Menu Home

Month: March 2010

Can I learn to draw?

I’m trying to write this blog post from work, and Sundays are just awful, it just gets way too crowded. It’s just insanity! Insanity, I say! Aaaahhhhh!!

Upcoming music album and such things…

Anyway, my manufacturers should, by their own estimation, finish creating my album sometime this week. Then it will probably take another week or so to ship. So we’re getting closer…

I finished reading an excellent book called Music 3.0: A Survival Guide for Making Music in the Internet Age by Bobby Owsinski. It’s a rather quick and easy read, and it’s great for getting some ideas about how to make money with music in these technological Internet times, what the author calls the Music 3.0 era. Unfortunately, one of the top ways to make money is to tour and perform. Makes sense, but when you’re writing classical orchestra music (and can’t play an instrument anyway), that’s not very feasible. I guess one option is to try selling the sheet music to schools, but I don’t think I’d be comfortable doing that since my music has never been played by a real orchestra before and could have some orchestration problems, or might be too difficult to play, the harp parts especially. They’d have to be reorchestrated.

What I would like to do is to create a “guide” for the album. A free PDF with the complete scores to all the pieces, as well as a page or two about my process of composing each piece, kind of like a short episode of The Compose Pile, but written out.

I also need to figure out how to take orders right from hannifinrecords.com, so people don’t have to wait for CD Baby and Amazon to process the thing. I think I can slap on a PayPal button easily enough, right? I just have to figure out how to charge sales tax for people who buy from Virginia, as I’m guessing I’m supposed to do that, right?

Right? RIGHT? Don’t you know?

Can I learn to draw?

Also, I’m once again interested in learning to draw. A year or so ago I went through this guy’s YouTube tutorials, which are very good, and drew some of these things (I think that old man Gerri came out the best). However, his method seems to be based mostly on looking at stuff and redrawing it, trying to get the spacing and constrasts right. I could continue to practice this method, since I’m obviously not that good, but… that’s not exactly what I want to be able to do with an ability to draw. I want to draw dragons and castles and knights, oh my. I want to draw from my imagination, without using references. I have a few ambitions:

1) To be able to create something as awesome as this stuff just for the joy of it.

2) To illustrate my short stories and/or create some graphic novels.

3) To create some animated shorts.

4) To become a billionaire.

One thing I’ve noticed with artists who draw from the imagination is that they tend to work more from the inside out, starting with a bone structure in the position they want and putting flesh on it.

So… how long will that take to learn? Too many years? Guess we’ll find out. Long have I wanted to be able to draw, but only now and then do I feel like practicing.

I joined DeviantArt at wizardwalk.deviantart.com … I’ll see if I can upload my sketches there so that you can see my bad sketching morph (hopefully) into good sketching. I guess I’m way behind on my skills, but if I can get to be OK by the time I’m 30 years old, it will have been worth it, yes?

Uh… poetry

God, I Want to Live Again

I stood before God’s front
and I prayed and said amen.
God said: “What do you want?”
God, I want to live again!

I’d wanted to be dead
with the pain I went through then.
And yet I somehow said:
God, I want to live again!

The fears, the hate, the why’s,
the dark places I had been,
and yet I somehow cried:
God, I want to live again!

And I looked down at the earth,
at where I lived back when.
Now I know what it was worth.
God, please, let me live again.

——————–

I’ve been feeling kind of bleh lately, too mentally tired to do much.  It’s probably my terrible diet and lack of exercise.  And I’m still waiting for the manufacturers to finish making my album.  I wonder how dads feel waiting for their pregnant wives to give birth?

Anyway, I wrote that poem.  I’ll probably be embarrassed by it later, but for now I like it, since I just wrote it and am feeling sappy.  I’ve written far worse anyway.

I was looking for some of the old horrible poetry I wrote back in middle school.  I had posted it on a website called Poetry.com, but it looks like the self-publishing company Lulu has taken it over.  And thus, my poems from back then are gone.  Which I think is mostly a good thing.  I think there was only one poem out of 10 or so that I was really proud of.  The old Poetry.com used to also sell self-published poetry books, but they were much more schemish about it.  They’d send you a letter congratulating you, making it seem like your poem went through some difficult selection process and if you gave them around $50 you could have a copy of the poetry book they’d like to publish you in!  Of course, unless you are knowingly self-publishing yourself, being published should never cost you money, but I think plenty of people fell for the scam.  Still, it wasn’t a bad site for just hosting your poetry, except you couldn’t edit or delete your work once it was posted, which was dumb.

