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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

~Yom Kippur music

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Yom Kippur music

Sometimes I wish I weren't a musician.

Two years ago my father, who was doing the Kol Nidrei service of Yom Kippur, asked me if we could do a duet of Kol Achai's "Rachamana". I doubt there was ever a question in my mind of whether to do it or not- I probably said yes automatically. Any chance to do music. So we imitated the way they sing it as best as we could, given that we were working with only two voices rather than three and didn't have musical instruments accompanying us. It went very well.

One year ago my father suggested that I compose a new duet for us to sing. Again, I jumped at the opportunity. The chance to compose something and have an entire congregation hear it? The reason things like that are called "no-brainers" is because the ear automatically activates a nodding motion in the head, without bothering to go through the brain on the way. I composed a tune for "El Melech", which repeats four times but doesn't really have a tune associated with it. I remember that for a while that tune was all that was on my mind. I came up with a tune as soon as I read the words, and you'd think that that would be close to the end but I'm a perfectionist, so, no. Wherever I went, whatever I did, it was always in the back of my head demanding to be improved. It needed to reflect the meaning of the words. It needed to present the words clearly, with all the accents in the right places and all the ups and downs and rhythms of the music reflected the way you'd actually speak the words if you understood what you were saying. And it needed to be musically interesting because otherwise, what's the point? It took me a while to come up with a version I was happy with, and then I sang it for my father and he couldn't follow it. I explained that it would be easier to understand all the sudden changes of key if the harmony were there, but he just couldn't learn the melody. So I had to simplify it as much as I could possibly simplify it without feeling like I'd lost all interest. And then he learned it, and we practiced, and I sang the harmony, and it went great.

This year, my father told me he'd like me to compose something new. There are still plenty of parts of the service that don't have any good tunes for them. This time I actually wanted to get out of the job, because it seemed terribly unclear. He didn't have any idea of which poem I should do, and so I wouldn't have felt comfortable composing for any of them. I don't understand how it all flows together, I don't understand what he's got good tunes for already, I don't know what the congregation expects. It felt more like a passing whim of his than a real opportunity. So I half-heartedly said that he should get back to me with whichever poem he wanted me to compose music for. He was out of the country shortly after that, so he never got back to me and I got out of the request.

(Obviously that's not the end of the story, or else I wouldn't be writing a blog post about this.)

A week ago, my father informed me out of the blue that a member of the congregation had requested a certain tune for "El Melech". Apparently, some time too long ago for me to remember, there was someone (who now doesn't live here) who organized a proper four-part chorus for a little piece of "El Melech". Not the whole thing, just a few words starting from "mochel avonot amo". So this request came from a member of the congregation who'd been in that choir and was feeling nostalgic for the tune. It's a typical kind of tune, in that it has absolutely no connection to the words except that those words happen to have been dropped in. The accents are all in the wrong places, and the words are repeated over and over again until you're not hearing the words anymore, you're just hearing random sounds attached to music. What it does have going for it is it's catchy, and people can sing along to it because it repeats itself over and over. Anyway, when I heard this request I really ought to have just said no, and I knew at the time that I ought to say no, but then my father played a video of the music from YouTube and at that point I had no conscious choice in the matter. I'd already figured out exactly what I needed to do, so there wasn't even a question anymore that I'd be doing it.

Like I said, it's just a few words from the middle. So what I needed to do was start in my tune, then shift into the traditional tune, do that similarly to how it was done in the video (though with only two voices of limited range to work with), and then go back. I ran to the piano, confirmed that this could in fact be done, and ran back upstairs to inform my father that I'd be putting this in. And then I started working in the composition program Finale, because there was absolutely nothing else I cared to do at that moment. I'm not going to detail the entire process I went through to arrange the thing, because I'm sure it would bore you all to tears, but suffice it to say I worked all that night and then I went to sleep and woke up early (10:00 AM or so) and got back to work and kept working until around 1:30 PM at which point it was finished. I spent the rest of the day waiting for my father to come home, but he didn't come home until shortly before I left for Games Night.

