Tuesday, March 30, 2010

520. "Colors Before the Sunrise" A Song? A Poem? A Piece of Vispo? (Plus A Discussion on Vic's Commitment to Cartoons)

"Colors Before the Sunrise" Poem / Song / Vispo in Poetry Format. The PDF of this poem can be found here: http://sites.google.com/site/stokastika2/colorsbeforesunriseSONGPOEM.pdf.


Image displays a typical state of pre-sunrise (dusk, so they call it?!) at the Bahia de Los Angeles, Mexico. Image taken toward the end of March of 2010.

A quick effort toward VISPO for the song-poem "Colors Before the Sunrise."

The end of March seems far off (it's now the end of April). I was in a state of a massive, tangled knot from winter quarter of 2010. I was intellectual roadkill that needed a giant restoration project. But Jules swept me away to his and Duke's place to the Bahia de Los Angeles for a good 8-9 days. It was a much needed calibration. Just crossing the border from the United States into Mexico, venturing into brand new territory for myself (south of San Quintin) opened up my eyes, loosened me up, and brought me into a state of establishing new inner-outer perspectives. The people of Mexico barely had any resources and they made the most of what they had. I noticed that people were more attached to each other simply because they truly needed each other's help... whereas in the United States... it seems like visceral attachment to others has been largely replaced by technology, and so there is not much need to communicate and collaborate with others. We commune with machines instead. For about a week or so I was thankful for some clean water and a flushing toilet. I was surrounded by a land of unfinished and abandoned projects... which kind of felt like my mind... externalized.... Quite soon I started realizing that things in the United States are a bit too easy for our own good and once we get in our habits, it's sooo easy for our minds to take for granted what we have and not realize that we have what we need....

So Jules gave me the best possible present... that even my parents haven't given me for so long.... He swept me away into a foreign land full of empty, serene landscapes and depravity/scarcity of human resources.... His presence allowed my inner self to unravel and untangle a little bit... and re-prioritize.... I largely focused on taking photographs in RAW format (man, I'm officially professional now... well... almost...) and downloading music and photography software... which took me a couple of days (even internet was a scarce resource!). I became a sensual, visual creature, visually absorbing the landscape, ignoring the Spanish (I actually enjoy being in a foreign country where I don't know what the hxll anyone is saying, so I view humans as chattering monkeys and end up only visually processing the landscapes). So I took lots of photographs and soaked up the landscape as much as possible--which was a strange ecosystem indeed. Bahia de Los Angeles is a desert right by an inland Sea of Cortez (hence in my poem "desert's ocean"), which totally threw me off because you don't get these kinds of ecosystems in California (or combinatory ecosystems--desert and ocean right next to each other?!!).

Also when I was down in Bahia de Los Angeles, I figured out how to use my new SANSA mp3 player, and retroactively, I'm quite happy I purchased it. The new versions of the IPOD shuffles are appallingly bad (way too small, no control of audio on the device, forcing you to wear ear buds which hurt my ears in an ergonomic sense). I went on fantastic jogs along the beach and through the salt marsh, even one jog from the LA Bay dumpster site all the way down the hill back to Duke and Jule's house. The final jogs I took were toward the south end of LA Bay toward Larry and Lois' house. There was a lot less traffic (quite a bumpy dirt road!) and the last structures I passed were open-ended houses where squid fishermen were staying... and even a micro squid processing plant. And it was these jogs where the poem/song started formulating. The idea of "Colors Before the Sunrise" came to me in my half-sleep I think on the 4th day of the trip. I told Jules and he liked the title. Then during my last two jogs along the bumpy dirt road, out by the cordone cactus and the spindly cirios and other interesting vegetation structures I was listening to a song entitled "The Passenger" by Iggy Pop (to be honest, I was attracted to the initial melody but I had no affinity with the vocals) . And through this happy backdrop melody (with a few minor chords), I began to formulate my song/poem. It took two jogs along the same road to get the main bulk of the poem worked out (plus a few ideas in my car drive home, back to Riverside and Santa Barbara to start spring quarter). On the last day at the Bahia de Los Angeles, I woke up extremely early in order to have the opportunity to take photographs of the sunrise (which I was procrastinating to do) and last minute images of Duke's neighbor's yard (Carolina's?), which is where the above photograph came from....

