Archive for the ‘crushing genius’ Category

“Describe” actually literally means something like “draw a circle around.”  That’s why, in geometry, you don’t draw a circle, you describe one.  I want to play a kind of a game in which we use the word “describe” very literally – so, when we talk about “describing an idea” or “describing a person”, we have to find a way to say it as actually drawing a circle around something.  And the attendant implications of that circle are that it is both real and arbitrary at the same time.

If you think of a piece of paper, and on a piece of paper there are a bunch of dots, and some dots are red, and some are blue, and some are green.  You could draw a circle (here “circle” is being defined very loosely) around only the red dots, and then you could say, “look, there’s a red object on the page!”  Is that true?  Well, yes, kind of.  I mean, there are red dots on the page, those are real.  And the circle is certainly real, you just drew it.  There is, in that respect, definitely a red object there.  But at the same time, you could have also drawn a circle around all the blue dots, and made a blue object – so, we could say that there’s one real object (the red one), and two more potential objects – the blue one and the green one, since those dots are still there, they’re just waiting for you to draw a circle.  But really there’s more than that, because you could have drawn a circle that included one blue dot for every red one and said there’s a purple object, or a circle that included all the dots and said “here’s an object I call ‘dots’”, and those would be equally real.

Real in the sense that they exist; arbitrary in the sense that you could just as easily have drawn a circle around something else.

So, the first step is imagining some nonsense. 


Cara Blouin

Theater, Dan Hodge muses, is an impermanent art form, and he stays up nights wondering why he labors so long to produce something so temporary.

He is directing Timon of Athens for PAC at Broad Street now and it is probably wonderful- I’ll be the second to speculate and respond without having yet seen it, as Adrienne Mackey has been railing against some inane reviews of the show this week, as well.

Hodge comes to the conclusion that to perform classic plays is to become part of a larger heritage. And it soothes him to step into that line of history and, although briefly, take hold of an heirloom handed through from Shakespeare’s time to ours, and then to pass it on.

I don’t find the idea quite as reassuring; I’m still wide awake at night.

I am performing Dramaturgery on NBC’s pilot Revolution.  In order to make this show interesting to me, I’ve made some kind of small but important changes to the backstory (detailed in this post here).  That post is pretty extensive (and, to be fair, maybe misleading in terms of a criticism of Revolution — my backstory looks like it’s got a lot of stuff in it, but it could very well be that the current writers have just as much stuff in their story bible, obviously we just haven’t seen it yet), but you can probably skip if for now unless you’re really interested.

Holland doesn’t like me to do this stuff because he thinks it’s pointless, but I don’t think it’s pointless — I think if I get really good at this sort of thing, maybe one day someone will hire me to do Dramaturgery BEFORE they film the pilot, and then we’ll avoid this whole mess.  Now.  To work!



“Making sense” is a funny phrase, because we use it to mean two different things. In the first place, we use it to mean “making logical sense” — that is, a conclusion follows directly from available data according to the strict and very specific laws and modes of logical reasoning; in the second place, we use it to mean, “seems intuitive” — that is, when we hear a scenario, and we hear the prediction made for that scenario, it seems “right” or “familiar” to us. We use this term precisely to muddy up the difference between “logical sense” and “intuitive sense”, and it’s unfortunate, because while logical sense is verifiable and repeatable, intuitive sense is based on predictions made from past experience, and is therefore only as accurate as the experience is representative, and furthermore is essentially tantamount to saying “that’s true because it’s familiar.”

Today I want to talk about the “science” of Evolutionary Psychology. Evolutionary Psychology is a pretty fun thing, because what it consists of is: you observe some behaviors, notice a couple statistical facts, and then make up a story to explain why cavemen had to do it that way. Is it true? Is it false? Is it genetic, or cultural? Who knows, or cares? It’s not like we’ve got a bunch of cavemen sitting around that we can ask about it, who knows what those guys thought? And it’s not like we can just crack open some DNA and find the gene for “wearing pants” or for “wanting to have a lot of sex with women,” or something.

It’s less like a science and more like a kind of weird game, I guess. Anyway, almost inevitably, it’s used by douchebags to justify being douchebags (“observe douchey behavior, make up a story about why cavemen were douchebags”), and I just wanted to point out that there are couple of ideas that only make it LOOK, for instance, like the human race is naturally inclined towards patriarchy, but with a little imagination you can make an equally compelling story for how it’s maybe the other way around.


So, this is very exciting, I’ve got myself going so I guess I should just keep at it. Let’s say, FOR THE SAKE OF ARGUMENT, that the “Ego” isn’t a thing, exactly, but is better understood as a verb. That sense of self that you and I have, that’s actually our individual, mechanical brains, actively asserting a difference between certain parts of our brain functions. In my last piece on this, at the very end, I wondered if we were just confined to two categories (let’s say C1 “Stuff that is Me” and C2 “Stuff that isn’t”), or maybe if there are more.


So, because I have a job where I don’t have to think very hard, I get to listen to iTunes lectures all day. One of the lectures that I’ve been listening to is Shelly Kagan’s philosophy-intro course “Death.” (I actually stopped listening to it for a while, because he seemed like he was spending a lot of time making sure everyone else was with him in the lectures, and if there’s one thing I don’t have time for, it’s slowing down. I guess that just goes to show that I would kick the shit out of a degree in philosophy at Yale.) One of the things that comes up in a course on death is the question of mind-body duality, and Kagan (even though he doesn’t believe in mind-body duality) obligingly presented a variation on the thought experiment that Descartes used to figure out that the mind was fundamentally separate from the body:


I’ve been puzzling around this for a while, but have you ever noticed how many Epic Fantasies are quest narratives? I mean, a lot of it is couched in war, that’s a pretty common feature of epic fantasies. But for the most part – I think maybe nine times out of ten – the Epic Fantasy is defined by the fact that the central engine of the story is a small group of people Going Somewhere to Do Something. All those stories that followed Tolkien’s mold, you know, they’re about people taking a long trip in a strange land.

So, by now probably you have all heard about Sandra Fluke, and her testimony about why 1) some women need “birth control” for reasons other than explicitly controlling birth, and 2) it’s not really the Catholic Church’s business to decide what medical treatments their employees get, one way or the other.

And maybe you have also heard about Rush Limbaugh’s pretty grotesque response to that!  If not, it’s here.  Yeesh.

Amazingly (and I don’t know if this is a first time or anything) Rush Limbaugh has actually APOLOGIZED for his statements!


That Gawker was redesigning has been known for a while, as has the new format. Denton made it public some number of months back, and people were complaining even then. But, to be honest with you, I’ve been expecting something like this for a lot longer. Undoubtedly, this is due in large part to pessimism on my behalf, but just because I expect the worst from the universe doesn’t mean I won’t get it.


After this io9 article about a woman that sold two souls for nearly $2000, I made a fairly lengthy comment about what, precisely, you might do with the captured spiritual essences of your two dead neighbors.  A few people were surprised that I had that much to say on the subject!  Peculiar, I think.  But, anyway, it got me thinking, and because I’m up late and sick with fever, I’ve decided to treat you all to a discourse on the nature of souls.

I thought all of this was common knowledge, but maybe it’s not, so here we go.