That was Tuesday. The guilt started setting in on Thursday, after I'd already practiced a few times with my father. Thursday is when it occurred to me that just because someone had had the idle thought that he'd enjoy having a certain tune in the davening, my entire existence now revolved around this piece of music. (Up to that point, I was acting too much on instinct to recognize what I was doing.) Since Tuesday it hadn't even occurred to me to work on The March of Bulk! And even as I was entertaining myself, it was always with the understanding that the only reason I was bothering was because there wasn't anything to do about the music at that moment. I was just passing the time until I'd get to work on the music again. I was reading Spider-Man comics, and on every single page I was humming "Mochel Avonot" to myself. That's where I started to get disturbed by my own behavior. For the entire day, that tune didn't leave my head. I kept flipping it around, sticking different rhythms on it, playing with variations. And this is after I'd already printed out the sheet music and had nothing more to do with it except get my father to perfect his part. Now you have to understand, I didn't feel guilty because I had lost control. I felt guilty because I was losing control over entirely the wrong thing. Can you imagine how quickly I would have finished The March of Bulk if I worked on it like that? That's the kind of devotion that you need to get anywhere, and I have it! But I have it for the wrong thing! Why am I a natural musician, rather than a natural gamist!

I decided that thinking this way was only going to hinder me. I don't know, maybe it's just that I was in a pre-Yom Kippur kind of mood (self-improvement and all that), but I suddenly had the idea that rather than complaining to myself about this I ought to change it. If I want to be an obsessive gamist, then I need to be an obsessive gamist. Nature be damned. I need to convince myself that I love working on games more than anything else in the world. I love working on games. Working on games is fulfilling. When I'm not working on games I feel in the back of my mind like I'd rather be working on games. So I set a time for Access Boss to log me off, and then I thought, why not now? I was really excited to be working on my game. I couldn't wait to solve the next problem I came across. How could I do anything else when my game was waiting? So I just stopped what I was reading in mid-sentence, logged off my user, went into the work user, and started working. I worked for a good hour and a half, and I daresay it was the most fulfilling hour and a half of programming I've ever done. I made real progress. And I said to myself, I'm not so bad. I'm not a musician, I'm going to be a gamist.

I'm going to be a gamist.

The end of the story is barely relevant, but I'll mention it anyway. On Sunday night, right after the fast started, my father and I walked to shul. And he said that he really should have taken anxiety medicine. In retrospect, he was absolutely right. He was so nervous when we got to El Melech that his hand was literally shaking. He was trying to point his finger at the notes, and it was shaking all over the place. He gave me the note he was going to start on, so that I could do the harmony on key, and as I started singing at the top of my lungs he started singing in a totally different key than the one he'd just told me. And then he proceeded to make lots of new mistakes that he'd never done in practice. I don't blame him- I've been there. But my god, was that frustrating. El Melech repeats four times. The first two were my tune, straight. And it was a total disaster. The third was the more complicated, tune-within-a-tune music. That was a disaster too, though in different ways. On the fourth time, I got up and said to my father, "Calm down.". And he said to me, "I can't." But apparently he did, because that time we pulled it off. And Rachamana went well, as always. When I left the shul I went out the back way, walking very quickly with my head facing the ground so I wouldn't have to look at anyone. And I tried to walk to the sides of the path, so that I could avoid any people who happened to be walking.

But that's beside the point.

The point is, I'm not sure my games are ever going to be good. I'm afraid that my powers of self-deception and self-improvement are insufficient to overcome my basic nature: I am a musician. I don't want to be a musician, but I was born a musician and that's what I'll always be. And I'm not going to blow anyone away with my music, because I don't want to blow anyone away with my music. If I were to become a good musician, well, that would be the most natural thing in the world for me. If I started putting out CDs, and really challenged myself to live up to the responsibility. I'd put so much effort in, just because that's who I am, that everyone would be impressed. But I don't want to be a good musician. I don't want that to be my life. I want to make games. I want to be a gamist. But that's not something I'm naturally good at. It's something I'm going to need to work at. I really want to get right on that. I really do. I really do. Maybe tomorrow.



I think you might like to here something I heard from a painting teacher a while ago. He pointed out that there are many child musical prodigies, but there are no child abstract expressionist painting prodigies. In the same way there are no child architect prodigies, there are no child animator prodigies. And there simply are no child gamist prodigies.