I suppose I had been sitting on this song/poem for a while because of my personal epiphanies on how to channel my energy in this society. After my initial experiences in approaching "literary journals" with my poetry and short stories, I had become increasingly frustrated. I talked to Barry Spacks about facing my "string of rejections" with poetry and short stories, and not only that, how literary journals are now failing to respond to the input of work. What a complete waste of my time, waste of my life to endlessly send off pieces of writing to literary journals, only to receive thousands of rejections, and more "no responses." Barry Spacks commented that "things are starting to slip"--that the sacredity of human transactions is vanishing as we interact as if we are in a plasma state as a pinball machine only found at the center of the sun. The Rejected Life is the only life that most writers know nowadays. Barry told me that if he were stranded in the desert for seven days without any food or water... he would crawl to the nearest computer and his death words would be to write a very polite rejection letter to all the people in the world he never had the time to respond to (given that he were an editor of a literary journal), wishing them well, hoping that one day their poetry and short stories would finally find a home. This was so visually striking to me, I hope one day to make a short film featuring Barry and the Rejected Writer Life. Good advice for all his students... in the form of a flick!

After that conversation, which was about a couple weeks ago... how Barry said this society was "slipping" whether it was about even providing a nice or even RUDE rejection letter... it was that moment where I just completely gave up on the idea of submitting my poetry to places (except every once in a while to particular people and specific circumstances). My poetry is published here on this blog. What more could I possibly want? Literary journals are not my venue, not my audience. What is the chance that any literary journal editor would understand the fusion of science, art, creative writing, and human-environmental change? 0.000001%. Sorry, it's a nearly stone-solid truth. Most "creative writers" don't have much comprehension of science, let alone incorporate science into their writing or processing of everyday life. So, whatever. What a waste to deal with people who don't even know how to diagnose your validity and contribution to society.

The other problem is that anyone can be a poet or a writer. Little ten-year old kids can write poems and short stories, let alone little old ladies on their 20th year of retirement who have nothing else to do but sit on their porch and write the 5 billionth poem on the metaphorical representation of sunsets in their lives. Writing is analog. Linear.... But combining writing and art requires one to think spatially-temporally... non-linearly... in essence... right brain left handed. And just through this thought, I am eliminating 90% of the population of storytellers, which consist of linear-thinking, left-brained people who express themselves in writing. And then to combine words with images to tell a story with a consistent set of characters, settings, and plots?! I think I am eliminating 50% of the remaining right brained people. And then for this story to make a contribution to society and the environment? Basically, there is close to no one left. I have no competitition. My Biologically Incorrect Cartoons are so unique that they stick out like an eyesore. And if I want to write a poem... it's gotta be in cartoon format. I can dump most of the rest of my artwork into cartoons. I have my own niche and close to no one having the ability to compete. I just have to keep chugging along and cranking out as many cartoons as possible, while simultaneously building a compilation of emails of people who I know will appreciate the cartoons and can provide editorial advice in the process of making my first few hundred cartoons (before expanding to a subscribed email list service).

Plus, through all the pressures of my Ph.D. committee meeting in February of last quarter... combined with an overstimulating environmental history course with Dr. Peter Alagona, Terra and Buz became fully resurrected into my mind... except this time, it was a near-completely visual format (rather than a long manuscript). I came to grips with the notion that the Question Reality manuscript was not a failure. My Question Reality manuscript will never die. It is the fundamental baseline for all else to grow with my cartoons. I will give interested folks a piece of my mind in mentally digestible cartoons (a little bit every day), that will create a continuum of experience form the QR manuscript to my acquired knowledge as of today....

The other thing I noticed in the publishing world is that to approach a publisher (for writing), you need a literary agent. But to approach a publisher of independent or alternative cartoons? You directly submit to the editor and publisher. It goes to show there aren't that many in the pool of storytelling through cartoons. Bless my right brain... take good care of it, and give it a work out every day! Nevertheless, writing is always a part of the creative process, I will still have to write to even evolve my cartoons and films! It's just that in order to make my WRITING financially viable, I am going to have to prove to people that I am unique and that I'm going to have to EARN MY RIGHT TO WRITE through multi-media arts (cartoons, music, film) before I return to the pursuit of writing... safely... with a little bit of financial compensation....

