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Stranded in a strange world

Do you ever — have you ever — felt like an alien in this world?

I have and I’m guessing you have, too. I first became consciously aware of my alienness when I was around 11, though it was unconsciously there the first times my kindergarten teacher tried to force me into “social” games that left me like a deer in the headlights. It was there in the way my parents treated my brother and me as if we’d been left on their doorstep by a particularly bizarre band of gypsies. (Brother and I were very different critters, but we were both unconventional loners and deep thinkers, unlike my uber-social, join-everything, voted-most-popular, shallow-as-a-mud-puddle older sister.)

By the time I was in high school, I’d invented an elaborate mythology to explain how I could look so human while being so apart from my supposed peers. I was sent here as an alien spy; the physical transfer succeeded but something went badly wrong when it came to transmitting my mind across space.

—–

In the adult world — where there are so many more options, where it’s forgivable not to be just like everybody else, and where now there’s a whole Internet! — I’ve seldom been bothered by that terrible sense of being something irreconcilably foreign to the “normal” world. Adults can find their own “normal.” Or live outside of “normal.”

Once in a while alien horror strikes out of the blue, though.

It hit last week when mouthy morons blighted a great moment in science by making scientist Matt Taylor’s un-PC shirt more important than the fact that our amazing species (led, as always, by a handful of those above and beyond the pack) had just set a lander down on a freakin’ comet! (“A moving comet” as all the journalists breathlessly noted, showing their vast understanding of celestial mechanics.)

The shirt squawkers are not only self-righteous morons and bullies (as Mollie Hemingway notes so well in the article linked above). They’re not only intolerant conformists in the best public high school “mean girls” tradition. They’re savages — and I say that in the true sense of people who have no grasp of human achievement.

Savages. People who, on their own, would never have gotten out of the caves or figured out how to clothe their naked skin. To them, tribal conformity is proper and safe. Achievement is the work of dangerous weirdos, people you don’t want to share your cave with (though you’ll be happy to share their achievements after you’ve driven the creators out in the cold to die or stoned them to death for their heresy).

Poor Matt Taylor was the immediate target of their loud ignorance. Taylor and his colleagues. And the woman friend who lovingly made him that shirt with the scantily clad and well-armed women on it. But I wondered, How can anybody with a brain belong in a world with such screeching creatures?

—–

Yes, I know that the ‘Net, for all its wonders, for all it allows us oddballs to be here talking with each other, for all its riches of information and culture, also provides a platform for the nastiest narcissists capable of setting thumbs to keyboards. The members of the self-righteous chorus trying to bring Matt Taylor down to their level are cousins to the ranters who cheer every time some child is killed with a gun, who wish all gun owners would “second amendment” themselves to death, and who think it’s a good idea to SWAT any peaceable open carrier.

I would love to think they were all just exceptions, just particularly vile, immature little brats who don’t represent any widespread viewpoint. I would like to think they’re the aliens, the outsiders, the unregarded.

But when I read the comments directed at a great scientist in his should-have-been-great moment, my reaction was visceral dread: how can intelligent people survive in a world where such creatures have commandeered such power? How can anyone with a brain and an individual soul fit in a world where #shirtstorm trumps great minds or the shrill shrieks of know-nothings ring louder than intelligent discourse?

I’m not even worthy to touch the hem of Taylor’s politically incorrect shirt. But I know that about myself. Those conformist ranters actually think they’re superior to him. One of them even accused him of ruining “her” great comet-landing moment — as if there would have been any such moment without people like Taylor to bring it to her.

There’s room in this world for both Kim Kardashian’s backside and the Rosetta team’s stellar accomplishments. One doesn’t interfere with the other. But I fear for a society in which the bigoted rants of an ignorant mob can drown out achievement. And it horrifies me to know that intelligent, informed, decent, achieving people struggle to be heard over the chitters, squawks, and blood-howls of such savages.

—–

It didn’t help that I then re-watched Idiocracy, a movie I fear is going to be as prophetic as it is funny.

49 Comments

  1. YAM
    YAM November 19, 2014 12:41 pm

    that’s why I don’t say “avoid the crowds” I say “avoid the herds”…. they’re all stupid as cattle and mean as bulls.

