The Only Argument That Matters is Performance

This may sounds like the typical lament of social media, but I got into an argument yesterday that bored me. It was about history, and it involved an alternative history theory I’ve communicated in a number of ways. And I don’t mind the fact that people disputed it. Good points were made.

What bothers me was the ones who missed the point, and made unjustified claims to argue irrelevant points. Yes, Allzu Menslich, but do I need to expend the energy on refuting it? What am I losing be engaging in it? Will my refutation change anyone’s mind. To ask is to answer.

What changes people’s minds is their perceptions of reality, not argument. Argument, however carefully constructed, is just words, and they won’t get through someone’s fundamental worldview. Natural skepticism of being led down the primrose path via sophistry comes to bear whenever worldview is challenged. That’s simply how human brains work.

What changes people’s minds is what they can see happening in front of their faces. Doing changes minds, talking doesn’t. The Generals of the Prussian Army resisted hard against the introduction of breech-loading steel cannon. Then the Franco-Prussian War happened.

What I’m getting at is a general distrust of gabbing as opposed to an embrace of action. That doesn’t mean I’m planning on shutting up, just that I’m done trying to persuade people. You won’t see the Truth until you see it.

The Discreet Charms of the DVD

Since we’ve been locked in, I have taken it upon myself to rely a bit yes on the internet for the evenings entertainment, and to tuck into my ancient collecton of DVD’s and Blu-Rays. No chance of a failure of Net Neutrality (*snicker*) to deprive me of a viewing. Here’s what I’ve watched over the past week:

  • Waiting for Guffman
  • This is Spinal Tap
  • Ed Wood
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail
  • Lost in Translation
  • The Wolf of Wall Street

All of these, except perhaps the last one, are old favorites, all things I know I like, but all things I haven’t watched in forever. It’s always easier to crumple down into the couch and be served up some New Hotness by our content providers.

I mean, I watched Tiger King like everyone else, and thoroughly enjoyed the madness of it. That was a delightfully Marlovian tale: vengeance and hatred and conspiracy, with a dangerous doomed animals in the mis-en-scene (If there are any tigers left alive in the wild when this century is half-over, my old eyes will be surprised to see them). Also, fundamentally American: puritanism vs. license. All sinners in the hands of an angry God.

But it’s been fun to kick it old-school, to appreciate the collection that I was long told would be obsolete. Not so, my lovelies. I’ve taken it as another opportunity to unplug from the Matrix.

Blogging in the Time of Coronavirus

Is there anything more modern, and stupider, then arguing over the name of a virus? I try to get into the mindset of someone who hears someone say “Coronavirus” and says “No, it’s  COVID-19”. Because all “COVID-19” means is “This particular kind of Coronavirus.”

And I know those who have been conditioned so are apt to “cringe” (that useful word getting anthimeria’d into a noun is a supreme internet weariness) upon hearing “Wuhan Virus”, but honestly, there’s no shortage of bugs getting named for places. Ebola is an obvious example, being named for a river, but there’s no shortage of diseases similarly monickered. It’s simply a human habit to associate a disease with a place, because we can’t see the little beastiess.

So get the hell over yourselves. As far as I’m concerned, everyone who stamped their feet upon hearing “Wuhan Virus” is responsible for people suddenly wanting to call it “Kung Flu.” Fussiness invites reaction.

Anyway, these past few weeks have been me adjusting to the new daily routine. I’ve been out of the house seldom, and I can count the number of times I’ve been in another facility on one hand. I am content to stay home and work and amuse myself. The other surprising ease has been largely withdrawing from social media, especially Twitter. A thousand screaming voices casting everything in varying doom terms is enough to give anyone agita.

And really, every single one of them is right. This isn’t just a regular seasona flu. It’s not Black Plague, but it’s not the sniffles, either. I don’t know if shutting everyone down is an overreaction or not. I do know the decision is out of my hands, and so, therefore, is the responsibility. I’m able to work from home, though, so it’s easy for me to say that.

The economic impact has yet to be felt. Everyone who is panicking about that isn’t wrong to, either. This will have diverse impacts across the board. Just when we’re moving past the pandemic, the depression/recession will kick in. And again, that’s simply baked into the cake at this point. We cannot undo what we have done. So sit back, have a drink, and watch the world spasm.

 

If Content is King, Why is Nothing New?

Provocative thoughts at The Rational Male:

For all this easy access to competency, mastery, information-based skills, what we find lacking is real, valuable content. It’s great that we have access to the tool boxes of old order masters, but what do we build with those tools? Thus far, not very much. Usually those tools build rehashes of old order ideas to be sold as something novel in the digital age….The ease of the digital new order makes us lazy. For all of the access we have now, for all of the information we have, we’ve never been more unmotivated. The process of mastery, the process and dedication needed to attain it, used to contribute to the creative impetus required to use it. Today we’ve never been less creative in our thinking. It’s why we keep returning to old order stories and movie franchises. We just retell the same old order thinking stories in more advanced and colorful ways with the technology of the digital order. But we just repeat ourselves; or we add some social justice twist to stories that were timeless because the art took precedence over any other consideration.

