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.
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
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.
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.
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.”
Theatre is all about one’s ass, everything we know and love about the stage has everything to do with our asses. Its about how many asses are in the seats, how comfortable those asses are, whether those asses need to pee, whether how often they move, how sore they are, or even how much those asses paid to be there.
And let me make this abundantly clear, it is not about the actual audience members. The audience itself thinks too much, is too swayed by reviews of people they believe to be knowledgeable. Audiences Talk, answer their cell-phones, throw things at actors and they are almost universally know-it-all children. An audience is an exceedingly ungrateful lot. Their asses, however, are remarkably honest. An audience member may say that they loathed a show, but if their ass is happy, then the show was well made.
I spend so much of my life worried about the predominance of culture that I have no clue anymore why culture needs its predominance. They say that culture is the currency of a people, but what purpose does this currency have if its only purpose seems to be to immortalize the creative. If any goal has ever irked me, it is the goal of immortality immortality. Only the selfish aspire to live forever, it’s a goal that only proves that one’s ego is so large they cannot stand to let it ever deflate.
Perhaps I am too cynical. Perhaps it could be said that the goal of creation is to spur change in the world, and it is almost certain that art has done that. Everything from books, to movies, to plays have shown the world something that it hasn’t seen before; that the shadow of hate still exists, what the future could hold, and what the past did, what life means. From a young age we are raised with stories whose entire purpose is to present to us a moral. Perhaps to a certain extent, Aesop raised us as much as our parents did. But outside childhood, are we still taught by stories, or do we just watch them enjoy the brief entertainment, and continue on. More concisely, what purpose does art serve in culture?
- To Teach and Inform
- Inciting socio-political change
- Moral stories
- Informing an individual about the past
- Positing a possible future
- To Entertain
- Absorb a viewer into a world
- Base titillation
- Incitement of an emotion
The first purpose of art, To Teach and Inform is a well-documented one; touted by academics everywhere who love to believe that art is not just for entertainment. To be honest, a fair amount of art is in fact used for teaching, but in recognizing the only purpose of art as education we overlook the driving force of Art. Entertainment.
It seems like such a dirty words when it comes to art. Why create something that merely entertains when it can hold a breadth of intellectual merit? Why create something that everyone can relate to when one can cater just to the critics? People need to be OK with creating Art that exists for the sole purpose of entertainment.
Why is it suddenly “Selling Out” when something is created just for entertainment’s value. God knows Shakespeare appealed to almost every income class in Britain, and he is still read today by students and professors alike. The problem is, academics try and see beyond the entertainment, reading too much into what they think he wrote into the words. Let me make this abundantly clear, When you are an underpaid writer/actor living in a place where writer/actors are considered vagrants, you don’t write to appease intellectuals, you write to appease everyone possible. Now just because someone writes to entertain the masses, doesn’t mean that they are selling out, it means they are writing to entertain the masses.
While teaching is A purpose of art, its value is determined by its entertainment. Art is only remembered if people actually watched it.
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