Jun 15, 2021
It was mostly white women with class privilege that pushed the idea that all men were powerful in the first place. These were the women for whom feminist liberation was more about getting their piece of the power pie and less about freeing masses of women or less powerful men from sexist oppression. They were not mad at their powerful daddies and husbands who kept poor men exploited and oppressed; they were mad that they were not being giving equal access to power.
There is little done from a feminist standpoint concentrating on boyhood. No significant body of feminist writing addresses boys directly, letting them know how they can construct an identity that is not rooted in sexism. Teachers of children see gender equality mostly in terms of ensuring that girls get to have the same privileges and rights as boys within the existing social structure; they do not see it in terms of granting boys the same rights as girls (right to not engage in aggressive/violent play, to play with dolls or dress up, to wear costumes of any gender).
Men were expected to hold on to the ideas about strength and providing for others that were a part of patriarchal thought, while dropping their investment in domination and adding an investment in emotional growth. This vision of feminist masculinity was so fraught with contradictions, it was impossible to realise. No wonder that men who cared and were open to change often just gave up.
Many of the New Age models created by men reconfigure old sexist paradigms while making it seem as though they are offering a different script for gender relations. They often resisted macho patriarchal models while upholding a vision of a benevolent patriarchy, one in which the father rules with tenderness and kindness, but he is still in control. Clearly, men need new models for self-assertion that do not require the construction of an enemy “other”, be it a women or the symbolic feminine, for them to define themselves against.
Patriarchal culture continues to control the hearts of men precisely because it socialises males to believe that without their role as patriarchs they will have no reason for being.
Power struggles are not an effective model for human relations. In The Heart of the soul, Gary Zukav and Linda Francis make it clear that while humans may have needed to create external power to keep the species alive at one time, this is no longer the case.
Patriarchal masculinity teaches men that their selfhood has meaning only in relation to the pursuit of external power, and to be narcissistic, infantile, and psychologically dependent for self-definition on the privileges that they receive from being male. Hence many males feel that their very existence is threatened if these privileges are taken away.
Feminist masculinity presupposes that it is enough for males to be to have value, that they do not have to “do”, to “perform”, to be affirmed and loved. Rather than defining strength as “power over”, feminist masculinity defines strength as one’s capacity to be responsible for self and others.
Norms and stereotypes for patriarchal masculinity identified by Robert Levant: avoiding femininity, restrictive emotionality, seeking achievement and status, self-reliance, aggression, homophobia, and nonrelational attitudes toward sexuality. In contrast, feminist masculinity would be integrity, self-love, emotional awareness, assertiveness, and relational skill, including the capacity to be empathic, autonomous, and connected.
Patriarchy makes maleness feared, and convinces men that it is better to be feared than loved. This fear estranges men from every female in their lives to greater or less degrees, and men feel the loss. Ultimately, one of the emotional costs of allegiance to patriarchy is to be seen as unworthy of trust.
Patriarchal masculinity insists that real men must prove their manhood by idealising aloneness and disconnection. Feminist masculinity tells men that they become more real through the act of connecting with others, through building community.
Love cannot exist in any relationship that is based on domination and coercion. Males cannot love themselves in patriarchal culture if their very self-definition relies on submission to patriarchal rules.
Healing from manhood by John Stoltenberg says “loving justice more than manhood, is not only a worthy pursuit, it is the future”.
Popular culture: media masculinity
The hero of The Incredible Hulk is the perfect candidate for inclusion in Barbara Ehrenreich’s book The hearts of men: American dreams and the flight from commitment. He is a man always on the run, unable to develop lasting ties or intimacy. A scientist by training (the ultimate personification of rational man), when he experiences anger, he turns into a creature of colour and commits violent acts. After committing violence, he changes back to his normal white-male rational self. He has no memory of his actions and therefore cannot assume responsibility for them.
One of the ways patriarchal while males used mass media to wage war against feminism was to consistently portray the violent woman-hating man as aberrant and abnormal.
Contemporary books and movies offer clear portraits of the evils of patriarchy without offering any direction for change. Ultimately they send the message that male survival demands holding on to some vestige of patriarchy.
The vast majority of contemporary films send the message that males cannot escape the beast within. They can pretend. They can dissimulate, but they can never break patriarchy’s hold on their consciousness.
Mass media are a powerful vehicle for teaching the art of the possible. Enlightened men must claim it as the space of their public voice and create a progressive popular culture that will teach men how to connect with others, how to communicate, how to love.
Healing male spirit
Men cannot speak their pain in patriarchal culture. Boys learn this in early childhood.
Psychologist David Winter found that women living in countries or periods of extreme male dominance tend to be very controlling of their sons. Many mothers in patriarchal culture fear their sons will be weak.
To always wear a mask as a way of asserting masculine presence is to always live the lie, to be perpetually deprived of an authentic sense of identity and well-being. This falseness causes males to experience intense emotional pain. Rituals of domination help mediate the pain.
When feminist women insist that all men are powerful oppressors who victimise from the location of power, they obscure the reality that many victimise from the location of victimisation. Failure to examine the victimisation of men keeps us from understanding maleness.
I am always disturbed when male students request references to literature that will serve as a guide as they struggle to interrogate patriarchy and create progressive identities, because there is so little literature to offer them.
As advocates of feminism who seek to end sexism and sexist oppression, we must be willing to hear men speak their pain. Only when we courageously face male pain without turning away will we model for men the emotional awareness healing requires.
Men of all ages who want to talk about feelings usually learn not to go to other men. And if they are heterosexual, they are far more likely to try sharing with women they have been sexually intimate with. Women talk about the fact that intimate conversation with males often takes place in the brief moments before and after sex. And of course our mass media provide the image again and again of the man who goes to a sex workers to share his feelings because there is no intimacy in that relationship and therefore no real emotional risk.
The Dalai Lama said that compassion is one of the principal things that make our lives meaningful. It is the source of all lasting happiness and joy. And it is the foundation of a good heart. There is no denying that our happiness is inextricably bound up with the happiness of others. There is no denying that if our society suffers, we ourselves suffer. When the hearts of men are full of compassion and open to love, then, as the Dalai Lama states, “there is no need for temple or church, for mosque or synagogue, no need for complicated philosophy, doctrine or dogma, for our own heart, our own mind, is the temple and the doctrine is compassion.
Separate patriarchal ideology from the powerful images of nurturing and loving kindness embodied in male religious figures. This image of loving fatherhood embodies feminist masculinity in its most divine form.
Reclaiming male integrity
Sexist roles restrict the identity formation of male and female children, but the process is far more damaging to boys because not only are the roles required of them more rigid and confining, but they are much more likely to receive severe punishment when they deviate from these roles.
Contemporary feminist movement created a socially sanctioned space where girls can create a sense of self that is distinct from sexist definitions; the same freedom has not been extended to boys.
As victims of child abuse via socialization in the direction of the patriarchal ideal, boys learn that they are unlovable. According to Bradshaw they learn that “relationships are based on power, control, secrecy, fear, shame, isolation, and distance”. These are the traits often admired in the patriarchal adult man.
Emotionally wounding boys is socially acceptable and even demanded in patriarchal culture. Denying them their right to be whole, to have integrity, is not only encouraged, it is seen as the right way to do things. Terrence Real says that we encourage boys to bury their deepest selves, to stop speaking, or attending to the truth, to hold in mistrust, or even in disdain, the state of closeness. We live in an antirelational, vulnerability-despising culture, one that not only fails to nurture the skills of connection but actively fears them. Teaching boys to despise their vulnerability is one way to socialise them to engage in self-inflicted soul murder.
Patriarchy encourages men to surrender their integrity and to live lives of denial. By learning the arts of compartmentalisation, dissimulation, and dissociation, men are able to see themselves as acting with integrity in cases where they are not.
M. Scott Peck argues in Further along the road less traveled that compartmentalisation is a way to avoid feeling pain: “We’re all familiar with the man who goes to church on Sunday morning […], but who, on Monday morning, has no trouble with his company’s policy of dumping toxic wastes in the local stream. He can do this because he has religion in one compartment and his business in another.” Since most men have been socialised to believe that compartmentalisation is a positive practice, it feels right, it feels comfortable. “Integrity is painful. But without it there can be no wholeness.”
