Blog Archives

Quote for the Week


The little world of childhood with its familiar surroundings is a model of the greater world. The more intensively the family has stamped its character upon the child, the more it will tend to feel and see its earlier miniature world again in the bigger world of adult life. Naturally this is not a conscious, intellectual process.

–Carl Jung, The Theory of Psychoanalysis (1913); courtesy of Wikiquote

Quote for the Week


The unconscious is the larger circle which includes within itself the smaller circle of the conscious; everything conscious has its preliminary step in the unconscious, whereas the unconscious may stop with this step and still claim full value as a psychic activity. Properly speaking, the unconscious is the real psychic; its inner nature is just as unknown to us as the reality of the external world, and it is just as imperfectly reported to us through the data of consciousness as is the external world through the indications of our sensory organs.

–Sigmund Freud, Dream Psychology : Psychoanalysis For Beginners (1920) as translated by M. D. Eder; courtesy of Wikiquote

Pop Culture Tricksters

L-r:  Pee Wee Herman, Joel Hodgson, Mike Nelson, Weird Al Yankovic

L-r: Pee Wee Herman, Joel Hodgson, Mike Nelson, Weird Al Yankovic

I posed the question, “Could Joel or Mike on MST3K have been a chick?” (to be flip) over here, and answered, “No.”  On the way to justifying that answer I looked at the archetypes of the Trickster and the Holy Fool.  Now let’s bring it back to pop culture and apply it.

I think the host/captive on MST3K is really just a specific example of an archetype that occurs very commonly in pop culture.  Two other exemplars are Pee Wee Herman and Weird Al Yankovic.  There are others that spring to mind–for example, Rob Schneider, Chris Farley, and Ringo Starr have embodied aspects of the Trickster/Fool persona in movies and music–but the four I’m considering here are the best examples.  They are all about the same age and were at their peaks at approximately the same time.  More importantly, they all have embodied the archetypes more fully and consistently, and as a bigger part of their public persona, than the other actors and singers mentioned or for that matter than almost anyone else in pop culture.  There are also interesting parallels in their careers that I want to look at.

As one important proviso, I want to point out that when I speak of these worthies, I am speaking of their public personas, not their private lives, unless otherwise specified.  Thus, I’m not particularly interested in Paul Reubens or Joel Hodgson, but I’m very much interested in Pee Wee Herman and Joel Robinson, their on-screen characters.  Mike Nelson and Weird Al used their real names, but I am equally interested in their personas, not in them as individuals.

Read the rest of this entry

Holy Fools

In my last post, which deals with the archetype of the Trickster in pop culture, having been prompted by a discussion of who should host MST3K, I mentioned, in addition to the Trickster, the Holy Fool.  I didn’t describe the Holy Fool beyond merely mentioning the term, so I’m using this post as a brief detour to discuss the Fool archetype.

The Holy Fool or Fool is in a sense the Trickster in a religious context.  What one might call the spiritual-but-not-religious form of the Holy Fool is the Fool.  We’ll distinguish the nuances soon.  In any case, the Holy Fool emerges from the very definition of religion.  Religion–from the Latin re-ligio, or “binding back” (to the Absolute)–ultimately seeks to connect us to the Absolute, however we may conceive of that (God, Brahman, the Universe, etc.).  In short, it seeks to take us beyond the realm of day-to-day existence; it seeks, in short, transcendence.  The question is, how does one describe transcendence in the language of the day-to-day world?  Mystics–those who claim to have had experience of that transcendent level of reality–are in an even more difficult position.  Having experienced the transcendent, how to you convey that experience to those who have not had it?  It’s like trying to describe color to the blind or music to the deaf.  It is like the man in the Plato’s cave who, having experienced the exterior world, is looked at as insane by his fellows still locked in darkness.   Not surprisingly, the mystic is indeed often looked at as insane by larger society.

Read the rest of this entry

Tricksters, Fools, and MST3K

Tricksters Fools Joel

Some decade and half ago or so, I was having a conversation with a friend about Mystery Science Theater 3000.  He was a big fan, and though I’d always avoided it in the past, he’d managed to get me into it, too (that’s a long story in itself, and for another time).  We were discussing one of the big topics of MST3K fandom, namely Joel vs. Mike, and who might make a good third host should Mike leave and the show continue.  This was in the Mary Jo Pehl days, when she had replaced Trace Beaulieu as the main nemesis, playing Pearl Forester, the ostensible mother of Beaulieu’s Clayton Forrester (I guess I should note here that parts of this post are going to be very much “inside baseball” and that non-fans may need to go Googling some of this stuff).  My friend suggested the possibility of a female lead, putting forth Pehl as an example of the type of comedienne who could do so.  I disagreed.  I need to emphasize that I am all for equality and am proud to call myself a feminist.  However, there are some differences, obvious (men don’t bear children) and subtle (women are better at verbal skills, on average, men at spacial perception).  I didn’t have anything so exalted in mind here, though, and though I was adamant that it had to be a male in the lead role for MST3K, I couldn’t quite say why.

