Devil’s House: For You To Listen To.

Well I guess I’ve strayed into multimedia.

My friend and housemate Scott Key helped me out by throwing a little voice acting onto Devil’s House. I’m pretty damn pleased with the product, and this may be the mode of distribution from here on out.

The first two chapters are currently being hosted on SoundCloud. I encourage you to give a listen. They aren’t yet available for download- but they will be at a later date.

Please listen! Enjoy!

 

Advertisements

The Abridged Challenge

Small Talk 

This one is too easy, I swear. I mean, you ask the question, what the hell can make small talk interesting. Well here it is:

Humans evolved as a social species. The development of language is its own fascinating bundle of fascination, but what strikes me about small talk is its purpose. If you meet someone at a cocktail party, especially someone you don’t know too well, you ask them about their job, their hometown, and, of course, the weather (This, in major cities, is relegated to traffic, the urban weather). People look at small-talk as useless dribble, information less nonsense we resort to when we have nothing good to talk about. I don’t usually resort to absolute, but those people are wrong.

A great deal of information about social compatibility is exchanged in Small Talk. It helps to look at small talk as Human Butt-Sniffing. Dogs, when they great each other for the first time. First: they will smell each other’s noses. This serves as an indicator of mood for both animals. Second, they will sniff each other’s asses. Why? to tell the gender, pack status, and cleanliness of the other dog. It is an exchange of social data. Humanity has evolved its small-talk to include the basic social data. Who do you know, what Friends, if any, do we share, how much money do you make, and what kind of a person are you (Do I want to be your friend).

While social posturing and small talk may seem useless, try approaching it with this in mind. It also helps those less socially adept to function in those group situations. When in doubt, ask questions and gather info. People not only love to talk about themselves, but the more social information that is shared, the more of a subconscious connection is felt.

Homework

Right. Everyone’s favorite topic. Homework. THe bane of the weekend and afternoon, scourge of the high-schooler, and joke of the undergrad. A large subject that has been beaten to death by the likes of my peers. So lets take a different tack.

The main component of learning a skill is repetition, and this is where the homework paradigm comes into play. Sheets of simple math, grammar, spelling. The hundreds of calculus problems that professors will assign to drill the basics into your head. This is where I will take my contention

Tell me if this sounds familiar: An elementary school teacher with 40 kids has 2 hours to teach the basics of adding fractions with different denominators, in between trying to calm the class down and an ill-timed fire drill, she only has 45 minutes to teach some very important fundamentals. After blasting through the materiel, she sends the children home with their math worksheet because she has another 4 furrow days to go this semester alone, and has to keep her curriculum up to speed, or they won’t be ready for the standardized test at the end of the year that dictates how much funding the school gets. So the children go home, not really understanding the materiel, and try to complete it, not knowing how. Some get help from their parents, but most don’t. They try to complete the homework, don’t know how, build bad habits by “Incorrect Repetition”. Learning a skill depends on correct repetition, incorrect repetition breeds incorrect skills.

This is a small diatribe on the fact that we need more educational funding, and some teaching methods need to be changed. But how are we supposed to change education?

Homework is necessary. We hate it (and some don’t), but its true. What needs to change is the nature of the homework. The current paradigm is to lecture in class, and to assign the repetition outside of class. This is effective as long as the students completely understand the method, which they often don’t. It might be more effective if the repetition was guided in class, allowing the students to perform the correct repetition. This also allows you to introduce the idea outside of class, developing critical thinking skills, and intellectual independence. To put it simply, Have a student learn outside of class as much as they do inside of class. Make intellectual exploration a habit outside of the classroom.

Robert Rauschenberg, White Painting (Three Panel), 1951

http://www.sfmoma.org/explore/collection/artwork/25855#ixzz22V4P8YQW

Take a moment to imagine what would happen if a painter from history happened upon this painting. Michelangelo might be intrigued, Van Gogh could be somewhat disgusted at its simplicity, Leonardo would be in awe of its technical proficiency. But all artists before the last 150 years would never have seen a painting like this receive recognition, much less be painted at all.

