Stories Video Series

Topic Summary:
I made a video series about stories. It elaborates on a comment I made in this post about stories being like a language:

You can find the series here.


  • I shared the series on Instagram. I activated some connections in an old social network to get a mini audience. I want(ed) traffic to the series because I think that I have ideas that can help people.
  • I believe that there is a consulting niche for building stories in a more fundamental/principled way; and that I could exploit that niche, as people come to me to hear the right ideas first-hand.
  • A good consulting gig could have implications for my career plan (e.g. side hustle, plan B, eventual alternative to plan A).
  • I was rushing to finish (most) of the series before my internship, so there is a bit of a jumbled aspect to it where I was putting out videos while ideas were still churning. (Most notably I initially thought there were going to be 11 episodes, and there were ultimately 13 (or 14 if including the preliminary vid).)

The project is an intellectual one. I am proposing a good deal of theory. And while the series is public and exposed, I haven’t sought out serious criticism. It would be kind of fraudulent of me to persist with promoting/exploring the ideas if I am shielding them from rational tests, and they might actually be rubbish! So one of my goals for this post/topic is to seek criticism.

More generally, however, I am seeking engagement. I am actually interested/curious about stories + my ideas about them. But I’ve had no one to talk to about it…I want to see people apply the ideas and create knowledge!

CF relevance:

  • Being rational about something people haven’t thought (much/seriously) about how to be rational about
  • Explicit understanding → building intuition on top
  • Managing/organising a project

Do you want unbounded criticism? (A criticism is a reason that an idea decisively fails at a goal. Criticism can be about anything relevant to goal success, including methods, meta, context or tangents. If you think a line of discussion isn’t worth focusing attention on, that is a disagreement with the person who posted it, which can be discussed.) Yes.

Have you seen these? Do you have comments on them?

Curiosity – Moana Review
Curiosity – Analyzing How Far I'll Go
Curiosity – Frozen Comments
Chapter 1 · Learn Objectivism

It’s satisfying to see someone with decisive thinking about representation. From skimming, your articles look really good. (IIRC, I hadn’t seen any of them before.)

Four actions have been dispatched for async analysis and response. I also need to watch the Frozen and Moana movies and take my own notes.

Thoughts about the first summary-sentence

I want to show how much interesting stuff Rand’s writing contains. Every sentence has a purpose.

of the Atlas Shrugged Close Reading article:

What is special about Rand’s style is that she can already express her commentary well in abstract terms (in English) before expressing it through a story. She has a lot to say, and she understands it well. (You can tell this by the speeches made by her storys’ characters.) This makes it easier for her to produce an explicit map of how her commentary enters and explains specific storied implementations: she can impose constraints on brainstorming those implementations; she can subject a map between abstract and concrete to criticism/refinement/deepening; and for instance she can make sure that any such map is legible – that it can be inferred by an audience.

All those goings-on are signals of a competent author – and I’m trying to say that that’s special. Authors typically play the role of audience to their own story, and they don’t understand what they’ve done. They have followed vague intuitions. They infer (what they imagine to be) their own ideas from their writing.

As I mention in the series, our dreaming selves (tend to) adopt this style of authorship-of-stories as a general strategy for thinking (I think that that mostly just has to do with our culture by the way); and while this is much better than nothing/chaos/randomness/unconsciousness – you are giving ideas form; you are opening up a discernible landscape for them to interact – elevated to a profession, it is a bit problematic. An author should have already thought in explicit, abstract terms about their ideas before building them into a story.

I watched Moana. I thought it was really bad. I am going to do a review which will contain spoilers.


One big theme is like this:

The overall meaning of the movie is as follows (notice this is basically good):

Society is stagnating and failing. It can’t go on without any change. But it resists change. Moana is young and naive and willing to think outside the box. Her dad tells her to stop, but she does it anyway.

Change is scary, but Moana chooses to be heroic. She has setbacks and doubts, but keeps trying. It’s hard, but she doesn’t expect to be pampered. She isn’t looking for a stress-free life on easy street. She succeeds at harnessing the power of the scary unknown and brings it back to her society which begins a new era of flourishing. By courageously facing and solving scary problems, Moana was a pioneer, and her individual actions changed the world while the bulk of her society did nothing.

from Curiosity – Moana Review.