Integrity is needed for healthy self-esteem. Most males have low self-esteem because they are constantly lying and dissimulating in order to perform the sexist male role.
One dimension of feminist movement that did have a profound impact on men was its insistence that women had the right to critique men both collectively and individually.
Like many women, [mom] has wanted him to be interested in personal growth. For years patriarchal culture has taught men that their selfhood, their manhood, is affirmed by a lack of interest in personal growth.
Wounded men are not often able to say anything positive. They are the grump-and-groan guys; cloaked in cynicism, they stand at an emotional distance from themselves and others.
If we are to create a culture in which all males can learn to love, we must first reimagine family in all its diverse forms as a place of resistance. We must be willing to see boyhood differently, as a time when boys learn to glory in the connection with others, in the revelry and joy of intimacy that is the essential human longing.
In such a world boys may think of games that do not centre around the causing of pain, the creation of death, but will indeed be forms of play that celebrate life and wholeness. And the individual differences that arise between boys, and between boys and girls, will become occasions for exploration, for the sharing of knowledge and the invention of new ways of being.
Steve Bearman, in Why men are so obsessed with sex, makes the point that after being taught to be obsessed with sex via patriarchal conditioning, males are “then subjected to continuous conditioning to repress sensuality, numb feelings, ignore our bodies, and separate from our natural closeness with human beings”.
There is a war between the sexes, between those who believe they are destined to be predators and those they deem prey. More than ever before, females are encouraged to assume the patriarchal mask and bury their emotional selves as deeply as their male counterparts do. Females embrace this paradigm because they feel it is better to be a dominator than to be dominated. However, this is a perverse vision of gender equality that offers women equal access to the house of the dead. In that house there will be no love.
Jun 14, 2021
EDIT: You can now also read the second half of my notes.
Wanted: Men who love
In the country of Men by Jan Waldron: Mother love is plenty and apparent: we complain because we have too much of it. The love of a father is an uncommon gem, to be hunted, burnished, and hoarded. The value goes up because of its scarcity.
We learn to love men more because they will not love us. If they dared to love us, in patriarchal culture they would cease to be real “men”.
Reformist feminist focus on male power reinforced the notion that somehow males were powerful and had it all. Feminist writing did not tell us about the deep inner misery of men. It did not tell us the terrible terror that gnaws at the soul when one cannot love. The truth we do not tell is that men are longing for love. This is the longing feminist thinkers must dare to examine, explore, and talk about.
The unhappiness of men in relationships, the grief men feel about the failure of love, often goes unnoticed in our society precisely because the patriarchal culture really does not care if men are unhappy.
Patriarchy teaches a form of emotional stoicism to men that says they are more mainly if they do not feel, but if by chance they should feel and the feelings hurt, the mainly response is to stuff them down, to forget about them, to hope they go away. George Weiberg explains in Why Men Won’t Commit: “Most men are on quest for the ready-made perfect woman because they basically feel that problems in a relationship can’t be worked out. When the slightest thing goes wrong, it seems easier to bolt than talk.”
The reality is that men are hurting and that the whole culture responds to them by saying, “Please do not tell us what you feel.” My partner would explain how I asked him to talk about his feelings and when he did, I would freak out. He was right. It was hard for me to face that I did not want to hear about his feelings when they were painful or negative, that I did not want my image of the strong man truly challenged by learning of his weaknesses and vulnerabilities. Many women cannot hear male pain about love because it sounds like an indictment of female failure. Since sexist norms have taught us that loving is our task whether in our role as mothers or lovers or friends, if men say they are not loved, then we are at fault; we are to blame.
Patriarchal notions of manhood teach boys that it is their nature to kill, then teaches them that they can do nothing to change this nature–nothing, that is, that will leave their masculinity intact. We need a revolution of values to end male violence, and that revolution will necessarily be based on a love ethic. To create loving men, we must love males. Loving maleness is different from praising and rewarding males for living up to sexist-defined notions of male identity. In patriarchal culture males are not allowed simply to be who they are and to glory in their unique identity. Their value is always determined by what they do. In an antipatriarchal culture males do not have to prove their value and worth. They know from birth that simply being gives them value, the right to be cherished and loved.
Much of my thinking about maleness began in childhood when I witnessed the differences in the ways my brother and I were treated. The standards used to judge his behaviour were much harsher. No male successfully measures up to patriarchal standards without engaging in an ongoing practice of self-betrayal. In his boyhood my brother, like so many boys, just longed to express himself. He did not want to conform to a rigid script of appropriate maleness. As a consequence he was scorned and ridiculed. In his younger years our brother was a loving presence in our household. As patriarchal thinking and action claimed him in adolescence, he learned to mask his loving feelings.
My mother’s father, Daddy Gus, found it easier to be disloyal to patriarchy in old age. H e was the man in my childhood who practiced the art of loving. He was emotionally aware and emotionally present, and yet he also was trapped by a patriarchal bond. Our grandmother was always deeply invested in the dominator model of relationships. To macho men Daddy Gus, Mama’s father, appeared to be less than masculine. Back then Mama did not know how lucky she was to have a loving father. She had been seduced by myths of romantic love to dream of a strong, domineering, take-control, dashing, and daring man as a suitable mate. She married her ideal only to find herself trapped in a bond with a punishing, cruel, unloving patriarchal man. She may wake up and recognise that she is wedded to abuse, that she is not loved. That moment of awakening is the moment of heartbreak. Heartbroken women in longtime marriages or partnerships rarely leave their men. They learn to make an identity out of their suffering, their complaint, their bitterness.
Throughout our childhood Mama was the great defender of Dad. And even when she began to see him, she still taught us to admire him and be grateful for his presence. She was willing to cling to the fantasy of the patriarchal ideal even as the confronted the brutal reality of patriarchal domination daily. After 50 years of marriage she would not be leaving him, but she would no longer believe in love. Only her bitterness found a voice; she now speaks the absence of love, a lifetime of heartache. She is not alone.
“Something missing within” was a self-description I heard from many men. Again and again a man would tell me about early childhood feelings of emotional exuberance, and then a rupture happened, a disconnect, and that feeling of being loved, of being embraced, was gone. Somehow the test of manhood, men told me, was the willingness to accept this loss, to not speak it even in private grief.
To indoctrinate boys into the rules of patriarchy, we force them to feel pain and to deny their feelings. Despite the contemporary visionary feminist thinking that makes clear that a patriarchy thinker need not be a male, most folks continue to see men as the problem with patriarchy. This is simply not the case. Women can be as wedded to patriarchal thinking and action as men.
Creating love by John Bradshaw: “Patriarchal rules still govern most of the world’s religious, school systems, and family systems.” Describing the most damaging of these rules, Bradshaw lists “blind obedience–the foundation upon which patriarchy stands; the repression of all emotions except fear; the destruction of individual willpower; and the repression of thinking whenever it departs from the authority figure’s way of thinking.”
Many female-headed households endorse and promote patriarchal thinking with far greater passion than two-parent households. Because they do not have an experiential reality to challenge false fantasies of gender roles, women in such households are far more likely to idealise the patriarchal male role and patriarchal men that are women who live with patriarchal men every day.
Patriarchy demands of men that they become and remain emotional cripples. Boys brutalised and victimised by patriarchy more often than not become patriarchal. They want to be accepted and affirmed in a patriarchal world so they are pushed towards that. If we were to go door-to-door asking if we should end male violence against women, most people would give their unequivocal support. Then if you told them we can only stop male violence against women by ending male domination, by eradicating patriarchy, they would begin to hesitate, to change their position.
Stiffed: The betrayal of the American Man by Susan Faludi: Ask feminists to diagnose men’s problems and you will often get a very clear explanation: men are in crisis because women are properly challenging male dominance. […] Ask antifeminists and you will get a diagnosis that is, in one respect, similar. […] The underlying message: men cannot be men, only eunuchs, if they are not in control.
Faludi never interrogates the notion of control. She never considers that the notion that men were somehow in control, in power, and satisfied with their lives before contemporary feminist movement is false.