The reason for this is fairly simple, some art forms are simply so entrenched in levels of complexity that a child prodigy can't take part. There are too many levels of knowledge that need to be attained before the real work really start.

There is also another topic that seems to relate. Some arts get tackled down by technology. A girl in my animation class was struggling with a project simply because she doesn't have a great understanding of the file system we use at school, the use of photoshoph and the use of a completely new piece of animation software. If she was working in a traditional manner, I have little doubt her work would have been much more successful.

What this suggests is that it probably isn't your ability to think up great games that is your current problem, it is the technology behind the games that is holding you back. If the technology was so easy that it was a pleasure to use, like a piano is a pleasure to use, I bet you would have less of a problem sitting down at it everyday.

Hopefully there are some insights in the above mess.

Thank you, you might be right.

I may be pointing out the obvious here, but it seems from your account that not only is composing music easier for you and "something you are naturally good at", but it's something that exhilarates you like very few other things can. You say that somebody's idle thought became the centre of your existence, but it sounds to me more like the opportunity to write any kind of music for any kind of reason excited you and pumped you up.

I may be reading a little too much of my own experiences into this, because I discovered a little while ago that I go through a similar reaction in relation to writing. Anything on anything, as long as it involves the use of written words. And I don't even read that much. My life doesn't revolve around other people's texts. But apparently it revolves around mine. I suspect you might be in a similar situation.

I'm not saying be a musician instead of a gamer, but I think it could serve you to respect more what naturally excites you, even if you can't justify it with anything "reasonable" or practical. The effect this has on other people or the reaction it will evoke are less important, I think.

Is it possible to be a little of both?


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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

~A Vision of Illinois

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Vision of Illinois

The Trip
We were only in Illinois for two days. I wanted to stay. No, I mean for good- I really do love my grandparents' house. I enjoyed myself just walking back and forth in their house, I love it so much. We didn't do all that much in Illinois, but that's the thing about contentment- it doesn't rely on keeping busy. It didn't take me any time at all from the time we arrived to get settled into "my" room- it really did feel like coming home. I didn't want to go. It was a personal thing, between me and the house. And we had come as a family. We left.
More than a year ago (I can't remember exactly when.), I found out that
my grandparents were trying to sell their house. It's right on a lake,
which never particularly interested me but apparently greatly interests
the tax authority. The yearly taxes are more than my grandparents can
afford. So they've been looking to sell, but the people interested so far
are rich philistines who'd like to tear down this house and build a new
one. They're only interested in the property, they don't care about the
house. Ever since I found out about the house I've wanted to go there
again before it's too late.
I have an image in my head of what I'm looking for. I imagine myself in
their living room, with a big piece of white paper on the coffee table.
I'm pacing around the room, with that coffee table in the middle, a pencil
in my hand. And on that piece of paper I'm charting out my next game.
There's something appealingly romantic (in the old sense of the word)
about traveling to a place I love, away from all my technology and
friends, to get inspiration for an abstract piece. The thing about
Highland Park is, there's not much to do there. That's the point. Just
me and my art. And maybe some rain out the window. For the weather
it needs to be late in the year, but not too late because my
grandparents go to Arizona for the winter. So I talked to my grandfather,
and he gave me two weeks at the end of November. Two weeks doesn't
seem like enough, but that's what he insisted on (I'm worried he plans
to fill my schedule.), so I'm buying a cheap flight for 23 November.



What a nice story. I totally understand what you meant and I agree with you - people many times just want property to build a new house on and don't care about the old house and its history at all. That is pretty sad. Anyway, good luck with selling the house to the right people.


I was going to delete that comment, since it seems to just be spam, but it's so bizarre a response that I think it's amusing enough to keep up.


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Friday, September 11, 2009


You know you're wrong about the whole gender thing.
Oh, how's that.
You seem bored.
Just tired.
Girls are a lot more intelligent than boys.
Sure you are.
Ow! What was that for?
For not accepting me as an equal.
Well, you're not an equal, you're imaginary. But I guess I'll take what I can get.
Ow. Okay. That one I deserved. Sort of.
If I had an evil archnemesis, he'd be exactly like you.
I can live with that.

