Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category
November 21st, 2014 by Wil
I’m the first to admit things are pretty slow around here, mainly as I am assaulted with the problems of life. I did want to note this amusing quote from Shelly Winters on the topic of onstage nudity.
“I think it is disgusting, shameful and damaging to all things American. But if I were twenty-two with a great body it would be artistic, tasteful, patriotic and a progressive, religious experience.”
November 8th, 2014 by Wil
I’ve longed complained about modern education and I’m far from alone. Most people look back on their years of institutionalized learning (in schools, universities, private lessons etc.) as being unpleasant.
But I’m a great fan of learning. I love reading books, consuming knowledge etc. This opens up an interesting question. Why is “education” so painful and “learning” so fun?
I stumbled across an interesting site on teaching guitar and the author has several articles on learning theory. In one he gets tackles this general issue.
It may seem odd then that in the mind of many individuals, the idea of learning has quite negative associations. This springs from two main sources: Parenting and Schooling.
The word ‘learn’ is often used in anger and frustration by parents:
“When will you ever learn / Why can’t you learn / You’d better start learning…
… to behave/ to do as you’re told/ to be sensible/ to sit still/ to be quiet”
…etc. etc. This introduces, from an early age, the idea that learning has an element of duress attached to it.
When your child comes home from school complaining of boredom – it is not learning that has bored him – remember: “Learning opens doors, widens horizons, adds colour to our experience, makes life more interesting.” Rather it is a lack of learning brought about by the less than ideal conditions that modern education systems attempt to operate under.
Although improvements are continually being made to education there remains the basic set of problems that spring from the financial and logistical restraints placed upon schools where typically, one teacher is charged with the task of causing learning to occur in as many as 30 children simultaneously, often in subjects they have little or no natural interest in.
Unfortunately it gets worse. The whole subject of teaching gets mixed in with the subject of control and, where teachers feel particularly vulnerable, outright subjugation.
Both points strike me as spot on. I think part of the problem with education is that it tries to invoke learning when it’s simply not desired. Some kid is digesting a big lunch while dreaming about the girl he has a crush on and he then walks into a class and is supposed to care about the table of elements. Not gonna happen.
Of course, one might argue that the solution is to give kids more control over when they learn. Don’t make them enter their biology class until they’re ready. But with kids being the impetuous and lazy bastards that they are, that method probably wouldn’t work either. Perhaps there’s some middle ground?
October 26th, 2014 by Wil
I’m the first to admit that blogging has been light around here; just the complexities of real life intruding.
I have been doing a lot of drawing lately and have noticed something interesting. Much of drawing (or any kind of representational artwork) isn’t about technical skill (say, the ability to draw ovoids), it’s about observing. It’s about really understanding what you are looking at or what’s in your head. I was working on drawing a dragon’s head recently and I referred to some picture of lizards to aid me. I started to become conscious of the peculiarities of how lizards are constructed. They really are rather birdlike in their skull shape. In some cases the scales around their jowls are bigger that those around the tip of the nose. I’ve seen this for years but have not been really aware of it. (As Sherlock Holmes once told Watson, “You see but you do not observe.”)
I was drawing the neighbor’s house yesterday and had a similar epiphany. I realized that what I take to be their front door opens into some kind of enclosed yard, not their foyer as I had presumed. Of course I’ve stared at this house for years without realizing this.
It makes one aware of how much we miss when looking at the world.
September 23rd, 2014 by Wil
I’ve mentioned that I’ve been getting back into my childhood pastime of drawing comic style art. Musing on this prompted the question: why do we draw? By this I mean: what is the subconscious motivation to spend hours penciling and inking away at various pieces of fantastic and mundane imagery?
It’s an impossible question to answer, but I feel on some level that we feel we take ownership of what we draw. If I draw a fast sports car—as teen boys have done on algebra books for years—I, in some weird way, own that car. If I draw a fantastic spaceship, I again own it. And if I draw a beautiful, buxom woman, I own her as well, even if I am an overweight, pimply dork, as most comic artists are. (To be clear: I am not an overweight, pimply dork. I am quite beautiful.)