And after a week of panicking before my Ph.D. committee meeting, I established my own SI Units for cartooning. Fine Point Black Sharpie. White Computer Paper. Portable Scanning Machine. Photoshopping the Fine Details. Black and White and One Shade of Gray and Occasionally a Gaussian Blur Effect with Lighter Lines to establish a Hierarchy of Lines. My cartoons are evolving to higher quality... and slightly different proportions... just like how Calvin and Hobbes evolved. Barry has been very supportive and I send him lots of my cartoons "fresh off the press." We agreed that once a narrative has become apparent to the reader with my cartoons... and/or once I reach about 200 cartoons, we will choose 12 of the best cartoons and approach the Santa Barbara Independent to start a weekly run... which would be so exciting (Barry knows two editors and I know two editors, one editor overlaps)! Barry recommended I check out the "independent" magazine scene, with"Village Voice" being the top (in New York?). He said that incorporating the themes of science into cartoons in a very satirical, but mentally digestible way... is unique and a very valuable pursuit, especially in these times, eh?!! Ya... Science should be culture. But American "culture" is so divorced from science. We have become a user-friendly-push-button-gossip-about-your-neighbor's-clothes type of society... and it's rare for conversations to go much deeper than the shallow schmoozing... even at a university donating charity event loaded with nerdy professors (which I witnessed LAST weekend).

So, here I am, bitterly Blog-publishing this poem that expresses my "inner soul" at a given point in space and time, which separate from standards of society--is a beautiful thing to pursue, self-expression--except that society has destroyed the enjoyment of self-expression through the persistent psychological devastation of Rejection Letters (or No Response, better yet), only to redirect my thoughts toward the abandonment of efforts toward being rejected 5 million times in attempt to publish poetry and short stories through the traditional BS avant garde avenues (though Barry said it would be a grand idea for me to start a science-art multi-media literary journal, scientific research exploration through multi-media arts--so the door is not completely closed!). And then I am again redirected toward the positive route of cartooning about science, politics, and human-environmental change through my charming little innocent kids, Terra and Buz.

I didn't expect all this information to come out on this blog, but stream-of-conscious venting is all for the better for my own clarity of thought. I am going to have to now condition myself... mentally divorce the PROCESS OF WRITING POETRY AND SHORT STORIES from the PROCESS OF PUBLISHING. I have to convince myself that none of my ideas are in final form (or an audience magnet) unless they take shape of a cartoon (or a cartoon-driven poem-short-story), a piece of music or performance slam poetry, or a film. It's amazing to think that my mind can construct any story format--ranging from scientific articles to poetry to short stories to photographs to cartoons to paintings to pieces of music to film to websites to whatever the next new medium is--but I'm starting to feel the pressures of establishing a unique niche in society--the need to be perceived by society as a "needed storyteller" that needs about $20,000 a year in order to have health insurance and a roof over my head to continue storytelling. Certain doors are "closing" (but not completely) right now but other doors are opening full-wide open. Creative survival is a matter of desperation. As one of my recent cartoons discussed my need to avoid the MacDonald's hamburger flipping treadmill that close to everyone else is pursuing, whether in a science lab or at MacDonald's.

I have more to write about with my positive experiences in the Bahia de Los Angeles... plus LOTS of PHOTOGRAPHS! This poem was just an introduction.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

514. Though I'm Not Religious... There Are "Angels" in My Life....

"Wendy the Angel." An essay that I wrote when I was 17 years old, applying for the Regents Fellowship program at UC Davis.

Just this last Thursday, I believe had encountered another "angel" in my life. It's quite shocking, and I'm not sure if I'm really processing it yet. The question is, how to define an "angel." Especially if you are a secular person, or "graduated" from religion, like myself. I had this conversation with my Question Reality manuscript mentor, Hugh Marsh, over lunch at a very nice hotel called the Upham, in downtown Santa Barbara.


Hugh and I came to some form of agreement that an "angel" is someone who helps you, gives you hope, and transforms you in an anomalous way that you would have not otherwise been transformed or helped otherwise. He stated that given all my talents, I will ultimately one day meet an angel--a moral and financial angel--who will be willing to help foster my artwork and creative projects and let it grow, inside and outside--but I haven't met that angel yet. I was shocked he said that.

Hugh Marsh himself has been an angel in my life. A moral angel, a cheerleader of the long haul. He was the first (and for a while, only) person to encourage me to write my Question Reality book when my main advisor Armand discouraged it, when I was mostly discouraged otherwise. He saw me to the end of it... and now new outgrowths... attempting to translate my old works into novelties that is easy for society to mentally consume.

