September 19, 2010

The More I Know, The Stupider I Feel

First of all, let's get this out of the way.  "Stupider" is a word because I just looked it up in the dictionary, so for all of you spelling fanatics out there, just back off my shit.

Okay, now I'll start ... As I begin to near the point in life where I can only jokingly consider myself middle-aged, I'll admit there are times when I think I'm a pretty darned smart guy.  After all, I graduated public school and went to college; and while there managed to pass a few English classes, a handful of history courses and even one law class.  The fact that I did miserably in my chosen major of business doesn't matter anymore because my business career ended about 10 years ago and anything I do now is just for the money and not for the stupid notion of "job satisfaction" as some crazy people would have you believe.

I also think I'm smart because I'm still alive, even after that incident at the dog food plant where I mistakenly put my foot in the trash compactor they called "The Pulveriser" and it started to eat me and it was only dumb luck that I was able to pull my foot out of my boot and haul myself out of it's terrible maw. But even then I was smart because I was able to walk around the rest of the day with only one boot on and managed to fashion a shoe out of a cardboard box that nobody noticed except two people who asked me why I was wearing a cardboard box on my foot.

But, as often happens, just when I'm feeling really smart, something comes out of left field and makes me feel really stupid.  This happens a lot when I'm reading or watching television.  Several years ago, I started to see the phrase "Deux ex machina" pop up a lot in book and movie reviews.  My usual reaction when I see something like this is to take two seconds to reason it out, right or wrong, and move on.  In the case of this particular phrase, I just told myself that it was some sort of French/Italian pig latin that meant "two former machines".  And even though this made no real sense, it was more important that I finish the article than to fuck around finding out what it really meant.

Finally, I saw it so many times, that I looked it up.  "Deux ex machina:  A narrative ending in which an improbable event is used to resolve all problematic situations and bring the story to a generally happy ending."

Huh?  What the hell does that mean?  I couldn't wrap my mind around it, and it wasn't until I watched the movie "Dodgeball", that it made any sense.  In the movie, Vince Vaughn's character is going to lose his gym to Ben Stiller's evil character until a crate full of cash labeled Deux ex machina is wheeled out and Vince is able to pay off his mortgage, foiling Ben.

Having solved that nasty little mystery, I went on my merry way until several months later when I was watching the movie "Contact", which by the way would have been a pretty good picture if they had just left the first and last parts out.  Kind of like "Apocalypse Now" would have been pretty good if they had just cut out that last part with the Colonel Kurtz horseshit.

Anyway, in the movie, James Woods is asking Tatum O'Neal's lookalike (I can never remember her name) if she's ever heard of "Occam's Razor".  And again, just wanting to watch the rest of the film and not be bothered, I reasoned that Occam's Razor must be some kind of shaving device made out of a clam shell.  And I was happy ... until I saw the damned term again.

So I looked it up and sure enough, it was some fucking Latin phrase just like Deux ex machina.  Is it any surprise that Latin is a dead language?  I doubt the Latin's even understood it.  No wonder they switched to Spanish.  "Occam's Razor:  The simplest explanation of a theory is usually the one that makes the fewest assumptions".

Huh?  It's been months now, and I still haven't figured this one out.  This reminds me of my freshman year in high school when I mistakenly thought that math was not my enemy until the first day of Algebra class and I realized what the term "brain dead" truly meant.  I ended up transferring out of that and taking "General Math I and II", effectively keeping me from attending Princeton and having to settle for Southwest Missouri State College, where they still wouldn't let me in until I passed the math entrance exam which consisted of counting the number of pyramids on a line.  I aced that baby though.

Anyway, I still don't know what fucking Occam's Razor really means. There's an off-chance that if I watch "Dodgeball" again, there may be visual aid that helps me there also.

And Algebra ... maybe one for Algebra too.

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