You know I actually really like you.
Do I know that? I don't think I know that.
You know that.
Okay, maybe I know that. But it's just because you invented me to be your perfect girlfriend.
Perfect? Okay, I wouldn't go that far. But you're like me, that's the point.
I'm nothing like you. I'm much more intelligent, by virtue of being a girl.
Silly me.
I have thoughts that go so far over
You know why I need to be around people like you?
People like me?
No, why?
Because people who aren't like me just frustrate me.
You know the forum I go to, the Adventure Gamers forum?
Yes you do. Anyway, they have community playthroughs there all the time, and I haven't joined them in a while but I thought that it might be nice to join the next one that they're doing even though I don't know anything about the game. So the person who
What about your game?
The game with the elephant. Why aren't you working on that?
I am. I'm working on it every day. Would you let me continue the story?
Because it seems like with all the working on your game, you shouldn't be bored enough to join one of these "playthroughs" or whatever.
I'm working on my game, but I still have time.

So anyway, the lady who ran the last playthrough I participated in, that one was around a year ago, she was acting really angry at me, like I'd offended her personally by saying my opinion back then. By the way, I always thought this person was a guy. But I just checked in her profile today, and I saw that it's actually a lady. From the Netherlands. So now I've got to correct all these pronouns in my head. Anyway, so she was acting like I'd personally
You are so oblivious.
About people's gender, or about what I'd said a year ago.
See, you have no idea! This is what I'm talking about. Oblivious!
Well, it seems like you could be talking about either thing, so you can't really expect
Oh, I'm just teasing. Go on with your fascinating story.
So the last playthrough was of a game called The Last Express, and everyone said that it was an amazing game but when we were actually playing I saw that the game didn't really work. And I said so, and I backed up everything I was saying with arguments. But then the end of the game was so unbelievably stupid -it was this sort of thing where the whole game was grounded and about ordinary people in the real world and that's what was interesting about it? And then at the end all the realism is just thrown out the window and it turns into a fairy tale.
That does sound really dumb.
I remember all this because when this lady accused me -she said I was "foaming at the mouth"
I bet you really were.
I was not.
Okay, maybe I was but I had a good reason.
I'm curious.
See, the others were trying to say how it's okay that it's suddenly a fairy tale because there's lots of historical symbolism, where the fantasy is actually the beginning of the World War and stuff like that.
Sounds like they were stretching.
No, no, they actually had a good case. I do think that's what the game's writer intended. But I was saying that it doesn't matter what the symbolism is, it's still out of character. So the way I said that was I wrote "To conclude my point:" and then I said some gibberish, and then I pointed out that even though the gibberish had symbolism in my argument, being a metaphor for the ending of the game, it still had no place in what I was saying because that's not the kind of discussion we were having. It was a serious discussion, so gibberish doesn't fit no matter how good the symbolism is. And that's what I was saying about the ending: the symbolism was all fine, but it was still totally out of character for the game. So that gibberish is what she was referring to when she said I was "foaming at the mouth".
So when she acted like I should be kept away from this next playthrough because I ruin it for everyone, that really got to me. Because you know me, she could have been right.
Yep, you really are annoying.
So I reread that whole thread from a year ago, and I made mistakes in how I said what I said but I really don't regret any of the content of what I said. And that's really what she was angry at me about, that I was disrespectful and thought too highly of my own opinions and stuff like that. I tried to talk to her in private, in a rational manner, but she'd already announced that she was going to stick me on her "Ignore" list so that she wouldn't have to hear me anymore.
That would never happen to me. Everyone who meets me loves me.
You say that because you haven't met anyone. People like us, we don't fit in well.
You're a guy. It's different.
No, it's not.

Moshe came back.
Where was he?
He was in South Africa for two months.
That's a long vacation.
Yeah, it really was. Yesterday morning he just suddenly knocked on the door. I hadn't even gotten dressed yet.
Yes, I can just picture you answering the door naked.
Ecch! What is wrong with you.
I'm too brilliant for you.
No comment. I was wearing the gray shorts which I wear to bed. You have a really dirty mind, you know that?
I try.

