Free Material or Solicitation Received = I got something free or I was asked to mention it on my blog.
No Free Material Received = I wish that I would have gotten a copy for free, but I paid for it out of my own pocket or checked it out from the library (radical idea that).
Anyway, most of what I discuss on this blog has not been solicited, but a few things have. I don’t clutter up my blog with ads, so I'm not seeking any monetary reward nor do I feel obligated to review or discuss anything I received for free.
And I would like to remind anyone thinking of sending me a review copy, The Soulless Machine Review is closed.
Aaron M. Wilson
- You can find this posted to my side bar.
By DAVID BROOKS AND GAIL COLLINS
Published: November 19, 2009
Are certain groups of people better suited to a changing world?
"Western parents tend to emphasize nouns and categories when teaching their kids, Korean parents tend to emphasize verbs and relationships. If you show Americans a picture of a chicken, a cow and grass, they will lump the chicken and the cow, because they are both animals. Asians are more likely to lump the cow and the grass because cows eat grass. They have a relationship" (David Brooks, Western Men are Doomed).
As a relatively new college composition and literature instructor, I have found that students truly struggle with verb, adjective, and adverb usage; not that they can’t identify which is which and how they are operating, but when asked to produce one on the spot, to me at least, they seem to struggle. Also, and this could very well be lack of confidence, the writing they turn in is very plain and almost devoid of the kinds of relationships that Brooks mentioned in the above quote.
Instead, they seems to excel at placing objects into categories; when we go over how to classify as a rhetorical method to strengthen their arguments, I don’t need to spend much time explaining how classifying works because it comes very natural to them. However, when we cover cause and effect, students need more time and more expiation and practice before they feel comfortable using it as a writing strategy.
I really don’t know where I’m going with this line of thinking, but I do find it interesting that David Brooks feels relational thinking is better suited to solving future problems and that western comparative thinking is not. His opinion piece got me thinking about how my students learn language and process it in writing; but there must be some middle ground to the issue, value in diversity and not in either or.
The question the doctors, the Watsons raised in my mind is thus: is the genius-mind dependent upon the common-mind for more than simply the relational dichotomy of Good & Evil or Truth & fallacy? Could it be that in English and American literature (and popular culture) that the common-mind provides the spark that drives the genius-mind? Alternatively, is it that the common-mind seeks out the genius-mind in order to improve or seek approval, while the genius-mind must constantly find ways to prove its genius to itself by "one-upping" the common-mind?
Dr. Wilson, Dr. House's best friend, questions Dr. House's motives for reconstructing his old team (when those old team members were obviously not interested) when there are thousands of medical practitioners who would jump at the opportunity to work alongside Dr. House and gain experience in the field of Diagnostic Medicine. Dr. Wilson's question and straightforward assessment made me pause, as did Dr. House's response. Dr. House wished to keep the doctors, the Watsons with whom he is familiar, better to work with the minds he knows than those he doesn’t.
What flummoxed me was how a genius-mind like Dr. House needed his team of Watsons. If genius-minds are just common-minds, in that in order to self-actualize, it must first travel Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, Dr. House was seeking to reconstruct his team so that he could manufacture the conditions that provide his genius the strongest spark. When his team was reassembled, at the end of the episode, Dr. House gloats to Dr. Wilson that he has done it: Dr. House's team is complete. This means to me that Dr. House has found his proverbial happy-place and achieved something that even Dr. Wilson can never hope to accomplish: self-actualization.
What Dr. House doesn't know is that he is confessing to Dr. Wilson that he is incapable of achieving his full potential, genius-mind, his self-actualization without the aid of his common-mind Watsons. Dr. House is dependent; the genius-mind is dependent upon the common-mind. This gives me great hope, but is also very sad: the genius-mind feeds on common-minds, and it seems that as our literary tradition ages and evolves the genius-mind requires an increasing number of common-minds to function.
Holmes needed but one Watson, while Dr. House needs four common-minds to keep the deductive spark alive.
What I’m not sure of is how to feel about the role of the common-mind, of the Watsons who support the genius-mind by providing false leads or incorrect diagnoses that challenge the genius-mind to propose alternatives to the collective common-mind’s wisdom. When I say “feel,” I mean that in a system or team, Dr. House and his doctors or Holmes and Watson, the genius-mind is to admired and aspired to as the common-mind is devalued and demeaned. However, if the genius-mind needs common-minds in order to function, then both the genius and common-minds have relational value. So, then why is it that both Dr. House and Holmes dismiss and belittle the common-mind that supports their genius?