  2. Mary in Texas
    Mary in Texas November 19, 2014 2:06 pm

    I never quite fit in at school. I was brought up by busy adults who assumed that any intelligent child could take care of herself most of the time. As a result, I looked on things as an adult not as a child. I didn’t learn to be “social” until I was well into my adult years. Later on, I tried to have my own child be socially adept. However, she also seemed more adult than her contemporaries. Now her own children seem the same way. They mix well with others, but they also tend to think more like persons much older. I am beginning to believe that genetics might have something to do with behaviors as well as surroundings.

  3. TN James
    TN James November 19, 2014 2:59 pm

    When I was young I could swear I was from another planet also. In public school it was really when I felt it the most. But as an adult as I was as a child I just laugh at the fools ( as Plato said the race of fools far outnumber the race of man) and do my own thing. It’s the best way to live.

  4. jed
    jed November 19, 2014 4:59 pm

    I don’t feel completely alien, but I suppose there is a sense in which I’m something of a stranger in a strange land. I sometimes feel misplaced, historically. I like hand tools, manual-shift transmissions, analog gauges, film, and paper books. I suppose this is something of a middle-age rebellion against 20 years in the computer biz, and where that’s gone. Or maybe not. Hard to figure it, actually.

    And I heard that Kim Kardashian’s backside might be the target for the next EAS robotic probe mission.

  5. Kent McManigal
    Kent McManigal November 19, 2014 5:50 pm

    Oh, yeah.

    Alien. I wrote stories. I also used to lie on the ground outdoors at night looking at the stars and feeling they were where my true home was, somewhere out there- and that out there someone like me might be lying out under their stars looking back at me. I also wished a spaceship would just come get me to rescue me from this silly world.

    Years passed and nothing changed, but I adapted to it somewhat. I got used to it.

    Then, through a set of circumstances I got to experience what a time traveler must experience (no, not my times wearing buckskins in a tipi or a wikiup). I was a camouflaged, secret alien of a different sort- and I actually loved it.

    I still feel alien. The situation isn’t so enjoyable anymore, but I get by. And I still feel like an observer watching ridiculous upright creatures wandering obliviously past their surroundings. I feel compassion for their plight- which they aren’t even aware of.

    I also pity the screeching “feminists” who see everything and everyone as “patriarchy” aimed at them. It must be rough sabotaging your own life that thoroughly. But, pity or not, I won’t coddle them. I just roll my eyes and ignore the screeches.

    On another topic- kind of: I am highly amused by the people having conniptions over the silly woman who wants to marry Charles Manson, but who ignore women who are attracted to cops and those in the military. There’s a difference there? Yep. I am alien.

  6. s
    s November 19, 2014 7:22 pm

    I agree with the post; I have been outside the herd and alienated since early childhood.

    I also agree that the toxic feminazis were way out of line on the shirt.

    But I have to part ways on the claim that Matt Taylor is great scientist.

    Nonsense. Matt Taylor has been feeding at the public trough his entire life. His specialty is aurorae, not comets, not rockets, not orbital mechanics – which is what is needed to match courses with a hyperfast comet. He got his latest plum position as project scientist for the Rosetta mission in 2013 – last year.

    Rosetta was conceived in the 1990s. It was built in the early years of this century. It was launched in 2004. Matt Taylor had nothing to do with any of it.

    Matt Taylor was finishing his Ph.D. thesis while the men and women who conceived and designed Rosetta were busy building it.

    Taylor steps in now, and suddenly he is a “great scientist.” I don’t begrudge him heading a big program, but all I see is evidence that he might be an able manager, is certainly a skilled bureaucrat, and perhaps has a bit of skill as a spokesperson. I am impressed with the unnamed and unnoticed scores of people who built the thing, not with the popinjay who got to strut when it all came to fruition.

    Feminazis aside, it was wildly inappropriate for Taylor to wear that shirt to work on that day of all days. He can wear whatever he wants at home, or out on the town with friends. Employers get to set dress codes. If Taylor wants to preen and strut in front of cameras, he owes it to the people who pay his salary to do so in appropriate attire. The message is the mission, not the fashion tastes of Matt Taylor.

    Wearing that shirt invited a shitstorm. That doesn’t excuse the shitstorm, but it shows remarkably poor judgment from a man who is supposed to have sufficiently good judgment to direct the climax of a billion-dollar boondoggle mulcted from hapless taxpayers.

    I’m as different as Matt Taylor and Claire Wolfe. But when I get paid to give a speech, I take care to select attire appropriate for the audience and the venue. Taylor was way out of line, unprofessional and disrespectful, and his being a special snowflake doesn’t excuse that.