What was I saying before that rude interruption? Oh right, Moshe came over. So he told me that they'd moved into a much smaller apartment, and he really hated being there, and that he felt like his sister Aviella who doesn't even live with them was controlling his living space. He said he saw my house as a "refuge" from all that. That made me really happy.
That he hated being in his house? What a nice friend.
You know exactly what I mean.
Fine, fine.
So I played my new music for him, and we had lunch, and then I showed him my progress on the game and he was telling me
Oh, what did he think of it?
He hated it, actually.
I don't like Moshe.
No, I don't think anyone's given The March of Bulk the reaction I was looking for. I'm hoping that when the game is finished it'll be different, but I'm getting strong suspicions that it's just a bad idea.
Maybe. But like you said, it's not finished. You are going to finish it, right?
Yes, of course I'm going to finish it.
Because I really want to see if it makes sense in the end. It looks kind of interesting.
Yeah. What Moshe said was that it looked creepy and that he was in shock at what I was doing with that elephant. Not exactly what I was looking for, but good to know.
It could be he's right, and it'll be a total waste of time. Won't that be a bummer, spending a whole year working on a pile of steaming poo?
Steaming? Really?
A steaming pile of poo.
Moshe said that the stuff I'm slaving over in 2D would be really easy to do in 3D. Which doesn't help me here, but it's good to know that there's a better way to work for Through the Wind. Just something to keep in mind. He's apparently really good at working with 3D models.
I didn't know that.
Yeah, he once showed me some stuff he did. It was impressive. Lots of little details.
Did he have anything else to say about the game?
Um, let's see. He did look over a whole bunch of the code. Okay, well, some of the code. He understood the language really quickly, it's much simpler than what he plays around with. I think there was something else he said about the game, but I can't remember what it was.
So then I got him to play Zelda.
Of course.
The Wind Waker, actually. You have to understand why this is such a pleasure for me. See, last week I finally got Dena to play Super Mario Galaxy. I didn't think I ever would. She actually wanted to play Mario Party, but when we started playing Mario Party I was beating her in every single minigame.
And you wonder why she doesn't want to play with you.
Seriously. We played like ten games, and she didn't win a single one, and it was just getting really awkward, so I thought that was a good excuse to switch to something more cooperative and I couldn't believe it when she didn't put up much resistance to my insistence that she play a "real" Mario game.
Yeah, Mario Party doesn't exactly count. I know what you mean.
And she was having fun, but then there was one part that was a teensy bit more frustrating, and that's when she shut it off and I don't think she's ever going to play it again.
Maybe she will.
She won't. But that's why it was such a thrill to have someone who was really willing to play. I mean, he pretends he doesn't like to play games, but he actually does. We were playing that for around three or four hours, until his mother called him and demanded that he come home. He said he'd come back soon.
Here's the problem I have with all this. When you have him you don't need to talk to me.
And yet I'm talking to you right now.
Only because he's not around today.
Look, imaginary friends are never going to be a top priority.
Well, at least you're honest.
Sometimes I really hate you.
Sometimes I really like you.
No you don't. I'm imaginary. This whole time I would have loved to jump in and start talking, but I have no opinions on anything.
Sorry. You are imaginary.
Don't let it be so long before bringing me back, okay?

Seriously! What, you think I like knowing that I'm only going to be written a limited number of times before you get bored of me?
I won't get bored of you. I really haven't met any girls in the real world like you.
And don't start!
Bye. I'll talk to you soon.



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Monday, September 07, 2009


I don't believe there's any difference between the male mind and the female mind. The obvious differences between the behavior of men and the behavior of women can all be explained by the discrepancy between how society treats men and how society treats women. If you look like a boy, everyone (parents included) expects you to be tough, and if you look like a girl, everyone expects you to be fragile. So boys grow up to be very different from women, yes, but that's not because of anything intrinsic to gender.

I think I first came to this realization when skimming through the bestselling book "Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus" a few years ago. I'd heard that it was a really perceptive and enlightening book, so I was curious to see what it said. What it said was ridiculous. It presented a clear dichotomy, where all men think one way and all women think one way. But then it acknowledged that sometimes men act like women, and sometimes women act like men. It's like my gamistic concept of "secondary content", where sometimes a platformer doesn't act like a platformer. But the reason that such platformers exist is that the division between Forms in gamism is arbitrary! The only reason a game is a platformer to begin with is that when the gamist starts, he says, "I'm going to make this game into a platformer."! So if he wants to make something less typical, all he's rebelling against is convention, not nature!

