Weeknote for 6/23/2019

Coding project generator

🙂

Version 1 is done. The most important thing I’ve learned from this sprint is that it’s harder to create a general tool abstractly on its own, when you can only speculate about what it should do and how. It’s easier when you build it in the context of immediate needs. So instead of spending further months focused on this project, I’ll develop it alongside the programming projects that use it.

Life maintenance

😐

I forced myself out of procrastination and ordered a sofa and then an area rug to go with it. FedEx is just going to plunk the sofa down in the lobby or something, so hopefully I can get someone to help me drag it up to my apartment. That’s supposed to happen Thursday.

This week I’ll finishing organizing my books and set up a preliminary cleaning schedule.

Writing

😎

I finished Story by Robert McKee. I feel enlightened, and it’s affecting how I look at the stories I come across, a valuable stone in my path to understanding narrative. Two points that have especially stuck with me are that (1) a character reveals their character through the decisions they make under stress, which is brought about by conflict, and (2) the purpose of each segment of the plot (a scene, sequence, or act) is to create a change in the charge (positive or negative) of one or more values related to the story’s theme, such as the prosperity of a character or the status of a relationship.

Despite all the insight, there’s still more path to go, and I’m left with questions. Do McKee’s guidelines really cover all the kinds of stories worth telling? And how do these guidelines change exactly when it comes to other media, such as novels and comics? He touches on some of the differences, but I’m sure there’s much more to say.

For now I’m putting the writing books on hold to listen to some actual stories, starting with The Contract by John Howell and Gwen Plano.

Movies

🙂

Monday I finished watching A.I. Artificial Intelligence. (It took a few days. I was distractible.) I had mixed feelings about it. It seemed like two different movies. The first act was sweet and heartwrenching. The second changed tone and turned into an adventure, but it clearly continued the story. But then the third act took a strange turn that seemed to drop the earlier story. But really it was a long, and in my opinion contrived, setup for the final stretch that was meant to tie up the story in a particular way. It just felt clumsy to me. Still, I liked the movie well enough, and Haley Joel Osment was brilliant. I’d managed to go all this time without actually seeing any of his work.

Saturday I watched Upgrade. As I’d hoped, I liked it better than the similarly premised Venom. Upgrade was more serious and ultimately more alien, despite the lack of tentacles. It was a decent take on the control problem, the question of how to keep a superintelligent AI from harming humanity. The movie made a real effort to be logical, which I appreciate in an AI story. It’s easy to get those wrong. Not that we know how events around a superintelligent AI would go, but with a lot of these stories I feel the writer has made the AI character too human for no reason. An AI wouldn’t act like a normal human by default. We’d have to make it that way on purpose, or at least equip and motivate it to learn to act human, and that should at least be part of the backstory.

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