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Old Apr 6th, 2008, 01:27 AM        Seth only hurts academia because he loves it
It's hard for me to tell if the parts intended to be funny (read: two sentences, basically) are funny at all since I don't know the basis of comparison for this type of humor. (McSweeney's, which I love, is a notable mention.) But if it is, once upon a time I-Mockery would have been a good audience. Not so much anymore, but I'll post it anyways. Don't blame me if you read it with that warning and hate yourself afterwards.

This is mostly about how I cope with the fact that I'm working two jobs, one menial and one ludicrously menial, during my struggle to get back to the ivory tower where I can talk about how fleeting joy in material goods is while I starve to death.

(Yes, it IS shtick for me to take my proficiency for pretension and express it in a far more exaggerated form than I do in real life. I work in a goddamn Goodwill for fuck's sake.)
----



As a college neophyte, I had to frequently read academic journals for all kinds of things. It always struck me as hilarious that for them to have come to us as required reading they must have been written by PhD bigwigs yet most of them could have been written by pretty much anyone (perhaps needing to be touched up for loquacity by a freshman English major) and eventually come out essentially the same. Some of them mask this by including a wide array of vague allusions assuming the reader will know their source, but the common jack could compensate by inventing such allusions fictitiously. This would work because the reader would be too embarrassed to admit not knowing the source. When I would read the author’s credentials as something like “AB Darmouth, 1998; ThD Harvard, 2004” I’d draw the observation that to even have got to the point to have the chance to earn those credentials, she’d have been capable of writing most of that paper by the time she was a junior in high school.

Admittedly, this only works well with the humanities. Biology journals, for instance, are generally intelligible to anyone but have frequent unfamiliar jargon and they do require a good background in the subject to actually make sense of the expressed ideas. Physics journals, on the contrary, typically require at least a master’s degree to make any sense whatsoever and Microsoft Word would put red squiggles under around 20% of all the words used in it (where words are actually used).

So, my friends and I would always make fun of this. We’d throw out ideas for totally idiotic papers to write that would actually get published in all likelihood if we had the prerequisite degrees or degree candidacy. My friend, who was an economics and poli sci major, screened the movie Mars Attacks! just to demonstrate the efficacy of his idea to write a thesis about how it relates to the classical tragedy genre. His idea was that he would apply it to getting an MA in both film studies and literature, neither of which he actually wanted/needed.


Ever meet a film studies major? For pursuing a degree that teaches absolutely nothing except how to lose the ability to tell the difference between flashing an erect penis on the screen as purported art and the suggestion of doing so as flagrant satire*, they manage to take pretension to whole new planes of existence.



As the papers I read got dumber and more masturbatory, or at least my awareness of this tendency solidified ever more thoroughly, I started to amuse myself by narrating all my thoughts as if they were to be published in a journal. No matter how stupid the result, I was always amused both by the process itself and the plausibility that someone had already written such a paper. I encouraged myself to do this because, for all the nihilism it induces, I hope to actually need this skill someday.

Sometimes an amusing (to me, at least) mental image would pop up and I’d narrate mentally a long and boring academic buildup to it. This is pretty similar to what Mark Twain would do in his essays on science and society. An example of mine, imagined in a literary criticism journal:

(…)There does exist the popular notion that discussion of subtext is too contrived. No matter how deep into a text the deconstructivist might dive, it is presumed, pearls could only be found so deep as the author had deliberately cultivated them. This errs from extension of the idea that highly-organized linguistic systems derive their utility solely from the virtue of explicit rather than implicit report in non-ironic exchanges of communication. This fails upon inspection as subtext is clearly ubiquitous within normal quotidian dialog. Consider the fact that a stated desire to issue an expressed reminder of common knowledge is quite regularly, if not predominantly, made in allusion or reaction to an ad hoc concern. This is observed in passive aggression, as a reminder such as “I am not the only person who lives here capable of doing dishes” by no means introduces the recipient of such a reminder to knowledge thenceto unknown.

Apropos à quoi?” is the ruling dictum in issuing a reminder and its subsequent interpretation relies on the presumably a priori ability for the audience to answer. The inextricable link between a reminder’s utility and its referential subtext is easily underscored by scenarios wherein a reminder is issued sans clear predication. It is not remarkable that statements made ex nihilo—however factual—may incur bewilderment. However, while the insertion of trivia about medieval French dynasties into a classroom lecture about calculus may certainly distract and perhaps aggravate the student, it would certainly not raise the consternation experienced by a grocery shopper who hears via the store PA a “reminder” that patrons are not rewarded discounts for defecating upon the fresh produce displays.