Patriarchy as a system has denied males access to full emotional well-being, which is not the same as feeling rewarded, successful, or powerful because of one’s capacity to assert control over others. If patriarchy were truly rewarding to men, the violence and addiction in family life that is so all-pervasive would not exist. The crisis facing men is not the crisis of masculinity, it is the crisis of patriarchal masculinity. Until we make this distinction clear, men will continue to fear that any critique of patriarchy represents a threat.
Being a boy
Boys are not seen as lovable in patriarchal culture. Even though sexism has always decreed that boy children have more status than girls, status and even the rewards of privilege are not the same as being loved. Research on the emotional life of boys draws the connection between notions of male dominance and the shutting down of emotions in boyhood even as the researchers act as though patriarchal values can remain intact.
Many antipatriarchal parents find that the alternative masculinities they support for their boy children are shattered not by grown-ups but by sexist male peers. Progressive parents who strive to be vigilant about the mass media their boys have access to must constantly intervene and offer teachings to counter the patriarchal pedagogy that is deemed “normal”. A national survey of adolescent males revealed their passive acceptance of patriarchal masculinity. Researchers found that boys agreed that to be truly manly, they must command respect, be tough, not talk about problems, and dominate females. Recent studies indicate that it is actually emotionally damaging to young males to be isolated and without emotional care or nurturance. All over the world terrorist regimes use isolation to break people’s spirit. This weapon of psychological terrorism is daily deployed in our nation against teenage boys. Most patriarchal father in our nation do not use physical violence to keep their sons in check; they use various techniques of psychological terrorism, the primary one being the practice of shaming. Patriarchal fathers cannot love their sons because the rules of patriarchy dictate that they stand in competition with their sons, ready to prove that they are the real man, the one in charge.
Stopping male violence
Every day in American men are violent. Their violence is deemed “natural” by the psychology of patriarchy. This thinking continues despite the fact that there are cultures in the world where men are not violent in everyday life. As women have gained the right to be “patriarchal men in drag”, women are engaging in acts of violence similar to those of men. This reminds us that the will to use violence is more connected to a dominator culture than to biology.
Emotional Abuse by Marti Tamm Loring explains that emotional abuse is “an ongoing process in which one individual systematically diminishes and destroys the inner self of another. The essential ideas, feelings, perception, and personality characteristics of the victim are constantly belittled.”
No man who does not actively chose to work to change and challenge patriarchy escapes its impact. The most passive, kind, quiet man can come to violence if the needs of patriarchal thinking have been embedded in the psyche.
Many people refuse to acknowledge that masses of boys and men have been programmed from birth on to believe that tat some point they must be violent to prove that they are men.
How can I get through to you? by Terrence Real says that violence is boyhood socialization. We “turn boys into men” through injury: we sever them from their mothers too early and we pull them away from their expressiveness, their feelings, and their sensitivity to others. The phrase “be a man” means suck it up and keep going.
Many teenage boys have violent contempt and rage for a patriarchal mom because they understand that in the world outside the home, sexism renders her powerless; he is pissed that she has power over him at home. In patriarchal culture women are as violent as men toward the groups that they have power over. Much female violence takes the form of emotional abuse, especially verbal abuse and shaming.
Mother violence confirms for many men that they cannot put their trust in love. They instead put their faith in being powerful and dominant.
Terrence Real says that the qualities that many wives want from their husbands in family therapy (sensitivity to others, capacity to identify and share feelings, willingness to put his needs aside in the service of the family) are the same qualities that are stamped out of boys.
Patriarchy rewards men for being out of touch with their feelings. Men of feeling often find themselves isolated from other men. This fear of isolation often acts as the mechanism to prevent males from becoming more emotionally aware. Men who win on patriarchal terms end up losing in terms of their substantive quality of life.
Male sexual being
We have heard that men look for sex in relationships, and not love, and that women look for love and not sex. Actually, men come to sex hoping that it will provide them with all the emotional satisfaction that would come from love. Most men think that sex will provide them with a sense of being alive, connected, that sex will offer closeness, intimacy, pleasure. And more often than not sex simply does not deliver. This does not lead men to cease obsessing about sex; it intensifies their lust and their longing.
People believe that sex is something men have to have. Underlying this assumption is the belief that if men are not sexually active, they will act out or go crazy. Little boys learn early in life that sexuality is the ultimate proving ground where their patriarchal masculinity will be tested.
Fuel for fantasy: The ideological construction of male lust by Michael S. Kimmel says that “Sexual pleasure is rarely the goal in a sexual encounter, something far more important than mere pleasure is on the line, our sense of ourselves as men. Men’s sense of sexual scarcity and an almost compulsive need for sex to confirm manhood feed each other, creating a self-perpetuating cycle of sexual deprivation and despair. And it makes men furious at women for doing what women are taught to do in our society: saying no.”
Males in a patriarchal society must adjust to a world where they can rarely get it, or never get it as much as they want, or where they can get it only by coercing and manipulating someone who does not want it. For the patriarchal male, addictive sexuality is fundamentally about the need to constantly affirm one’s selfhood. The heart of the soul by Gary Zukav and Linda Francis: “The more intense the pain of fear, unworthiness, and feeling unlovable becomes, the more obsessive becomes the need to have a sexual interaction”. Again from Kimmel: “men are in power, controlling virtual all […] institutions. Yet individual men do not feel powerful–far from it. Most men feel powerless and are often angry at women, who they perceive as having sexual power over them: the power to arouse them and to give or withhold sex.”
Work: what’s love got to do with it?
Masses of men may believe that their ability to provide for themselves and families is a measure of their manhood, yet they often do not actually use their resources to provide for others: men who make money but refuse to pay alimony or child support, or those who squander their paycheck on individual pleasures, challenge the patriarchal insistence that men are eager to be caretakers and providers. The very idea of “playboy” is rooted in the longing to escape this model.
Jun 13, 2021
Characteristics of the patriarchy
- Men’s value is always determined by what they do. They don’t have intrinsic value. Boys are not seen as lovable.
- Sexist roles restrictions on identity formation are more damaging to boys because the roles are more rigid and because they are much more likely to receive severe punishment when they deviate.
- Emotionally wounding boys is socially acceptable and even demanded. We encourage boys to bury their deepest selves and to mistrust closeness.
- Boys learn in early childhood that they cannot speak their pain. Men usually learn not to go to other men to talk about feelings.
- Boys agreed that to be truly manly, they must command respect, be tough, not talk about problems, and dominate females.
- Most people would agree we should end male violence against women. But if you told them it can only be done by ending male domination, by eradicating patriarchy, they would begin to hesitate.
How patriarchy breaks men emotionally
- It rewards men for being out of touch with their feelings. Men of feeling often find themselves isolated from other men.
- Women living in countries or periods of extreme male dominance tend to be very controlling of their sons. Many mothers in patriarchal culture fear their sons will be weak.
- Patriarchy convinces men that it is better to be feared than loved. This fear of maleness makes men be seen as unworthy of trust and estranges them from others.
- Many males have low self-esteem because they are constantly performing the sexist male role.
Invisibility of male pain
- Feminism’s focus on male power reinforced the notion that males had it all. It did not tell us about the deep inner misery of men, who are longing for love.
- Patriarchy teaches a form of emotional stoicism that says it is more mainly not to feel, or stuff down negative feelings and forget about them.
- The unhappiness of men in relationships often goes unnoticed precisely because patriarchal culture really does not care if men are unhappy.
Feminism and men
- When feminism insists that men are powerful oppressors who victimise from the location of power, they forget that many victimise from the location of victimisation. Failure to examine the victimisation of men keeps us from understanding maleness.
- Contemporary feminism created a space where girls can create a sense of self that is distinct from sexist definitions; the same freedom has not been extended to boys.
- Even though boy children have more status than girls, status and even the rewards of privilege are not the same as being loved.
- Teachers see gender equality mostly in terms of ensuring that girls get to have the same privileges and rights as boys; they do not see it in terms of granting boys the same rights as girls (eg. right to not engage in aggressive/violent play, to play with dolls or dress up, to wear costumes of any gender).
- It was mostly white women with class privilege that pushed the idea that all men were powerful in the first place. These were the women for whom feminist liberation was more about getting their piece of the power pie. They were not mad at exploitation and oppression; they were mad that they were not being giving equal access to power.
