05.26.06

You Just Don’t Understand: Sixth Post (Conflict)

Posted in Linguistics, Psychology at 7:04 pm by web

The discussion of conflict and intimacy was really interesting to me. I see conflict and arguments as one of the most fascinating parts of intimate relationships. For me, arguments don’t necessarily mean fights. Often they are sparked by genuine differences of opinion where each party is truly attempting to convince the other of the correctness of their view, but not always. Almost as often (perhaps even more often) for me arguing is a way of exploring an idea for better understanding. This can only be done if both parties trust and respect each other. I sometimes will take the opposite view of something, even if it is not my view, to better understand what someone thinks or believes. Not only does this promote my own understanding, but it often also gives me a good idea of how deep or well thought out a conviction is. I find this kind of argument intellectually stimulating. I also almost always feel closer to the person that I’ve argued with at the end of the discussion. According to Tannen, this is a very male way of viewing conflict. She claims that most women avoid arguments and often fear them, but men use them for bonding. In my experience, her statement is generally true, but for some reason I break this pattern. I think that I learned at least some of this attitude towards conflict from my father, but it sounds like my maternal grandfather would have appreciated it too. I have no real explanation for it as I’ve never really thought about it that much. This view of conflict and intimate relationships never seemed odd to me. I’m certainly going to pay more attention to it for a while! Hopefully I will learn something useful from it.

First Impressions: Second Post (Fixing Mary)

Posted in Childrens, Fiction at 6:59 pm by web

Alice has taken to rewriting Pride and Prejudice and “fixing” Mary in the process. I’m not convinced that she needs fixing. She’s nerdy and quiet, but what’s really wrong with that? She doesn’t appear interested in men, but look at her choices! The men in the book are old and married, Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy (who are both taken), Mr. Collins (who is completely unappealing), Mr. Wickham (who is taken and a dick), and soldiers (who all seem pretty flighty and frivolous). So why would she appear interested in them? She goes to balls and parties and is careful to perform when she gets the chance (displaying her accomplishments), which all suggests that she is interested in men and marriage at least in theory. So I’m not convinced anything is wrong with her that needs fixing. I wish that Alice would see that!

You Just Don’t Understand: Fifth Post (Folk Tale)

Posted in Linguistics, Psychology at 6:49 pm by web

Tannen spends a great deal of time in this study talking about listening. It kept reminding me of a folk tale that I know about a boy who climbs a hill to discover how the wise man who lives there got to be so wise. The man declines to explain, but invites the boy to live with him for a while and watch him. The boy agrees, assuming that he will learn how to be wise from the man. Many people come to the old man for advice. The man feeds each person homemade bread, shares tea with them, and listens to their problems. He says almost nothing, but each person leaves praising his wisdom and thanking him for helping them. The boy is baffled by the whole thing and becomes convinced that he is missing some magic that the old man performs for his visitors. One day the old man is too ill to leave his bed when a woman comes to call. He encourages the boy to serve the woman bread and tea and listen to her. The boy does so and finds himself saying little as the woman discusses her problems. The woman talks her way to her own solution and thanks him, praising his wisdom. The boy finally realizes that the old man is not praised for his wisdom because he says wise things or because he solves people’s problems, but because he makes them comfortable and listens as they work out their own problems. In this story the position of listener is far from subordinate. In fact, the man is so greatly respected because he is such a good listener. So how is it that listening can be seen in such radically different ways? The act itself is the same, so why is the perception so different? Maybe we should learn as a community to see listening more the way the story does and less as a bad thing. I wonder what Dr. Tannen would think of this story?

05.25.06

First Impressions: First Post (First Impressions)

Posted in Childrens, Fiction at 6:03 pm by web

I like this book a lot so far. It makes intelligent, interesting references about all sorts of classic literature and while it would not be a big deal if the reader didn’t understand the references, a lot is added by them. I would have loved that as a kid (and still love it now). It makes it seem far less strange to have read those books. The writing so far is excellent and the characters are well-rounded and interesting. I’m looking forward to reading more about them.