Another thing I do is contrive a stupid idea into personal narrative, even if it doesn’t accurately describe me, in the same format. Like:

Having grown up with an abusive father, I have long borne the concern that I had a predisposition towards abusing my significant other and possibly my own children. Without a significantly long relationship in my personal history, I had no means by which to gauge this terrifying possibility. I was mortified, then, upon the realization that my fears were affirmed by the relationship I hold with my dick vis-à-vis my frequent tendency to beat it.

You can really do this with any of the SNL “Deep Thoughts”, probably.

I think I’ll go hit the bar for last call now.

*Cf. Ingmar Bergman's "Persona" and Monty Python's "The Meaning of Life", (and probably others).
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Old Apr 6th, 2008, 01:42 AM       
What a wanker.
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Old Apr 6th, 2008, 01:44 AM       
Seth only hurts Jarvis because Seth understands that pain is the only thing left for Jarvis to feel.
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Old Apr 6th, 2008, 01:53 AM       
so you're friend turned into a pretentious prick?

that's balls.
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Old Apr 6th, 2008, 01:55 AM       
Do you know how to read, Missy?

It would seem not.
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Old Apr 6th, 2008, 01:55 AM       
his writing is too smart for me
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Old Apr 6th, 2008, 01:58 AM       
As he mentioned throughout the post, & his blog if you go & sign up for it, his manner is born of pretension, as with all such activity, it is easy to understand for half-wits such as you or I.


,,,,
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Old Apr 6th, 2008, 03:37 AM       
When I was in the shower I wondered whether or not I should drive with the top down tonight. Last I checked a thermometer, it read 50°. I decided that I would not, and if the subject came up in conversation I would respond "yeah, I've honestly driven with the top down in colder weather but I feel like I shouldn't do that. Even if people tolerate my weirdness*, driving with the top down in 285° weather probably goes too far for most people."

It then clicked that I could make the argument that I wouldn't insert Kelvin measurements into real-life conversation if I were genuinely pretentious in real life as I pretend to be online. My reasoning was that it's intended to be ironic in a self-deprecating way the nature of which precludes one's ability to hold the attitudes that define pretension. If it weren't actually ironic, I would argue, then by now such would have given me a clinical diagnosis with at least one of a handful of psychological disorders (eccentric behavior correlating disconnect to reality) or personality disorders (acts contrary to established norms in spite of having had normal social internalization).

I went on to think about bigger and better things, then something about that argument clicked in and I realized that it doesn't serve me well.

Spoilers!


*Example of this that I found hilarious: last night, smoking my pipe outside a bar, two girls (by today's American standards both were extremely attractive) walked up and conversation some way or another started between them, the cousin I had with me, and myself. Within the span of the first 45 seconds or less, the more vocal one made note of my bowtie, the stitches/scarring on my finger, my pipe, and my hair. I could tell by her outfit, diction, makeup, behavior, and whatever else that she was definitely a cultural sycophant (she argued that men wearing pink shirts was okay for a while but it's not anymore), yet she didn't speak disparagingly of any of the quirks I have to start conversations like that since I suck at starting conversations. Well, she grabbed my pipe and inhaled from it (I told her NOT to inhale) and she complained about how it tasted, but that's it. HOWEVER, I was wearing a linen shirt with a natural unbleached cream color and we were standing directly under a light that gave everything a yellow hue. Then, suddenly, she started bitching aggressively about the fact that I was "wearing a yellow shirt". She vocalized a weird train of thought, her points being that either I was wearing a white shirt that turned yellow, making my shirt (and me, implicitly) "dirty" or that I was wearing an intentionally yellow shirt. The latter was just as bad as the former because it connotes the former, she argued. I explained at several stages that it was neither white nor yellow, and she'd just repeat the phrase "yellow is dirty" in louder and louder increments.

Ever have a one-line comeback pop in your head that you really want to use, but can't because to do so would make you a bad person? You know, like the Truman Decision of verbal discourse, where you feel like using a weapon at hand will give you victory at the dear cost of your humanity?