- Most contemporary films send the message that males cannot escape the beast within. Only pretend.
- Boys are taught that it is their nature to kill, then teaches them that they can do nothing to change this nature—nothing, that is, that will leave their masculinity intact.
- Mass media usually portrays the violent woman-hating man as aberrant and abnormal.
Separating maleness from patriarchy
- The crisis facing men is not the crisis of masculinity, but of patriarchal masculinity. Until we make this distinction clear, men will continue to fear that any critique of patriarchy represents a threat.
- Many males feel that their very existence is threatened if their privileges are taken away because they are taught to be dependent for self-definition on those very privileges.
- Loving maleness is different from praising and rewarding males for living up to sexist-defined notions of male identity.
- We need to separate patriarchal ideology from the powerful images of nurturing and loving kindness embodied in male religious figures. This image of loving fatherhood embodies feminist masculinity in its most divine form.
- Men come to sex hoping that it will provide them with all the emotional satisfaction that would come from love (connection, closeness, intimacy), and more often than not sex simply does not deliver. This does not lead men to cease obsessing about sex; it intensifies their lust and their longing.
- Little boys learn early in life that sexuality is the ultimate proving ground where their masculinity will be tested, and the more intense the pain of fear, unworthiness, and feeling unlovable, the more obsessive becomes the need to have a sexual interaction. But those boys must adjust to a world where they can rarely get it, or never get it as much as they want, or where they can get it only by coercing and manipulating someone who does not want it.
- Due to this, many men feel powerless despite being in power and controlling virtually all institutions, and are often angry at women, who they perceive as having sexual power over them: the power to arouse them and to give or withhold sex.
A new masculinity
- Feminist masculinity would be based on integrity, self-love, emotional awareness, assertiveness, and relational skill, including the capacity to be empathetic, autonomous, and connected. This is in opposition to patriarchal masculinity, which is based on avoiding femininity, restrictive emotionality, seeking achievement and status, self-reliance, aggression, homophobia, and nonrelational attitudes toward sexuality.
- To end sexism and sexist oppression we must be willing to hear men speak their pain, to help them get the emotional awareness required to heal.
- To create a culture in which males can love, we must see boyhood as a time when boys learn to glory in intimacy and the connection with others.
- Feminist masculinity defines strength as one’s capacity to be responsible for self and others, rather than defining it as “power over”.
This is my summary for the book. The ideas presented here were either surprising/new to me, or things I knew but I hadn’t put words on, or things that I knew but made me think about them more, especially in the context of the rest.
I liked the book a lot, although I felt sometimes that it was a little repetitive, and I also initially wondered if it was a bit biased due to the author’s lived experiences (something I also felt when reading “Amateur”). However, I later realised that I still could see remnants of some of those things in me or people I know, and it was much easier to see how much these ideas apply when I thought of other countries.
Finally, note that there were a couple of transphobic/bioessentialist passages! I have rewritten them in this summary. I have also removed “in our nation” from many passages to make them shorter and because most of these things apply outside of the US.
Mar 9, 2021
The last months I have been working on my first video game. First I made a 2D prototype (because everyone said that it was a bad idea to make your first video game 3D), and then I worked on the 3D version, which was what I wanted to make in the first place.
The 3D version involved a lot of Blender (in fact, I would imagine that more than half the time spent on it was really inside of Blender, not writing code), so I figured I would make a cheatsheet for myself, which others would maybe find useful.
This is probably not going to make any sense if you have never used Blender: it’s not a tutorial and it won’t teach you how to use it. However, if you start using Blender and have a need to remember keyboard shortcuts or want to discover some things Blender can do for you that you might not know yet, this might be useful!
One of the most important things is that 1, 2, and 3 choose between vertex, edge, and face selection. You have to make sure you’re in the right mode before anything else.
- Ctrl-click will select from the last selected item (vertex/edge/face) to the clicked item (Blender finds the shortest way, sort of).
- Alt-click on an item to select all “related” items (depends on context and might not always do what you want, but it can be used to select a whole line). This is usually a horizontal or vertical “line” containing the clicked item.
- Shit-click to add the clicked item to the current selection.
- C to “circle select”. This is a special mode that will let you modify the current selection by adding new items (hold the left mouse button and drag the circle), or removing items (hold the middle click and drag the circle). You can make the circle bigger or smaller with the mouse wheel, and you exit the circle select mode by right clicking.
- Shift-Z toggles “see-through” mode, useful to select things that are on the back.
- Ctrl-NumPad+ expand selection by taking items that surround the current selection.
- J after selecting two vertices will create an edge between them.
- F3 -> Subdivide to subdivide a face (eg. single-face plane into plane with many faces that can be sculpted).
- E to extrude.
- S to scale.
- I to inset.
- M to get the menu after selecting vertices, then choose “By Distance” to collapse vertices that are in the same place. Eliminating this kind of duplicate vertices is really useful to avoid problems with your geometry.
- Shift-Tab to toggle snapping (can choose in the menu if snap to vertices, by distance, or other things).
- O for proportional editing (whatever operation you perform will not only affect the current selection, but also the surrounding items). You can change the area of effect with the mouse wheel. There are several modes for proportional editing, including “random”. See the menu at the top.
- X, Y, or Z when moving/scaling to lock the move/scale to that axis.
- Shift-X, Shift-Y, or Shift-Z when moving/scaling to lock the move/scale to exclude that axis.
- Ctrl-drag while moving a vertex along a given axis to snap the other axes to the vertex under the cursor (useful to align stuff).
- Ctrl-R to chop a face (and all connected “in the same direction”) in many.
- Shift-D to duplicate an object.
- Alt-D to duplicate an object but keeping it linked to the original. This can potentially save a ton of space and processing if you are going to have many identical copies of the same object. It also means that they will stay the same, so if you edit one, you will be editing all linked-duplicated objects at once.
- F creates a faces from the selected vertices.
- LoopTools extension is great! You have to add it in Preferences. It adds a submenu at the top of the menu in edit mode.
Blender is a wonderful, free tool for 3D modelling that has all sorts of features (and not only for 3D modelling!). If you want to learn 3D low poly modelling, I recommend you start with Learn Low Poly Modeling in Blender 2.83.
Dec 3, 2020
The last month or so I have been working on a project that I will talk about shortly. For that I had to do some simple image edits often, and after the third time or so I figured it was better to script them. I had done a little GIMP scripting before so I figured it wouldn’t be hard to write a couple of scripts to do what I wanted (which was very simple to start with). However, every time I had to do something with GIMP scripting I forget the details and I need to check again, so I figured it would be useful to leave some notes for myself and for others who might be interested.
There are two main scripting engines you can use in GIMP: Script-Fu (which uses Scheme, a Lisp dialect), and python-fu (which uses Python). I have used both at some point but this tutorial will use Script-Fu. Unfortunately, making an introduction to Scheme as a language would be too long for this blog post, but you can check the Script-Fu tutorial in the official documentation.
Note that in the example I’m using some function defined in GIMP 2.10 and later, so the example code will not work as-is with older versions of the software (in particular, you will have to delete the calls to the functions
gimp-context-set-line-width, and change
gimp-edit-stroke… but if you do that, the script will lose some functionality).
Types of scripts/uses
There are two typical uses for these scripts: adding extra menu entries so we can call our script from within GIMP itself, and adding functions that we can call from the command-line. The former typically receive images or layers, and the latter typically receive filenames. In both cases we define functions that do what we want (from images/layers or from filenames) and then we either register them in the menu, or leave them as-is so we can call them from the command-line.
Defining a simple function
Create a new file
add-border-to-image.scminside your GIMP
scripts/directory. If you don’t know where that is, go to Edit ➝ Preferences ➝ Folders ➝ Scripts. You can use any of the folders in that list, or even add a new one.
