Temple For a Sky King

Why? Because sometimes, you have an idea, and you just have to follow through with it. No matter how outlandish or pointless it may be, sometimes you’re compelled to see a journey through to the very end. You see an opportunity, and you’ve gotta seize the day.

They Live in Scottsdale

While taking a leisurely stroll through a crowded Fashion Square Mall, I spotted some corporate lizard people propaganda that was straight out of They Live. Of course, it should go without saying that the sort of place which puts out this kind of message is almost certainly a terrible place to work. If one were to open that door, what they would likely find on the other side would appear to be a utopia, the perfect workplace environment, and yet beneath the surface all would not be as sparkly as it seems. [By the way, the photograph above is not some conceptual art installation at a pop up gallery or “street art” as social commentary. It is a 100% real and unironic message from a corporation.]

Walk through that door, and you may be greeted by a sight of beauty which thinly conceals unspeakable horrors: “Unlimited time off!” (but when the time arrives and you actually put in a request for a day off it is always denied, or your sales quota is so high or client workload so heavy that to even consider taking a day off would place your job security in serious jeopardy.) “Fully stocked kitchen!” They give you snacks to fatten you up like Hansel and Gretel, while offering other meaningless perks as a substitute for paying you higher wages. “Full medical, vision, and dental coverage!” (except that the plan has a high deductible, and you may have to fork over thousand of dollars of your own money for medical expenses before anything at all is paid. Or, perhaps it is a great plan, but most employees simply get fired within the first three months anyway, so you’ll be left with no insurance before you know what hit you.)

It could be that I’m overly cynical, and that beyond that door lies an office paradise. Perhaps the visionary young millennial CEO has managed to catch lightning in a bottle, creating an ethical workplace which embodies the lofty humanitarian ideals which could revolutionize the way we view the concept of work itself and maybe even change the world in the process! It might be an amazing place to work for a couple of salad years before the investor funding starts to run out, and the company has to cut salaries and have a few rounds of layoffs after discovering that hype, prestige and a noble mission statement didn’t translate into profits (except for the CEO and top executives who will have pocketed enough cash to remain wealthy regardless of the outcome.) Then you can be escorted out the door by security, and you’ll be free to move on to the next exciting opportunity.

Brandon Adamson is a writer who lives in Phoenix, Arizona and is the author of several books of poetry.

Academese If You Don’t Please

Here is a conclusion to a real academic paper:

In this paper, we investigated the hypothesis that cognitive sophistication facilitates identity-protective processing in political belief formation. Our findings suggested that cognitively sophisticated individuals deferred more to their prior beliefs—rather than to their political identities per se—when reasoning about information in the political domain. Furthermore, benchmarked against a Bayesian agent, we found evidence that these individuals were overall less—not more—biased in their belief updating after receipt of such information. These results highlight a somewhat more optimistic perspective on the role of cognitive sophistication in political belief formation than prior work: That cognitive sophistication may be deployed to assess and integrate new evidence in light of what the person currently believes to be true, rather than to disregard and resist identity-threatening evidence per se. From a practical perspective, however, deference to prior beliefs may be similarly problematic for the prospect of achieving convergence on true beliefs in politics. One factor determining this assessment is the quality of the information environment (e.g., on social media, claims made by politicians). Where prior beliefs about political issues are constructed on the basis of misinformation and bad evidence, deference to prior beliefs will cement false beliefs. The upshot highlights the paramount importance of safeguarding the integrity of the information environment to which people are exposed over the long-term.

Here is my version:

In this paper, we investigated the hypothesis that intelligence causes identity-protective processing in political belief formation. Our findings suggested that intelligent people deferred more to their prior beliefs than to political identities per se when reasoning about information in politics. We found evidence that these people were less biased in their belief-updating after receiving such information. These results offer a more optimistic view of intelligence’s role in political belief formation than prior work: that intelligence may be used to assess and integrate new evidence in light of one’s current beliefs rather than to resist identity-threatening evidence. Practically, however, deference to prior beliefs may also be problematic for convergence on true beliefs in politics because of the quality of the information one receives (e.g. social media, claims made by politicians). Where prior beliefs follow from bad evidence, deference to them cements false beliefs. This shows the importance of safeguarding the integrity of the information to which people are exposed.