I suppose it’s similar to why we write fiction. Most humans have little control over their lives—they can lose their jobs, lovers, friends in an instant. Their economic fortunes are dictated by impossible to understand market forces and governmental whims. They are lost in a violent sea. But they can write; they can create their own worlds and people and control them. That provides at least some small sense of autonomy.
September 9th, 2014 by Wil
I recently came across discussion of the fact that, in medieval times, animals were often put on trial for various crimes. This web page describes such occurrences in detail and includes this delightfully grisly anecdote.
Such was the case on June 14, 1494, when a pig was arrested for having “strangled and defaced a young child in its cradle, the son of Jehan Lenfant, a cowherd on the fee-farm of Clermont, and of Gillon his wife.” During the trial, several witnesses explained that “on the morning of Easter Day, as the father was guarding the cattle and his wife Gillon was absent in the village of Dizy, the infant being left alone in its cradle, the said pig entered during the said time the said house and disfigured and ate the face and neck of the said child, which, in consequence of the bites and defacements inflicted by the said pig, departed this life.”
After listening to the evidence, the judge read out his verdict: “We, in detestation and horror of the said crime, and to the end that an example may be made and justice maintained, have said, judged, sentenced, pronounced and appointed, that the said porker, now detained as a prisoner and confined in the said abbey, shall be by the master of high works hanged and strangled on a gibbet of wood near and adjoining to the gallows and high place of execution …”
The pig ate a face! I feel a little less guilty about eating bacon.
June 21st, 2014 by Wil
There’s a book that came out recently arguing that people are working more than ever and this is causing a rise in anxiety. It certainly seems a sound premise. But I’ve seen few rebuttals saying, no, people are in fact not working more than ever, we actually have more free time. And, when you think about all these stories you’ve heard about people in 1750 getting up at 6 a.m. and working on the farm until dusk it also sounds true. People of the past did not live leisurely lives.
Can both statements be true? I think, in a sense, yes. It comes down to how we work. In the past, you might work a lot but it was a fairly uninterrupted process – you woke up, knew what you were going to do and did it. You might be working a lot but there was a certain flow to it. Nowadays, you might start to work on editing a Word doc, then you get an email saying there’s an emergency and you have to track down a powerpoint doc, then you finish that and you have to get the kids to soccer practice, the you got back to the Word doc and 20 minutes later you need to answer another email, then a call comes in… etc. I’m overstating for dramatic effect, but you get the picture. Though you may be working less in pure volume of hours, it’s a harried, distracted kind of process. And one that probably takes more cognitive energy than running tasks on a farm 15 hours a day.
I have at certain points in my life been in situations where the entire day was spent doing computer work (often for weeks at a time). I would wake up, sit down at the computer and be there all day, aside from eating and bathroom breaks. It sounds awful and in some ways it was but you brain achieves a certain kind of clarity. You can basically ignore all distractions, phone calls email etc. There’s really something almost meditative about that state.
March 17th, 2014 by Wil
I wrote recently that I was of the opinion that the modern news is a negative force that should be avoided. Over the past month I’ve been engaged in a news blackout and I feel greatly enriched. I’m less tense, more optimistic and don’t feel like I’m missing a thing.
To celebrate, I’m thinking of taking a vacation soon to the relatively unknown nation of the Ukraine. I’ve been shopping for tickets and have found low prices on Malaysian Airlines. They seem like a dependable, trouble free operation. I think it will be a enjoyable adventure.
January 28th, 2014 by Wil
Oddball electronic duo Daft Punk recently won a Grammy for their song “Get Lucky.” Below is their Grammy performance of the tune; they are joined by several artists including Stevie Wonder. The robot-suited members of Daft Punk don’t appear until a couple minutes in.
I have to point out that the French Daft Punk are clearly influenced by another French pop group. The Rockets, who were active during the 70s. Compare and contrast.
I, being one who feels we need more robots in music, enjoy both groups.
November 12th, 2013 by Wil
This is just a general FYI. I’m going to being updating the instance of the WordPress app that supports this blog. Since all sorts of things can go wrong with that process I figured I should put the word out. If you hear of a major city being destroyed it probably stems from an error in this updating process.
August 15th, 2013 by Wil
I was sitting at breakfast today, having great thoughts, and an interesting question came to mind. The moons of other planets have names. Does our moon have a name?
Ask and Astronomer has the answer.