And in the same way, if you say that the qualities you attribute to women are also present in men and vice versa, that means that you're not talking about the natural way of things. You're talking about an arbitrary classification system, like my "Garden" posts. Fundamentally, the male mind is exactly the same as the female mind until society gets its hands and its arbitrary classifications on them.

And where do these social expectations come from? They come from an outdated, sexist mode of thought. The man goes out and works to support his wife and kids, so he needs to be tough. He needs to aggressive. He needs to be able to go through miserable work and put up with it, so that his family can survive. And the woman sits at home with the kids, so she needs to be compassionate and passive. An aggressive mother would be a ticking time bomb when stuck with a bunch of wild kids, so any aggression in a woman is unacceptable. And how are the genders supposed to relate to each other? After long hours of thankless, the man needs to be needed at home or he'll feel like he's not worth anything, so the woman should be unable to cope with her own problems. That way, the man can step in and be chivalrous, and feel good about himself.

You'd think we would've gotten past that thinking by now, now that women are working more and men are taking care of kids more. But no. Girls are encouraged to cry when they want something, because crying creates opportunities for chivalry. Boys are encouraged to bottle up their feelings, because it gets you farther in business. When a girl has a problem, you bail her out. But a boy has to solve his own problems. You want to know why there are so few women in power anywhere? So few women in difficult business positions? It's because parents are sexist. They go easy on the girls, because in the back of their minds they've still got the idea that women need to be fragile. So the daughters grow up not having any willpower. As soon as they reach an obstacle that seems too hard, they give up, start crying, and wait for someone to bail them out.

I was mentioning this perception I have of modern women to the Amitais, and Mrs. Amitai pointed out that my mother really doesn't fit that model at all. And she was right -I should have noticed that. My mother has more willpower than anyone. She holds the whole community on her shoulders. She bottles up her feelings and just keeps working. Every minute of the day that she's not making money, she's doing something to help people out. And even if no one helps her, even if it turns out to be much harder than she thought, she keeps working. I never really thought about it, but I guess my mother is a really unusual woman. And when I think about it, it makes perfect sense. Every time she ever told us a story from her childhood, I got the sense that she grew up in a Roald Dahl book. Her parents made her do things just because she didn't like doing them. They pushed her to be the best in school, they pushed her to be a lawyer. I guess the one good thing I can say about my grandmother was that she made every effort to not let my mother end up like her. My mother was never expected to act her gender.

But make no mistake- most girls are. You probably think the feminist movement did away with the inequality, but the feminists have done more harm than good. They create groups and political parties that only serve women, thus helping to propagate the myth that women need more help than men. If they really believed in equality, they'd be saying "Women shouldn't be treated as well as we were treated, they should learn to deal with their problems for themselves.". But they don't believe in equality. They believe that women are inferior, but they want women to be treated as though they're superior. They want to cry for sympathy, but they also want to appear self-reliant. In short, they're hypocrites. And all they're selling is a more complicated brand of sexism.

You could reasonably ask me why I'm so radically indignant about gender equality. And my answer is very simple: I'm jealous. That's where this is all coming from. When I spend my day playing videogames and avoiding work and making myself feel better with music, I feel guilty. I'm not supposed to sit and be passive, I'm supposed to pursue my work with stubborn persistence. I'm supposed to bottle up what I feel about the work and get through it, because that's what men do. I know that if I were a girl, I'd be almost exactly the same person, but I wouldn't have that guilt. I'd never accomplish anything in my life, and I'd be totally okay with that. And I want to know why it is that girls are allowed to live like that, but not me. I want to know why it is that my sister Miriam gets to abandon everything that demands even the tiniest bit of effort, and I have to stick with things. If I'm supposed to live in the real world, why does half the world get to avoid it?



Richie Sevrinsky, who I see at Game Nights, said he'd comment here. But then he didn't get a chance to, so he told me in person what he was going to write. There were three things he said which bothered me: First, that it's scientifically proven that women's brains don't function like men's brains. Second, that there were studies of boys raised as girls which found that they acted like boys. Third, that in his personal experience no women are as "childish" (in his words) as most men.