I have a parade of other angels in my life as well. Wendy the Nurse was my first and most prominent one. The nurse who served as a role model for me when I hit the bottom of bottomlessness of anorexia, and needed to find a way out. And she was a living proof. A case of survival and health. She battled anorexia as a kid. All Wendy had to do was be there, and she didn't have to do much, but just be there, and show herself and her life as a long-term solution to my black hole problem.

I have my academic angels as well. The College of Creative Studies clan, Armand, Bruce, now Barry.... As an anonymous undergrad, Armand rescued me from drowning in the cow herd of university bureaucracy. I felt he pulled me out of this lifeless black hole torrent and set me aside with a few others to go re-investigate the world and run around the university as if it were a play ground, a garden maze, rather than a set of prison doors strapped in red tape rules and regulations. Once you have a few people who believe in you outside of your family, your confidence starts to pick up, and slowly you pick up a new family, a new intellectual, academic family, a family that is somewhat closer to you than your actual family, because in the vast ocean of human flesh, suddenly you are treated like a unique, stand-out person, a story, to someone else's eyes.

I also feel a few folks at the Bren School are like angels. They are giving me a third stab at graduate school, things are going well... or at least I'm surviving. Maybe I can officially call them "angels" after I graduate... but as for now... I'm under the gun. So, they are my authoritative support group, I'd say. I do say I was shocked that Bren provided a one-quarter grant in the Fall of 2009 for me (see Blog 477); that was most certainly angelic! Even some more financial support in the winter, drastically eliminating costs of tuition.... I've been expecting nothing from no one. I have received financial support from National Science Foundation, but it's a massive administration, and I haven't been able to pin down a face, a personality, a singularity of humanity within NSF, to exactly say thanks for the help.

Then just this past Thurday, out of the blue, another angelic sweep knocked my mind out of place. My dentist, Dr. Dart, has been very concerned about the patchwork, piecemealed dental work of my mouth over the years (my mouth is the perfect analogy to fragmentation of law and management of the global oceans, perfect analogy), plus added decay, and he is extremely concerned about the long haul of my mouth, something I do not have a solid grasp on in my mind. But of course, Dr. Dart has been around the block much longer than I have... and he knows and has probably experienced "the long haul." He proposed that I spend some time next quarter in his downtown office to help me with my dental work... but with relief of financial burdens. I'm honestly speechless about such an offer. As my dad says, "I don't know. It sounds too good to be true." And I don't know, I don't understand. The generosity is... overwhelming.

It's like I'm living through a happy moment in a movie, you know? Of course I'm crying. I'm crying because in this world I'm trained to expect nothing from nobody... and then this brutal null hypothesis is rarely overrided by the alternative... I'm shocked that someone else out of the pool of six plus billion singles you out--this time me--and stretches out a hand of help, waves a wand of hope and generosity, sees you as a human, like takes you under your wing as family.

I left the dental office stunned. I didn't understand. I was numb and dizzy. So was Dr. Dart, the dizzy side. I didn't even get a chance to give him a hug of thanks. I didn't know what to say. I just stumbled out into the main office, paid $200 for some fillings, and bumbled to the car as if I just drank a six pack of beer. My mind numb, from the numbness in my mouth, the heavy brick.

Well, so far, it's just an informal verbal agreement. We'll see what happens. We exchanged information. I was trying to figure out what to do. What to do? How to say thanks?

Well, I figured right now the first step, in this act of hope, the first step is to email him a thank you, and draw Dr. Dart a dentistry cartoon, which I did.

This is what I plan to write in my email:

Dear Dr. Dart,
I guess I can say the only state of mind I'm in right now is shellshock. It's been three or more days, and I still am shocked, awed. The least I can do is draw a cartoon of appreciation--see attached! Usually I don't draw toothy smiles on my characters (who keep my sanity through graduate school), so it's amazing for Terra the Biogeek to bust out a full smile! I will be out in the desert March 18 to 24 or so, but I will be on the lookout for your email and plan of action. Down deep I feel like a hypocrite--in some ways, how can I be so well trained to see the long run of landscape change, whether ocean or terrestrial, when I can't even see any form of long run for my own health? Thank you for helping me see the seriousness of the long run. I hope you have a great spring break! (Do you get a spring break, I hope?!) See you soon, Victoria

Thursday, March 11, 2010

513. Revisiting Theme of Winter Quarter: Is Life, Space, and Time a Cyclical or a Spiral? A Belljar or an Hourglass? Vic's Crusade to Break Repetition



Oh dear, here we go again... Victoria getting all "deep" on people.... Oh dear, but oh it's what she does.... So, yes, what is the nature of reality? Space and time? Past, present and future?

