let the sources be obvious, which has sapped some of the fun out of music for me. (When I was younger, I didn't realize how unoriginal I was and therefore didn't worry about it.) My Zelda variations are good enough, I think, that (if properly orchestrated) they could be in an actual Zelda game. That's not hubris- if you come over and give me the opportunity to play them for you, you'll see what I mean. I know I'm good with variations.

As an experiment I grabbed a non-Ruddigore song: "When I Was A Lad". I only know it because Allan Sherman did a parody of it; I don't actually have any familiarity with G&S beyond Ruddigore. With little effort I turned it into something which sounded sinister. At some point I'll have to listen to all the G&S songs and see what I come up with.
No, this is just silly. These posts don't even have anything to do with each other. This isn't adding to the continuity in any meaningful way, it's not creating any new story opportunities, it doesn't say anything that earlier posts didn't already cover. It's way too late to be writing insubstantial fluff like this. Just, just...


2011, January 7th, 14:13 and 50 seconds

Performance reviews for January 2011


three comments, the last one being anonymous
Larry Wachsman said:

Mory - You were born to do Gilbert and Sullivan!

Larry Wachsman

Blogger Kyler said:

Wow. That was an incredible blog post.

Anonymous said:

Quite a few people who saw you at Ruddigore are convinced that you have an immense and brilliant stage presence and personal charisma, would do amazingly well in the theater and associated areas. Being as I personally fell in love with you I need to leave this anonymous! But really and truly, I checked with others in the audience so it is not my blindness speaking...

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2010, December 28th, 14:00 and 19 seconds

I Am...
In which I play the part of a lead actor

Chapter 1. "I am clockwork."

Chapter 1. "I am clockwork."

I had no energy at all. I hadn't slept properly the previous night, and I had a bit of a cold. I'd spent the day so far aimlessly wandering around on the web and improvising nonsense on the piano. But it was a Sunday, so my current state of mind was of no relevance. I had to be at the Ruddigore rehearsal.

As I was leaving the house, I noticed a text message from Moshe: "I've lost my job." Ouch. He'd been in a rotten mood already, what with his birthday and all. His older sister Aviella (and her husband) had taken him bowling on Thursday (He'd tried to invite me, but I didn't hear him say it so I didn't come.), but that was the only thing he'd be getting for the occasion. He was being childishly petulant over the realization that at the age of 23, he wouldn't be getting any presents anymore. At some point, people stop acting like you're entitled to anything at all. Which I suppose you aren't.

I called Moshe to reassure him. He'd hated his job. His boss had treated him like his time and effort were worthless. I'd been telling him he should quit. And yet, he was really broken up about it. He said he missed the money. I think there was more to it than that. It wasn't his fault the company was bankrupt. That was down to mismanagement. But still, he'd been working so hard for a little bit of recognition, and then it all came crashing down like the opportunity was never there in the first place. It's one thing to fail- then you can learn and try harder. But it must be especially painful to be in a situation where you can't do anything but fail. I told him that I was going to a rehearsal, where we'd be expected to do the very difficult patter song like a bunch of mechanisms in a cuckoo clock, and that I was scared because I had no energy at all and felt a bit sick. He advised me not to make that information known. The last thing Binder wants to hear, he said, is complaining. When you're working for him, you need to be professional. I thanked him for the advice. Moshe had been in a whole bunch of Robert Binder's Gilbert & Sullivan plays, so he knew what he was talking about.

I reached Binder's house ten minutes early, so Jordan and Aviella were still there. I returned Binder's DVD of the Ruddigore cartoon, and he asked me with interest whether I liked it. "Very much.", I began, intending to then recite that the only problem was the actor who played Robin taking too many liberties with the music and the character, and further that the other cartoons on the disc were well worth watching, there was some fun stuff in there. But Binder was moving on, so I left my stated opinion at "Very much.".

I watched as Rob worked with another actress on her scene. From my modestly objective seat it seemed like Rob knew exactly what he was talking about. He understood her character well. He wanted to get every nuance perfect because he was in love with the scene as written and wanted to get it just right. "He's probably like that with me.", I privately mused, "I should trust him more.".

I asked Aviella in a whisper whether she'd spoken to Moshe yet. She said he was taking it badly. "He'll get over it.", I said, "He didn't like that job.". "You're so positive!", she said, "Looking for the good side.", and I very much wanted to tell her that that was not my intention, but I have such difficulty making myself understood sometimes and her reaction was acceptable enough that I decided not to press the matter. Before she left, Aviella asked Binder if she could go over her scene with me. I was a little bit scared: with my fever, I'd been sweating a lot more than usual. And she had told me (through Moshe, since she'd never say such a thing directly) that she was offended by the way I smell. This scene involved hugging her three times. But I got up, stood in my position, ran the scene as Binder had told me he wanted it done to the best of my ability, was awkwardly delicate in hugging her, and both Aviella and Binder were ready to move on. I asked him "Did I do it right?", and he didn't answer because he was looking at something else. After the rehearsal I called Aviella to apologize for my smell, but she didn't answer her phone.