Anyway, I went ahead and posted the poem to the site for a chance to win $5000.  Oh yeah!  Woohoo!  I can’t wait to win!  Maybe I’ll post a couple more later.  By the way, I usually detest poetry, but when I’m feeling sappy, and I mistake myself for happy, my mind will get all snappy, and though I might write crappy, I won’t sleep or take a nappy until I get my thoughts unfurled and write a poem for the world.

OK, that was lame.

Does anybody want a peanut?

Should school days be longer?

I recently realized that Bill Gates is on Twitter.  For some reason, I find it unbelievable that he would be on Twitter; maybe it’s his personal assistant or something.  I guess I just have him on too high a pedestal.  Does one of the world’s wealthiest people really have time for Twitter?

Anyway, he posted a link to this article: The Case for Saturday School.

Firstly, I’ll say I hate the modern state of public education.  But I’m a bit skeptical that just increasing or decreasing the amount of hours or days a kid goes would do much.  I think doing either could have some very bad consequences.  I’d rather changes be made in the grading systems and the curriculum.

These are some reactions I had while reading the article:

(And please excuse any typos, because I’m going to go to bed after writing this rather than reread my writing.)

The article states:

In the face of budget shortfalls, school districts in many parts of the United States today are moving toward four-day weeks. This is despite evidence that longer school weeks and years can improve academic performance.

OK, but what exactly is “academic performance”?  Isn’t that measured by the tests the academics are giving?  If so, isn’t it obvious that such performance would benefit from increased instruction?  I mean, that’s what the instruction is for.

To me, “academic performance” seems kind of meaningless in and of itself.  We have to define how it relates to the rest of the working world.  After all, isn’t that the entire point of school?  To prepare students for the world of not going to school?  When you get out of school, when and where does “academic performance” apply?  There aren’t many objectively defined math tests in the real world.  While it may be important that you understand certain mathematical concepts for certain jobs, spending more time studying for and doing better on a math test isn’t necessarily going to increase your long term mathematical aptitude.

So I’m suspicious of “improved academic performance” being an automatically good thing.  The term is simply too vague.

Later on, the article states:

“Summer learning loss” is no joke. When they return to school in late August or early September, many children, especially the least advantaged among them, have shed a sizable portion of what they had learned by May—a full month’s worth, by most estimates, adding up to 1.3 school years by the end of high school.

No, it isn’t a joke.  And if you think forgetting stuff over the summer is bad, what about when school is over?! What about “life learning loss”?  And herein lies one of the biggest issues I have with our modern education system; they teach too many things that students just don’t use in everyday life.  There are two solutions to this “summer learning loss” problem, besides what the article is suggesting: 1) stop teaching useless stuff and 2) let students participate more in society so they have a chance to use their knowledge.  (And maybe 3) let students have more control over what they want to learn in school.)  Now, 1 is pretty simple, you just teach less.  2 would require some work to figure out.

But this is assuming that the point of school is to prepare students for the non-school world, for the world in which they’ll have to do some kind of work in exchange for money to exchange for food.  The purpose is not to try to make kids as smart as possible for as long as possible.  Or is it?  Maybe it actually is?  And if so, what is the point of that?

The article says:

The typical young American, upon turning 18, will have spent just 9% of his or her hours on this planet under the school roof (and that assumes full-day kindergarten and perfect attendance) versus 91% spent elsewhere. As for the rest of that time, the Kaiser Family Foundation recently reported that American youngsters now devote an astounding 7.5 hours per day to “using entertainment media” (including TV, Internet, cellphones and videogames). That translates to about 53 hours a week—versus 30 hours in school.

Wow.  Perhaps I was far from typical, then.  I never spent 7.5 hours a day using entertainment media.  The most I could manage was probably 2 or 3.  Then again, I’m not sure how well I can recall my elementary school days.  If I wasn’t doing homework, I was probably playing around outside.  That was probably just as noneducational as watching TV, though.  By the time I was in high school, most extra time I had was spent sleeping.  Homework took up A LOT of time; it was extremely depressing.  I mean, during the high school years, life revolved around high school.  It was horrible.