More than a 1000 years ago, it would have been nigh on impossible to achieve such a smooth and perfect white. The technology didn’t exist. Canvas was rough, oil paints were of poor quality, and keeping it such a pure white would have been next to impossible in most studios. In fact, going back to antiquity, the easiest way to achieve a smooth white was to polish the proper type of marble or granite to a sheen, and hope it doesn’t have any faults or mineral lines. This simple painting illustrates the technical proficiency of our time.

But this painting is more than that. It is an identifier of one of our species’ most unique qualities. Meta-thought. The analyzation of abstract ideas as their own entity. Art was about recreation and imitation, Landscapes, God-forms, theological idolatry. Then, suddenly, Artists started changing their view. They created altered versions of reality. Impressionists, surrealists, abstract artists. Then, somewhere along the line, the alteration of reality was surpassed by art that was completely independent of the world it inhabited. It didn’t mimic anything, it didn’t reference anything, it became art that reflected thought-form. Our reality became our mental construct of reality. And more than anything, this is what makes this very dull, very minimalist painting interesting. How in the world did we get from cave paintings to 3 white sheets of canvas?

Being an Office Receptionist

This isn’t interesting? I mean, it already seems to be to me, but let me spell it out for you, since you asked.

First, look at the prevalence of the service economy in this day and age. If you go back just 200 years, there wasn’t much of an economy around supporting the needs of others. You could carry packages or be a servant. Other skills, like service manufacture, required the creation of physical goods. Nowadays, there is an entire economic ecosystem of people’s whose job it is to coordinate, organize, or communicate. Office Receptionists, who write memos, and fill date-books, are just the tip of the iceberg. Someone from 200 years ago would look at jobs like that, and would likely laugh. “what kind of a job,” Says blacksmith joe, “Requires you to sit and talk to people all day”. But the fact is, without the service economy, we could not survive. As society becomes more complex, we have more of a need for people to organize it all, prevent it from collapsing. Office Receptionists form the basis of modern society.

But then we move on. Office receptionists are not only the cornerstone of modern society, but they also lead lives of intrigue. We are a society that thrives on social interaction, and, to a smaller extent, gossip. I am not lending any credence at this point to general archetypes, I am only using them because we as a society use them. Anyone who works HR or Reception in an office building has a better idea of what is going on in the office than anyone else in that building. This is because it is their job to deal with the people, to organize it all, and to know what to say to who to get what they need. Social information is power.

The receding Hairlines of Congressional Aids: A Study

Hair-loss, for some odd reason, is inextricably linked with stress. Which, when constantly getting texted pictures of a congressman’s junk on capital hill, is fairly high. Hair loss, in our society, is almost a sign of weakness. One can be bald and still be strong, and one can have hair, but if one is in between the two, we suddenly see weakness.

Its funny, in this way. We have had an African-American president, a Catholic President, and with any luck we are well on our way to having 2 X chromosomes sitting in the oval office. We haven’t yet elected an openly balding president. Can you think of one?

Well, there is Benjamin Franklin, I’ll admit. But he was elected in an era where wigs were the commonplace, and unlike most of the founding fathers, he was shoved far back to the 100 dollar bill, behind all of his peers and contemporaries. His name is even being redacted from history by a few southern and midwest states who don’t like his policies.


Poop, Abridged

I am going to say something that is not said enough in the world.

Holy SHIT… thats cool.

Genuinely. Shit is cool.

Wait… even SHIT is cool. Digested food is damn cool, and by god, its poop. Poop is awesome!

And why is poop awesome? Because not only is it the product of billions of years of digestive evolution, it spawns ecosystems in and of itself. Dung beetles aren’t just a punchline, they are a species of beetle that thrives on the digested grasses and plants of the savannah. They gather up their stash in a ball, hop on their front legs, and roll their ball of dung hundreds and hundreds of feet back to their burrow. How in the hell did this behavior evolve? is this behavior learned, or has it been so repeated that it is coded into DNA?