Is it a circle or a spiral?
Like the Third Law of Dialectics?
Is it a Closed or Open System?
Is it Linear or Non-linear?
Is it a Myth of Sisyphus
Part 1 or Part 2?

B roll or A roll?
Is it endlessly repetitive
or patterns with outgrowths
of novelty and innovation?
As a fisherman says,
"Everyday's different,
and today's no different.
It's a variation of
similar themes."
Couldn't life just be
a nonlinear ferris wheel?


This theme keeps coming back to haunt me, and I'm just trying to let all these random data points of experience in my life just aggregate right here.

Take for example, a conversation with a UC Irvine computer science major, Matt Olsowski (mispelled?). He argued that everything in the universe is to some degree pre-determined given that we have a fixed amount of materials--A FIXED PALATE--at hand as to which the universe was made of. But the question is, do we actually have a finite set of materials? A finite, fixed periodic table of elements with fixed properties? A fixed set of laws of physics? A fixed compendium of organisms on planet Earth? Uh, NO! We are still discovering the elements of the PALATE that would allow humans to paint and repaint an individual and collective reality. Given the unknown and open-endedness of things, pre-destination is not a possible view of life.

I started off my Winter Quarter in lively conversation with Dr. Art Sylvester (Geologist at UC Santa Barbara), and we ended up discussing issues in science communication. He told me that every day he checks out the news headlines and 90-something percent of the time he is not surprised or amused.... The topics are redundant, repetitive.... If people had any form of long-term memory, they would know that the new news is recycling old news. But every once in a while, Dr. Sylvester finds an article that is unexpected and unusual. He showed me some really cool articles on (1) why students in grade school are no longer learning cursive and nice hand writing and (2) an unusual study showing how hospitals that don't overuse antibiotics have less incidents of the staff bacteria when more sanitized hospitals have higher incidents of staff. Which is weird to wrap my head around, as it seems to be some form of arms race between the bacterial and the presence of medicine. Staffilococus is a bacteria that we are always exposed to and the body is most of the time able to keep under complete control, and every once in a while, especially when the patient's immune system is really low, then a bloom of staff may happen in your body, and my friend Ben survived being a month in the hospital because staff actually got into his heart. It's amazing to see he is alive! Shannon and Ben are going to Mammoth this weekend! How fun!

I then told Dr. Sylvester how I received a tour from my friend Oscar Flores of the KEYT newsroom and underground workflow operation and I was personally shocked by two elements (1) the incredible speed and deadline-oriented environment of live broadcasted news and (2) how most of the room was filled with B-roll and a small fragment of the tapes was A-roll. I moaned to Dr. Sylvester, "It's so horrible! Does life mostly consist of repetition, with only slight sprits and slivers of true novelty?" He ended up laughing.... But no, I'm serious. I became very depressed... thinking that this might be the case. At least 2/3 of my life is repetitive and 1/3 is open to novelty (a rough estimate of course).

The circle and the spiral also became a crucial topic in my Environmental History course with Dr. Peter Alagona. In retrospect, I was addicted to the environmental history course. I said in the end of the class, "This course was great because it's nice to find citations for a bunch of things that I already thought about in my own terms. Now I can cite my independently evolved head." It's true that our class had the opportunity to discuss issues that I usually fancied over with a few existentialist buddies over the years, philosophisizing over beer and coffee or something... but to think that now this was front-table discussion in a class? Yes, it's a dream!


The first book we read Something New Under the Sun started with a biblical quote (and this is the second time I am using a quote from the Bible or from a religious source, taken to be applied in secular meaning, the first quote being the Serenity Prayer):

What has been is what will be,
and what is done is what will be done;
and there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there a thing of which it is said,
"See, this is new?"
It has been already in the ages before us.
There is no remembrance of former things,
nor will there be any remembrance
of later things yet to happen.
(Ecclestiastes 1:9-11)


This quote assumes there's NOTHING new under the sun and that people will endlessly repeat their mistakes because they have forgotten their history (hence, an appreciation for the SHIFTING BASELINE SYNDROME in BIBLICAL TIMES), but the author argued in his book that the novelty of today is the SCALE-MAGNITUDE of HUMAN IMPACT on BIOTIC and ABIOTIC SPHERES of Planet Earth. This quote above also made me think of one of the lyrics of Nick Drake in his song "Things Behind the Sun." At one point, Drake makes us wonder whether it's worth singing or doing anything because everything's already been done, everything's already been said. My father was appalled by the idea--it's depressing, but overall partly TRUE. As I griped to him for two weeks how I was pissed off writing my scholarly paper on marine environmental history because in order to get to my three new ideas I have to recycle 99 other ideas about "what everyone else already said." Which is partly unfulfilling, because now I think scholarly writing is largely a game of he-said-she-said-and-you-have-to-honor-what-they-said-to-join-the-club-unless-the-dude-you-cite-is-dead. Scholarly work is a cross-generational gossip mill, attempting to find your own twist to it.

