Complete show on YouTube. In case you were wondering what the fuss was about.
Complete show on YouTube. In case you were wondering what the fuss was about.
For some reason I was thinking about pieces of culture that have departed from the world but which somehow didn’t “stick” well enough to persist even in the sphere of nostalgia. Like when people think about the early 1990s, the years when I was in college, they might well say “oh yeah, grunge” or “oh yeah, wearing used gas station T-shirts with a name stitched on” or “oh yeah, Twin Peaks” or “oh yeah, OK Soda” or whatever.
But no one says “oh yeah, Fido Dido.” So here I am doing it.
It is inherently hard to try to list things you’ve forgotten about. My list right now consists of
That’s it. What have you got?
For something I’m writing I looked up a newspaper article I was interviewed in in, from June 7, 1989. Here’s what I had to say:
Ellenberg on mathematics: “I always think of it — this is kind of crazy — as a zoo. There are a million different mathematical objects. They are like animals. Some are like each other and some are unalike, and they are all objects . . . . There are things in different guises. The amazing thing is, it all connects. Anything you prove with trig[onometry] is just as true if you do it with algebra . . . . I think it is kind of amazing actually, if you think of it from an emotional point of view.”
On learning math: “My feeling is that a lot of people expect not to be good at math. If you see calculus and trig, to a seventh-grader, they see it as something very difficult and very arcane, when maybe the trick is to relax a little bit . . . . Many things you can understand on two levels. If you look at a novel, a novel can be very hard to interpret, but you can still read it and see what happened. With math, there is no real surface level. It is already written in a sort of obscure language. You don’t have the comforting template. You only have the deep structure, and that can be very off-putting.”
On the practicality of math: “Why is it important to have read any Shakespeare for your everyday life? To tell the truth, I can get through the day without ever using a Shakespeare quote, but I think Shakespeare is useful, and I think math is useful.”
What a strange experience, looking at this. In a way I seem very mentally disorganized. But at the same time this is recognizably me. Unsettling.
From a recent xkcd:
But kids, it’s not true! I was here before there was Internet, and I can tell you, people were not bored more often than they are now, and the boredom was not of a finer and more concentrated quality. The mouse-over text says, in an incredulous tone, “We watched DAYTIME TV. Do you realize how soul-crushing it was? But people still watch daytime TV! Even though there’s the internet! People like daytime TV.
xkcd used to take a slightly different stance on this:
Actually, it’s not clear what stance is being taken here — maybe xkcd really does think nature is of interest only insofar as as it generates ideas for status updates.
The right answer is that xkcd doesn’t think anything at all, because xkcd is a comic strip, whose job is to be funny, not to have consistent principled stances concerning how we have lived and what we should do. There’s a post I never get around to making about how much I disagree with something in one of Louis CK’s famous bits, and one reason I never make this post is that it’s kind of dumb to argue with a comedy routine, because comedy routines are not arguments.
In conclusion, boredom is a land of contrasts. John Berryman’s “Dream Song 14″:
Life, friends, is boring. We must not say so.
After all, the sky flashes, the great sea yearns,
we ourselves flash and yearn,
and moreover my mother told me as a boy
(repeatingly) ‘Ever to confess you’re bored
means you have no
Inner Resources.’ I conclude now I have no
inner resources, because I am heavy bored.
Peoples bore me,
literature bores me, especially great literature,
Henry bores me, with his plights & gripes
as bad as achilles,
who loves people and valiant art, which bores me.
And the tranquil hills, & gin, look like a drag
and somehow a dog
has taken itself & its tail considerably away
into mountains or sea or sky, leaving
behind: me, wag.
God I love this.
Eyes starting to glaze over from staring at book as I plow through almost-final revisions. It reminds me of being in college and having a paper due, a paper that would benefit from having more time to devote to it than the three hours that are left before I have to go to class. And in that spirit of the early 1990s and inarticulate anxiety, I am listening to Veruca Salt. Why do I never listen to Veruca Salt?
This is the world we used to live in. Herman Kahn, one of the architects of postwar US nuclear policy, from his 1960 book On Thermonuclear War:
However, our calculations indicate that even without special stockpiles, dispersal, or protection, the restoration of our prewar GNP should take place in a relatively short time — if we can hold the damage to the equivalent of something like 53 metropolitan areas destroyed.
Dating is dead now, at the hand of Facebook, texting, “hanging out,” and “hooking up,” per the New York Times:
Blame the much-documented rise of the “hookup culture” among young people, characterized by spontaneous, commitment-free (and often, alcohol-fueled) romantic flings. Many students today have never been on a traditional date, said Donna Freitas, who has taught religion and gender studies at Boston University and Hofstra and is the author of the forthcoming book, “The End of Sex: How Hookup Culture is Leaving a Generation Unhappy, Sexually Unfulfilled, and Confused About Intimacy.”
Hookups may be fine for college students, but what about after, when they start to build an adult life? The problem is that “young people today don’t know how to get out of hookup culture,” Ms. Freitas said.
This generation is not very good at face-to-face relationships. The image that comes to mind is two students, sitting in the room they share, angrily texting each other, but not talking. They all want to have intimate relationships, they want to get married and have kids, but that’s hard to do if you don’t know how to talk with another person. Just under half of freshmen said they’d been on a date. Relationships often begin with two people meeting at a party and hooking up. Then the next day they check each other out on Facebook, and if they like what they see they might send a message saying they’re going to a party the next night — but not inviting the other person. And if they both show up, and hook up again, that might go on for a while, and then they’d consider posting on Facebook that they were in a relationship.
Oh, for the old days, before Facebook and the ubiquitous Internet, back in 1998, when everything was different, and when Arthur Levine — yep, the same guy — wrote:
One of the things traditional-age undergraduates have been most eager to escape from is intimate relationships. Traditional dating is largely dead on college campuses, replaced by group dating, in which men and women travel in unpartnered packs. Group dating is a practice that provides protection from deeper involvement and intimacy. One student at Southern Methodist University summed up the dating scene this way: “I don’t think there is much serious dating until people are seniors. I mean, people go out a lot but do not want serious relationsips. There is a lot of sex. College is about casual sex.”
Students talked a lot about sex. On a given night the typical pattern is to go to a bar or party off campus, get drunk, and end up back in someone’s room. One student explained, “People will stand in the bar just waiting to be chosen at the end of the night.” Developing a sexual relationship that is not intended to be emotional is just another alternative to traditional dating. It is a pattern repeated all across the country and rationalized by students, who told us repeatedly that they have never seen a successful adult romantic relationship.”
Young people who read my blog, I have an important message for you. I went to college in the early 1990s. There was not much “traditional dating.” Lots of people complained about this, especially in newspaper editorials, and worried about our ability to forge meaningful relationships. You know what happened to us? We all figured out how to get married and have kids. Just so you know.