Showing posts with label Language. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Language. Show all posts

Friday, February 2, 2024

Jackie Gleason UFO Shocker!

Because of my varied (almost haphazard) range of interests, I often run into autodidactic people.  That's a fancy phrase we use to describe someone self-taught.  Academics like to make simple things seem more complex, using Latin or Greek words to describe things when English words work just fine.  Once you figure out the rules, it's a fun game, and it filters out the uninitiated.

Autodidacts are cool because they're so interested in a subject that they taught themselves rather than seeking a master.  Sometimes, they don't function well in an academic setting.  It's said that was true of William Faulkner, who couldn't manage to stay in college, so he taught himself.  That's often given as an explanation of why he uses so many five-dollar words in his prose.  Some people say it's so nobody will accuse him of not being educated, which he wasn't; at least he wasn't educated by the traditional route.

Sometimes, people become autodidact because the things they're interested in aren't taught anywhere.  These can be my favorite people.  People who are fascinated by UFOs, cryptozoology, ghosts, time travelers, and more have to be autodidactics because these things aren't taught at any college.  Jackie Gleason was one of the world's first UFO enthusiasts.  His passion led him to collect a remarkably complete literature library on the subject.  He even built a house shaped like a flying saucer.  In his will, he left his massive collection of UFO materials to the University of Miami, where it exists today, even though they still don't teach any courses on UFOs.  

Covid brought out a lot of hidden autodidacts who taught themselves immunobiology to justify not getting vaccinated.  That illustrated the downside of autodidactism; sometimes, they came to the wrong conclusion.  The same thing happens with climate-change deniers, experts on who really killed JFK, and 9/11 hoaxers.  They're all autodidacts, although sometimes I wish they'd listen to reason.

The internet was the greatest possible gift for autodidacts.  Research that took hours and days in the public library can be done on your phone before you get out of bed in the morning.  The more serious internet sleuths make accounts on Wikipedia where they use their hard-earned special knowledge to refine the topics that relate to their expertise.  

I am an autodidact.  There are no college courses on movie robots or stop-motion dinosaurs, so I strike out on my own. It's important that you keep learning your whole life and never quit.  There's no excuse now that so much human knowledge is available on your telephone or tablet.  With the internet, there's an infinite variety of ways you can publish your findings.  Start with Reddit, then maybe start a blog.  You don't have to be published in an academic journal to get your ideas out in the world.  

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Derailed Story

Sometimes, I lose control of my stories.  Earlier today, I tried to write down how this girl once spent several minutes slapping and punching me because I didn't keep my eyes closed during an intimate moment.  It was supposed to be funny.  At least it was unusual.  Along the way, I wrote down how I'd never hit a girl, which is almost true in that I've never raised my hand in anger like that, but there was that time in fifth grade when I mistakenly tried to wrestle a girl because I thought she was another one of the boys.   

Once I did that, the whole piece became about how bad that mistake made me feel, which it did, and whatever point I had that was funny evaporated like a vampire in the sun, and the longer the story got, the less it worked.  It wasn't funny anymore.  It wasn't anything, just an ambling mess.  

When I paint or draw, I usually try to capture something my eye actually saw, which keeps me on track.  Writing is only like that when you answer an essay question in school.  With free writing, you sometimes start out trying to bake a chicken and end up with broiled oysters.  The process, at least the way I do it, takes its own course, and you're just there trying to scribble it all down.

Art is a collaboration between the conscious and unconscious mind.  While my story wasn't particularly good, it became an interesting opportunity to examine my creative process. Maybe one day I'll return to that story's funny side, or maybe I'll never think of it again.  That part doesn't matter.  What does matter is that I had an idea, and I put it on paper, and it became whatever it needed to become.       

Friday, August 25, 2023

Reading The Other Side

If I'm going to write about what happened in the sixties and early seventies, I feel like I need to be able to at least understand and articulate the opposing viewpoint, even if I don't agree with it.  

In Mississippi, most of the argument in favor of segregation came from the Citizens Council, and most of that came from Bill Simmons.  There's such a vast gulf between the things the guy said and wrote and my personal experience with him that I struggle to rationalize it all, and yet it's all true.  

No one sets out to be a villain.  Everybody believes they're working for the greater good.  Medgar Evers thought he was working for the greater good.  Bryan De La Beckwith thought he was working for the greater good.  Obviously, they weren't both correct.   Either that or the actual greater good isn't something we can understand.  

Most of what Bill Simmons wrote, I attribute to what Stephen Jay Gould called "biological determinism," or what I call "really bad anthropology."  What really helped me with all this was Richard Dawkins' theory on "The Selfish Gene," where he introduced the idea of the "meme" as a unit of cultural evolution to help the gene maximize inclusive fitness.  

There's an awful lot more to the word "meme" than funny pictures of cats or animated gifs from 90's sitcoms.  "Meme," as Dawkins intended it, could be the key to everything.  Once you infest yourself with a certain set of memes, then everything Bill Simmons ever wrote and everything Bryan De La Beckwith did starts to become understandable.  They're serving not truth but a meme, and that meme serves some level of genetic inclusive fitness.  

The wrongness of what these men said and did was the result of the selfish gene and the memes it spun to protect its agenda.

George Lucas simplifies the story so that red light sabers mean bad and light colors mean good, and that makes a great story, but there's more to it than that.

I'm starting these stories with the idea that everybody in the are trying to do what's right, but there's a big difference in what they all consider "right" to be.  Everybody is working to serve the memes they start with, but everybody starts with different memes.  

It's possible that the same flaws in my brain that make it difficult to read or speak also give me a way to see these things differently.  Either way, every time I turn on the television, I see where an old enemy of my culture has returned.  Understanding them is vitally important.

Official Ted Lasso