So I just had to design this when it struck me—
The picture is a link
Just a Little Background Noise 2.0
a linguistic representation of an autism
The picture is a link
Johann Sebastian Bach
We live in an elegant universe, which according to some is composed almost entirely of a very large string section, indefatigably riffing out an eternal coda without rest. It has absolutely nothing to do with what it eats, no matter the Bard’s avowal that if music be the food of love— because it plays on regardless of physicists harping on about attraction.
It certainly has nothing to do with love … or sandwiches...
It is what it picks, plucks, taps, sweeps, shreds and strums— and it does it without a single fret, which might I suppose, render certain things inexplicable but at the same time, it would explain why the world goes round as it does.
It does it for us, so we can play ourselves; or with ourselves: ultimately it all depends on how enlightened or blind we want to become.
If you’ve ever heard of The Boys from Brazil or The Second Coming Project, you’d know that neither of them have anything to do with the universe, football or sex— unless of course, you count Pele’s Viagra commercials, which in a delightful quirk of the universe working in harmony to connect my vagrant ideas, I can ingeniously, albeit inadvertently have it all my own way and cover all the bases.
No, they are in fact about the cloning of a bunch of baby Hitlers and a bunch of baby Jesus’.
Now far be it from me to question the dedication of either party, since I regard such endeavours purely as entertainment first and then just expect the inevitable ridicule to turn up at some point or other. However, as hypotheticals go, it’s an amusing one and all well and good until somewhere along the way someone has the notion to have them doing something together.
This would be problematic for some, because they’d probably get along— Jesus got along with almost everyone after all. But to do it, just to do it, would pose unique ethical problems, so they probably wouldn’t. The fact of the matter is, they couldn’t be trusted to get it done right.
Cloning should therefore, be left where it belongs— in the only place where ‘ethics’ is still a dirty word: reality television. And they should treat it with the levity it deserves.
The format would be the primary hurdle, but I was thinking along the line of something really quite simple. Something like:
Take these guys for example:
Sure, they were instrumental thinkers, but if we brought them back— I’d much rather see them with instruments. It could just be me but I think their resemblance to ZZ-Top is uncanny.
But why stop there when we could have:
The potential for abusing the genetic material of luminaries is boundless— and if I can have this much fun with google and photoshop, imagine how much fun the universe could have with a bunch of test-tubes and a T.V.
I managed to find time for a refresher shower shortly before the cat decided it was morning for the third time, knowing full well I’d either soon be summoned back to bed by her or unnecessarily shoved there by the brass monkeys.
You know the sort of thing— the 30 minute wake-up plunge squeezed into 90 seconds, with water that’s underdone for this time of year. I was hopping about chattering in fear of being caught short and shorter between a bout of hypothermia and an outdoors at its worst, in the chops.
We’ve had some particularly serious and chapping weather today; and it’s been miserable. Last night it was howling around the garden, in the way and of the type that used to smoke my cigarettes for me— all whilst slapping me about for good measure. Liveners they may be, but they’re insolent all the same.
It is observations such as these that really can inspire one to start looking at such things in a hurtful way, as though its infliction of injury is quite deliberate.
I can certainly imagine worse ways of looking at weather, but none quite so British or appropriately condescending as categorising it in terms of their manners.
And as such, it really would require a condescending name:
I’ll leave it to you to imagine the extent to which a bag of Atlantic wind would have on your patience; or how amused you’d be were it on someone else’s, but I assure you there really are weather equivalents to:
Obviously, I’ve allowed myself several moments to savour some of the more beastly behaviours of the uncontrollably uncultured and pondered their meteorological twins— and I must confess to much delight in doing so.
There would be something endearing about a forecast focussing on how noisy the weather was going to be; on its brashness; whether it would be rude, brazen, vulgar, impudent, discourteous, unmannerly, uncivil, cheeky, uncouth, crude, crass, gross, rustic, rough, common or churlish…
Or to what percent we ought expect a state of being or funny-business to swirl about us. How it may veer from a general gentlemanliness to being distinctly unladylike, lacking in gallantry, spine, spirit, heroism, pluck or consideration, or in a moment— being chock full of it!
