Archive for October, 2008

Film is Tiring

I’m exhausted. Yesterday afternoon around six I got a call from Stirling asking me to come help out with a film shoot. Everyone got together to meet at 8:30pm. We finished at about 6:00am.

The entire night can be summarized in two texts I sent out during the ordeal.

From: Jacob McNeil
To: (Name Withheld)
Time: 10:51pm
Sometimes, in the course of making a film, it is necessary to break the law.

From: Jacob McNeil
To: (Name Withheld)
Time: 3:26am
Stirling Bancroft owes me big.

I need to get a lot of sleep.

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October 30, 2008 at 10:28 pm Leave a comment

No One is Interested in This But Me

The word “they” should function as a singular gender-neutral pronoun.

There. I said it.

In the English language, there seems to be a lot of confusion over how to refer to singular entities when the gender is unknown. For an example, let’s imagine a contract that can be signed by men or women. It could use the pronoun “he” regardless of gender (“he who signs this agrees…”). It could use an awkward construction like “he/she”, which sounds terrible when spoken aloud. Or it might use one of the many artificial and downright ugly constructions that have sprung up over the years as a potential solution, such as “hir”, “xe”, or “squir” (I shit you not, these all actually exist).

All these ways of referring to an unknown gender are either implicitly sexist or unbearably awkward. What’s needed is a gender-neutral term that’s already in common usage and can pull double-duty as a singular pronoun.

And we have that word. “They”.

Now, the problem here is that “they” already functions in the plural sense, and so could result in confusion. However, this isn’t a serious concern if you think about it; we already use the word “you” to mean both “you (singular)” and “you (plural)”, and nobody has any trouble with that.

More importantly, “they” is already in usage in this sense, and has been since the 15th century. It’s already an accepted variant, though it sometimes doesn’t receive much use. However, some grammarians reject it because of the difficultly in contrasting it against plurals. Here’s an example I just found:

“The person saw a creature creeping towards them from out of the forest. Its eyes had a gleam in them that made them think of all the fierceness of a lion.”

In the second sentence, it’s unclear except from context what each “them” refers to. In an extended passage this confusion would be compounded and potentially render the work unreadable (again, I’ve seen examples). This is a legitimate concern, I admit. However, it seems to me that the clarity you gain from not arbitrarily assigning a gender balances out against the diffusion of meaning (again, context helps significantly in this case).

Why is having a singular gender-neutral pronoun so important? Because the most commonly used alternative, simply using “he” to denote both genders, is both confusing and sexist and leads to all kinds of confusion. Take, for example, the extremely gendered “He” used to refer to god; as a matter of logic an omnipotent, bodyless being would not be gendered, but this use of the singular pronoun allows people to refer to a god as a man, usher in all sorts of talk about “the father”, and elevate men to a higher level of importance than women.

Not to mention how insulting it must be to read over something that repeatedly refers to you as the wrong gender (for example, a contract that keeps using the pronoun “he”).

Though it doesn’t cover all the bases linguistically, ‘they’ does fill a nice gap and should be used in discourse as a way of avoiding weird constructions and incorrect gender-attribution. People should use it more often.

Like most of the things I worry about, there’s a relevant Dinosaur Comic to this, but I can’t find it.

*****

For the record, most of my problem with artificial constructions like ‘xe’ is that they are cumbersome and seem to have little basis in the English Language (their letter structure and pronounciation just doesn’t mesh with other common English words). Additionally, their very nature as artificial constructions rather than naturally arising words makes them unlikely to catch on. They strike me as an impractical solution to a practical problem, though I will admit that they can have a legitimate use in some circumstances.

October 27, 2008 at 10:53 pm Leave a comment

This is of no interest to anyone

A couple quick updates:

-Film-A-Week is going rather poorly at the moment; in both the last two weeks our actors bailed on us, and now we’re pretty far behind. We may need to seriously consider the feasibility of this project.

-My life has taken a significant turn for the better now that I’ve got some major projects out of the way and there’s less stress. I’ve even stopped having those weird-ass dreams.

-I’ve just watched the entire first season of Arrested Development, and it is glorious. I had no idea what I was missing all this time. The folly of my wasted youth!

…although that, too, is partially responsible for the dreams.

October 21, 2008 at 9:43 pm Leave a comment

What the Hell

You know you’ve been watching too much Arrested Development when…

…you dream that you were actually adopted and that Jason Bateman is your real father.

O.o

I’ve been having incredibly bizarre, surrealist dreams all week, which is especially weird because I usually don’t remember my dreams. They keep interfering with my sleep and screwing with my head during the day (such as two nights ago, when I dreamed that I had forgotten to do important projects for classes I’m not actually enrolled in).

There is considerably too much stress in my life right now.

October 17, 2008 at 10:59 am Leave a comment

Just a Small Note

On Wikipedia today, this was the Featured Picture:

The world is rough sometimes. People can be obnoxious, life can be unfair, sometimes everything seems against you. But to live in a world where something that splendid and beautiful can arise naturally, crafted by chance in the forge of evolution over the course of billions of years… well, that’s something special. You can forgive a little harshness in the world when it gives us things as magnificent as these.

October 13, 2008 at 11:57 pm Leave a comment

More Text Adventures

As many of you already know my girlfriend and I broke up a little over a week ago, thus triggering a whole lot of shit and amounting to a really shitty time.

For those interested, the break-up was at least reasonable amicable. We still talk and even ended up going to a movie together (we already had tickets, so it seemed like a waste not to go).

But anyway! The best part of break-ups are, of course, rampant speculation. Everyone who finds out naturally begins speculating on what happened, and how, and why. As much as most of this has bothered me, there’s one person’s opinion that I found fantastic. So fantastic, in fact, that I had to text Jon about it as soon as I found out. I present to you know the entirety of our conversation on the matter.

Jacob: So apparently my ex-girlfriend’s mom thinks we broke up because I’m gay.
Jon: But you’re not.
Jacob: I know, but she thinks I am because I kept talking about how dreamy Aaron Eckhart is.
Jon: He is!
Jacob: I know!

For the record, Aaron Eckhart is so dreamy.

*****

One other exciting thing to come out of the break-up is that Mariana decided to write me a farewell letter including advice for future relationships.

This advice included (I kid you not) very detailed and well-labeled diagrams.

…I think I just got told.

October 12, 2008 at 4:28 pm Leave a comment

My Life at 24fps

We filmed and edited another “Film a Week” on Sunday; these seem to be going pretty well thus far. With any luck they’ll start appearing up on the interwebs near the end of October; I’ll let you kids know when and where. Our latest shoot involved a homemade cat puppet and an abandoned bus which we never bothered to get permission to shoot in. Later, the “James Bond Theme” started playing really loudly as if from nowhere. The whole thing was impossibly surreal.

Right now my life is crazy, it that it is full of things I have to do which make it difficult to take on a bunch of stuff I want to do. Apparently the National Film Board is offering internships, and as much as I’d like to apply I’m not sure I have the time. This is incredibly troubling. Perhaps the only way I could achieve this is by cutting all my friends out of my life.

I’m sure they’d understand.

Speaking of which, it occurred to me the other day that most of the things that would make all my friends hate me would also be things that would make me a total badass. So I’m a bit conflicted on what to do there. You know how it is.

October 1, 2008 at 11:42 am Leave a comment


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