I thought about it on and off, and came up with some tentative thoughts on the matter, but never pursued them.  I even saved the original template of this post, since I thought the subject would be interesting, but never could quite come up with a clear exposition.  Finally, a few years ago I encountered the fascinating and excellent book The Trickster and the Paranormal, which had been suggested to me by Chris Knowles at the Secret Sun blog.  The book revolutionized my views on several things.  One of the less important, but still interesting, such things was the question of who should host MST3K.  Specifically, I now could articulate clearly why I thought, against my feminist impulses, that the prisoner on the Satellite of Love would have to be a guy.  The short answer, the unpacking of which will encompass the rest of this post, is that a girl would not fit the necessary Jungian archetype for the role.

Read the rest of this entry

Quote for the Week


Il est dans la nature humaine de penser sagement et d’agir d’une façon absurde  (It is human nature to think wisely and to act in an absurd fashion)

Anatole France–Le livre de mon ami (1885): Le livre de Pierre, part I, ch. II: La dame en blanc; courtesy of Wikiquote

Music and the Psychedelic Mind

A short documentary looking at links between music and altered states of mind.

Religious Values Test

I used to take a lot of online personality tests.  I thought, just for kicks, I’d put some old results up here and in the following post.  This might give some insight into my personality, given how many religion-oriented posts I’ve put up here.

Vedanta Hinduism
You scored 84 openness and 44 independence!
You are from the philosophical Vedanta strain of Hinduism. Open to all other beliefs, you believe that serving yourself and serving your community and indistinguishable.
My test tracked 2 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:

free online dating free online dating
You scored higher than 55% on openness
free online dating free online dating
You scored higher than 33% on independence


Link: The Religious Values Test written by turkishworm on Ok Cupid, home of the 32-Type Dating Test

Nonconformists, Parameters, the Constitution, and Heretics

So far we’ve discussed heresy as a general concept, looked at the definition of it from a Catholic perspective, and looked at the history of the concept.  Here I want to consider some of the sociological aspects of heresy.

Back here I had the following to say (editing a bit):

In all societies and cultures…beyond a certain level of complexity, you have various attitudes toward belief….  These are as follows:  1.  Sheep; or, more politely, conformists.

The vast majority of people–I’d say 70%, at least–are basically conformist.  Conformists go along to get along.  They’re not extremely reflective and they tend accept whatever the prevailing religion, political ideology, or societal Zeitgeist happens to be.

This is most likely a survival trait, for obvious reasons.  In a hunter-gatherer tribe, there has to be a certain amount of social cohesion, which means everyone has to be on the same page about major things.  If this isn’t the case, it could spell doom for the group and the individuals.

Such a trait doesn’t imply ignorance or stupidity or lack of integrity, either.  Most of us have family members, co-workers, bosses, and such with whom we know not to bring up certain topics, or around whom to tread warily, or whatever, as a way of preserving family harmony, one’s own job, etc.  Most of us know that there is an expected pattern of behavior in church, at work, etc.  Almost all of us are conformist at least in some contexts.  Those who are unwilling or unable to “go along to get along” are the eccentrics, the bohemians, the misfits, and such, and are perceived as being either crazy or assholes.  Often they actually are. Read the rest of this entry

Cult of Personality II: Attack of the Conformists

This was written about six years ago or so, slightly edited here, and ties in with my last post (which was also written about that time).

This Saturday I went to a PD (teachers’ jargon for Professional Development).  The topic was learning more effective ways of finding a job in education.  Certainly, since I am working on my certification to teach secondary school [have long since got it!], and am about halfway through, this is something of interest!  The sooner the better!

In any case, there was one thing that was said that I found interesting, since it ties in to the last post, and because I hadn’t thought of it before.  The presenter was talking about the various hoops one goes through in the course of applying for a job:  resumes, interviews, &c.  Having worked at one thing or another for the last 17 years or so, most of that was hardly news to me.  He also mentioned, though, that some districts (not many in my state, yet, apparently) use a personality test.  I don’t remember the specific name, but it is produced by the Gallup organization, and supposedly measures things like empathy, enthusiasm, and so on.  Now, I have discussed what my opinion of such tests is, especially in regard to hiring.  The presenter said that he wasn’t in favor of them, either–just giving us a heads-up to expect them.
The reason he said he disagreed with such tests, though, is intuitively obvious, and yet one I hadn’t actually thought of.  Companies that use these, he suggested, run the danger of getting a whole bunch of employees who are the same personality type, and thus who all think the same way.   In other words, a bunch of super-conformists.  As he pointed out, a truly healthy, functional, and competitive organization needs people of different temperaments and outlooks.  The old saw, “It takes all kinds,” is just as true here as in society.  When you have everybody thinking the same way, there is no one to serve as a reality check, to say, “Hey, maybe what we’re doing isn’t working.”

As I said, this is really in-your-face obvious; but then again, everything  is, once it’s in your face!  I was really happy to  hear this, because it indicates that there is still some sanity out there.   The gentleman was a former hiring consultant to one of the school districts, and it’s nice to know that not all hiring people have bought into such stuff as this.  It was also good to have some of my intuitions about the negative impact of such tests in the hiring process borne out.