What about our relation to poop? Look at how it has evolved into our culture. Toilets became a mainstay as early as Sumer. We separated our waste disposal from the rest of society. Put it in the corner or behind walls, following the behavior of most other mammals. Its funny that as Cities and Communities grew, the propensity to separate our waste from our streets decreased. We went from Rome, and their advanced system of toilets and baths, to the renaissance, where chamber pots were emptied into streets and baths were practically prohibited by the church. Then we made thrones for our pooping, books surrounding it. Our waste eventually became a joke, a psychological symptom or precursor to disorder, something people laughed at or were ashamed of. There are vast segments of our culture that have developed around this one single subject. Not only are there papers, articles, and novels written around the subject, It is a common and unifying factor for all cultures in the world. Each and every culture has a way they deal with their waste, and Each one has its own vast history and hugely complicated social norms.

And that is just the abridged version of Poop.

Take any subject on earth has Infinite Academic Resolution. You can continue choosing any part of any subject and pull up a wealth of information. If someone hasn’t already written something on it already, then someone will, eventually.

So, Tell Me. Why in the hell are you bored. Oh, I see you, sitting at home, surfing the internet, looking for something new. I see through your charade. You think there is nothing interesting?

Here is a Challenge: Send me some subject, any subject, and I will attempt to pull out something fascinating within it. Really. Send me ANYTHING, and I will find some small seed of inspiration in it. Even better, I will inspire some seed of interest in you. Try Me.


Mutual Self-Interest

This week, 4 athletes marched under the Olympic Flag. 4 Athletes whose countries were not able or allowed to enter the Games, Three of them from a municipality of the netherlands, and the fourth is a refugee of Sudan. 4 Athletes competing not for any one country, but instead to prove their worth on a global stage, under a global flag. The Olympic foundation, for all of its faults, provides a way to bring the world together for a fair competition. Even more than that, for a peaceful competition. Makes one wonder.

Maybe dreaming of world peace is not as childish and useless as we thought. Oh, I know, we all dream of utopian society, and of somehow creating a completely fair and just world, but we are taught from a young age to be afraid, and to put up with injustice, because its just the way things work sometimes. In fact, any discussion of world peace is dismissed as childish immediately because we are taught that such things are the product of either totalitarian rule, or the wet dream of a freshman poli-sci major.

We assume the world peace means that everyone is well fed, all wars are over, and unicorns shit their rainbows across the sky. But realistically, is there such a thing? Is the dream of world peace too far fetched? Or can world peace mean something different?

So lets abandon our central term, first off. World peace has too many negative connotations and doesn’t quite accurately portray the goals included. So lets toss something more definable into the mix. how about Mutual Self-Interest?

Thats in interesting set of words. Self-interest implies a small portion of selfishness that cuts far short of greed or malice. By making it mutual, the self-interest is for the entire group, not just the one. Society in any species is spawned around groups of Mutual Self-Interest. Dolphins have pods, Wolfs have Packs, and Humans, in any situation, will group with like-minded individuals to create a system of Mutual Self-Interest.

This started with packs. Humanity exited Northern Africa and grouped into packs, finding that having many trumped having few. Then we settled down, built cities, built nations, and populated a world. In fact, in most species, behavioral evolution occurs far before physiological evolution, societies develop and regulate themselves as a course of behavioral evolution. And as Ecological Boundaries expand, it could be safe to say that humanity will regress to its older societal modes. That is: maybe what we need to enter into Mutual Self-Interest, as a planet, is to have something vast out in the distance. Something to make us stand next to a stranger and say, “I guess we have a lot to get done, now.”


the McGurk Effect and Sound Design

 

This is not a phenomenon that effects the entire population, but being as interested in sound as I am, it presents a unique insight into the audio-visual link. I have always said that the most important part of sound design is making sure the listener links what they see to what they hear. If a convention isn’t established in that way, then the Sound Designer has failed his job. Expect more on this in the future.