I believe that the answer to that question lies within constrains of communication and language. The ability to communicate relies on language use. If a common-mind and the genius-mind do not share a foundation or shared technical language, the barrier to precise communication will foster resentment. For example, the genius-mind will seek to use the most precise descriptive word or phrase (Class:…), which is shorthand for an entire system of smaller ideas; while the common-mind will need to have the term unpacked which takes time. Alternately, the common-mind will, instead of using one word to represent an entire system will need to explain that system out (…a system of “haves” and “have-nots” that fosters desire, fear, and resentment between those that “have and those who “want”).
When language disrupts communication in the relationship of genius and common-minds, the common-mind will have feelings of inadequacy that will turn into resentment or awe of the genius-mind. Either way, the common-mind’s feelings of inadequacy will generate conflict. Meanwhile, the genius-mind becomes increasingly frustrated that not only does the genius-mind need the common-mind, but that it must constantly pander or dumb down its language use to ease tension and to accomplish its ultimate goal – the maintenance of the exact conditions in which its genius can flourish.
I’ve been thinking about my blog, what I post, and what I'm interested in posting going forward. In my mind, a blog shouldn’t be limited: a blog is in sense is a journal or record of an individuals thoughts, feelings, and search for meaning in an ever expanding digital universe. When I conceived The Soulless Machine Review, I set out to join the passionate few dedicated to highlighting new and emerging Science Fiction and Fantasy short stories, novellas, journals, and novels; but what I’ve found in that last two years is that reviewing is not my passion. Whereas writing and critical approaches to writing and literature consume my very being as if I were a bloody corpse in a shark tank.
It seems that I put up roadblocks at every turn because I inadequacy issues with language. Every six weeks, each new school term, I confess to my students that even I struggle with the English Language: I have difficulty spelling. I am a child of spell check, but when I was in elementary school, my teachers ridiculed my ability to spell. One teacher told me that I would never amount to anything unless I could spell. My elementary English class experiences still haunt me, but I took that prophetic statement about my worth as a challenge: Two Bachelors degrees in English (Creative Writing, & Rhetoric and Discourse) and a Master Degree in Fine Arts in Writing later, I still struggle with spelling, but I now teach English Composition, 20th Century Literature, and Environmental Science. The irony does not escape my students as I write on the whiteboard.
My feelings of inadequacy send me in every direction but the one I want most. Instead of pursuing my own writing (fiction and critical), I endeavored to promote other writer’s published works, believing that their appreciation would fill the void, and it did for a while. I enjoyed reading and reviewing, but the act of “reviewing” is too akin to “marketing” for me. Instead, going forward, when I post, I would like to think that I’m engaging in the critical application of theory in order to extract (to interpret) meaning from a text.
Whereas “reviewing” implies a judging, a suggestion to buy or not to buy a text, hermeneutics is the study of critical approaches and how they are used to extract meanings from texts and position those meanings within cultural biases. I wish to be clear here: I do not intend to suggest that there is more value in “criticism” than in “reviewing.” I’m merely suggesting that my reviewing days are over because my heart is not in that particular, yet important endeavor.
With my heart in mind, The Soulless Machine Review will slowly evolve into The Soulless Hermeneutics Machine. The focus will shift from reviewing short stories and novels to criticism intent on writing produces meaning, how meaning is constructed using language, and how literary texts dually produce and absorb meaning for a given culture.
The look of this blog with alter in the coming days, as will the title, but rest assured that all previous content will remain intact (with the same URLs) as I am only changing the title and not the core URL http://www.soullessmachine.com/. However, sidebar links will eventually change, eliminating many if not all review sites and advertisements for journals and websites that are not inline with my new focus. For this reason, I apologize to my many good reviewing friends. (You may, and should most likely remove me from your link lists.)
As I write this announcement, I realize that my musing here sounds self-important and self-indulgent, and I must admit that I am being very self-indulgent and possibly (most likely) a pompous self-important elitist; however, this is a blog, a journal chronicling my literary adventures (be they reviewing or hermeneutics), and…
I am the Soulless Machine.
Aaron M. Wilson
“Stop me!” Bill pulled the hood of this jacket up over his head and zipped up the front so that only his eyes were visible through glow-green skeletal sockets. He took a step back off the porch and landed two feet bellow the ledge.
“I can’t stop you. I just ask that you stop to think about how your actions will affect your sister.”
The wind blew the rain up onto the porch. The darkness kept eyes and whatever else lurked beyond the porch in shadow. The damp leaves and grass muffled sounds so that not even the anguished sobs of enlightenment could be heard beyond the steps.
Twenty-five dollars and two rolls of tape later, I’m a
June looks up at
Again, thank you following.