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 Pseudointellectual Dividend

I’ve seen the term “pseudointellectual” 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 “pseudointellectual” 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 pseudointellectuals and start listening to moi.”

However, being labeled a pseudointellectual 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.

Pseudointellectualism on the other hand, is party central. The pseudointellectual 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 pseudointellectual 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 pseudointellectual 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 pseudointellectual meditates in the bathtub while reading Choose Your Own Adventures and immerses himself in erotically charged time travel fantasies.  The pseudointellectual dividend is the one that pays out like a Quack Shot slot machine at the Excalibur Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. The pseudointellectual 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!

The Gleaming Crest

Purchase “The Gleaming Crest” on Amazon

“The Gleaming Crest,” a recently unearthed book of poems I wrote in 1995, is now available on Amazon. At only about 35 pages, its fairly short. Basically it’s a chapbook. The book was written mostly in the summer after my junior year in high school, partially through my senior year in the fall/winter. However, these weren’t for any kind of class. I actually wrote poetry on my own and would constantly send it out to magazines for publication, with some success. Several of the poems in this book appeared in magazines and literary journals (PLAZM Magazine, The San Fernando Poetry Journal, and Tight Magazine Literary Quarterly.) Comically, I used to shamelessly send poems such as The Gleaming Crest to (then) prestigious magazines like The Atlantic Monthly and Cosmopolitan. I should also mention that this book features some early artwork (the cover and a couple of interior illustrations) by Los Angeles based artist, Mark Schoenecker. More than two decades ago in my final year of high school, he was my partner in crime. We also reunited a few years later to have many precarious adventures in Los Angeles.

Many of my early poems were hamstrung by my attempts to basically LARP as a “sensitive poet” (though as was the case with Birthday Boy, this was done with some self awareness and a subtle irony.) I would use grandiose language and titles that sounded like how I imagined poets to sound. Poems like The Lonely Beach and Otters in the Sea are some of the most egregious examples of this, though I guarantee you I was quietly smirking to myself at the time I wrote them. When I was 17 I wore a teal turtleneck and thought of myself as a 90’s poet / theater kid. My senior year of high school I had prominent roles in four plays (A Few Good Men, The Second Shepherd’s Play, Choices, and The Dining Room.) In fact, the kid who played the main lead in our stage production of A Few Good Men actually went on to become a fairly well known television actor: Joel Johnstone (though he appears to have at some point creatively revised his date of birth to appear several years younger.)

Anyway, so I was an angsty, nauseatingly romantic teenage creep with a flair for theatrics and lot of megalomaniacal dreams. Not much has changed I guess, aside for the fact that I’m much older and demonstrably less romantic. “The Gleaming Crest” interests me now because of what it represents. When I wrote it, I was a young adventurer just beginning his RPG quest, about to head up the mountain toward some shiny, sparkling dream. So even though it’s a just an amateurish teenage poem, it represents something I can still relate to. I’m further along the “journey” now, which seems as pointless as ever. Yet, I am still drawn to that gleaming crest and still plodding along just the same.

I don’t really hold very many of these poems in any kind of high regard. This book is really of interest to “completists” who have been familiar with much of my writing and would like to get a glimpse of some of my early, formative work. One can even detect in this book where I started to escape the cliche trappings and develop my own voice. The poems are not in chronological order, but readers of my other books should be able to tell that poems like A Fearless Stare and The Lonely Beach don’t resemble my style at all, while Computer Animated Glass Sphere and Cereal Boy seem like something I could have written just last week, (both in form and subject matter.) Yes, the same old familiar themes of nostalgic futurism could be found in my writing even in 1995. In addition to “completists,” this book may also appeal to anyone with a passing interest in 90’s underground lit and zine culture. This was made in the days of golden age of Kinko’s copy machines, and I recently had to retype the entire book because it was so old that it was in a manilla file folder and had never even existed as a digital document. The Gleaming Crest also features painfully dated references to things like “Caller ID” and even an Aptiva commercial.

The poem in the book I’m most proud of is Cereal Boy (which appeared in PLAZM Magazine in 1996.) The concept of running into an old friend who blows you off or has otherwise changed and acts differently toward you is something which still resonates with me today. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve experienced this in my life, and I don’t think I could ever convey it more sincerely or more creatively than I did in that one brief poem.

There’s not much else to say except that The Gleaming Crest is an obscure 90’s literary “gem.” It deals with cliche themes of adolescent angst, grandiose dreams, romance and coming of age…all of which are briefly addressed with a combination of immaturity, nostalgia (yes I was already nostalgic for 1993 as early in 1995) and precocious grandstanding.

“The Gleaming Crest” is available in paperback from Amazon

Also available in PDF format here

Shazam! Man

The other day I was having a flashback to the time I met this annoying wanna be gangster dude who would say “Shazam!” after just about every sentence. It was really awkward just how often he’d say it, like 20 times within the span of a 3 minute convo. He said it in a very obnoxious way too, emphasizing the two syllables with a slight pause… “shuh-zam!” He maintained an unintentionally stupid look on his face (even sporting an unironic, “teenage mustache”) the entire time. Very little of what came out of his mouth was worthy of a “Shazam” in my opinion. I’d like to think that young shazam man has since done the right thing for society and undergone a vasectomy, but I sincerely doubt it. He’s prolly a father of four now.

The moral of the story:

You’ve gotta save your shazams for when they really count. It’s like using a Call Bead in Secret of Evermore. Don’t waste that shit on a wimpy flower or a bone buzzard. Save it for a boss battle.

Apparently there’s a dumb movie coming out in 2019 called “Shazam!” which is going to be yet another lame comic book flick. I’m not going to see it, because it doesn’t interest me at all. If I find myself in a situation where I’m forced to overhear people talking about the movie, or if I see an ad for it while watching old Clarissa Explains It All and Sweet Valley High intro vids on youtube….it pains me to know that I’m going to be reminded of that shazam spewing subhuman every time. Shuh-zam!