  7. LarryA
    LarryA November 19, 2014 10:11 pm

    Good point, S. It’s not like Taylor got a call about a surprise landing and had to throw something on.

    Alien? I grew up around hippies telling me that being an Eagle scout couldn’t be “doing my own thing” because I wasn’t tuning in, turning on, and dropping out.

    Then I came back from Vietnam and got the “scrape you off my shoe” treatment from some who should have known better. Then there was being a firearm instructor before concealed carry made us socially acceptable.

    Point being you’re always an alien to someone.

    What really tics me about the Taylor story is that it was the European Space Agency that accomplished the landing. It should have been NASA, blast their shriveled hearts.

  8. Bill St. Clair
    Bill St. Clair November 19, 2014 11:04 pm

    When I went to MIT at the tender age of 18, I was looking forward to meeting other people like me. No such luck. They were like other people everywhere, but a little bit smarter.

  9. RW
    RW November 20, 2014 3:57 am

    Sounds very familiar, I didn’t fit in/was a loner in grade school, now am 69. The only difference is that now it doesn’t bother me. I didn’t fit in and still don’t because I am not one of them. Maybe “misplaced alien” is correct.

  10. revjen45
    revjen45 November 20, 2014 4:20 am

    For more on this phenomenon ref. “Heretics and Privateers” by John Kay. When I heard it I realized what I am.

  11. Pat
    Pat November 20, 2014 5:34 am

    Definitely an alien here. I tend to think differently from everybody — and did even as a kid. Sometimes am not sure if I even should be trying to communicate with people.

  12. Claire
    Claire November 20, 2014 6:10 am

    “The message is the mission, not the fashion tastes of Matt Taylor.”

    But that’s exactly the point.

    I agree that Taylor made a dumb choice of attire for that day. But fer cryin’ out loud, he’s by all accounts an “absent-minded scientist” and a tattooed free spirit who doesn’t care about conventions. If anything about his attire should have become national news it should have been that he’s charmingly different in the world of spokesthings.

    Was Taylor’s behavior corporately perfect? No. Should that have trumped the amazing fact of landing on a comet? Good grief, no!

  13. Claire
    Claire November 20, 2014 6:18 am

    LarryA — Yeah, that, too. Every tribe can be hostile to those who don’t conform, and tribalists who view themselves as non-conformists can be as savage as any, if not moreso.

    In high school I read a little book I think was called “Suzuki Bean” (or at least that was the lead character’s name). It’s about a little girl, daughter of beatnik/hipster, proto-hippies (Suzuki) who makes friends with a boy at school. But when the boy, from a conventional family, brings Suzuki home, his parents look down their noses at her. So the kids go to Suzuki’s place, where she’s sure her very hip parents will treat him much better. But they also scorn him for not being artsy and cool like them.

    Haven’t read it for decades but that stuck with me.

  14. Claire
    Claire November 20, 2014 6:19 am

    I’m surprised (yet not surprised) at the number of “misplaced aliens” here.

    Hm. Maybe we really are …

  15. just waiting
    just waiting November 20, 2014 6:57 am

    Claire, how could you be surprised to find so many misplaced aliens here?

    I think it really does go back to grade school. There were always many, many more kids who were willing to blindly follow the commands of the overseers than there were those of us who rebelled. My own parents tried to teach me that “if someone in authority tells you to do something, you do it, no questions asked”. Well, since I couldn’t question, I just ignored. And so began the alienation.

    Too much of human interaction has devolved into “us v. them”, and just like in school, there are far more many of them than us. Them are willing to do whatever authority dictates, as long as it doesn’t impugn their comfort. Them are willing to have their rights stripped away, because “I’m not a xxx, I don’t do xxx, so that new law doesn’t effect me” Them’s “go along to get along” approach to life is what allows guv to keep stripping away our rights and freedoms. Ben Franklin said it best that those who are willing to trade security for freedom deserve neither.

    Most of us aliens, whether we’ve experienced it or not, are unwilling to trade away even an ounce of we consider our freedom for the supposed security offered by tptb. And as long as there’s that comfort and security out there for the masses, we have an uphill battle.

    ps. did you get my reply last week? Been having troubles sending things out.