That was my situation when I tried to change the subject without mentioning that she was Asian.
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Last edited by Sethomas : Apr 6th, 2008 at 03:38 AM. Reason: spoilers spoiled prematurely
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Old Apr 6th, 2008, 03:40 AM       
hahahahah
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Old Apr 6th, 2008, 05:58 AM       
Oh Sethomas, when I first gained membership within these illustrious forums, I found your writing to be obnoxiously protracted and psuedo-intellectual. However, delving deeper into your psyche (made possible by essays such as these), I've come to appreciate your impeccable flair for diction and the wit within. For, as is universally understood, the best humour and most satisfying instances of mirth come from subtle effort.

You, sir, should be published.
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Old Apr 6th, 2008, 06:05 AM       
he is, geez
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Old Apr 6th, 2008, 06:06 AM       
http://search.barnesandnoble.com/boo...?ATH=Seth+Pace
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Old Apr 6th, 2008, 06:37 AM       
Oh. my.

Linguistics articles.

Historical pragmatics, especially.

I am so depressed now.
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Old Apr 6th, 2008, 10:10 AM       
Quote:
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[...] Physics journals, on the contrary, typically require at least a master’s degree to make any sense whatsoever and Microsoft Word would put red squiggles under around 20% of all the words used in it (where words are actually used).
I concur, but for the ability to understand most of the writing.

Having gone to grad school in the sciences, my fellow students and I often saw in one of the more prominent journals several articles by the same Professor/research group. On analyzing the science therein, we were amused to find that the papers were almost word-for-word copied from each other, in eveything including the conclusions, with changes made only to the object of study. We surmised that the Prof had a "paper" hotkey on his computer that asked for inputs on subject, object and a few other details before eventually submitting to a committee for peer review, and eventual publication.

In this day and age, he would probably use the Google "autocomplete" function.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sethomas View Post
Ever meet a film studies major?
Actually, the closest I've come to this is meeting a "theater major". By way of contrast, he was anything but pretentious.

Your posting made me laugh loudly and long. Thanks for the pick-me-up (I just finished paying taxes).
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Old Apr 6th, 2008, 10:19 AM       
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Thanks Willie. I didn't know - now my reading list has been increased by one.
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Old Apr 6th, 2008, 11:10 AM       
Quote:
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*Example of this that I found hilarious: last night, smoking my pipe outside a bar, two girls (by today's American standards both were extremely attractive) walked up and conversation some way or another started between them, the cousin I had with me, and myself. Within the span of the first 45 seconds or less, the more vocal one made note of my bowtie, the stitches/scarring on my finger, my pipe, and my hair. I could tell by her outfit, diction, makeup, behavior, and whatever else that she was definitely a cultural sycophant (she argued that men wearing pink shirts was okay for a while but it's not anymore), yet she didn't speak disparagingly of any of the quirks I have to start conversations like that since I suck at starting conversations. Well, she grabbed my pipe and inhaled from it (I told her NOT to inhale) and she complained about how it tasted, but that's it. HOWEVER, I was wearing a linen shirt with a natural unbleached cream color and we were standing directly under a light that gave everything a yellow hue. Then, suddenly, she started bitching aggressively about the fact that I was "wearing a yellow shirt". She vocalized a weird train of thought, her points being that either I was wearing a white shirt that turned yellow, making my shirt (and me, implicitly) "dirty" or that I was wearing an intentionally yellow shirt. The latter was just as bad as the former because it connotes the former, she argued. I explained at several stages that it was neither white nor yellow, and she'd just repeat the phrase "yellow is dirty" in louder and louder increments.

Ever have a one-line comeback pop in your head that you really want to use, but can't because to do so would make you a bad person? You know, like the Truman Decision of verbal discourse, where you feel like using a weapon at hand will give you victory at the dear cost of your humanity?

That was my situation when I tried to change the subject without mentioning that she was Asian.
That was a pretty grand ending to your story.
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Old Apr 6th, 2008, 01:09 PM       
Does your book have this extreme switch of style and subject too? If so, I might actually be tempted to read it.
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Old Apr 6th, 2008, 02:40 PM       
tempting as it is to callously dissuade the air of jocular credibility with something crass and insensitive, such a tactic feels far too accessible and pedestrian to indulge in. indulge in how, you ask. are we above rudely interrupting this babbling climax with the heady nervousness of cretinous disdain? in a word, no. in digito-social terms, perhaps.
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Old Apr 6th, 2008, 04:56 PM       
Oh man Rez, you ended your sentence in a preposition.