Here's a segment of Nick Drake's Things Behind the Sun:

Open up the broken cup
Let goodly sin and sunshine in
Yes that's today.
And open wide the hymns you hide
Youn find reknown while people frown
At the things you say
But say what you'll say
About the farmers and the fun
And the things behind the sun
And the people round your head
Who say everything's been said
And the movement in your brain
Send you out into the rain.

In the context of environmental history, upon reading Cronon's 1993 article on the role of narrative in environmental history, the question came up: "What is history? An endless cycle of repetitive themes, or novel variations of existing themes? Novelty feeding off of repetitive, staple, biological material?"

Of course, history is nonlinear with backbones of similar themes. My father at one point claimed that ecology was endlessly spinning in a fashion show of ideas. After reading Worster's Economy of Nature (1994), I had come to realize that the fashion parade is not exactly true. Granted there are cycles of reductionism and synthesis, but each round, new ideas come up and there is a higher resolution of knowledge and understanding, which fades out mythos, religion, into more secular views of the environment.

In the middle of the quarter, I had a civil debate with my roomie Jay about the concept of repetition and novelty in life, presenting the case with my friend Oscar's extensive collection of editorial B-roll. Jay was being a devil's advocate with me, stating most of life was repetitive, after all "humans are creatures of habit," but those repetitive elements are driven forward through innovation. I told Jay I can't work at Del Taco for longer than a month unless I want to kill myself. Repetition can kill me, mentally and physically. I told him after these initial McDonald's hamburger flipping jobs, whether Del Taco or the Ivory Towers, that my whole crusade in life was to avoid, escape, and break all seemingly endless patterns of repetition, always escape and expand the box that I am presently in. Because if I don't, I'm bound to self-destruct.

What is Stravinski's Rite of Spring all about anyway? How does he tell a dramatic story through music? It's all about establishing patterns, in beat and melody, and then breaking them, establishing new patterns, and breaking those... then more patterns, but it's the cumulative making breaking and remaking of patterns that generates the dramatic build up of a Rite of Spring story!

Jay and I elaborated on the job as editorial for a television news crew. I said I couldn't do it because the pace of workflow would not allow me to dig deep to any story in particular, and see the uniqueness of a story, and that life would be one repetitive, homogenous blur of the same headlines that Dr. Art Sylvester was complaining about. Same thing when you have a job where you fly all over the world doing jobs, the whole world may seem like a blur through this repetitive motion. I am trying to prevent that from happening to me. I need to experience life in a state of consciousness. On the other hand, Jay said it would be a challenging job.... Yes, it would be a challenging job for a while... but once the learning curve is over... then... my brain starts to go crazy... because I took control of that rock... and then after that... the rock started to take control over me.... Jay was a good devil's advocate, but I don't buy his point of view. The internal wiring of my mind doesn't allow it. Allow repetition... I already know I'm very prone to OCD, obsessive-compulsive disorder.

And so now... I'm in the business of drawing cartoons... the quest of Terra and Buz to always escape repetition, run with themselves by running away from themselves....

I'm sure I'll find more metaphors for this circle-spiral perception....

512. Jokesteriology: Strategies Toward Generating Humor, Laughter (And How Scientists and Other Brainiacs Can Survive the Colbert Show Hot Seat)

My friend Maria recommended me to watch the Malcolm Gladwell TED Talk, in which I just did... and now that I have watched two Malcolm Gladwell talks in two days, I am already starting to see emerging strategies of his narrative. And I must say, Malcolm Gladwell is one of the very FEW people in the world who is able to get away with just being on stage and telling a story without needing any powerpoint or visual aid. His fro, lean physique, combined with his humorously absurd narratives in varying tones of voices can render him not exactly a "comedian" but a "humorous lecturer, humorous enough to compliment entertainment with education... a skill beyond the drabby university lecturer, but not Saturday Night Live, though... I bet Malcolm COULD function in Saturday night live."