Anyway, that’s not really important, because, again, why should 91% of time spent elsewhere matter?  It’ll just end up increasing to 100% eventually.  Shouldn’t we be focusing on how to make that time spent elsewhere matter more instead of just trying to decrease it?  Shouldn’t we be focusing on how to make that time spent in school matter more, for that matter?  Since when is just more hours spent in school automatically good?  Oh, because of this “academic performance” thing?

In 1994, for example, economist Robert Margo reported that historical differences in school-year length for black and white youngsters attending segregated schools accounted for much of the gap in their adult earnings.

I’d be interested in that study; how does one conclude such a cause-and-effect?  What about the effect of the children’s home lives?  I would think that would matter just as much, if not more.

Examining the days forfeited to snow and other “unscheduled closings” in Maryland in 2002-2003, [University of Maryland analyst Dave Marcotte] concluded that two-thirds of the elementary schools that failed to make “adequate yearly progress” (the federal benchmark under “No Child Left Behind”) in math that year would have done so “if they had been open during all scheduled school days.”

Firstly, how in the world do you analyze what “would have” happened?  Secondly, doesn’t that sound like more of a failure of a curriculum being designed to prepare for a benchmark assessment test?

Where things start to get complicated is that time spent in school does not equal time fruitfully applied to learning basic skills and core content—a mismatch that looms larger in the U.S. than in most other places.

Yeah, that’s what I said!

Our deeper problem is the enormous amount of time that typical American schools spend on gym, recess, lunch, assembly, changing classes, homeroom, lining up to go to the art room, looking at movies, writing down homework assignments, quieting the classroom, celebrating this or that holiday, and other pursuits. It’s not all wasted time but neither are these minutes spent in ways that boost test scores…

UGH!  How many times do I have to tell you?  The education system is not about boosting test scores! And they don’t represent so simply what people want them to represent, which is how well a student knows material.  It measures other things: how well the student knows the material at the time, how well the student knows that specific material, how good the student is at taking tests, how good the student is at cramming the night before, etc… good test scores are not necessarily good.  Stop blindly being guided by them.

Over the long run, technology holds much potential to boost student learning time in flexible ways and at modest cost. We can stipulate that kids are addicted to it; that “virtual” instruction can happen at very nearly any time or place; and that well-designed distance-learning programs (and suitable hardware) enable greater individualization of learning, with each child moving at his/her own pace, diving deeper when warranted, and going back over things they didn’t quite understand the first time.

Eh… I’m not sure “kids are addicted to it.”  They might like to play computer games, but they can certainly tell the difference between a game and boring old instruction just printed on the screen instead of paper.  I think it can have just as many problems, if not more, than traditional classroom education.  The key is it being “well-designed.”

Disadvantaged youngsters really need—for their own good—the benefits of longer days, summer classes and Saturday mornings in school. But nearly every young American needs to learn more than most are learning today, both for the sake of their own prospects and on behalf of the nation’s competitiveness in a shrinking, dog-eat-dog world.

Maybe disadvantaged youngsters just need to be out of there disadvantaged homes with their not-so-intelligent disadvantaged parents.  If a school is a richer learning environment, even if time isn’t necessarily spent on strict formal lessons, they will be better off for just being around the educationally stimulating environment.  In which case, I’d actually agree that more time in school would be good.  *gasp*  But not necessarily for advantaged children with smart parents, who can create a better learning environment in their own homes.

Whew, wasn’t that fun.

Of course, I think this article is in support of this KIPP program, which Bill Gates seems fond of, either because he actually believes in it or because he’s got some kind of stake in it (or both).

Get taught how to listen to music

I was browsing the web in my usual fashion, whatever that is, and came across these lecture videos from Yale.  The course is about “listening to music,” though I really have to listen to the course to figure out what exactly the professor means by that.  Here are some of my reactions to some of the things this professor says.

Does knowing musical theory improve listening?

First the professor recalls asking his son to listen to something and then asked him “Well, what’s the mode of the piece?  What’s the meter of the piece?  What’s the bass line doing?  Can you identify any chords?”  And of the son had no response.

Woah!  Woah!  What the heck?

Do you really have to be conscious of all that?  Or, I guess the real question is: what’s the point of being conscious of all that?  Does being conscious of all that make you enjoy the music more?  If so, would you argue that not being conscious of that makes other people enjoy the music less?  That seems like an incredibly condescending argument.