The main character’s interpretation of Pride and Prejudice is really interesting. She’s completely focused on Mary, to the exclusion of anything else, but maybe that’s allowing her to see something in the book that most people miss. Mary is very specifically described as a nerd and it’s pretty clear that Austen and most of her characters view that as an unpardonable black mark against her. Other than being a little too pious, she never really does anything worse than embarrassing her older sisters (and really, what younger sibling hasn’t done that). So why is being quiet and reading a lot so very bad? She seems doomed to the worst thing that could happen to a young woman of her station in an Austen novel – spinsterhood. I’ll be interested to see how her analysis continues as the novel moves forward.

You Just Don’t Understand: Fourth Post (Understanding)

Posted in Linguistics, Psychology at 5:08 pm by web

I really like that Tannen is not asking, or even suggesting, that people should change the way they talk to each other. She encourages people to understand the way that each other views conversation. She just wants people to see that their way is not more “right” than any other way. I wish that more people saw it that way.

05.24.06

The Diamond Age: Seventeenth Post (Final Thoughts)

Posted in Adults, Fiction at 8:42 pm by web

This book ended very strangely. It actually would have been fine if the book had stopped about five pages earlier. I kind of found the ending disappointing. The story had been so focused and creative, but it felt like the author suddenly didn’t know what to do with it and just blew it all up. I wanted the various threads of the story to be tied together as elegantly as they had been spun, but nothing like that happened. I really felt like Stephenson looked at all the threads, realized that he had woven all he wanted and was now bored with the whole thing, just tied it all in a big messy knot that took little thought, called it done and moved onto a new project. It’s very disappointing. And it does nothing to encourage me to read any more of his books.

05.23.06

You Just Don’t Understand: Third Post (Imagination)

Posted in Linguistics, Psychology at 4:53 am by web

Near the end of the last chapter there was a quote from a woman saying that a particular event was one of those moments when she knew that she hadn’t imagined her husband because he had thought in a way that she completely didn’t understand. I found this interesting because of the implication that she wonders if she has imagined her husband from time to time. Now, I’ve done that too, but I rarely think much about it. It could be a really interesting concept for a story. What if someone had imagined their spouse? It could be an interesting idea to play with.

05.22.06

The Diamond Age: Sixteenth Post (Turing)

Posted in Adults, Fiction at 6:58 am by web

Hackworth’s plot is still confusing the hell out of me. I’m sure that it will eventually make some sense, but it is nowhere near doing so at the moment. Nell’s plot line is a little better. I’m interested in finding out what will happen to her now that she is out on her own.

I’m slightly disconcerted by Stephenson’s seeming fascination with Alan Turing and Turing machines. They have played fairly important roles in both of the books by Stephenson that I have now read. I don’t remember many specifics about the subject from Cryptonomicon, but I do remember getting the impression that Stephenson worshiped Turing in a way, as well as seeing major limitations in his machines and way of thinking (which Stephenson seems to view as largely the same thing). This book is giving me essentially the same impression. Stephenson seems to have a reverence for Turing that can only be had for someone who is only known through their work and never personally. It’s as though Turing is to him what Queen Elizabeth I or Alexander the Great are to other people. At the same time, he always sees Turing’s work as being implicitly limited. In his view, Turing machines can do an extraordinary number of things and exist in a wide variety of forms, but are always essentially the same. It’s as though he believes that Turing only ever had one real, original idea, but was able to adapt it to a great many specific purposes largely unchanged. It’s very strange. I don’t know all that much about Turing, and I can’t say that I really have the desire to look for more information about him, but this element of Stephenson’s work is vaguely interesting and even slightly perplexing. I don’t know that I’ve ever felt about anyone the way Stephenson seems to feel about Turing. Perhaps it will make more sense later, but I doubt it.

You Just Don’t Understand: Second Post (Children)

Posted in Linguistics, Psychology at 6:55 am by web

The discussion of children’s different styles of play was really intriguing. I do definitely understand and see the differences in their interactions, but the discussion mostly made me want to figure out how to change things. Is there any way to teach children to either play both ways or play in some kind of combination?

The Diamond Age: Fifteenth Post (Hackworth)

Posted in Adults, Fiction at 6:53 am by web

I totally don’t understand what’s going on in Hackworth’s part of the plot right now. What was up with all the crazy drummer stuff? Why did he lose ten years? What was the point of that? He should have two fortune cookies left, which hopefully he will open, and maybe they will help explain what the hell is going on!

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