Actually, I take that back. He BARELY survived nearly every iteration of the Colbert Show, except for one round I could say he left without bad taste. Malcolm is more methodical, logical, and his arguments are more complex to be rapid-paced, quick-witted humor. His answers are more long-winded and he seems annoyed every time he is interrupted.... It's natural but I think he need to learn how to adapt to the Climate of Colbert. Speaking of last night's talk "failure of experts... failing to adapt to the environment you are in." But then again, Gladwell's pop theories and stories are more complex narratives, layered phenomena behind the surface of things... so I'm not sure if quick-witted humor of the Colbert Show can match his efforts. I sympathize, though I think if Steven Pinker can gracefully survive the Colbert hot seat, then so can Malcolm Gladwell, if he changes his strategies.

And then I started to think about the General Theories of Humor and decided that I have reached a tipping point in my knowledge, that I will presently attempt to classify the Theories and/or Strategies of Jokesteriology, from very elemental to complex. (P.S. I have been doing such an immense amount of literature review the last three weeks, though it was on marine environmental history, and NOT on Theories of Saturday Night Live, I bet there are a few thousand books on Joksteriology, and I decided not to look them up. I reconciled to figure out how my mind is synthesizing various disparate experiences in my own life, before I am forced by the academic intellectual firing squad to find other people's work and cite them because their ideas are compatible with my own personal logic structures... such is the cycle... independent synthesis... find references retroactively as a necessary academic pill...).

First of all, laughter or humor or amusement is generated when one element is unexpectedly associated with another element, or suites of elements, and that this unexpected association does not directly harm you (hence you be the butt of a joke, or experiencing a very devastating, ironic event). Most humor strategies end up being very "light" (benign) whereas some other humor strategies are much more intense, because emergent humor comes from telling the truth, rather than distorting the truth.
Humor comes from a certain degree of "lying" or distortion from reality, or reality unexpectingly associating to construct a realistic distortion of unexpectedness.

0. Visual humor: contorted bodies, contorted and silly faces. Extremely gestureful. Unusual imagery-backdrop-props. (Jimmy Carrey and Colbert Show as classic examples)

1. Linguistic humor: simple play on words. Words with double meaning. Words said in the same way but different spelling or different meanings. Words used out of context. Inventing new words that you can understand the meaning based on context. (Jules sometimes)

2. The Usual Hollywood Tee-Hee 15-year-old-boy Jokes: Sexual body parts. Burping, farting, peeing, pooping. Anything otherwise is standard socially embarrassing in American culture, at least. (A good chunk of standup comedy, Ali G)


3. The Usual Hollywood Like-Whatever 15-year-old-girl Gossil Jokes, Which Can End Up Being Distortion of Knowledge Through the Telephone Game Mixup: He said, she said. He looks like that. She looks like this. He did that. She did this. (Chick Flick Movies) (Jay Leno and other your-nightly-news-in-humor-show embody rules 2 and 3).

4. Street-Smart Wise-Guy Asking Idiotic Questions to "Intelligent" Yet Highly Specialized, Well-Paid Experts, Demonstrating How Idiotic and Unwise Many Experts Actually Are. (Most prominent in the Ali G show).

5. Fast-paced Interruptive, Out-of-Place and Often-times Counterintuitive Insanity aka The HOT SEAT. Rapid-firing ADHD countering and/or complimenting interrupting everything that you say, attempting to put the person out of place of their comfort zones or arguments, unexpected persepectives. Placing interviewees in the "hot seat." Sell yourself in 10 second or less or then I will interrupt you with an off-the-wall (1) complimenting re-interation of what the interviewer just said (2) self-referential complimenting, or associating with a current news affair (3) fast-paced countering-disagreeing. Colbert will inevitably interrupt you after 10 seconds of straight talking just to maintain conversation and not a monologue. It keeps the show and footage and facial expressions very lively and interesting and very fast paced, but makes the interviewee oftentimes uncomfortable and awkward... except Steven Pinker! Ira Flatow (NPR's Science Friday) in humor is a D and Colbert in humor is an A+ though they do have common guests on their shows. Ira Flatow's hosting is more comprehensible on first shot, but not necessarily memorable... but Colbert is more memorable, though incomprehensible, which may increase comprehensibility in the longer term. Science has a lot to learn from Colbert. Colbert is a genius, not only he is a Faux Republican, he is a Faux Religious Case and Counter-any-Science-Scholar-Argument just for kicks and giggles!