Now, if you want to analyze music for your own interest (say, perhaps, you’re a composer), then of course it can be a great mental exercise to be conscious of that stuff.

But you certainly don’t need to if you just want enjoy the music.  Which is really what the entire point of music is.

And no matter how much you analyze that stuff, it’s not like you’re going to figure out how the human perception of music works.  At least not just with analysis alone.

So the professors “experiment” with his son here seems incredibly pointless.

Why would we want to listen to classical music?

So the professor asks.

What?  Really?  You don’t know?  Why does anybody want to listen to any music?

Does he mean “why would we want to listen to classical music instead of pop music?”

You’re not implying that some type of music is objectively better than other music, would you now?

He says that the Nation Public Radio asked this question, and one of the big responses was: for relaxation.  Not a whole lot of relaxing rock n’ roll or pop music out there, huh?  (Maybe someone out there can start a new genre… lullaby pop, or something.)

Some of the other responses: it helps people concentrate, and it provides a vision of a better world.1

I want to change your personality…

Says the professor.

That seems pretty snobby to me.  “I’m going to make you better!”  How arrogant of you to assume you have that ability.  Actually, this seems a pretty important point for all teachers, and all people in general:

DO NOT PRESUME YOU HAVE THE CAPACITY TO MAKE OTHER PEOPLE BETTER.

That’s condescension.  It’s an insult to others, and an overestimation of yourself.

I hope to instill you with a love of classical music…

After hearing that, I would’ve dropped this course right away.2 Why would he hope to do that? If he was a classical music artist selling an album, or a record store owner, I might understand. Instead, it seems like “I like classical music, so everyone else should too.” Now there’s nothing wrong with desiring other people to agree with your opinions (I love when people agree with my opinions, who doesn’t?), but to think it’s worth actively pursuing seems, again, quite condescending. That would be like if I said “I like Danny Elfman, and if you don’t, allow me to enlighten you on the brilliance of the Alice’s Theme track…” No! That’s a terrible way to think and act, as if you have to actively pursue “converting” people to your subjective opinions. It’s not like people have different musical opinions because some people are just dumber and need to be instilled with some knowledge that will change their opinions to the “right” ones.

If I were a professor teaching such a class, I would definitely want to inspire others to listen to more of the same kind of music I loved; who doesn’t like sharing the things they enjoy?  But I wouldn’t have my mind set on changing people’s personalities and lives to be more like mine, as if there was an objective right and wrong about music preferences…

The end

That was only the first 7 minutes of the course, and I already disagree with this professor’s teaching philosophy.  Ha.  Though maybe I’m just misconstruing everything he’s saying.  It looks like a pretty educational course, though, once you get deeper into it, and actually get to the meat.  The first 7 minutes, though… yikes.

Anyway, I gotta go to bed now… I get to go to work all weekend!

——————–

1 I wonder if this has more to do with the fact that most non-classical music includes lyrics. There aren’t very many purely instrumental pop or rock artists out there.

2 But maybe not, if it was going to provide an easy A. I’m not the one that made grades matter.

My new business model: Get lucky

As I was daydreaming today of all the businesses I’d like to start if only I had enough money to hire other people to do all the work, I got to thinking… nobody really knows how to succeed, do they?

In my last post, I said my dream was to own a theme park.  But how many people who achieve their dreams1 were really working toward them their entire life?  It seems like the super rich and famous just kind of fall into place.  They really have no idea how they got there.  They can say generic things like “attitude is everything” and “don’t be stupid with your investments,” but there’s still no objective science to the process.  There are still no specific steps one takes.  Really, you just do whatever you want while being as smart about it as you can.

I’m not sure I can really claim to have a “business model” since I don’t have a business, but if I ever do, I will probably think in terms of luck.  That’s not to say I wouldn’t try to be smart in my decisions, but I wouldn’t get too hung up on trying to understand how to dominate the market, how to become as huge as Disney or Microsoft or Google.  It is tempting to attribute their lofty positions to the mind powers incredible business geniuses, but they’re actually the product of quite a lot of luck, of being in the right place and the right time, and not being too stupid.  (Of course, after you get that lofty, you can afford to hire geniuses to try to keep you there.)

You can envy the people who win the lottery, but there’s no science to it.  All they did to win was to play like everyone else.