It’s not what I had in mind exactly once the cat had finished her nonsense earlier, but I’ve decided there’s little virtue in describing how to make smash out of chewing gum— or spoiling how amusing applying good etiquette to shitty weather can be.
Skill without imagination is craftsmanship. Just as, imagination without skill gives us modern art. Tom Stoppard made that observation, no doubt with, The Prudence and the Pill in mind: Nothing unites the English like war. Nothing divides them like Picasso.
Modern Art, it’s true— is considered with derision by many and as absurd by most, typified by nothing better than The Turner Prize. It is greeted each year with anticipation and enthusiasm, but for all the wrong reasons. With a glint in their eyes and half-baked chuckles wrestling in their throats, our newsreaders announce the short-list and their creators’ achievements, knowing full well that that we: the unenlightened ones, will be hooting and cursing in equal portions wondering what on Earth it’s all about?
Rachel Whiteread won the award in 1993, with her creation “House”. You may remember it: a Victorian Terrace was filled with concrete then its outsides were taken away, and so astonishing was its impact, the local council waited an entire year before tearing it down.
More recently though we had my personal favourite: Simon Starling, who ingeniously turned a boat into a shed, then back into a boat. Imaginatively titled: Shedboatshed (Mobile Architecture No 2). It was supposed represent the, slowing of things down, and about trying to retard the incredible speed with which we live.
The only thing I could tell was being slowed however, was the boat’s ability to float.
But of course it did. It made perfect sense. It made as much of it as being described ‘eccentric’ did to Mr Starling— which wasn’t a great deal, in fact he took great umbrage at the description— an act I found more bewildering than his former dinghy.
There’s little wrong with ‘form’ of any kind going hand-in-hand with hand and head, but when hands and bloockls become inseparable, even indistinguishable from the bullshit and bafflement which surrounds it; perhaps it’s worth trying to take the intellectual out of the art, or better still, away from it altogether.
How about bringing a little accessibility back? How about something like:
I’d have galleries handing out different coloured gum upon entering, to be chewed; there’s a little ‘shaping’ for you right there, where it matters— on the building blocks. It’s contemporary, very pop; and like all art— not everyone’s cup of tea— so it’ll either be chewed over or not— with verbals or mandibles, it doesn’t matter…
Towards the end of the gallery I would have a canvas for the used gum and a bin for that which was not. I like the irony but none of the significance which could easily be spun— but it’s as close as I can imagine, art for art’s sake, becoming more than a spectator sport, at least indoors anyway; and the kids would love it…
One of my pet hates is when I hear educators moan about facts as if they were hazardous to health. I’ve heard them moan that they serve no purpose, that they’re a waste of time; outdated or are somehow superfluous; that it’s not proper teaching. There are numerous complaints, too many to list— however the median I seem to come across most, might as well be the very devil himself: the date:
1066, the Battle of Hastings;
1588 and the Spanish Armada
1805, Trafalgar and so on and so forth…
And to some degree I agree that there is a limited quality, albeit a limited re-usable quality to this type of knowledge. Personally, I love it, can’t get enough but that’s just me, give me more…
However, facts make learning easier. Facts give concept-based teaching context. Facts make learning more effective. This is not a judgement call, nor is it an opinion— unlike approaches based purely around concept, there is mountains of data which suggest that the use of facts as part of a learning strategy works; having a solid bank of knowledge regarding a particular topic, then makes conceptual-learning effective, not the other way around. The very notion that anyone can form long lasting contextual assessments on anything without knowing what it is they’re supposed to be contextualising is counter-intuitive— but this is one of the things modern teachers are taught to do, even though it flies in the face of most of the available evidence.
Don’t get me wrong, I think the ability to conceptualise is an imperative to successful learning; and the reasoning that the way it’s now used is ‘best’ and the way it should be done comes from reasonable sources— these are not stupid people. It just doesn’t work as they’d like it to work; it cannot work because the reasoning is built on whimsy, not the real world.