The physical difference in the brains I can deal with. Women have very different bodies to men, which function differently and have extra functions that need brain-supervision. That can account for the brain differences. The hormones are also different, but it may very well be that those hormones are necessary for giving birth and some of the changes in the brain negate the effects of those hormones because they'd otherwise get in the way of rational thought. The flipside of this hypothesis is that the hormones men have are necessary for reproduction as well, and some of what the male brain does is to negate the effects of those hormones. If this is true (It may or may not be.), then after all adjustments the thought process could be almost identical between men and women.

The study bothered me more, though Richie obviously didn't have the data on him. I've checked Google and have found what he's talking about. It was a common practice for decades that when a boy is born without a penis (This actually happens.) he should be raised as a girl. So the kid is being told he's a girl, he doesn't have male reproductive organs, and he's being treated like a girl wherever he goes, but he's not a girl. What the study found was that most of them were "acting like boys" regardless. The articles I saw were not detailed, so I can't be entirely sure what that means. But I saw the example of participating in sports. Some of these kids decided on their own (and early on in life) to refer to themselves as boys, and many decided to be boys when they were told what their situation was. I think there are two components to the story that can explain this phenomenon. First off, a boy with or without his sex organs is likely to be physically stronger than a girl. So he'd be capable of keeping up with the boys at sports. It's not like girls don't play sports, they just play sports which require less strength: hopscotch, jump rope. Similarly, a boy might be more likely to get into a fight because he feels more confident in his strength. So maybe these behaviors still are because of physical, rather than mental differences. The second component to the story which I'm going to latch onto is that these kids seem to have always known there was something wrong with them, but didn't know what. There was one article which mentioned one such boy who wasn't allowed in either the boys' bathroom or the girls' bathroom. That suggests that they understood a lot more than we expect them to have understood. Trying to switch genders may very well have been a reaction to this sense of being an outcast. You're not wanted where you are, so you switch to the other side. So I can still say that men and women are not psychologically different.

Finally, the childishness thing. Richie admitted himself that this may be because women are expected to be homemakers. You need to run the house, so you need to be an adult. So it could be a social effect. Women don't have fun because they think they're not supposed to have fun.

I'd like to use a metaphor to illustrate my point about the brain differences.

Let's say you're making a game for several consoles. Each one needs to be programmed very differently, since the hardware is very different. One will have more RAM, one will have a faster GPU, each one has certain strengths and shortcomings that need to be taken into account. So what is really simple to do on one may take ingenious workarounds to do on the other. Finally you finish the game. Anyone who looks at the two source codes will be amazed at how little they resemble each other. They're not even written in the same language. But the game is the game, and if you're playing it it barely makes any difference at all which system it's on. One will have a bit of slowdown, one will have some glitches, and that'll be the entire difference. The radical differences in coding are necessary to compensate for different hardware and create the exact same end result.

This is what I'm saying about men and women. The physical differences are so vast that the brains need to be wired very differently to compensate. But human thought is human thought; in the end we're all running the same program. Sometimes physical limitations pop up and effect the brain, but for the most part this is kept to a minimum.

We've already had most of this discussion, but just in case I neglected to mention any of this:

The main physical difference between men and women, besides the sexual organs, is that men are pumped full of tesosterone, and women with estrogens. Wikipedia seems to dispute this, but traditionally testosterone has been associated with aggression and lust. Perhaps I'm not researching rigourisly enough, but estrogens don't appear to be particularly linked to anything psychological.

So far so good. What I don't really understand about your point is how quickly you link aggression to toughness. I'll agree that men are still far more aggressive than women, but I don't think the same can be said of toughness, and I've rarely seen a grown woman cry because a task was too difficult for her. Even when that does happen, usually she'd get herself together and get on with what she was doing. I have not encountered this "fragile" woman of which you speak.

I think the equivalent male response in this kind of situation would usually be to punch someone or swear at the world or something similarly idiotic. When people feel helpless, they usually go for some emotional release. Or they don't, and then the feeling sticks around longer and they become bitter. The typical female response seems to me to be both healthier and more useful. I think it's more a question of men being less able to respond that way, because of that misconception of strength that you mentioned earlier.

