Monday, December 30, 2013

On the Overuse of the Word "Genius" and the Damage it's Causing.


The word “genius” is about bandied about entirely too much nowadays. Lately, it seems as if anyone who does something somebody else likes is automatically provided with that label. The bar has been lowered so ridiculously close to the ground for true genius that almost anyone who can string a sentence together or shoot something in focus is held up with the likes of Leonardo Da Vinci and that guy who invented the pet rock.

What exactly is a genius anyway?  What does the word actually mean and, more importantly, how does it relate to the individuals being praised as such?

According to the American Heritage Dictionary, the only truly reputable source for definitions in my opinion, the meaning of the word “Genius” is as follows:

 

1.

a. Extraordinary intellectual and creative power: artistic works of genius.

b. A person of extraordinary intellect and talent.

c. A person who has an exceptionally high intelligence quotient, typically above 140.

2.

a. A strong natural talent, aptitude, or inclination: has a genius for choosing the right words.

b. One who has such a talent or inclination: a genius at diplomacy.

 

In 1711, when the notion of genius was becoming mainstream, Joseph Addision wrote, “There is no character more frequently given to a writer than that of being a genius', wrote Addison. ‘There is not a heroic scribbler in the nation that has not his admirers who think him a great genius; and as for your smatterers in tragedy, there is scarce a man among them who is not cried up by one or other for a prodigious genius.”

Even back then some people understood the word genius to be an overused descriptive employed by people who were easily impressed by the creative or intellectual processes of others.  Okay, fine.  There were also far fewer people alive then than there are now.  These days the word is used by more than just scholars and intellectual hedonists.  Online communication has shrunk the world and given everybody with fingers a voice.  It has also convinced a large amount of the population that they are experts on whatever subject they find interesting or entertaining.

This all-around expert status has also led to irresponsible usage of words such as “genius” and even “essential,” which is a commentary unto itself (and one that’s in the works).  Much like hopeful parents desperate to have their children labeled as “gifted” when they’re clearly average, millions of people in the Western world ascribe genius to works that, while often well-written, performed, directed, etc., are most certainly not works of genius.

For instance, a certain writer/director who is the darling of the fanboy/girl contingent can do no wrong in the eyes of these people.  However, when someone who might know what he or she is talking about takes an objective look at this person’s work, what emerges is something different from blind, unquestioning, cult-like adoration.  Instead, one begins to see a list of contrivances and gimmicks that have served him so well, admittedly to positive effect in several cases, that aren’t works of genius, they’re just very clever and entertaining. 

One of my Facebook friends referred to this person’s “quiet genius,” a comment that made me chuckle.  He is definitely soft-spoken, so they got the quiet part right, but a genius? Sadly, no. Heavy-handed pop culture references, self-conscious dialogue and supposedly unexpected deaths are not indicative of genius.  Calling him that puts this individual on the same level as Martin Scorsese or Francis Ford Coppola or even Kubrick when he wasn’t succumbing to his one sense of importance.  I can guarantee one thing in this piece above all others: The unnamed auteur will never create anything on their level and thinking otherwise is simply embracing cluelessness.

However, his fans will never come around to my way of thinking either.  Nor do I necessarily want them to.  People are entitled to their viewpoints, no matter how damaging they are to the Big Picture.  And make no mistake: There is damage being caused here. 

Hailing modest talents as geniuses has led to an overall reduction in quality in the arts, the ever-lamented Law of Diminishing Returns.  Derivation has become its own animal, with music “sampling” and “mashup” fiction on the front lines of the struggle to bankrupt imaginations and marginalize more original voices.  I see no end in sight to this and, while I try to write mostly stories from my own head and not someone else’s, I certainly don’t view myself as the heir apparent to the throne of righteous originality.

But genius, true genius, will always distinguish itself from the rest.  It’s just going to need to develop a much louder voice~

 

Friday, December 27, 2013

The Undying Anthology That Refused to Die and Kept Staying Alive!!!

 
 
This anthology seems to have achieved an ongoing life of its own, and I am proud to be one of the authors whose work is included in its pages. I keep finding reviews online despite the fact that it's over a year old now. Below are a some pull quotes from a few readers  who singled out "You With Me," my contribution:
 
"You With Me by Christopher Nadeau: you can feel the horror coming on this one, like little flickers of light at the corners of your vision.... You don't quite want to look the whole way! Nothing prepares you for the ending, but it is a good one! Nothing says I love you quite like this!"
 
