Sunday, December 30, 2007

Where to from here?

Well, I knew that my blog was going to be updated less frequently once I got back into my old lifestyle, but man I didn't expect to go over two months without writing anything here. I really enjoyed writing about all my experiences in the Peace Corps, but I think a large part of the motivation that kept me doing it on a regular basis was that I felt that I really had something interesting to share; something worth writing about. I got a fair amount of positive feedback and encouragement to keep writing, which was very much a pleasant surprise. Knowing that there were actually people out there reading this blog gave me a greater sense of duty to keep it updated.

Then when I got back, as I should have forseen, everything changed. Suddenly I was doing nothing that seemed interesting or noteworthy enough to bother writing about. In one sense it was helpful, because I was able to slide rather easily back into a comfortable routine. As I understand it, other returned PCVs may get a little more singed on their re-entry back into the atmosphere of the regular world. Unfortunately for me, my urge to put up anything on my blog died immediately and almost entirely. It was exactly what I was hoping wouldn't happen.

One thing I have learned from the positive feedback that I got for this blog is that I'm a much better writer when I'm simply trying to describe real things exactly as they are. This makes sense, because I've gradually come to understand that my character tends towards a very dry, factual assessment of the world. Many of my personal attributes are directly related to this. I can be very naive about other humans' tricks and schemes, I'm absolutely terrible at lying, and try as I might, I suck at writing anything that requires making stuff up. So when the factual events in my life are too tedious to bother describing, I really don't have anything I can write about.

I have to figure out a way to change this, because now I'm facing the prospect of nine months without any decent challenging projects or intellectual hobbies until I go to grad school (assuming I get in) and I feel like I'm rotting on the vine. Therefore, I am going to try and keep finding interesting things to talk about here at a frequency of no less than once per week - even if it's something really short, and I'm the only one reading it. Therefore, the content is probably going to take a drastic turn for the geekier, since I'm pretty much just indulging myself now.

I already have something else interesting to talk about, so I won't cheat and claim to have fulfilled this week's requirement already and just save this until next week.

Someone had posted a link on an internet forum that I frequent to an article talking about how testosterone-driven male behavior leads them to attempt humor a lot more than women. (article: ). I posted a couple responses and was ridiculed by some other forum members for trying to act clever and intellectual. I kind of like what I wrote though.

Quotes from the article:

"Research suggests men are more likely to use humour aggressively by making others the butt of the joke. "

"Often the men's comments were mocking and intended as a put-down. Young men in cars were particularly aggressive - they lowered their windows and shouted abusively. "

I thought the article was really perceptive, and I wonder if that aspect of male psychology has really been studied much. It makes a lot of sense if you think about the way males are, in the human species and otherwise.... always trying to outdo each other in order to impress the females. In our society there's really nothing that's generally considered funnier than a good "burn" (the internet provides many examples of this) but I have a great appreciation for people who can be funny without having to put others down. Mocking is certainly the easy way to humor. But is it really the only, or even the best way to be funny? Not at all.

I acknowledge, of course, that I am weird and most people find this kind of thing hilarious. But then, most people don't like to think very hard, and as I said, put-downs are the easy route to humor. Why? Because they require no creativity. Human beings are full of flaws and it's easy to find them and point them out if you are so inclined. Add a few swear words that are easily mixed around with each other in amusing combinations, a dose of superior attitude, and there you have it. Insulting humor goes down easy because it's always comforting to have more ways to rationalize yourself as being above other people somehow, especially if you're insecure.

There are, in fact, nobler routes to being comedic. A good example of someone who's an expert at non-negative humor is Ellen DeGeneres. To me, she is extremely clever and genuinely funny. Or how about the movie The Big Lebowski? Many people from my generation would cite it as one of the funniest movies ever made, and it relies almost entirely on silliness and surreality.

Don't get me wrong; I think satire can be hilariously funny when done in a subtle way (see: Stephen Colbert roasting GWB at the White House Correspondent's Dinner), but I think that put-down humor is often used as a crutch by people who aren't really funny and clever but want to be seen that way.

There. I wrote about Something Interesting.


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