I think what the feminists are talking about, when they ask for affirmative action or create advocacy groups that focus exclusively on women, is a perceived psychological, non-deliberate discrimination that arises from remaining preconceptions about women when compared to men.

My superficial take on this is that women seem to be expected to [i]achieve[/i] less, as opposed to being less able to meet the basic standards. That is to say, they are not expected to be able to climb as high independently as men are. I think that, in a nutshell, is what the feminists are fighting against. And yes, I think it is very likely that this affects girls growing up, but it's not about doing what you need to - more about doing what you want to - and competing. The glass ceiling, in a word. Here's some wikipedia if you are unfamiliar with it (how do you do those in-post links?):

I rhink there's more to say about sexism and feminism, actually, but this I think is immediately relevant.


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Sunday, September 06, 2009

~of acute leukemia

Sunday, September 06, 2009

of acute leukemia

The Amitais' grandmother died, and I went to the funeral. It didn't really affect me at all, because I don't remember her at all. I may have met her at some point, or I may not have. She died of the same thing my own grandmother (my mother's mother) is diagnosed with, so most of the time I was there my mind went back to envisioning her eventual funeral. That's something I've been thinking about since the news of her diagnosis.

The problem I see is this: traditionally, one only says positive things of the dead. To do otherwise is the height of tactlessness, and I think that's the point where even I should be careful. I like my aunts and uncles, and I don't want to alienate them all. And while I don't have a particularly healthy relationship with my siblings right now, I don't think it would be any more pleasant if they outright despised me.

And it really wouldn't take much to make myself an outcast: all I'd need to do is open my mouth. I don't like my grandmother, and I have no positive memories of her. So really, the only reasonable thing to do at the funeral is to keep my mouth shut at all times.

I picture the scene with lots of rain, because I associate America with the existence of rain. All my family and extended family would be crying, while I'd be sitting out in the rain, trying to suppress the smile that I'd naturally have while sitting in the rain. And if anyone came over and said to me, "You're being awfully quiet, no?", I'd just nod.



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Wednesday, September 02, 2009

~I hate our dog.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

I hate our dog.

Dena barbecued some delicious meat for supper. I joked with Miriam afterward that pretty soon she'd start charging us. It was excellent. We usually only get meat on Shabbat, when it's reheated and not as tasty. But this was expensive meat which we were getting right off the grill.

You probably see where this story is going. I was watching a TV show (B'Tipul) when we heard a sound from downstairs and got concerned that Fudgie was up to something. So I went down and pushed all the chairs in, so that she wouldn't have a way to climb up. And then Dena covered the meat, to make extra sure.

Our father came home, and didn't understand why there wasn't any meat left. Dena didn't understand- there'd been a lot of meat left for him. She asked if I had come down and had some more. And then they saw Fudgie, eating away on her mat.

Yesterday I liked Fudgie. Not nearly as much as Pussywillow, but she was a good dog. She knew her place. Now I despise Fudgie. I've hit her a few times, but I still don't think she really understands. She's still licking her lips, thinking about how great that meat was. I'm sure she's figured out that we're angry at her, but I don't think that'd be enough to prevent her from doing it again. Now she knows exactly how delicious the meat is that we eat. I can't think of anything to do with her, that would get her to understand just how wrong what she did was.

So now I don't feel like I can go back to my TV episode, excellent though it might be. The only thing I can think about is how much I hate Fudgie and how much I wish there was something I could do to her. Dena was really proud of that meat. Damn that dog.



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~Some perspective (to make myself feel better)

Some perspective (to make myself feel better)

In the first year or two I was composing music, I only wrote one piece (of around five minutes) with an ending. The quality of it aside (It was bad.), that means I wasn't ever working on it very hard. I had lots of other little ideas, but none of them were longer than around ten seconds. Actual compositions with a beginning and an end, those I didn't write quickly.

Nowadays, I think it's fair to say that I compose around four pieces of comparable length (somewhere between two and ten minutes) each year. That's not amazing, but it's respectable. Working on music has just become a habit, it's not something that I need to put much effort into to get that output.

So when I'm yelling at myself for not working, maybe I should take a step back and realize that this is still just one year into making games. I'll get quicker.

..I wish Moshe were here. I wonder when he gets back from South Africa.



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