Facts: those concrete, unshakable units of information which are not subject to change are unpopular, when they should be the foundations upon which effective practices are built.
It’s difficult to understand why the idea of learning useful, relevant and re-usable information is so frowned upon— as a former practitioner, I do at least understand the potential difficulties involved in the presentation; I did all the time— but again, the median argument against it is just as unreasonable: we can’t just have kids reciting dates over and over…
Of course not— that really is stupid. Professional teachers should be able to incorporate some kind of fact-based content into their lessons if they are proficient in their subject, without the furore— they do it everyday to some degree as it is, but there’s just something about the word fact that they’re taught not to like. I would’ve taught in a dress if I had cold hard data suggesting cross-dressing made learning more effective; and that should be the only thing that matters. There are approaches which work and some which work better than others; some are just unpopular.
Now the reason I bring it up actually has nothing to do with teaching, but the underlying trait which shapes this particular issue.
It’s a packaging problem— rightly or wrongly our perception becomes this: so it’s gotta be true. It’s exactly the same problem we have with labels— some of which effectively describe certain people and conditions, but are wildly unpopular. Some of which are too accurate so a semantically broader variant is encouraged as preferable. Personally, I struggle with aspects of this— I don’t find words, tags or labels to be inherently functional without context. One of the problems of being concept-based people instead of substance based, will be an increased obsession with eradicating ‘offensive’ lexis, regardless of context. Which in itself, is an act I find deeply offensive.
Anyway, the catalyst for this came about from several sources, independent of which, I wouldn’t have had a contextual springboard to unite them— however when taken together, there are similarities which I think are fascinating.
The first was this article1, which recounts the author’s experiences with a couple of group sessions for adults on the autistic spectrum. She writes:
“I told the group about my own experiences in coming to terms with autism, about wanting to be autistic because it was the only thing that felt like all my experiences finally made some sense. About redirecting my energy and efforts towards things that would help me cope, instead of things that would make me appear normal. Allowing myself to be more visibly autistic.
“At those last words, the entire group gasped in shock … I’m not joking. I was the only one there who thought it wasn’t actually all that bad to be stimming in public.”
Now my first reaction was to try to empathise with group— some of whom were clearly uneasy with the author’s rocking but I couldn’t consolidate what it was about the article that was impressing upon me without resorting to speculation, despite the resonance of one of the questions: “If I don’t do things like that, then maybe I’m not actually autistic?”
It wasn’t until I read this post, that it all clicked into place: that, like some teachers’ point-blank refusal to accept that facts do not give you cancer, what I had in front of me was another packaging problem— which lead me to re-read the question as, I wouldn’t mind being autistic if I didn’t do things like that…
What struck me upon the second reading was an event from another session, which thanks to the second article, had even greater meaning in this context:
“[O]ne of them said to me that maybe I needed a time-out to calm down, because I was rocking back and forth so much. And when I said I was just focusing on the conversation, and not feeling anxious at all, he didn’t believe me.”
Was she not believed because: autistics only rock when their stressed; or because ‘he’ only rocks when he’s stressed: so it’s gotta be true? It starts to become clear that across a wide range of things— how narrow and inflexible our associations can really be.
However, without Disabled, Not Broken2, I wouldn’t have written this at all. It finds the author posing a simple question and answering it by defining what he is and what he isn’t through a short exploration of language and its denotations: even the words which we use to define other words, which we then use to define who we are or what we think we are, aren’t always satisfactory contextually.
Add to that, that if you rock back and forth you are defined by your actions and emotional state: you must be autistic and you must need a time out. If you’re a teacher and heaven forbid you teach facts: you are defined by an historical context; that you’re out of touch, you’re doing something wrong and a bad practitioner. Perhaps, by the same reasoning: if you rock and you’re not stressed, it makes you a bad autistic?
In each case there are misconceptions based on a perception that has attributed to it, a value of some kind, so if you do it, think it, use it or say it, according to that perception: it’s gotta be true.