FAIL.
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Old Apr 6th, 2008, 08:51 PM       
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Does your book have this extreme switch of style and subject too? If so, I might actually be tempted to read it.
I already bought the book - when I get it, and read it, I'll write a "brief" review if you'd like.
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Old Apr 6th, 2008, 08:54 PM       
OH NOES, IT'S COETERNALISM AGAIN!
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Old Apr 6th, 2008, 09:04 PM       
So Seth took the shirt off, and the party really started.
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Old Apr 6th, 2008, 09:17 PM       
Oh man, I have some explaining to do.

Back when this was all in the making, I kind of made a big deal about it on the boards. By my own standards I was probably annoying about it, in fact.

My life has had an annoyingly high number of "weird periods", in the sense that weird things would happen for or against me, but the year when that was written is at the top of the list. I knew that if I wrote that book, which I knew I'd have to write at some point in my life, in that period of time versus years later when I would have the paper certificates that tell people it's worth reading then it'd come out as premature and immature and haphazard.

And yes, it did, but I wrote it anyways.

The discussion of whether or not the whole thing was a mistake is one I can't issue now since a huge part of "why" I wanted it to be written hasn't been tested yet. I did lots of things wrong and I wasn't in the state of mind to correct them when I could have.

Except for my tendency to insert things in the wrong voice than I intended, the first part of the book where I just blend the history of science and religion and philosophy into a webbed system is pretty nice. Since you probably know physics better than I do, you'll probably get RAGE from the way I discuss the Copenhagen Interpretation as if it's not taken seriously when it obviously is taken very seriously.

If I remember correctly, the rest of the book is total shit. Some parts are shit for one reason, others for different reasons. If you read it and it's not obvious why some part of it is shit, then I'll walk you through its shittiness. It's not that I disavowed all my opinions, but the way I threw them together was just horrible.

Last fall, I finally got the royalty check from the initial printing and a few weeks later the publisher asked if I wanted to renew my contract. I declined because whatever argument I can make for why I wrote the book and put it on the market, I can't really use them to justify keeping it on the market.
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Old Apr 7th, 2008, 04:24 AM       
Man, I can't believe I started this whole thread last night and left this out.

I didn't go to the bar last night as I thought I would, but I did this past evening. While there, I had a realization that back in early February I had an epiphany.

I took a class on a medieval philosopher named Anselm of Canterbury. He was most famous for "The ontological argument for the existence of God". Even as a theist, it was something that I could never take seriously and it pissed me off when I saw people try to pass it off as logically sound.

Then, two months ago basically, I realized that you can demonstrate why it's absurd by replacing only a few words of the argument and turn it into something very different. This has actually been known since the time it was written in the 11th Century (cf. Gaunilo's Island*), but I figured there had to be great parody potential for the modern reader. Then it hit me.

It's remarkably easy to turn it into "The ontological argument that my girlfriend has the best pussy in the entire universe."

I told myself to write down the formal argument in a form that would prove that my girlfriend* has the best pussy in the universe, but I forgot to do so and it totally escaped my to-do list until it mysteriously popped into my head tonight at the bar when I was talking to someone.

It goes something like this in axiomatic form:
  1. The greatest pussy in the universe is that entity than which nothing greater can be fucked.
  2. The concept of the greatest pussy in the universe exists in human understanding.
  3. The greatest pussy in the universe exists in one's mind but not in reality.
  4. The concept of the greatest pussy in the universe existence is understood in one's ability to fuck it.
  5. If I could fuck the greatest pussy in the universe, it would be a greater thing than any other pussy in the universe that I could only fuck in my wet dreams.
  6. The final step to my girlfriend having the greatest pussy in the universe is that I must be able to fuck my girlfriend’s pussy.
That was just the adjusted form I made from the wikipedia summary. I kept trying when I got home tonight (half an hour ago?) to edit the original prolix 11th century text to accomplish this, but it's hard to do so when I've had a few drinks and not enough sleep. Eventually, it will happen.
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Old Apr 7th, 2008, 01:22 PM       
Are you trying to annoy me with the existence lacking addendums for which you take pains to place markers, or perhaps you have a small book that you carry & jot items down as you think of them but when it becomes time to transfer them to digital form you find such notes as you made obscured by faeces as you keep the book shoved up your ass.
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