Thursday, May 04, 2006

Notes (paca)

1) People may be wondering again by now where the llama is. Again the answer is that I don't know. There have been no views from Thailand in a couple weeks at least, so I conclude that he is back in Bangladesh with flickering electricity.

2) I've discovered that one of the things I am best at is seeing the connections between things. At least between things that I am interested in. No matter what class I take or article I read - phonological theory, intonation, arguments for innate language, working memory, theories of discourse, musical ability - I am always finding stuff to connect together. That's partly a talent. (I like to see how everyone is the same more than different.) But it's also just what happens when you are interested in the stuff. What we see in the world is often less a matter of what is out there than what we bring to it, meaning that all parts of the world have cool stuff going on. The question is do you find it cool yourself?

3) This reminds me of a paper I wrote back in college for a philosophy class on musical aesthetics. Basically, I tried to argue against relativism in art. Some art really is better than other art. Muddy Waters really is better than Generic Blues Band. But that isn't the end of the story. The music is better because it is more liable to cause deeper, more fulfilling experiences in a listener. That very last word is the key. There is also a listener, and they bring their own experiences to the situation. Their life and likes and dislikes and phobias and hangups all come to be part of the musical experience. This is why people have different opinions of music. It isn't that music is all the same and relative (to what?) or whatever. Cole Porter was really a better song writer than me. But when Cole Porter hits the ears of different people, those people will experience it differently. A personal example for me is the Monkees versus the Beatles. Now, I freely admit that the Beatles on the whole were far superior musically to the Monkees. But I don't own any Beatles albums and I have owned, at one time, every single Monkees album. That's not because the Monkees are actually better. It's just an accident of my personal history. I like funny things. I got hooked on the reruns on Nickelodeon in the 80s. I slowly graduated from their silly songs to the better stuff, usually written by my man Papa Nez. But that's just me. It's not John Lennon's fault. "In My Life" versus "Last Train to Clarksville"? Not a difficult decision.

4) Bambi. I don't think I've seen Bambi since I was a kid. And really I had no desire too. I always assumed it was just a bunch of sappy overly sentimental scenes of a baby deer talking to a rabbit. Oh yeah, and his mom dies. Who wants to watch that? Anyway, we rented it for B this last weekend. It's really quite an extraordinary movie. It is sentimental, but not sappy really. It exudes this pure love of life. From a child's birth to watching rain drops fall to seeing a possum hanging upside down to the joy of snow, all infused with a sense that it could all disappear one day, represented primarily by the unseen but omnipresent Man who may take your life one day - or may not. People always make some comment when people go deer hunting about going off to kill Bambi, but I didn't get the impression that the actual movie was some overt anti-hunting statement, intended to show the injustice of hunting. Instead, the invisible hunters were an expression of the ever present possibility of death which hangs over all of us. The same idea was present in the scenes of the long winter, where Bambi and his mother slowly strip all the bark from the trees until no more can be had. At that point, there is nothing to do but sit down and be hungry until Spring comes. It is not that Winter is evil and unjust. It is the way the world is, and it makes you realize just how amazing Spring can be. There are also lots of really wonderful images in the movie. The main one I remember is when Bambi's mother has been shot and he is looking for her. Suddenly, out of the snow the Father is there, just a dim silhouette in the dark snowy night. It's a better movie than I had ever realized.


-E said...

i have the same skill of seeing connections... i am just not anywhere near as well read or educated or dare i say it, smart, as you.

pacatrue said...

Hey -e. First, by the way, I do read your blog almost every day, but for some reason I haven't yet figured out how to comment there. Which is a nice piece of evidence for my comment here. I just don't really believe in smartness too much. Or at least there are so many ways of being smart that it's really hard to declare that many people are smarter than others. I am good at reading a bunch of stuff and getting what's important out of it. That's pretty much my smartness. Pattern finding. I can find patterns in long articles and in number series. I notice patterns in music. "Oh, the horns do the same thing the guitar just did, but backwards!" However, I lack lots of other smartness. I did a psychological battery once where they were supposed to find my natural abilities. One task was to assemble this puzzle ball. I scored something like 10%. I can't figure out anything mechanical and I can't store images in my head. I really don't know what color eyes any members of my family have, except my mom, and that's only because I got in trouble once for not knowing. But there I have just memorized "mom - blue eyes." I can't see them in my head. I really can't see N's face right now. I know what color her eyes are because I remember long conversations about them when we were dating. But I cannot see them. Basically anything that involves mental imagery kills me. I can't paint or draw. I can't usually see what's going to happen more than a very few steps in the future. Like in chess, if I move the pawn here, then the rook can take my bishop, but then I can maybe take the rook with... wait, where was I?

All of this did not stop me from blushing madly when you and Kristy were talking on your blog a couple weeks back. I did my best to not reply listing all my faults. Until now.

katze said...

I think the most exciting moments of my academic life -- and by that, I mean all parts of my life in which I am consciously learning something, not just the parts when I am in formal schooling-- are those moments when that small mental *click* occurs and you suddenly see how things fit togehter, how they are related. Maybe it's because there's just so much potential knowledge out there and it all seems so chaotic in some ways, so seeing a pattern, a connection helps you feel like your tiny amount of knowledge is part of something even larger, something powerful, something that makes sense, and not just a random collection of things you've picked up along the way.

kristybox said...

Ah, Paca blushed. Cool.

Of course, maybe all the complimenting was just a cheap trick to make sure that if we find ourselves in Hawaii, someone will definitely buy us dinner. ;)

pacatrue said...

Hey Kristy, you and Alan should come on out. Same for all of you. I can't offer a spare room or anything, being in a one bedroom, but dinner is no problem. I'll even be a tour guide. This is the library. Over here, you can find Chinese. And here is the music theory. And here is morphology. You'll love it. you can even call me by my real name.