"You With Me by Christopher Nadeau. 4* This one reminded me of an old Stephen King collection cover from the 80's. "
 
"‘You With Me’ (Christopher Nadeau) is a very short tale which covers the issue of obsession and one man’s inability to cope with rejection. To say more would be a shame, but his process of dealing with it is quite grisly to say the least."
 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Quote of the Month.

"A word to the wise is efficient. But only if you're speaking to the wise."

-David Gerrold

Saturday, December 14, 2013

On Context and Them What Don't Get it.

There's a little thing I like to call "contextual comprehension," because I often like to act as if I created terminology someone else has no doubt already used. It refers to understanding the meaning behind things that are written and said. A prime example of that is how people often have no understanding of the context behind the written word, taking it at face value and completely missing the point of what's on the page or screen.

Nowhere does this phenomenon rear its hideous countenance more often than when religion and politics are being discussed. As a person who was trained to read beyond the surface, I often find it infuriating when trying to describe my reaction to something.  I long ago gave up on trying to convince others.  Nowadays, the arguments tend to result from people misinterpreting my own words because they first misinterpreted the words of the original source.

So, in keeping with the spirit of twits not grasping concepts, I present to you an exchange that took place regarding the now infamous or misunderstood picture of the Obamas at Nelson Mandela's funeral.

In order to follow the conversation below, it's a good idea to take a look at the commentary written by Andrea Peyser, which comes off like a poorly rendered stab at erotic fan fiction.  Look at the picture as well, although you've probably seen it many times by now.

For the conversation, I have edited out the offending individual's name and the names and comments of others. I think you'll be amazed at how calm I remained, considering what she called me:

Christopher Nadeau Amanda Peyser clearly has major sexual hangups.

Woman: Amanda has sexual probs, it's been blown out of proportion, and "they" need to "just stop" finding fault with this poor guy???? What is wrong with you people? Oh wait, I remember - you are complete idiots. I say you are complete idiots because only a complete idiot would continue to dig this deep for a defense of anyone that conducts themselves in this manner. Just because you support him does not - not in any way - mean that he is never ever wrong. Nobody on this planet can be as right as you complete idiots claim President Obama is.

Christopher Nadeau Interesting. Nobody on here debated the inappropriateness of Obama's actions (selfies) yet we're idiots for pointing out the words of a sexually repressed hate monger.
Yeah you have credibility.


Woman: Yes, you are one of the idiots Christopher.
You point the finger at anyone and everyone but Mr. Obama.

Christopher Nadeau Do I? I didn't realize we'd met.

Woman: I don't hate him or anything... but let's face it... he was wrong for doing this. And, I didn't realize you personally now Amanda Peyser enough to know about any sexual hangups...

Christopher Nadeau As a writing professional, I am trained to read the work of others with a critical eye. If this woman had sung Obama's praises my assessment would have been identical. This woman writes like someone e with major sexual hangups. You can practically hear her moaning over her keyboard.

Woman: So what? It does not make Mr. Obama any less wrong for doing this. In fact, if you are able to hear this woman from her keyboard, doesn't it stand to reason that Mr. Obama was doubly wrong for doing this? Are you able to admit that he was totally and completely wrong for this one thing, Christopher? It won't make him any less Presidential if any of you (notice I left out the word "idiots") would simply admit the man's mistakes.
 
Christopher Nadeau I honestly don't care. My concern is the abuse of the written word being used to manipulate people into stupidity. ( I included that word). It's already been verified that the various claims surrounding what was going on have been exaggerated to great effect to suit a specific agenda.
 
Woman: I am simply saying that Mr. Obama was totally and completely in the wrong to take a selfie with anyone at this gathering. Nothing anyone else is, or was, or says, makes that any different; and, to imply that he can't even be human without coming under attack is - in my opinion - wrong, wrong, wrong. He is the President of the United States and he should conduct himself as such - especially in public - and even more especially - at this particular gathering. If anyone here is implying that Mr. Obama did not know what kind of a person this was - as you, Christopher, have kindly pointed out and corrected me on - then he is even more wrong than I originally thought.
 
Christopher Nadeau I'm not sure what you mean by ". If anyone here is implying that Mr. Obama did not know what kind of a person this was." Are you referring to Nelson Mandela, the woman sitting next to him or the writer who penned this penny dreadful of presidential erotica? Either way, I'm wondering if you're aware that in many African cultures, even found most notably in Louisiana in the States, funerals are a joyous celebration of life as opposed to a mourning of death. So, am I offended and wounded by my president having a goofy, human moment. Oh, sure. it's devastating. I think I'll go write about the White House pool boy and Mrs. Obama to show my outrage.
 
The discussion went on but the gist of it is she never got it.