The "Matter Trio" is one of Gilbert & Sullivan's trademark patter songs. In fact, it sounds very much like "I Am The Very Model Of A Modern Major General", the more famous patter song from Pirates of Penzance. I call it the "Matter Trio" because it's got several parts where we sing "It really doesn't matter, matter, matter, matter, matter, matter...". It's ridiculously fast, and doesn't give any opportunities to take a breath, and I was really proud of already being able to adequately sing my verse in one breath, having practiced it many times on my own. But the rhythm of some of the other parts is very strange, and I'd been looking forward to finally working on it with Paul, the music director, so that he could show me how to sing it right. I expected that that part would be fun. But Paul wasn't there, so we would be working not on the music but on the stage direction. Binder's idea (which he'd told me of as a general idea the week before) was that we would be like the animatronic wooden figures moving around on an ornamental clock, shuffling around and moving our arms back and forth, occasionally posing as though we were checking if it was raining. "You have temporarily turned into robots.", he explained. And he emphasized that we needed to get all of his choreography right because it really did "matter, matter, matter".

Unfortunately, we neither understood nor were immediately capable of performing this dance. Binder was expecting us to behave like efficient little robots, but without giving us adequate time to practice each little part and without specifying the specific beats we should be doing things on. (It was "Now you bow left", not "You start the bow at the beginning of measure 147, and finish in three sixteenths.".) Which might not have seemed like a problem when he was planning it, but he sure acted like there was a problem when we did it exactly as he'd said and the timing didn't look right to him. I wrote down precise notation of every instruction he gave me, and then when I followed that notation precisely he'd tell me I was doing it wrong. And I'd say "But you said to do it on this beat!", whereupon he'd look at me with that look that says "How dare you contradict me, you childish troublemaker!" and I'd pull out the eraser. I'm sure he knew exactly what he wanted. But he's not the greatest at communicating those instructions. By the end, after all the corrections I had to make, the notes I was left with seemed entirely random, lacking any discernable pattern. And yet I was expected to instantly memorize all this, and do it on cue and on rhythm.

This choreography involved shuffling our feet, moving our arms robotically, bowing, posing, and precise equidistance between the three of us at all times. We were doing this without singing (which only I, of the three, was prepared to do), and at roughly a quarter of the actual speed, and still none of us could pull it off adequately. Binder looked calm, but I knew he was furious. We were supposed to be charming little wooden people, and instead we were... whatever the hell it was we were.

I wanted to tell him that he was wasting his time, that there was no way we could ever pull off any of what he was suggesting while also singing, because the singing in itself was so complicated that it required complete concentration! I wanted to say that even if we practiced that scene for two years, none of us would be capable of being the robots he wanted us to be. But what good would it have done to say that? I had blown away all his good will two weeks earlier on my audacity to act like I was entitled to an opinion about my character. I was not entitled to anything. He was the director, and I was only the lead actor. He'd been directing Gilbert & Sullivan plays for decades, and I had never starred in anything. I didn't need to question or experiment or practice or even to understand. I just needed to stand up and perform exactly the way Rob imagined he would do it in my place, a cog in the lovingly and meticulously crafted machine that was this production of Ruddigore.

So I didn't complain, though every instinct was telling me to. I didn't object, though all reason compelled me to. I had temporarily turned into a robot. I'd get my way eventually, as long as I stayed willing to lose my self in the meantime.

Chapter 2. "I am in control."

Chapter 2. "I am in control."

In July I turned myself into the sort of person who prefers active creation to passive enjoyment, which was quite a change. In October I finally cut down the time each day that was outright wasted on activities like internet socializing and piano improvisation. But December was going to be the real challenge. I planned to prove once and for all that I wasn't just crazy writing down what I was doing for every minute of every day and then giving myself a numerical score for it. I mean, okay, sure, I am crazy. I won't dispute that. But the blog had suggested that by separating Mory Buckman the human from Mory Buckman the character, I'd accomplish things. I could be the sort of person who tends to accomplish things by nature, if that was the character I chose to play. And finally I'd reached an opportunity to pay off that idea.

What needed to be accomplished in December was Ruddigore. The play would open on the 28th. And truth be told, I was already mostly happy with how I was performing in the run-throughs. But before I could get to the stage I'd need to go through many more rehearsals, and in each one Binder would have dozens of opportunities to replace what I'd practiced with new ideas of his own, ideas which might or might not fit in with what I was doing. And at the rehearsal I'd just do it his way, but at home I'd have to think about it and find compromises and make my own ideas based on his. It's like Erika always said when she was directing The Matchmaker: "You're the ones who are going to be on stage, not me. If things go wrong, you're the ones who are going to be seen.". So I couldn't just blindly accept directions that contradicted my interpretation of the character. I needed to be in control of my performance, and in order to do that (with five rehearsals some weeks) I needed to put absolutely everything aside except for the play. I needed to take the time to sort out all the contradictions that might arise. I needed to live and breathe this character, so that when I went on stage I wouldn't be of two minds about any moment. I'd know exactly what I needed to do, I'd do it, and then I'd judge myself accordingly.

The first day of December was roughly planned out two days in advance. I'd define a new character in my "declaration of priorities" format, thereby creating a model to imitate for the rest of the month. The order of priorities would be "Ruddigore, the blog, books, comics, TV". Simple. There was no rehearsal (on account of the Chanukkah holiday), and there would be no distractions. Just me and my character, and my character's character. And, um... his character. Yes. Simple.

I turned on my computer screen, ready to type in my opening statement ("There once was a man from Rederring"), but before I did I noticed a letter from Kyler. Kyler is the talented artist who'd done the graphics for my past two games. We'd been talking about the graphics for Gamer Mom, a naturalistic adventure game whose script I had very nearly completed. In the script I was very detailed about the sort of "acting" I wanted his versions of the characters to do ("With an embarrassed smile, because as she says the words she finds that they suddenly sound silly: "Well, I want you to play World of Warcraft. That's all." He looks at her quizzically."), but I didn't specify a particular art style or what the characters look like or where the game is set or what clothes they're wearing or