Or like this (my own words):

Some problems require bold explorers to journey into the unknown and fight for solutions. Society needs some heroes to buck the trend and rescue the princess. A life of conforming – a life which is predictable – does not and should not (completely) satisfy a hero like Moana. Edge individuals push boundaries and advance territory. They raise the floor. They take on dangerous challenges. Conformity is safe and low-risk, but it is not exciting enough for a hero who has a big appetite for adventure. Moreover, universal conformity is actually unsafe and high-risk.

That stuff’s pretty decent. By leaving the reef, Moana started living her own life – although she should’ve left under much more deliberate conditions! – and this was consistent with her being a savior, staving of death/famine, and reigniting the whole tribe’s voyager impulse. I was pleased that the movie ended with the tribe venturing out into the ocean.

A second big theme is like this:

We need to stop being so arrogant trying to control nature (Mother Island). If we treat her gracefully and return her to her undisturbed slumber then we can avert disaster. If we want the heart of nature for ourselves, then we will face nature’s wrath (the lava monster/general spread of…deathness?) and a scourge of deprivation (no fish). Maui’s initial daring and desire for power doomed the world. He should’ve known his place and not stolen from Mother Island. Before that there was balance and prosperity.

The second theme is about environmentalism. I think that you can’t use both of the above themes without addressing the tension. I.e. What are we allowed to do with nature exactly? We can find new land but we can’t raise our own structures if displacing a tree? We can take what the island ‘gives us’, but we can’t harvest the earth, pick it apart, experiment on things, remix them? What are the rules?

A third big theme is about discovering who you are. This empowers the characters. The idea is that once you discover who you are, you are in the right place.

It is a bad theme. It is actually re-inventing a model of conformity where Moana should align herself more closely with something descriptive (who she is) as a kind of absolute standard. Really she should be inventing herself and creating knowledge about what she should do/what is right. Who she is is not already ‘out there’, is not already lurking somewhere in the depths of her mind, to be suddenly happened upon – and if in some sense it is, why is that who she should be?

Miscellaneous notes:

  • There was a really weird bit where Moana subdues a lava-form Mother Island by reminding her of who she truly is? Why does mother island have self-awareness like that? That doesn’t service any representation except mysticism.

  • The ocean water is a metaphor for the unknown, the Other, for thinking outside the box, for being a pioneer.

    from Curiosity – Analyzing How Far I'll Go. This seems about right.

    Of note, the ocean is ~always on Moana’s side. It basically does whatever she wants. It’s a safety net that protects her from harm. It always gives her help and she doesn’t have to do as much work to solve her problems herself/manage consequences. The movie bigs-up how dangerous/brutal the sea is – true, given the representation – but then Moana barely has to wrestle/contend/negotiate with it. She doesn’t have to make a big effort of understanding and manipulating it. It ends up being a relatively cute-sy personal force that is looking out for her.

    This is wrong. The unknown is not on your side, though you may be in your element while navigating it, and though it may be your calling. The movie is presenting too pretty a view of the unknown, or its being too inconsistent/ambiguous about what the ocean really represents.

  • The realm of monsters is like a criminal underbelly. There are lots of dissonant colours. There are lots of warped, mangled creatures. There is a lack of constraints/rules. This is chaos. It is dog-eat-dog. It is a clash of personalities. There are a lot of cutthroat individuals who are out to get one another.

  • Moana and the chief don’t really have critical discussions. The chief gives explanations, but he is really just reasserting that a boundary exists. Moana then rebels against the boundary. Relevant: Curiosity – Discussion and Boundary Based Relationships.

  • The tower of stones on top of the island, where a new stone is added by each successive chieftain is:

    • a dependent chain;
    • linear, in the sense that each next rock makes about the same amount/kind of change; and
    • more unstable as more rocks are added.

    These are all metaphors. At the end of the movie Moana puts a shell from the ocean on the top of the tower which is her own twist.

  • You have to bang the drums to discover the tribe’s secret history. This means: seek, and ye shall find.

  • You have to follow the bottom of the hook constellation to find Maui. This means: you should have focus to orient yourself to your goals in the unknown.

  • The Grandmother gives her necklace to Moana. This is about transferring obligation. This is about investing the promise of life in another person. This is about continuity of values.

  • The Ocean chooses Moana. She is not complete of her own will/reason.

  • Moana gets stranded on an island where Maui happens to be living anyway. This conveys that luck is (often?) important for achieving your goals.

  • Maui’s tattoos are dynamic. They have personalities and Maui gets a new one when he has a new adventure. The tattoos represent memories/the past/former selves. The idea is that Maui has an interactive relationship with them/it.

  • Maui needs to reconcile himself with his past and his conscience before he can be powerful again.

