Saturday, November 25, 2006

tangled up in goo

If there's one thing nobody wants a pop quiz in, it's gymnastics. So when the professor started singling people out and making them do athletic moves on the spur of the moment, I tried to sink into the floor. When it was my turn, I instinctively went into defensive mode and showed everyone how to wield a quarterstaff and a broadsword, using the broom handle by the door. Still, the guy complained it wasn't technically "gymnastics." Again, defensive: "Bite me, this isn't a gymnastics class. It's physics."

To which the other students gasped. They were all wearing tights, and what I had taken for the science lecture hall was, in fact, a gymnasium. But what was the proper defense for being in the wrong reality?

The building shook, the ground trembled and split open. The desks and stupefied students tumbled down through the crack one column at a time. Then there was no solid earth beneath me, either. It was about eight feet down into a stream of boiling goo. It wasn't "hot" boiling, just agitated. We watched the professor fail to make any athletic moves and within a minute or so only his hand was sticking out. Another crack opened and drained the goo away. Firemen came to rescue us, even though none of us was one fire.

Just one of those days in imaginary college.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

two comedy shorts on YouTube

Here's a change of pace ...

I just posted two of our older short films on YouTube.

Check out
the Siberians
Psyched out

These two are quirky comedies. Enjoy!

Monday, November 13, 2006

talk is cheap

Communicating is a lost art. Just sit there and hear the words pouring out of people's mouths sometimes. It's a source of endless wonder. Now, try to identify the statements one by one, actually count the claims being made. Amazing, huh?

Here's one I heard recently: "The Knights Templar came to Canada in the 1640's and brought the Holy Grail with them -- it's buried in an old-style rock tomb in Seabury. I saw it on the Discovery Channel."

Seems simple enough, right? Believe it?

In fact, this statement claims ALL of the following:

1. A group named the Knights Templar once existed (okay)
2. The Knights Templar were still around in the 1640's
3. They came to Canada in the 1640's
4. The Holy Grail exists in some form.
5. They once had the Holy Grail
6. They still had the Holy Grail in the 1640's
7. They brought it with them
8. A town named Seabury exists somewhere in Canada (probably on the east coast)
9. There are "old-style rock tombs" (whatever those are) near Seabury.
10. The Grail is buried in such a tomb.
11. The TV show actually exists (instead of being used as a fake attribution)
12. The TV show was stating facts and not just perpetuating a fiction.

The problem with this example is that each statement is hard to prove. Instead of setting out a string of facts, it's just a lot of guesses. If any one guess should fail, the whole argument must be dismissed as false. You can look up Seabury easily, and search the web for tombs of interest in the area -- but you need to ignore any pages which tell the same story, because repeating a story does not make it true. Look for supporting stories, additional facts and clues, and then keep looking.

One trick with language is that it's easy to make big sentences. Lots of words must have lots of meaning, right? When we speak to one another, it's easy to get distracted or lose our train of thought, or have ideas come out in the wrong order. But the overall quality of information we hear is actually fairly low.

Sadly, even when we read written "facts", we often get caught up in the flow and fail to apply the proper analysis, though the statements are right in front of our faces. Practice breaking down some of the things you hear into logical components. If our goal in communicating was to share facts, this would be a skill everyone had. But in fact, most conversation fills a social need, and the "truth" of the words is not the focus at all.