In that file, enter the following text:
(define (add-border-to-image image) (let* ((drawable (car (gimp-image-get-active-layer image)))) ;; The context push allows us to change settings (like the ;; foreground colour) and go back to the previous settings ;; when we pop it. The gimp-image-undo-group-* makes sure ;; that all the operations are considered only one with ;; regards to undo. (gimp-context-push) (gimp-image-undo-group-start image) (gimp-selection-all image) (gimp-selection-shrink image 2) (gimp-context-set-stroke-method STROKE-LINE) (gimp-context-set-line-width 4) (gimp-context-set-foreground "#657487") (gimp-drawable-edit-stroke-selection drawable) (gimp-image-undo-group-end image) (gimp-context-pop)))
This code defines a function called
add-border-to-imagewhich receives an image and paints a 4-pixel border on it. It also makes sure that all the operations are considered only one for undo purposes.
Once we have that function, we can add a menu entry for it, or we can prepare it so it’s easy to call from the command-line.
Functions already defined in GIMP
When you write these scripts you will need to check which functions are already defined in GIMP (like
gimp-drawable-edit-stroke-selectionhere). You do that by going to Filters ➝ Script-Fu ➝ Console and then clicking on the “Browse…” button. You will see a list of functions and a search box you can use to search for them. Note that by default the search only looks for functions with those names, so you might want to change that to “by description”.
Adding a menu entry for the function
If we want to be able to paint borders on an image we have open in GIMP, we can add the following code at the end of the file, then either restart GIMP or go to Filters ➝ Script-Fu ➝ Refresh Scripts:
(script-fu-register "add-border-to-image" "<Image>/Edit/Add border" "Paints a 4-pixel border" "Esteban Manchado Velázquez" "Esteban Manchado Velázquez" "2020" "RGB*" SF-IMAGE "Image" 0)
This will add a new menu entry under Edit called “Add border”. The entry will be grayed out if you don’t have any image open. If you do, you will be able to click on the new option and see the newly added border.
Note: for some reason that I haven’t been able to find out, you will need to click anywhere on the image for the border to appear. This is only a problem when using it from the menu.
Calling the function from the command-line
To call the function from the command-line we will have to create a new function that receives a file path pattern (could be a file path or something like
images*.png), opens the file(s), calls the function we defined, and then saves the file(s) somewhere. Add this at the top of
(define (add-border-to-file file-pattern) (let* ((filelist (cadr (file-glob file-pattern 1)))) (while (not (null? filelist)) (let* ((filename (car filelist)) (image (car (gimp-file-load RUN-NONINTERACTIVE filename filename))) (drawable (car (gimp-image-get-active-layer image))) (output-filename (string-append (car (strbreakup filename ".")) "-focused.png"))) (add-border-to-image image) (gimp-file-save RUN-NONINTERACTIVE image drawable output-filename output-filename) (gimp-image-delete image)) (set! filelist (cdr filelist)))))
This will receive one parameter, namely
file-pattern, interpret it as a file pattern with possible wildcards (with the
file-globfunction) and go through every file that matches that pattern. Then, for every file, it will open it, calculate the output filename for that file, call
add-border-to-imagewith the open image, and then save the result in the calculated output file and close the image.
Calling the function from the command-line
The command-line incantation to call this function is not trivial and I always forget it. We need to call the
gimpprogram with the
-ioption (so that the user interface doesn’t load) and the
-boption (for batch) and pass it some Scheme to call the function we want (in this case,
add-border-to-file). We also need to call the special function
gimp-quitso that GIMP quits after the function has finished. We do so by calling it like this:
gimp -i -b '(add-border-to-file "img*.png")' -b '(gimp-quit 0)'
Automating repetitive tasks with Script-Fu can be extremely useful and save us a bunch of time. We can expose the functionality we create in two ways: via GIMP’s own menus, and via the command-line’s “batch mode”. If one is used to Lisp dialects, using Script-Fu with Scheme is not too difficult; otherwise, Python-Fu can be a better alternative. Both languages have an interactive console inside of GIMP to try things out, plus a documentation browser to see and search for available Script-Fu functions.
If one wants to learn more details, the official documentation has a Script-Fu tutorial.
Aug 19, 2020
About a year ago I decided to make a comic with rvr about Quality Engineering/Quality Assurance, explaining what it is and why it is important. There were a couple of breaks in between, partly because of this virus you might have heard of, but it was finally published recently. This post explains a bit the creative process behind it.
As soon as we decided we were going to make the comic, we started brainstorming to figure out how exactly we were going to explain it. We were mostly thinking of metaphors to describe QE people, but also added some associations and aesthetic ideas to the list:
- Wizards, detectives
- Team players, drummers
- Mad scientists making robot helpers
- Creativity, more freedom to build what is needed and adapt
- Build for developer, build for yourself
- James Bond’s Q / Q branch
- Proactive Mr. Wolf
- Rick and Morty
- Something like Mouse Guard? See also paper crafts.
- “Continuous disintegration”.
- SDETs are the real 10x engineers
One of the ideas for the script was to use some kind of Starship Troopers metaphor (“people killing bugs”, or “people making the weapons/tools needed for the soldiers to kill bugs”). We had a certain tension between being serious and in-depth, and being “fun” and grabbing the potential reader’s eye, and we ended up with the idea that we could open with a Starship Troopers scene, but then reveal that it’s just someone’s imagination, and let the rest of the comic be “serious” and more on the explanatory side.
At first we were discussing how to iterate with the storyboard: we were looking for some online collaboration tool that allowed us to build the storyboards, comment on them, and modify them. However, we didn’t find anything I was happy with, and I prefer working on paper for those things, so I decided to just draw a very crude storyboard and take a picture of it. The initial storyboard was like this (click to enlarge):
We discussed it a bit, and after the feedback I create new panels to replace some of the initial ones, and stitched them together in a Frankenstein monster fashion, like so (again, click to enlarge):
If you want to know more about the rationale behind the panels, notice a few things:
- Each line has a meaning, like a sentence in written language. Namely, the first line is opening/attention grabbing (“what happens when there is no QE”), the second expands a bit on the first one but from a serious perspective, the third explains why a development team needs QE, and the last explains the details of how QE achieves what they do and closes.
- Every line ends with a “cliffhanger” to make the reader want to read the next line, and introduce what it is going to be about.
At this point we decided that the storyboard was stable enough to start figuring out how the art would be.
Now that we had a stable storyboard we could look into the final art. We figured that we would still have to iterate, partly because once we used the final art, final font, and final sizes for things… we would probably see things differently: some panel might have too much text, some idea that seems to work in the abstract doesn’t work that well with the final art, etc. So from there we iterated further, but mostly on the language and on details that were relatively easy to change.
The first version with the kind of art we were going to use was this, in black and white:
This gave us a good sense of scale and available space, both for text and for illustrations, so it was much easier to tweak and improve. After a few iterations, we reached the first version with colour! You can see here that the art here has improved, and is at the level we would use in the final version.
Then we kept iterating and, after all the tweaks, reached the final, published version. Notice the difference in the last two panels, and also the text in 3-3:
There you have it! I don’t claim to know what I’m doing, but I love reading about (and writing about) creative processes, and I thought some of you might share my passion for that.
Now the idea is to make at least one more comic related to QE, expanding on more specific problems QE helps solve, or on specific facets on Quality Engineering. We’ll see what we come up with…
Jun 30, 2020
What the book is about
We misunderstand the relationship between nature and nurture, culture and biology, fitting in and being oneself. This book is an attempt to pull apart those strands.
I too come from a long line of poisonous men.
Changes while transitioning
I was like a plant in the sun, moving toward whatever was rewarded in me: aggression, ambition, fearlessness.
Before, I was a softie, quick to apologize, generally more concerned with keeping the peace than proving a point. Now, I had to work harder to not take things personally.
Treatment difference as a woman/man
Me: I wish you could experience how differently people react to me now that I’m a man.
My brother: I can’t imagine, but I can imagine.
As the testosterone took hold and reshaped my body, its impact as an object in space grew increasingly bewildering: the expectation that I not be afraid juxtaposed against the fear I inspired in a woman, alone on a dark street; the silencing effect of my voice in a meeting; the unearned presumption of my competence; my power; my potential.
To be clear, the Before me wasn’t feminine. I don’t know what it’s like to be wolf-whistled or be told to smile. […] Six months into my transition, testosterone made my voice low. […] But when I did talk, people didn’t just listen; they leaned in. […] The first time I spoke up in a meeting […], in my newly quiet baritone, I noticed that sudden, focused attention and was so uncomfortable I found myself unable to finish the sentence. […] Every day, I was rewarded for behavior that I was previously punished for, such as standing up for my ideals, pushing back, being fluent in complex power dynamics, and strategically—and visibly—taking credit. When I proved myself, just once, it tended to stick.
