I have Nothing to Say. And boy do I say it.
Well, last time I did a really long rant about cars and driving, and how we should all drive differently and how people should die on the roads! If you haven’t listened to it… I mean, and you’ve got a bunch of time, aah, go ahead and listen to it. I’ll try to keep it a little shorter today!
Today I have run out of things to talk about so this is the last… This is going to be the last podcast! It’s, uh, it’s all over! It’s been a good run, but, ahh, now it’s done!
And we’re finished!
I think it’s a really important thing to be able to admit when you don’t have anything to say. And just say “Welp! I’m out of things to say! That’s it!”
I was watching “Penny Arcade” today [Sound of rocket engines spooling up? What am I driving?] They had an episode on “Strip Search” and how a lot of the people who were on the show ended up moving to Seattle because (and this was a speculation on the part of Robert Khoo) because they wanted to recreate that experience, they wanted to have that thing again that they had when they were on the show; This kind of community and the excitement and the change and bravery to do new things and, kinda meet the challenges of the world.
And I was thinking about that, and you know a lot of things are like that. A lot of people do things not because they are trying to do the thing itself or because they’re pursuing a goal of some kind. But because they’re trying to re-create this feeling of “This thing that’s in my past! I want to relive it!”
I would posit that memory is an excellent way to do that. You don’t have to be somewhere or do something, you can just remember what it was like.
So, I will try very hard in this podcast to not use this as an avenue for trying to re-create circumstances around which I have a particular feeling.
However, that said, there are certain feelings that I get when I’m driving in the car on the way back from work. One of those (if you will allow me to share some of my memories with you) was maybe a week ago or so. I felt the great urge to speak in verse; Speak in meter.
And I found that I can easily produce this kind of speech without too much delay.
However, there’s a problem with this practice which is evident in how I speak right now, in that it takes a while to say what you are saying when you form it to a verse.
Whereas if I just speak normally, I can say what I mean much more quickly.
So I was thinking, “Ooh! It’d be really fun to do the Iambic Pentameter…” And the “pentameter” is just a set of ten instead of free which is what I was doing before. “It’d be so much fun to do, like, an Iambic Pentameter Podcast!” But then I was thinking “Okay, but… but why would I be doing that?” And Iambic is useful for remembering things; For helping you to remember a set of lines, like, for example, in a play! It’s also very useful for making beautiful sounding speech, but it’s not very efficient. I mean it CAN be efficient, but it’s not, by itself, efficient. And the way that I do it, free off the cuff, is not very efficient because basically I add extra words, extra sylables, use longer words in the place of shorter ones, in order to make everything fit.
So, in the end, I decided against doing this podcast, this monologue, in verse form.
But, I guess I just wanted to let you know that I could have, and that you’re welcome for not doing it.
I suppose I could produce a verse which spoke with meaning and concision. But this practice, fairly pompous, foists upon the audience requirement to read between the lines, to hear the words not said.
But maybe I’ll do it from time to time. If in the future you hear me speaking in verse, know that it’s because I enjoy it, and not because it’s necessarily the quickest way to communicate. But I do find it pleasing, it pleases the ear, and rolls off the tongue, it’s very quotable.
My brothers and I formed a kind of theory (a shared concensus) that people quote movies and books, I mean, movies mostly I think because they have a tone as well as the quote itself, so that you can tell it’s a quote because of the voice that you say it in which matches the source material, whereas in a book you don’t really have a source material to set a tone to it so you can’t really tell that it’s a quote as easily. Basically movies are easier to recognize as quotes when quoted elsewhere because they have a matching tone.
So, people do this (quote movies) in order to convey not just the thing they’re saying, which you could easily say in any number of ways, but to convey the entire context that that quote elicits in the mind of the listener (if the listener has seen this movie). So, you could have a quote from something, that is very short but elicits an entire range of emotions, an entire history! That, you can insert into a conversation, into a recording, into another piece of fiction or literature. That will inform the audience of what you’re going for, will help them understand, will communicate volumes in this small tidbit.
The advantage being that, like I said, it’s very efficient, it’s very poignant, it can produce a great amount of effect for a very small amount of effort. The drawback being that if it’s overused then it looses that flavor, it becomes washed out, it becomes tired “a tired phrase.” and no longer produces the effect you’re looking for. Then, when people come back to the work that is referencing the referenced thing, it doesn’t have the same effect, and so it actually becomes poorer with time.
Whereas, I would suggest, great works become richer with time. They accumulate meaning and context around them. So this can have the unfortunate effect where works, which originally were fresh and interesting, are preyed upon until they become trite by the mere fact that they were interesting to begin with and everyone else was so used to using it as a reference that it became over-used. But I think it also happens more often to works that are themselves referencing something else. A work that’s really fundamentally trying to say something, not necessarily original or unique, but in it’s own way, without relying too much on inside jokes or on cultural themes or things like this, just trying to say something true about the universe. I think they aren’t as easily exhausted as works which reference other works.
Because a lot of information that we convey at a high level, like movies, are just chock full of these catch phrases of these… these…
See, now I’m thinking about it myself… and analyzing my own… penchant for producing… references of other things, anyway. I’ll try not to think about it too much or I won’t be able to say anything because English itself is like this.
Getting back to my original point!