  • The yes and no relationship between Maui and Moana is structured and represents a general class of relationship development.

  • The grandma’s ghost is a metaphor for the influence of the memory of a loved one/the model of them you have developed in your mind to consult with.

  • Why is Moana the chosen one? She’s curious and determined but she’s not very serious, impressive, or skilled.

I agree, but:

This seems to treat some people as inherently edge individuals or heroes. It talks about people as having a personality archetype (which, if so, could be discovered). It suggests backwards reasoning like from “hero” to “risk taker” instead of the other way around (you can reason from “risk taker” to the “hero” label). Hero is a description of multiple other traits, not directly a trait of its own.

Good point. Acknowledged, this paragraph

would still be accurately describing a big theme of the movie because the writers are trying to build in bad ideas like destiny.

However, when I say

I am being lazy. I am failing to notice and express a disagreement. Focusing on this line:

Moana’s initial dissatisfaction with conformity comes before she has done anything/become something which would earn her the title of hero.

In the writer’s mind she was predestined to do/become those things, and she is named hero by archetype. But in reality, heroes are created; heroism is chosen; it’s contingent.

Sometimes destiny in a story refers to a fantasy people have about their finding their ‘true’ self. I think that this is what is going on in Moana. I can also imagine destiny being used as a metaphor for in-reality external pressures, guiding particular people to be ‘edge’. Busybody parents pressure their children into ‘greatness’, ‘success’. They impose their values, even from birth. All those pressures are immoral. So if destiny plays a role like that in a story, a good character would overcome it – and e.g. choose his values for himself. For instance, destiny could be personalised/embodied; the character could have a fight with destiny; and he could win.

What’s the purpose of the math formalism in the videos? I think the typical point of a math formalism for a non-math thing is to enable you to gain insight by doing mathematical calculations.

When I introduce the formalism in Episode 6, I first give some justification:

This far into the series, it’s useful for me to be a bit more formal, a bit more explicit, and abstract. This will help us to understand metaphorical explanation more deeply. Sometimes things get complicated: your intuition fails; your dealing with an ed-- an edge case; or something; and you need to go back to fundamentals. I seek to provide those fundamentals in this video.

Timestamped link: 6. How do we explain metaphorical explanation? - YouTube.

Did you miss that? Skip past it? Or do you disagree (that I’m doing what I set out to)?

What is a mathematical calculation? Is there a fixed set of things which you have in mind, like doing arithmetic or algebra? Or is there a principle which binds them and accepts new things?

It’s not necessarily useful to think of the formalism as maths. I am just borrowing some terms/concepts. I am using the formalism to make the principles behind what I’m saying more precise.

One of the benefits of this is that I support building intuition from explicit fundamentals. In episodes 7, 8 and 9, I go through exercises where I apply the formula to specific examples. I want people to apply the formula themselves, to their own examples, many times. After a while, I want them (in the majority of cases) to fail to need the formalism (to gauge the metaphorical-literal map), for the work they’ve done in automating the underlying procedure. I want to them to have a sound basis for mastery.

Regardless of whether the formalism is correct or ultimately useful, it is alienating. Most people will bail on the series come Episode 6. They will think that I’m trying to be a smarty-pants and that I’m not interested in solving real problems.

This is a problem. Though I’ve yet to take it seriously, I am interested in mass traffic. So, for instance, I should have a way of explaining things that makes sense to the average Joe. I should have separate streams of dependency relationships in my content which are custom to a different kind of consumer. I should have … playlists.

I have a couple of weeks basically completely free in September. My plans for this period currently look like:

  1. Finish Notes on Elliot’s Grammar Article.
  2. Refactor the stories project.
  3. Plan the future of the stories project.
  4. Read some books.

(2.) means: explain things differently; separate things by playlist; and also related to (3.) I should be setting foundations for some path on which the project scales.

Here are some playlist ideas:

• core theory (for everyone)
• analysing real-world examples
• me making stories out of representations with commentary about how this is happening
• research (not everyone will like this; this would house the formalism)
• Q&As

Why are you trying to do a project (the one about stories) focused on teaching instead of learning?

I think that the ideas are domain-specific enough. I don’t think that knowing them well – well enough to have something legitimate to say/to be a non-fraud – requires being a philosophy expert, or otherwise finishing some long learning project which reaches far from where I am now. Do you disagree?

That said, I’d want to have seen a good deal more critique/collaboration before doing anything like taking someone’s money and telling them what I think.