Male loneliness and lack of touch
I’d gotten the idea from movies that men spent a lot of time in amenable, intimate silences, laced through will well-placed words that telegraphed deep truths, like the pivotal scene in every drama about fathers and sons. I supposed I had indeed spent a lot more time not knowing what to say since my transition. Silence was a kind of defense mechanism.
I fell all the absences my male body created too: the cool distance of friends in tough moments, stemming to some degree from the self-conscious way I held myself apart from women especially, so concerned with being perceived as a threat that I’d become a ghost instead.
Though I had been supported by friends and family, something had indeed dimmed. Pretty much everyone treated my body as if it were radioactive. It was easy to blame it on repressed or explicit homophobia in men, or straight women friends’ latent concerns about sending the wrong signals in our suddenly cross-gender friendships, but that didn’t explain the family members who did not hug me after my mom died, or why, in boxing, guys I barely knew swatted my ass, or draped an arm around my shoulders for minutes at a time. The code of how and why I was and wasn’t touched was a mystery to me.
My interest in being held hadn’t waned. I couldn’t make sense of what lack of touch had to do with gender. It seemed, to me, a core hunger of being human.
“Tell me,” Way said to the kids, “why did that boy kill so many people?” A few volunteered that he was “crazy.” “But tell me why he’s crazy,” she said. “He was lonely.”
Toxic masculinity / misogyny
And in an era in which the former surgeon general of the United States calls loneliness an “epidemic” because of its links to ill health and even increased risk of premature death, why do to many men who were once boys, boys who may have seen their love of their close friends as “human nature”, struggle to maintain any friends at all as adults?
According to [Niobe] Way, a psychology professor at New York University, everything changes between sixteen and nineteen (this age range also coincides with a rise in male suicide rates). That’s when boys learn that to be too close to guy friends is, she said, abruptly labeled “girlie” and “gay”.
Within this limiting context boys learn that violence is the only way available to them to bond. “In a messed-up society that doesn’t offer them opportunities for healthy connections, they go into unhealthy connections,” she told me.
Comparing the Danish idea of masculinity with the American one, she found that the major difference between them was that in Denmark, men said to “be a man” meant to being a boy. American men said that to “be a man” was to not be a woman.
Testosterone effects, violence
I couldn’t argue with [testosterone’s] power. […] It was easy to attribute every change to the oily potion I injected weekly into my thigh: the clarity of color, the shortness of my temper, the increase in my sex drive, the charley horses in my quads, the calming of my nerves, the steadiness of my stride. It was stunning, and disconcerting, to become a caricature of a man so easily.
In humans, if testosterone is raised to an artificial level, as in steroid abuse, aggression levels rise. But for men with testosterone in the normal range, […] “there is remarkably little evidence” that knowing which man has the highest testosterone levels predicts which is the most aggressive. […] [John] Wingfield showed that testosterone increases not aggression, exactly, but the likelihood that men would do whatever they need to maintain their status if it was challenged. […] He pointed to studies rooted in economic games where winning requires being more cooperative and pro-social. “Testosterone makes people more generous in that realm”. But studies demonstrate that the myths about testosterone impact those games too. Men who were actually given more testosterone became more generous, but men who merely thought they were operating with elevated T became less effective and more competitive. […] “The problem is the frequency with which we reward aggression”.
“Did you ever wonder why so many men who believe that testosterone propels men’s violence, why they beat their wives up but not their boss? Your boss makes you feel like shit, your boss is an asshole—why don’t you beat him up? Because he has power over you, that’s why. He’s not a legitimate target.”
A “legitimate target,” [Michael] Kimmel said, is someone men feel entitled to dominate—someone seen as weaker, someone who has less power than them. For the worst sort of masculinity to work, “real men” prove their worth by targeting people they can beat.
Masculinity crisis in the media
I suspected that the crisis was far more complex than people understood. It encompassed all men, even the ones who felt they successfully defied outdated conventions. It was, after all, the men who read books on emotional intelligence and wore tailored shirts who often advised me to treat dating like warfare, or to dominate meetings with primate body language.
Later surveys and studies would suggest that Millenial men as a whole turned out to be as “traditional”, and even less egalitarian, in their attitudes toward gender as their fathers.
This is a short, interesting book that gives perspectives on masculinity. I wasn’t as enlightening as I had hoped, but it was still a good read. One of my pet peeves is that I thought some of the assumptions about masculinity and how men behave were US-centric and kind of toxic (I really didn’t see myself or the men I know in some of the descriptions and assumptions), but I still recommend it if the topic sounds interesting to you.
May 30, 2020
On Friday, my employer had a “learning day”. Among other things, I followed a typography video course called “The 33 Laws of Typography” by Jill Butler. I liked it a lot and I took notes so I could actually remember the conclusions of the course, so I’m publishing them here in the hopes that they will be useful for other people.
This will be long!
There are five categories for the 33 Laws of Typography:
- How to Format a Document
- How to Format Large Bodies of Text
- How to Format Small Blocks of Text
- How to Use Punctuation Properly
- How to Choose Typefaces
How to Format A Document
Distrust default software settings
In particular, Typeface, Type Size, Line Spacing, Margin Sizes, Text Alignment.
Ensure good contrast between text and background
To ensure text legibility. Reverse type (light text on dark background) is fine for small chunks of text, but have to be careful with thin strokes in the font (sans-serif tend to work better because of this, and extra letter spacing and line spacing).
Complex backgrounds can be almost impossible if there are different colours in it (impossible to have enough contrast with all parts of the background). In those cases, use a box with a single colour.
Avoid chartjunk and pagejunk
Chartjunk: excessive and unnecessary use of graphical elements in charts and graphs.
Pagejunk: excessive and unnecessary use of graphical elements on pages. Usually boxes, shadows, and rules.
Watch out for fancy, thick, and double rules in boxes. Also small margins in boxes… and pages.
Enforce consistent style within a document
Use software styles, or CSS on web.
Maintain a visual hierarchy
Document title, Level 1 Headings, Level 2 Headings, Body Text, Image Captions, Headers and Footers.
Plan which elements the document will contain so you can make design decisions about the hierarchy.
Group related page elements
Gestalt’s Law of Proximity, eg. having headings closer to the body text (or subheadings) than whatever is before them, so they are visually grouped with the text.
How to Format Large Bodies of Text
Set printed body text from 9 to 11 points
9pt to 11pt on print, 12px to 16px on web. Font size is measured from the top of the ascenders to the bottom of the descenders! That’s why different fonts look small or big in different fonts.
Set body text 2 to 3 alphabets wide
Too narrow is bad because all the eye jumps (and possibly jagged lines when left-aligned, or “rivers” when justified), too wide is bad because it’s hard to read long lines.
Should be 52-78 characters wide. For fancy typefaces or reverse type, 52 characters or a bit less is good. For justified text, better to use 78 characters or more.
Favour flush left, ragged right body text
The problem with justified is the potential “rivers” (horizontal gaps that sort of align). Shorter line lenghts are worse for justified text.
Flush right is ok for figure captions, attributions, and such.
Center for document titles, formal invitations, etc. It gives the document a conservative moods.
Separate sentences with one space, not two
Two spaces are a convention of the past, don’t use it. They produce big spaces that can be distracting.
Don’t allow less than 7 characters on a line
For example, at the end of paragraphs. Doesn’t look nice, and it wastes space. The goal is to keep visual balance. Ways to fix this:
- Widening the text block, to make the text reflow.
- Changing the font size.
- Edit the text itself (usually the best)
- Use a “soft return” (Shift-Enter) to force the end of a line.
- Use a non-breaking space so that some words cannot appear on different lines.
This is not just for body text, also for headings and such.
Avoid bad paragraph breaks
When paragraphs break in between pages, don’t leave a single line in either page (if it’s part of a bigger paragraph; single-line paragraphs are fine). Of course, titles that go with the paragraph should go together with the first line of that paragraph.