6. Telling the Truth in Vast Space and Time, Revealing Irony, Unexpectedness, Counter-intuitiveness in reality, simply because in cross-generational phenomenon and people forget... and don't connect the dots. And such is the case for human history and environmental history... and Biologically Incorrect. It's humor you have to dig out from the tortures of academia. Invention of true, novel humor. There should be a Joksteriology Department, I do say. Example or irony and contraction that may be told humorously... I just spoke with Peter. You invent laws for predator control. Then too many predators are killed to a point of endangered species. Then you let the predators proliferate, and then the predators become out of control, then predators attack other endangered species. Predator control programs in contradiction with the endangered species act. Contradictory laws. Though science and governance somewhat co-evolve, they seem to be often times out of step with each other. Environmental history = emergent humor in human behavior. I see humor in human behavior all the time since I learned about myself through the eyes of non-human organisms. My knowledge is biologically rooted, projecting into human behavior. This humor is very slow to accumulate, sadly. Complex stories are not quick fixes to acquire and craft.

Just watched a Colbert Report series with Malcolm Gladwell over time. His style of writing is exploratory, an adventure in ideas, emerging trends in anecdotal, sometimes quirky stories (TED X Prize, the story of the dude who diversified mass-produced spaghetti sauce in Prego and Ragu). Malcolm's goal is similar to my own: extracting esoteric ideas from the university and translating them into fun adventures for everyone to engage. Encouraging people to examine their worlds, and the world beyond their own immediate worlds. He's not interested in converting people, more so interested in my similar pursuits "if to laugh, then to think." Dude, he is so flipping left handed. His major pop theories are (1) the tipping point, thresholds in nonlinear systems, whether social or natural (2) blink, thinking without thinking, or the notion of thinking with various different layers, whether your guts, your gonads, your heart and your head, but some layers are conscious to certain people and unconscious to others, some people are not in tune with their emotional, visceral, or sexual brains (for example, Colbert lays everything out on the table, what you see is what you get "I don't even dream!"), education and experience versus making decisions with gut instincts (e.g. with how food industries wanted to seek universals on the bell curve rather than diversity of taste preferences of Prego, hybridizing synthesis and diversity, it's disgusting because economic efficiency demands you produce the same product, imagine you went to a buffet that had all the same food in every section of the buffet, what's the point? corporate SOBs to even think that way! e.g. open niche spaces that are visceral, not rational) (3) outliers, how people are anomalies, and how they got to be anomalies were highly circumstantial e.g. Bill Gates in 1969 had access to a computer portal in middle school, very lucky to have access at such an early age, e.g. Albert Einstein born in an African tribe probably would have not discovered the theories of relativity (4) an article coming out on how the IQ test does not measure intelligence but measures how well you take the test. Well, ALL tests are like that. People used to classify items based on utility (potato with knife) when now people classify based on similarity in shape, size, structure, phylogenetic tree characteristics, origins rather than utility). That demonstrates a different value system regime, not right or wrong, intelligence from idiot.

Just watched Richard Dawkins and Colbert, Steven Pinker and Colbert. Steven Pinker was SLICK. He did the best out of all the people I watched, outperformed Gladwell and Dawkins. He's more adaptive and knows how to boil things down to simple ideas in short phrases. Example. "Explain the brain in five or less words." "Neurons fire in patterns." Patterned firing --> ideas --> thoughts --> actions, etcetera. I'm impressed. Colbert made an insult "pompous Harvard professor" at the beginning, but Pinker rolled that off. Colbert at one point had a 1.5 second pause that left him in this stump that I had never seen him in. Pinker won.... Colbert does the best when it's easy to COUNTER the guest speaker. For Dawkins, it's God. Dawkins failed miserably stating that "natural selection" was a purpose. Even the process of natural selection as a SIEVE is an ACCIDENT that happens to construct order... RETROSPECTIVELY. Overall, Dawkins is trying to convert people by insulting the people he's trying to convert: religious folk. For Malcolm Gladwell, Colbert was a bit more interruptive to Gladwell's methodical thinking. With Pinker, Colbert was more HUMOROUSLY COMPLIMENTARY. Cool experiments performing magic tricks with kids... including Colbert himself. If Colbert knew a little more about evolutionary psychology, assuming that the human mind is more hardwired than softwired, I bet Colbert would have been a better Steven Pinker counter-puncher.