Monday, December 29, 2008

guys, I'm not the smartest

It's come to my attention that there are some people in the world who are smarter than I am. This shouldn't be a big deal, but I've defined myself by my above-average intelligence for quite a while, so it's aggravating to admit that I'm not the only runway light bulb in the bunch.

As is the case with most things I don't understand, I did a bit of research on exceptional intelligence. It turns out there are kids who teach themselves to read around age 2, just like Matilda (however, they do not have her telekinetic powers). They get bored in school and have trouble making friends (but then again, doesn't everyone?). Learning comes easily, so studying music theory and writing a symphony in a few months is just another hobby to them.

Learning doesn't always come easily to me. I have to really work at vocabulary in Russian (and English, for that matter). However, I do have a love for learning, and while I'm not quite in that upper 1%, IQ-wise, I'm still up there (despite having gotten dumber since high school, not sure how that happened). So I think I can understand wanting to study lots of different things, and feeling dread at the thought of doing the same thing for the rest of my life. And when it comes down to it, even improbably intelligent people have the same existential dilemmas as regularly intelligent people. Still, I should define myself in a way unrelated to my intellect, and then I wouldn't have these issues.

Okay, I'm going to go read a book to make myself feel smarter.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

ethicality? is that a word?

I had an especially trying day at work the other day. One of our clients compared us workers to Nazi prison guards working in willful ignorance. While we're not killing people, I am pretty ignorant about what goes on at my workplace. Part of me doesn't care and says that I'm just doing it for the money and it's a good thing I have a job at all, but another part of me is concerned. I didn't know anything about my line of work before I started working there... so all I learned about it was from work - I could have a biased or skewed viewpoint and not even know it. I do know that my company is a struggling non-profit and sometimes cuts corners to cut costs, but I've tried not to get upset about that. The thing is, I don't understand why this client thinks I can really do anything to solve whatever corruption has grown into the system. I am completely helpless to change anything except how clean the building is and how detailed interviews are. Even if I knew enough to blow some major whistles, my company going out of business wouldn't change the courts and judges at all. Anyway, sorry to be so vague about things, but blogging about work is always a big neon DANGER sign.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

since when is anhedonia cool

It's of some interest that the lively arts of the millennial U.S.A. treat anhedonia and internal emptiness as hip and cool. It's maybe the vestiges of the Romantic glorification of Weltschmerz, which means world-weariness or hip ennui. Maybe it's the fact that most of the arts here are produced by world-weary and sophisticated older people and then consumed by younger people who not only consume art but study it for clues on how to be cool, hip - and keep in mind that, for kids and younger people, to be hip and cool is the same as to be admired and accepted and included and so Unalone. Forget so-called peer-pressure. It's more like peer-hunger. No? We enter a spiritual puberty where we snap to the fact that the great transcendent horror is loneliness, excluded encagement in the self. Once we've hit this age, we will now give or take anything, wear any mask, to fit, be part-of, not be Alone, we young. The U.S. arts are out guide to inclusion. A how-to. We are shown how to fashion masks of ennui and jaded irony at a young age where the face is fictile enough to assume the shape of whatever it wears. And then it's stuck there, the weary cynicism that saves us from gooey sentiment and unsophisticated naiveté. ... Hal, who's empty but not dumb, theorizes privately that what passes for hip cynical transcendence of sentiment is really some kind of fear of being really human, since to be really human (at least as he conceptualizes is) is probably to be unavoidably sentimental and naive and goo-prone and gerenally pathetic, is to be in some basic interior way forever infantile... (694)

David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest

So there I was, reading this passage, and I realized that it very well could be describing me. I know, I know, part of the cool thing about reading fiction is identifying with a character and then feeling good when this character succeeds, but I try to avoid that and be objective and all. And me trying to be objective says I strongly identify with this passage. So now my cynicism and jaded irony is merely a generational fad? I thought I was being real. I feel as disappointed as a child who has been promised a pony and gets a plastic idol instead. As disappointed as a rat formerly on a variable-ratio schedule but switched to extinction mode and has a really long stint of pressing that little bar without any reward (this was me trying to describe my disappointment instead of saying "words fail me"). My self-concept is ruined! ...oh well.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Embarrassment is likable!

Perhaps surprisingly, the momentary pain of being teased can lead to pleasure. During their 15 seconds of humiliation, the targets of teasing displayed common signs of embarrassment — gaze aversion; a coy, nervous smile; a hand touching the face; a head bowed submissively so as to expose the neck; and blushing. These gestures are ancient signs of appeasement that trigger a reconciliation response in most mammals, as they did in our study. The more targets showed these evanescent signs of embarrassment, the more the teasers liked them.
-NYT Times article, In Defense of Teasing (page 3)

This probably explains why I'm so endearing.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Experimental Literature for the blind?

Okay, great idea of the day: experimental literature... for the blind! "And this was the texture of her face *braille dot braille dot braille dot*" "And the silk had this texture... *blank paper*" It could be... really cool!