It creates visual imbalance and makes the point of the paragraph kind of moot because the text is not together. Solutions:
- Edit the text
- Tweak the “keep options” in the software you’re using (how many lines of text have to be kept together)
- Change the text box width / height
- Tweak the space that surrounds headings (if there are many)
- Add image or pull-quote
Avoid line-breaking hyphens
The automatic ones added by the software when a whole word doesn’t fit in the line. They are ugly and they break concentration and reading rhythm. They should be avoided.
If you must use them, don’t ever hyphenate any headings or proper names. Don’t allow more than 2 consecutively lines ending in hyphens in a paragraph. Don’t hyphenate URLs or email addresses. Don’t allow your software to make all the hyphenation decisions (you can control consecutive hyphens in a paragraph or turn them off).
Signal new paragraphs once, not twice
Don’t both indent the first line of each paragraph and add vertical space.
Never use spaces for the first line indent, always a setting (1-2 times as wide as the type size).
For vertical space, use space before or space after, not both. It should be 50-80% of the type size.
Break up large blocks of text
Too much of the same, full text page becomes dull and uninviting. Some possibilities:
- Drop Caps (drop together with the second/third lines of text) or Initial Caps (just big letter, same baseline as the first line of the paragraph).
- Rules: for headers, footers, and sometimes some headings.
- Pull quotes: highlighted quotes in a box, separate from the rest of the body text.
- Whitespace: big margins to lighten up the feeling of the page.
- Graphics. Only if they are good quality. They are not required.
Don’t add more than needed! Just enough to solve the problem.
How to Format Smaller Blocks of Text
Emphasize 10% or less of text
Emphasis should be limited so it stays effective. Both things like bold and such in body text, and font sizes and colours in business cards and such.
Avoid All Caps and Underlined Text
Limit their use to titles and headings. Underlines should be avoided, use italics instead. You can use rules for headings, never underline. Some good ways to emphasize text:
- Italics - should be used for book/film titles, too!
- Small Caps
- Different typeface
- Spacing - doesn’t work so well in body text, but it can be very effective in business cards, posters and others
- Size - same limitations as above
- Colour - be careful that the emphasis is not critical to understand the text
Choose one technique and use it throughout, don’t oversignal (use more than two or more techniques at the same time for the same words).
Set Acronyms and Initialisms in Small Caps
Acronyms are pronounced as words, initialisms are pronounced as each letter separately. These in all caps take over the document visually.
Small Caps (uppercase characters that are around x-height tall) look much better. A tiny bit of letter spacing makes acronyms look even better. Choose a type family that includes small caps typeface.
Hang punctuation in small chunks of text
Hang punctuation means that eg. the opening quote is outside of the left margin. Also final periods being outside of the right margin, when right-aligning text. Applies also to quotations, headlines with question marks at the end, etc.
In body text, punctuation is usually not hung, but it’s important in bigger font sizes and such.
Hang bullets and numbers in lists
It makes a difference when the items have more than one line. Numbers should be aligned in the “decimal point” (even if it’s not visible), ie. to the right.
Learn to use “tabs”: left-aligned, right-aligned, center-aligned, decimal-aligned.
Avoid Bad Line Breaks
There are two bad breaks: visual (visually disrupt the flow, eg. in left-aligned text, producing bad ragged edge) and contextual (sentences are broken so words that should appear together, don’t; it makes the reader go back and re-read).
Watch line breaks with URLs and email addresses, which should appear in full in one line whenever possible. How to fix?
- Edit the text
- Change text box width
- Change the size of the text
Use Symbols and Special Characters as Needed
Registered trademark, degrees, etc. Look for and use the proper one. Character map apps on desktop, character entities on web.
Not all fonts contain all these characters, so make sure that the font contains what you need, if you know you will need “special characters”.
Use Proportional Oldstyle Figures in Body Text
Numbers with digits that take different horizontal or vertical space. These are great for body text, but the “lining” (the other type, all digits are equally wide/tall and have the same baseline) is better for comparison and data tables and such.
There are tabular and proportional, too, so four types total (2x2 types):
- Oldstyle proportional: for body text
- Oldstyle tabular: for uppercase text
- Lining proportional: for fancy table data
- Lining tabular: for data tables
OpenType fonts are the ones that have all these combinations.
Adjust Leading and Kerning for Large Text
Leading: amount of vertical text from baseline to baseline (line spacing). Default is usually 20%.
Kerning: horizontal space between certain letter pairs (not the same as tracking/letter spacing).
Why do we need to adjust leading? For body text, default leading is usually fine. Large text usually needs less leading, and even less if there are few descenders!
Kerning is also usually fine for body text. In large sizes, sometimes kerning needs to be adjusted.
Verify Software Alignments Optically
Sometimes alignment is mathematically correct, but visually wrong, because some parts of the text, especially logos and such, are “visually lighter” so they should be taken as taking less space.
How to Use Punctuation Properly
Connect thoughts using em dashes
When to use em dashes when you don’t want a comma, but not sure what to use instead. They can be used to:
- Add emphasis
- Indicate long pauses and interruptions
- Indicate abrupt changes of thought
Full spaces between em dashes is wrong! But depending on the font (if the em dash touches or almost touches the letters) you might need to use a “thin space” (1/5 of an em wide). If you don’t have the option to add a thin space you can enter a space and use a smaller font.
Show Ranges Using en dashes
In between a hyphen and an em dash. It’s used for:
- Show ranges of time, duration, or distance
- Join words when at least one word is an open compound (New York-New Jersey Border)
- Join hyphenated compounds (post-Jacksonian–pre-Nixonian politics)
Don’t add full spaces between en dashes, but depending on the font, size, etc (if the en dash touches or almost touches the characters), you may need thin spaces.
Clarify and Improve Readability Using Hyphens
Their usage can be confusing. It should be used to:
- Improve readability and clarify meaning (five-dollar bills vs. five dollar bills)
- Joining a letter with a word
- When using the prefix “Re” to mean “repeating”, “again”
- Joining a prefix with a proper noun
- Joining a prefix and a root word with repeating characters: ultra-ambitious, non-native
- Joining two words that contain the same three characters in a row, eg. cross-section.
- Numbers between twenty-one and ninety-nine
- Phone numbers and social security numbers
- Joining two last names
It’s not the same as the minus sign! Don’t use hyphens for minus signs!
Designate Feet and Inches with Prime Symbols
Prime symbols are similar to but different from both curly quotes, and straight quotes. Straight quotes should never be used! When to use curly quotes:
- When quoting material (quotes inside quotes use the single quotes)
- Single closing quotes are the same apostrophes
Feet and single prime symbols, inches are double prime symbols. Math, music, linguistics and other fields also use prime symbols.
Replace Missing Characters with Apostrophes
When to use apostrophes:
- Gone Fishin’
- Bread ‘n’ Butter
- For decades, you say ’40s (missing “19”): the “40” doesn’t own anything
Careful with “Bread ‘n’ Butter”, because by default word processors will typeset the “n” in single quotes (the first one will be open, not closed).
How to Choose Typefaces
Limit typefaces to two per document
If you are not a professional, using more than that makes it too easy to become messy. One serif and one sans serif is a good place to start. Sameness competes, but differences highlight and contrast. If the difference is not big enough or doesn’t add anything, one typeface is much better.
Use typefaces that reinforce a document’s mood
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the choice of fonts, and you end up always choosing the same one. To help you choose, always think about the mood/personality of the document you’re creating.
Choose Serif or Sans Serif, based on aesthetics
For type size larger than 10 points, there’s no difference in readability between the two types. For smaller type sizes, sans serif have an edge, especially on computer screens (they are simpler).
For reversed text (white over black), medium-weight, slightly larger sans serif work best. You can use serif, but they have to have thick and uniform serifs: no “delicate” serifs!
So, in general, focus on the mood/personality and aesthetics first. Sans serif are a bit more modern and contemporary, and serif a bit more conservative and traditional.
This is it! I hope it was useful. I really recommend the course if you are interested in the topic: it has a bit more context and of course the visual examples and explanations that you lack in this summary.
Apr 15, 2020
Why not take the story literally?