My brothers and I used to quote Strongbad quite often because it had a tone and an atmosphere which matched closely many of the things that we were trying to say… that it had answers, not necessarily for questions that we had, but answers for the problem of communicating a certain thing concisely. Like, the absurdity of ’80’s culture. Or the difficulties of dealing with computers that aren’t very well thought out. Or, trying to communicate… and the Stronbad E-mail Show was in itself about communication a lot of the time, it was about people writing in and Strongbad misunderstanding what they’re saying. Or him taking what they’re saying far to literally. Or he is making a joke, not only based on their e-mail, but out of their letter. It was entertaining because it was about communication.
And so quoting a show about communication is recursive in talking about communication itself. So it was very fun to quote Strongbad in trying to communicate things to each other about communication.
But this is something that people do all the time, where if they don’t have anything to say, they’ll quote what someone else said, hoping that their knowledge of this other person’s work will reflect well on their point that they’re trying to make. Or just to keep people interested. Or to make people feel included because they understand the context that is quoted, and so they understand the joke, or the reference.
Which is fine! I mean, again, language itself is basically… this… all the time.
But! There’s also a problem with this, which is that people have different experiences. And so their context will not be exactly the same as your context, even if you’re quoting a movie. Someone might have really liked the movie. Someone might have been watching the movie and it reminded them of a relationship that they had. Someone might have never seen anything like this and it was really fascinating. There’s all kinds of contexts that people bring into experiences, as well as take out of them. So even a movie…
(which is a very controlled experience… you sit in a dark theater. You hear all the same things that everyone else heard when they watched the movie. You see all the same things that everyone else saw when they watched the movie. It has the same beginning, the same end for everyone. So, it’s intentionally a very controlled experience so that everyone has the same thing that they can reference; The same frame of reference. So they can use it for language. They can use it for jokes, for communication. Obviously there is some aspect to it that is purely entertainment, they just want to sit there and not think about things, but movies are also useful in all these other ways.)
But even when it is such a tightly controlled experience, there are still a very broad range of internal contexts that the audience can produce from this one experience. In order to communicate perfectly, which, I mean, is impossible. It’s impossible to communicate perfectly. But if you could, you’d need to be able to store internally not only everything that you know, but everything that the other person knows as well.
And that’s a lot of information.
Of course, it kind of falls off, there are common grounds, and if the world is objectively real, then there is the common ground of the objective world that we can always fall back on to be like “okay, well… If I think this is a rock, and you think this is a rock, then we can both agree it’s a rock, and we’re going to say these words, and we’re going to hear them, and we’re going to repeat them to each other until they converge on this sound that both you and I think is the same sound (of course, they’re never exactly the same sound). But we’re going to call this a rock, and we’re going to make these sounds with our mouth, ‘R-R-A-A-K’ and then that will stand in for this experience that we both have, this thing that we know about… which is this… un-definable… un-conveyable experience of ‘rockness’ in the objective universe.”
So anyway, movies are just a microcosom of that experience of trying to communicate. Movies allow you to use them as a symbol in conversation, in communication, in teaching, wherever you want to use language. Movies can be made into a symbol in language. They can do this by means of being used as quotes. You quote a movie, and you’re not just quoting that line, you’re quoting that character, and that character’s experience, and that context (the movie context) in which that character had that experience.
So if one wants to make media that is useful in this way (Which I think is valuable. It can be both entertaining and useful as a communication symbol.) then the movie needs to have as much resemblence to the real world as possible, and not necessarily in it’s history, but in the sense that it is internally consistent, and it can be repeated without tiring. People have been re-discovering the joy of playing with rocks for eons, and I think if you want to make a movie that’s useful as a communication symbol it should also have that same quality of being fresh all the time, being new, having something that it can convey to the audience without relying on other things.
Because the objective universe has to be conveyable without relying on the outside language. Or else language could not have existed in the first place, language is… well, and now we’re getting into language theory, but… whatever.
I think it would be very useful for movies to strive to have this quality, in addition to being entertaining and thought provoking, and beautiful, and sound nice, and pleasing to the senses and all this kind of thing.
Living in Japan I’ve also discovered that, since I don’t know the language, there’s a huge amount that can be conveyed without language! We can communicate based just on objective reality, not perfectly, but pretty well. Of course this isn’t perfect either, I’ve brought in a great amount of social information. There exists in Japan a huge amount of social information about my culture, the American culture. (and I call it “my culture” not because I identify with it necessarily but just because that’s where I come from.) And it is very useful to communicate to people using these cultural symbols, using English. And the ways that we’ve experienced English. But even without using a great deal of English, the sheerest fragments of language can be very very potent when combined with body language and positioning and physical context: I’m in a store, I can bow, make or break eye contact appropriately, offer things with my hands. And the way you place your hands, palm up or palm down… All these kinds of things, the symbols that we make with our bodies, are incredibly powerful, even in our modern age where language is ubiquitous.
So, don’t forget that you can always fall back on fundamental physical signs when you run out of things to say with your mouth.
Of course, that would not make for a very interesting podcast. Mainly because this recorder does not record body signals. And! I can’t really use my body in that way right now because I’m driving! So language is extremely useful. Don’t get me wrong. Language is great.
Aah, but there are other things you can use, if language fails you.
Or if you just don’t feel like using language at the moment.