It Wasn’t Just “English” Pt 1

English itself, as a language, is made up of two component languages; how it is Written and how it is Spoken. We tend to see these two as a pair, believing them inextricably linked. But they aren’t. As anyone who has ever tried to learn a second language can attest, proficiency in reading is not necessarily matched by proficiency in speaking, and vice versa.

Written language is almost universally a system whose purpose is to contain and store the phonetic syllables that make up a language. It is interesting to note that those languages that aren’t written to hold phonetic data (Say, for instance, binary or hexadecimal) are much more efficient at holding data, but nearly impossible to learn how to speak fluently.

Now take for instance, your average English peasant in the 14th century. Here is a person who works, accomplishes complex tasks, knows more about nature than most of our current generation ever will, but he cannot read. Not knowing how to read does not in any way inhibit his ability to communicate, or does it demonstrate anything about his intelligence. The only difference is that he just hasn’t learned the Written Language. All told, this metaphorical peasant knows his spoken language as well as you or I, his lack of knowledge surrounding the written portion does not stand in his way of that.

But, could you try to imagine someone just learning the written language, without the spoken portion? Take a hypothetical world where suddenly no one may speak, but they are forced to learn to write. It seems weird, doesn’t it. This is because spoken language is at the core of our language, spoken language is why our language exists. Learning how to read the letters that represent the syllables without learning how to say the actual syllables seems a little inefficient, doesn’t it. It seems in this way that learning a language requires first the form of its sounds, then the forms of its letters. Here is why.

In addition to the two languages we have learnt once we are free of grade school (being written and spoken English) we learn a third language, and we learn it from birth. There is a reason why a fight is a fight in any language, or why smiles don’t require you to learn Swahili just so you can see if they are smiling. The third language is that Universal Language that most everyone on this earth understands; Emotion.

It seems bloody obvious when I say it, doesn’t it. But of course it’s always the obvious factor that we miss. This human language is the most essential language we ever learn. Imagine not being able to tell someone’s emotion, not being able to pick up on subtle body language, and everything else we don’t even notice anymore. There are some forms of autism, brain disorders, and psychological problems that can prevent someone from learning to “speak human” as it were, and the handicap they suffer is as great as any paraplegic’s.

We don’t notice how ingrained emotional language is in our culture, nor do we have any great need to. But it is helpful when looking at any social interaction to realize the depth that such an interaction contains. Looking at a transcript is not the same as hearing a recording, which pales in comparison to being able to actually See the social interaction. Body language is just as important (if not more) to diplomacy as good rhetoric is.

I know this seems like a bit of a non sequitur, and I can freely admit that it started as such, but the significance of this is not to be downplayed. Part 2 will cover how this effects performance.


Civilization

Civilization.

In order for a species to develop a civilization that is advanced in a fashion that resembles humanity, the following conditions must be met.

  • Rational Intelligence

The intelligence of a species must be such that it allows for an ability to deduct simple conclusions from relevant data. The most basic aspects of abstract thinking must be present.

  • Social Structure

A species must both be willing to function in solitude and in herd. If a species is purely solitary, it cannot pass on its gained knowledge, and if a species relies on the herd too much, large leaps in growth are prohibited as tasks that are more efficient in solitude are performed in herd..

  • Communication, Memory, and Oral Tradition

In addition to rational thinking, it is necessary for a species to pass on what is has learned to its offspring. Previously found knowledge must first be remembered in order to be built upon.

  • Fine Tactile Manipulation

A species must be able to manipulate its environment instead of allowing its environment to manipulate it.

  • Imperfect Evolution OR Extreme Change in Environment

Without reason to make the switch from adapting to changing an environment, a species will continue along its path. Creatures with near-perfect evolution (i.e sharks and horse-shoe crabs) don’t develop culture. Creatures that are imperfectly evolved, or are suddenly introduced to an environment that doesn’t suit their evolution, are then forced to manipulate their environment, possibly to an extent where civilization is created