Judging from what I have seen on Youtube, most people seem to be taking the events in the game at face value. And maybe that’s what the developers intended! However, taking the story literally rubs me the wrong way for the following reasons:
- Dreams are clearly really important in this story
- Blurring/confusing reality and fantasy is a recurring theme
- If the bits about her being a janitor’s assistant and the “office scene” at the end are irrelevant, why are they there? Writing and programming that kind of stuff is hard
Even if everything here is wrong, it’s how it makes sense to me! Finally, note that I haven’t played Alan Wake or Quantum Break so I might not be on board with some assumptions or world-building or whatever.
Summary / Thesis
Jesse is the janitor’s assistant and most of the events in the game don’t happen, or at least don’t happen as they are shown in the game. She is fantasizing about those things happening to her and lives a pretty mundane life.
However, see the “synchronicity” note below.
Something awful happened in Ordinary
Whether or not most/all adults disappeared is not clear (maybe only her parents and older acquaintances?). It has nothing to do with supernatural elements, though.
Traumatised, she starts believing in conspiracy theories
- From a psychiatrist session recording: the psychiatrist says that there was an industrial accident in Ordinary, and Jesse replies “No. It wasn’t an accident. It was a cover up. The government knows about it.”
- America Overnight, the radio show you can find in-game mentions this event, and clearly boosts conspiracy theories. Jesse could have been a listener of that show.
She enters a mental hospital
She is forced into a mental hospital and has problems telling apart truth from fiction. Evidence:
- From a psychiatrist interview recording: “You know that we cannot let you go before you’re well. And that begins by understanding what’s real and what’s imagined.”
- From a psychiatrist interview recording: “As a child, did you ever fantasize about worlds inside pictures. You know, stepping into a painting, into a hidden world, escaping and finding adventures there?”
- From a psychiatrist interview recording: “You have mentioned a few times that there’s a piece of you missing. It’s natural that you feel that way. Your brother and your parents are dead.” Jesse: “No. Dylan’s not dead.”
- Jesse: “I was eleven years old the first time I saw behind the poster. They told me I’d imagined it”
- The motel is described as a “place of power”… but Jesse also says that it’s just her imagination (when the music video in the third room).
When she is out, she looks for a job
At some point she goes somewhere (the FBC? does it even exist? maybe it’s the FBI? Arish says that is protects American “from foreign threats”) to look for a janitor’s assistant job. Evidence:
- When she meets Ahti, he says “There you are. You come for the job. ‘Janitor’s assistant’“
- Late in the game, when returning to the janitor’s office, she says “I suppose THE janitor’s assistant does need proper janitor attire”, and she gets a new “Janitor’s Assistant” outfit
- The janitor assigns her tasks like “fighting the mold” (cleaning) and taking care of the plants
- She’s the one that actually solves everything around the office, why would she be the director?
She gets the job but struggles a bit
She struggles because she feels she doesn’t do her job properly. She is criticised/bullied by Emily Pope. Evidence:
- In the office scene, Emily Pope says “There’s the new girl. Standing around daydreaming when she should be getting work done. Who the hell does she think she is? The Director?”
She fantasizes with having lots of power
Under the everyday pressure, she starts fantasizing about having power, “becoming the director”, and possibly having power over and/or being respected by Emily. Evidence:
- The fact that the Object of Power that starts it all is a “projector” maybe it’s a metaphor with projecting our needs/fears
- Close to the end, Dylan says “My sister had this dream. A bad dream. And the whole world was dreaming with her. She’d convinced herself that she was awake. She’s always been stubborn. I knew I had to end her dream. I had to wake her up.”
- Upon finding the director dead, Jesse picks up the weapon and this definition is shown: “Objects of power can cause, or be the result of, AWEs (Altered World Events) intrusions upon the perceived reality”. Before that, nothing supernatural has happened yet.
The whole game is an epic version of what she’s doing
The whole game is her projection/fantasy of being powerful, and she imagines an epic version of herself doing an epic version of cleaning, taking care of the plants, improving at her job, etc. She never becomes the director of anything, but she believes that fantasy. Evidence:
- The Clog gets “anthropomorphised” as Mr. Clog. Ahti even says “My old enemy, the Clog, is blocking the pipes”
- In the “What a Mess: Even More Mold” mission, she says “Let’s get cleaning, she said, cocking her gun”
- Instead of Emily Pope and others ordering her around, Jesse is “the director” and is “taking care of things” and she just gets information about what has to be done.
- The sitting, flying hiss people are office workers in the office scene! There is a connection between the real office workers and the hiss creatures.
The fantasy could have bled into reality
It’s possible that most of the game really did happen like that, because her fantasies became reality through an extreme version of Carl Jung’s theory of synchronicity, mentioned in the game.
These bits are not necessary for the above to make sense, and are less solid than the rest.
When does the switch between reality and fantasy happen?
When Jesse takes the lift at the start of the game (she goes to an interview), the scene cuts to show the credits. Afterwards she arrives somewhere with a lift, and it’s when she goes to the Director’s office and the supernatural things start to happen. Do those two things even happen the same day? Why would the janitor’s assistant have an interview with the Director?
Even less solid, mostly fun to think about: when she arrives in the lift, there is an alarm and you can read on some screens that the building is on lockdown and that there is an “HRA emergency”. What if that means something entirely mundane, like “Health Risk Assessment” and it’s actually some problem in the building that forces them to quarantine? A health issue would explain the obsession with the mold.
He is dead, or maybe never existed, or maybe it’s another personality of her:
- From Dylan’s dreams: “In the dream, I was alone. It was just me. I was the only child. A girl. My name was Jesse Dylan Faden.”
- From Dylan’s dreams: “You’ve always been here, the only child”
- From a psychiatrist interview recording: “You have mentioned a few times that there’s a piece of you missing. It’s natural that you feel that way. Your brother and your parents are dead.” Jesse: “No. Dylan’s not dead.”
It might be another personality, or maybe the player?
- From “Ordinary AWE: Stage 4.a”: Dylan says that “Jesse said we should call her Polaris. It’s because she was doing stars at school”
- At the beginning, when presumably talking about Polaris: “I forget, ‘it’s all in my head’. There’s no you, right?”
- From Dylan’s dreams: “Polaris is using you. The bureau is using you. You are a puppet.”
- In a psychiatrist interview recording, Polaris is referred to as an imaginary friend from her childhood.
Apr 8, 2020
The last blog post was a quick introduction to FireHOL, the software to make firewalls. In this blog post we will see how to configure FireHOL to allow Wireguard to work, if you want to install Wireguard on the same server. In this configuration, Wireguard will be used as a simple VPN server (think OpenVPN): accepting connections from a client (typically a laptop or a mobile phone) and route that traffic to the internet.
EDIT: Corrected/simplified a couple of things, based on feedback.
For this blog post, I will assume that you already have Wireguard working, and you have FireHOL installed and configured (except that Wireguard now doesn’t work, and you have to fix FireHOL’s configuration to make it work again).
I will assume that your Wireguard interface is
wg0, you are using the (standard) Wireguard port
51820, and your main network interface is
There are three things we must do in order to make Wireguard work:
- Accept the initial connection to the Wireguard server port
- Accept traffic from the Wireguard network interface
- Route the traffic from the Wireguard interface to the internet (the main network interface)
Accepting Wireguard connections
The first thing one has to do is to open the Wireguard port. Because Wireguard’s port is not defined in FireHOL, we need to specify the port like this:
interface eth0 # ... server custom wireguard udp/51820 default accept
If you put those two lines at the end of your
interface eth0definition you should be good. Note that, if you would prefer that line to look like the other service definitions, you can tell FireHOL what the Wireguard port is and define that line like
server wireguard accept.
Accepting traffic from the Wireguard interface
For that we need to declare the Wireguard interface and accept everything from/to it:
interface wg0 vpn policy accept
Put those lines before or after your other
Last but not least, we need to allow the traffic from
wg0to be routed to and from the main network interface. To do that, put these lines at the end of your configuration file:
router vpn2internet inface wg0 outface eth0 masquerade route all accept
One could do more sophisticated configurations, but that’s a basic one that should work well. As always, activate the new configuration with
firehol try, so that if you break anything you will not lose access to the server. I hope this post was useful!