Finally, here’s a pretty interesting article on the art of business-ness: 10 things you won’t learn in school.

It has nothing to do with what I’ve just been saying, but it’s still interesting, I think.

——————–

1 And I mean big dreams.  If your dream is to write a novel or run a marathon, that’s something directly up to your willpower.  Big dreams are dreams that require certain decisions being made by other people, like whether or not to buy your book.  You have no direct control over these decisions.  And I hope you like my use of notes in a blog.  It makes me feel trendy.

The price of your dreams

I was thinking about Shark Tank, that ABC show that we’re still not sure whether or not they’ll make a second season of, and I noticed one of the sharks had uploaded this pic to twitpic.  “Every dream has its price.”  How quotable.

Price can of course mean more than money.  There’s all the time it will take to pursue it, all the risks you’ll have to take, all the gambles, all the questioning yourself, all the uncertainty… dreaming dreams is a blissful business, but pursuing them is a nightmare.

My dream is to own a theme park.  Gah, where do I even start?  I don’t know.

And then you have people who say “you should be goal oriented!”  OK, if I want to own a theme park, what should be my first goal?  Get rich?

And then people say “forget the money, do what you love!”  But I can’t, I need money to do what I love!  Or doing what I love is leading me nowhere; I’m still miserable from having to go to work everyday and having too little time left to do what I love.

Is that the price of dreams?  Going mad because you don’t know how to pursue them?  Because you’re stuck at work or in school staring at the clock wanting to go home and work on something fun?

How do you make those times enjoyable?

How do you relax when you know you have so much work ahead?

Should you live in the present or be planning the future?  How do you do both and stay sane?

I don’t know.

Thus is the price of dreams.

When is my vacation?  Will I ever be alone?

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

irish

Whew, the month is really flying by… already St. Patrick’s Day!  I think March should be Irish history month.  Let’s talk about some Irish history for a minute.  Why, I believe it was in the 1880’s that a very important Irish man came to America.  His name, Timothy O’Donovan or something.  He was a very important man, mostly because his great great great (great?) grandson was eventually born… and it was me!  Wow, what a great look into Irish history.  Join me next time when we look into the history of another Irish guy, James (or John?) Hannifin… bet you can’t guess what he’s famous for… (clue: something to do with me).

But enough about old dead guys from Ireland.

Enjoy your St. Patrick’s Day with some potatoes, a bit of Mozart on the stereo.  Oh no wait, he’s not Irish.  It’ll have to be Hannifin then on your stereo.  Oh well, rules are rules.  Wear green and dye your hair orange.  Eat lucky charms for breakfast.  Speak with fakey Irish accents.  Put an O in front of your last name.  Try to get a job at “no Irish need apply” shops.

Enjoy!

Short Wicked review and other boring things

Seeing Wicked

My family and I went to see the musical Wicked yesterday.

wicked The bad: Going in, the lady person (at the Landmark Theater in Richmond, VA) handing out the programs wouldn’t give me one. She said “Oh, it’s only one per family! Snicker snicker snoody-doo!” I made that second sentence up, but $55 for way-in-the-back seats and you don’t even give me a program?! You pathetic loser booger-heads! We did end up getting more; who doesn’t like to collect programs of the performances you’ve seen? One per family. Tsk tsk. You should be ashamed of yourselves.

Secondly, the seating at the Landmark Theater in Richmond, VA is just pathetic; at least up in the balcony seats. (I think the place was built in the 1920s or something.) It was like stadium seating, but extremely squished. Not designed for tall people at all.  The seats in front of you dig into your knees. It’s just really poorly designed. I would recommend nobody ever going there again for anything. Pathetic, you fail, Landmark Theater!

The good: The musical itself. After familiarizing myself with the Wicked soundtrack for the past few years, it was great to finally see the entire story behind it, which was a quite engaging story (should make a good movie someday – I doubt much story editing would be needed). I loved the whole fantasy feel to the whole thing, in the set designs and the costumes and the lighting. The big talking Oz head is just awesome. You don’t get that stuff on the soundtrack.

A bit of trivia (that I found online; probably old news to die hard fans): the first seven notes of the tune “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” are hidden in the musical. Stephen Schwartz used them for the “Unlimited” theme. The rhythm and harmonies are different, so you don’t recognize it at all, but it’s awesome that they’re there.