I gave up early and skipped to the conclusion; the conclusion is a perfect example of why. Perhaps a methodological detail such as “benchmarked against a Bayesian agent” is necessary for a summary paragraph. I doubt it. Perhaps the phrase “cognitive sophistication” captures some nuance that intelligence does not. I doubt it. Perhaps the writers are non-native speakers. That certainly does not follow inevitably, though, if you have much experience reading academic prose.

I almost envy the ability to write a paragraph from which 27% of the words can be cut with no loss of meaning.

The Pseudo-Intellectual Dividend

I’ve seen the term “pseudo-intellectual” wielded quite a bit in my lifetime and more than a few times tossed in my direction. Never once have I been offended by it, though. I’m happy to own the label. Why? Because “pseudo-intellectual” isn’t an insult. Sure, it’s a way of indicating that your ideas shouldn’t be taken super seriously and that you lack credibility:

“People really need to stop listening to these pseudo-intellectuals and start listening to moi.”

However, being labeled a pseudo-intellectual in turn though gives you cover to dick around more and say all kinds of far out shit, without being confined to the boundaries which box in “proper” intellectualism. Unlike the “genuine” artifact, the pseudo-intellectual is free to go buck wild, putting forth the some of the zaniest and most half-baked ideas into the ether.

Transracial pop star Ariana Grande communicates in nothing but “goo goo gaga” baby talk and and yet, with her 60 million followers, she has more cultural, political and intellectual influence than the seriousest of serious intellectuals. What then is the practical advantage of being a proper intellectual vs the pseudo variety? To be viewed as credible and well respected by a handful of mostly irrelevant “scholars?” Just so you can be validated by Professor Bruckner and Dr. Nera Vivaldi as they pat you on the head and proclaim to the crowd “this man haveth the goodeth ideatheth!” (stated in some kind of ambiguous, aristocratic academic accent…not with a lisp.)

Booooring.

Pseudo-intellectualism on the other hand, is party central. The pseudo-intellectual lives by the seat of his pants and talks out of his ass. Pontificating about all kinds of random subjects he may or may not be an expert in, the pseudo-intellectual throws shit at the wall and hopes something occasionally sticks. He cranks out e-books, concocts wild schemes, smarms and charms his way through life and just generally rocks the party that rocks the body. While the genuine intellectual boasts of engaging in “serious” and important scholarly work for the ages and prides himself on being well-read and versed in classical philosophy, the pseudo-intellectual cracks open a cold one and writes a two thousand word essay on the television series, Melrose Place, examining the intricacies of the character dynamics, the significance of specific wardrobe selections, and the underlying social subtext of key episodic plot points…as well as extracting nuggets of philosophical wisdom from choice cuts of juicy dialogue. The pseudo-intellectual writes Beverly Hills 90210 fanfiction, attempting to create alternate timelines while remaining true to the characters’ well-documented nature and established motivations.

“Temptation is a tough thing. It’s like dandruff. You can’t always see it, but it’s always there.” – Sydney Andrews

The proper intellectual delves into the ancient wisdom of old books. He absorbs the philosophical mumbo jumbo and pretentious gobbledygook (often uncritically) and attempts to apply it to the “modern” world without taking into consideration technological developments or the compounding variables of contemporary life. The pseudo-intellectual meditates in the bathtub while reading Choose Your Own Adventures and immerses himself in erotically charged time travel fantasies.  The pseudo-intellectual dividend is the one that pays out like a Quack Shot slot machine at the Excalibur Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. The pseudo-intellectual cherishes that dividend as if  it’s a $4 quarterly check from The Clorox Company in 1993. When it comes to intellectual pursuits, the choice is clear…pseudo is the only way to go,  so just give it a whirl, and strike that pose.

Brandon Adamson is a writer who lives in Phoenix, Arizona and is the author of several books of poetry.

Starbucks Girl

Starbucks girl: “So is it Brendan or Brandon?”

Me: “Brandon…like in 90210”

Starbucks girl: “What do you mean?”

…Getting  old  sucks!