When something is easy to make, it’s value diminishes. It’s incredibly easy to get your book/video/movie made, and incredibly hard to get it seen, because it’s full of an ocean of content. So the corporations rely on known stories, as trustworthy means of creating interest. But they aren’t that reliable, and lots of people are bored by them.

So if it’s easy to master doing something well, what makes the difference?

The only answer can be persistence, and the grind.

Of Snobbery and Boredom

A thought about my most recent review:

I don’t tend to like things unless they stand out from the herd. Call that elitism, call it snobbery; I don’t care. I can’t pretend to like things I don’t like.

One thing I feel obligated to point out is that I detest snobbery. Snobbery is close-minded, passive bullying. Snobbery is adopting a categorical rule that X kind of story, told by Y kind of people, cannot possibly be good. It is a sweeping (possibly hasty) generalization, a fallacy of relevance.

That line about not liking things unless they stand out from the herd sounds snobby as hell, but I dont’ really mean it like that. I’m not holding myself above the Great Unwashed and their low-brow tastes. I’m fine with common tastes and basic stuff. They can be a positive tonic.

What I mean by that is I get bored of seeing the same kind of stories over and over. Everyone likes to dump on Hallmark movies this time of year for their cookie-cutter plots, but the truth is almost every genre has tropes that it regularly employs. This is true of so-called “Prestige Television” as well. No one who sat through the Game of Thrones finale could have escaped how obligatory that ending felt.

Certain kinds of stories appeal to me more than others. That’s personal taste. What snobs do is conflate their personal taste with universal aesthetic truths. A story may not interest me, but it would be wrong to say that a story is bad because I’m not interested in it.

So you should never take my grumbles about Nothing to See at the Theater as serious aesthetic judgements. That’s just me being bored, and venting spleen accordingly. 80% of all my prejudices are “Good Lord, this again…” That doesn’t prevent me from overcoming it.

Generations Are Arbitrary. Act Accordingly.

punk-band-generation-x
Members of this band were all Boomers.

The idea of generations, especially as Demographers use them, is overrated. I’ve said so before, I’ll likely go on saying it.

Being born at the same time as others gives you a set of shared cultural memories and not much else. Now, those shared cultural memories can be powerful, especially given the rate of pop culture decay, but they aren’t as determinative as people like to believe.

I have some more to say on this topic, over on Contena.com, which is a writer’s resource that’s added a blogging feature. I like to try out blogging features, so I penned Dead X.

The idea of “Generation X” was coined by the Canadian writer Douglas Coupland, and he was referring to people born around his time, the late fifties to early sixties, who came of age in the seventies. Too young to really be involved in the great Sixties upheaval, they lived in the immediate consequences of it. We would call these folk today “Late Boomers”.

Now, this is a provocative idea, if we were to apply the 15-year cycle that Democraphers are fond of using today. What if, instead of this:

  • Baby Boom: 1946-1964
  • Generation X: 1965-1980
  • Millenials: 1981-1995
  • Generation Z: 1996-2010
  • Generation Alpha: 2011-2025

We borrowed from Coupland’s original notion, and went with this:

  • Baby Boom: 1946-1960
  • Generation X: 1961-1975
  • Generation Y/Xennials: 1976-1990
  • Generation Z/Millenials: 1991-2005
  • Generation Alpha: 2006-2020

This setup has the virtue of a) recognizing that postwar birthrates started to decline in the early 60’s, when birth control became a reality, b) using the original conception of Generation X, c) moving the group called “Millenials” to those born around the actual Millenium, and d) giving the “Xennial” identity an actual demography.

Of course, it would shift myself from Generation X to Generation Y, but it would put me in the same Generation as my wife, so… I can live with it.

The link to Dead X on my Contena profile again, that you may Read the Whole Thing.

 

We Have to Be Liked

Bret Easton Ellis, writing in his essay collection White, on the social-corporate demand of inclusivity:

Most people of a certain age probably noticed this when they joined their very first corporation. Facebook encouraged its users to “like” things, and because this platform is where they branded themselves on the social Web for the first time, their umpulse was to follow the Facebook dictum and present an idealized portrait of themselves — or or a nicer, friendlier, duller self. And this is where the twin ideas of likability and “relatability” were born, which together began to reduce all of us, ultimately, to a neutered clockwork orange, enslafed to yet another corporate version of the status quo. To be accepted, we had to follow an upbeat morality code under which everything had to be liked and everybody’s voice had to be respected, and anyone who held negative or unpopular opinions that weren’t inclusive — in other words, a simple dislike — would be shut out of the conversation and ruthlessly shamed. Absurd doses of invective were often hurled at the supposed troll, to the poitn where the original “offense” or “transgression” or “insensitive dickish joke” or “idea” seemed negligible by comparison. In the new post-Empire age we’re accustomed to rating TV shows, Restaurants, video games, books, even doctors, and we mostly give positive reviews because nobody wants to look like a hater. And even if you aren’t one, that’s what you’re labeled as if you steer away from the herd.

I like this because it’s a take obverse from the usual complaint about the internet and social media: a festering boil of rage and uncouthery. I myself have described Twitter as “both the tape recorder and the riot”. But this suggests that really everything is pushing the other way, as social media purges those lacking social credit, as the Chinese put it. Skynet turned out to be far more seductive than we thought.

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Click here for link.