Album art

In other news, here is a preview of what my first album’s cover will probably look like. The manufacturers are estimating they will be done manufacturing the thing by March 31st. That’s, of course, just an estimate, and then it will still require some time to ship. But we’re getting closer and closer! Maybe this whole process becomes more mundane after you do it a few times, but for a first time it’s extremely exciting!

Alice in Wonderland soundtrack

alice Speaking of albums with awesome music (heh), I recently bought Danny Elfman’s score to the newest Tim Burton film, Alice in Wonderland. Even though the movie as a whole was kind of meh, the music is fantastic. It’s some of Danny Elfman’s best work in a while. The first track is kinda like the first track on the Coraline soundtrack, except in Elfman’s score the children’s choir is singing in English (in Coraline it sounds like they’re singing in gibberish). Both utilize children choirs singing hauntingly beautiful melodies with delicious epic orchestration. Ahhh… awesome stuff. So… you should buy it.  At least buy the first track “Alice’s Theme” on iTunes or something.  It’s Hannifin recommended.

Blah blah

It still feels like it should be an hour earlier…

Yet even more long blatheryness about consciousness

My family and I are off to see the musical Wicked tomorrow.  Should be fun.  It will be the closest to thing to a vacation I’ve gotten and will get for a while, methinks.

The rest of this long blathery post will be yet some more thoughts I think I thought while reading Consciousness Explained by Daniel C. Dennett.

Funny little story

Here’s just a funny little story from page 59 of Conscious Explained by Daniel C. Dennett:

A neurosurgeon once told me about operating on the brain of a young man with epilepsy … [he was] making sure that the parts tentatively to be removed were not absolutely vital by stimulating them electrically and asking the patient what he experienced … one spot produced a delighted response from the patient: “It’s ‘Outta Get Me’ by Guns N’ Roses, my favorite heavy metal band!”

I asked the neurosurgeon if he had asked the patient to sing or hum along with the music, since it would be fascinating to learn how ‘high fidelity’ the provoked memory was.  Would it be in exactly the same key and tempo as the record? … The surgeon hadn’t asked the patient to sing along.  “Why not?” I asked, and he replied: “I hate rock music!”

Later in the conversation the neurosurgeon happened to remark that he was going to have to operate again on the same young man, and I expressed the hope that he would just check to see if he could restimulate the rock music, and this time ask the fellow to sing along.  “I can’t do it,” replied the neurosurgeon, “since I cut out that part.”  “It was part of the epileptic focus?” I asked, and he replied, “No, I already told you — I hate rock music!”

I wonder if I could make everyone in the world love my music and hate other people’s music by operating on their brains?  I wonder if I could also religiously convert them too, so that they will all think I’m a god.  But, of course, I believe that would be morally wrong, so I would have to operate on my own brain first.  Then I will believe it to be right.

Ha ha ha!

On page 62, Dennett writes:

There is a species of primate in South America, more gregarious than most other mammals, with a curious behavior.  The members of this species often gather in groups, large and small, and in the course of their mutual chattering, under a wide variety of circumstances, they are induced to engage in bouts of involuntary, convulsive respiration, a sort of loud, helpless, mutually reinforcing group panting that sometimes is so severe as to incapacitate them.  Far from being aversive, however, these attacks seem to be sought out by most members of the species, some of whom even appear to be addicted to them.

When I realized he was talking about humans and our habit of laughing, I could not help but engage in involuntary convulsive respiration myself.  When you laugh at the thought of how strange laughter is, you can create an internal infinite laugh loop.

Thoughts on the whyness of things and such

On page 64, Dennett writes:

We can give a perfectly sound biological account of why there should be pain and pain-behavior … what we want is a similarly anchored account of why there should be hilarity and laughter.

I think one has to be careful in asking “why?” because it can mean two different things.  There’s the cause-and-effect why and the purpose why.  For example, if I ask “why does the heart pump blood?” you could either answer “to get blood to other parts of the body, duh” (purpose why) or “because the brain tells it to, duh” (cause-effect why).

The thing is, purpose why applies only to human actions (and perhaps animal actions); consciousness and planning create purpose why.  Nature works only with cause-effect why.  But we tend to project a purpose why understanding of the world sometimes, especially on things like evolution and living systems.  Why do we have hands?  Not to grab things; nature doesn’t know anything, and it doesn’t care about grabbing.  You could argue that being able to grab things has provided an evolutionary advantage.  OK, but that still doesn’t answer how hands came to be.  Before creatures could grab things, nature didn’t say “it would be nice to have a body part that could grab things!”

Ultimately I think the reason we have hands, the reason we laugh, the reason we cry, feel pain, etc., all lie in the complexity of DNA replication over many millions of years (and the effect of having physical advantages (which is not to say that all elements of the human body have some evolutionary advantage; I doubt they do; why only one thumb, for instance?  There’s no advantage to having only one thumb)), and since that system is too complex for us to understand at the moment (and there are things about it we may never be able to fully know anyway, like the entire DNA structures of all of our ancestors), we might as well say that it’s random, that there is no reason.

All that said, asking [the right kind of] why might still help us learn something, but we should realize that it might be something we can never know.  Dennett might call this “defeatist thinking” … but oh well.  (Oh well?  More defeatist thinking!)

Knowing thyself

On page 67, Dennett writes:

Perhaps we are fooling ourselves about the high reliability of introspection, our personal powers of self-observation of our own conscious mind. … We are either “infallible” — always guaranteed to be right — or at least “incorrigible” — right or wrong, no one else could correct us.

This reminds me of a post I wrote a long while ago in which I blathered about why I hated being a teenager.  (It has nothing to do with a “maturing brain” and everything to do with society and parents trying to continue to maintain power and control over “teens,” which is a pretty new word/concept in the scope of human history.)  If you read the comments, someone says:

Though I can’t say I agree with the phrase “That’s why” in cases like this… “That’s what made me moody and depressed” — I really don’t think anyone has the authority on how their responses work to stimuli. If you’re on that level, you ought to be able to supersede them and establish control over your mind; however, I think that inability to control goes hand in hand with deficit understanding.

To which I responded:

Yikes! But then, who does? Does anyone? Shouldn’t I be the authority on how I feel, if I speak for myself at least? Can’t I know what’s making me miserable?

Now, I’d still defend the notion that teens being forced to do things makes them miserable. I think it makes just about everyone miserable.  Would parents in their 30s or 40s really want to trade places with their teens? I think not (though some might not admit it). But then, how many teens would agree with me? What are the reasons teens give for being so “moody”? The world is stupid and no one understands them?

So, I still agree with myself on the issue of “the myth of the teen brain” (and the myth that there even is a “teen” stage of psychological development), but I also agree that in many circumstances (uh… except this one) we should be cautious of thinking we can understand why we feel what we feel.

In fact, I think this is kind of exploited in works of fiction like the show House, when a character might say something like “I’m trying to help you!” and House will say something like “no, you don’t care about me, you just feel guilty about about what you said to Chase” or some other psychological twist that sheds new light everyone’s motivations, which is one of the reasons the show is fun to watch… the characters’ true motivations for everything is almost always in question (OK, maybe not always, but still).

How well can we truly understand our own motivations and causes of our feelings and our own thought processes and whatever? How are we to know?

On a side note, I’ve always thought it not only useless, but also a bit dangerous to too deeply psychoanalyze yourself (or believe someone else’s psychoanalysis of you). You’re probably likely to be wrong about yourself, and then acting on your own psychoanalytical conclusions, you may destroy yourself even further whilst thinking you’re helping yourself.

Though maybe I’m just saying that because I’m uncomfortable being too self-conscious… oh wait, oops, I was psychoanalyzing myself there…

But, really, if someone tried to convince me that they knew how their own mind worked, and what their subconscious desires were, I’d think “oh brother” and not believe them. Unless they agree with me on the teenager issue, of course.

That’s all folks

OK, is that enough?  I think so.  I kind of rambled, and I’m not sure I’ll fully agree with everything I said a few days from now, but writing all this helped the spare time go by today at work, and it made me feel as if I was doing something useful with that spare time, even though you can probably tell that that was not case.

Started an Android game review blog

In my continuous efforts to get my mind off of the manufacturing of my album, which makes me restless, I have started yet another blog (that I probably won’t keep updated for very long, because I have a habit of letting things die). The blog is creatively called “Android Games” and features reviews of games for the Google Android OS. And here is the blog.

OK, nothing too special, but should be fun to maintain for a few days at least.

I seem to find installing and setting up WordPress blogs to be a bit addicting… but maintaining them is another matter…