  16. Pat
    Pat November 20, 2014 7:09 am

    Not surprising to find aliens here. Whether by deliberate act, circumstance, or from society’s POV, those here thinking for themselves ARE considered alien by other people and working to undermine society. A few years ago I wrote a piece to organize my own understanding of what was going on in the world. See below. (Red Dragon was the name of a website I wanted to put up; the explanation for the name is irrelevant now.)

    INDIVIDUALISM (Pagan, Red Dragon): The only minority not protected today in politically-correct America and throughout the world is the [libertarian] individualist——that person who knows that the individual has sovereign right over his own body, mind and property. It was Ayn Rand who said: “The smallest minority on earth is the individual. Those who deny indivi-dual rights cannot claim to be defenders of minori-ties.” Yet it is the individual who has been most downtrodden and scourged throughout history. It is the individual who has been ignored and castigated simultaneously in every society. It is the individual who was thrown out of the Garden of Eden.
    Why was he thrown out? Because he dared to think for himself… he dared to recognize that he had no Knowledge—―and wished to eat of that Tree.
    The person who searches, who questions, who asks “Why?”, and then proceeds to find his own answers, is the Rock on which progress is founded and society is made civilized. Yet it’s that Rock that Society fears.
    Every society desires to run smoothly; it cannot function without cooperation from its members. Those in power are determined to control the mass of people who make up that society——so rules are applied and enforced. And the mass of people are willing to let those in power run their lives in order to obtain the security they believe that obedi-ence gives them. Those few individuals who seek answers for themselves are suspect for questioning the given. They who will not be told how to live or what to believe are considered difficult, anti-social, dangerous and, today, even terrorists.
    When those in power are challenged and feel threatened, it becomes their goal to elim-inate that threat. The individual has always been the first and easiest threat to over-come.
    The individual is NOT the enemy. He is not dangerous or anti-social, he is not a crimi-nal or a terrorist. He is simply a human being who happens to know best how he should live, what he should believe, and why acting in his own best interest serves society better than the self-immolating concepts of altruism and blind obedience. He is, in fact, the only person who is able to pull Society, frequently kicking and screaming, into the future and into a better world.
    The _Red Dragon_ supports the individual’s natural right to live independent of social and political interference. We recognize his desire to interact in the most free and mutually-acceptable manner with his society, or to live apart when it becomes oppressive. We support that individual who must be—-first and foremost—-independent of others before he can acknowledge and respect the rights of others.

  17. rkshanny
    rkshanny November 20, 2014 8:30 am

    Good one. Count me as one of the implanted aliens watching the spectacle. I’ve often thought that if humans on this mudball are the extent of “intelligent life” in the universe, this is one helluva sad universe! I also read that Taylor made the incredibly PC and unfortunate mistake of apologizing to the cretins-at-large. I am so tired of people immediately knee-jerk apologizing for EVERYTHING! Jeez, if we were to apologize every time we
    “offended” (the new national pastime) someone, we wouldn’t even have time to eat or sleep!

  18. Matt, another
    Matt, another November 20, 2014 10:09 am

    Better he wore an unapproved shirt than no shirt at all.

  19. Felinenation
    Felinenation November 20, 2014 10:15 am

    Yes, I have always felt I was from another planet.

    Now, as to the Matt Taylor shirt, I can see both sides. What if his shirt had depicted very racist, stereotypical caricatures of black people? Or of Jewish people, you know, the type of “artwork” the Nazis used to depict Jews? Wouldn’t civil rights and Jewish groups be justified in objecting? If the answer to that question is yes, then why shouldn’t feminists also object to a shirt they find objectionable, especially when attracting more women to STEM careers is their goal?

    Yes, Taylor had the right to wear the shirt, but it was poor judgment and unprofessional. His critics have the free speech right to complain about it.

  20. david
    david November 20, 2014 10:18 am

    My comments:
    “…particularly vile, immature little brats….” As if, hell. They ARE. I’d like to shoot and stuff one and hang it on my wall.

    ‘Her’ comet moment? WTF did she have to do with it – or did that silly bitch think it was performance art for her entertainment?

    Idiocracy will prove someday, to be as funny as it is prophetic.

  21. Bob Robertson
    Bob Robertson November 20, 2014 10:20 am

    These are the brutes that will burn down the libraries to ward of their fear of the dark for a few minutes, when the Empire collapses.

    This is why there was a Dark Age where blind faith and terror ruled.

    These are “Progressives”.

  22. Bob Robertson
    Bob Robertson November 20, 2014 10:20 am

    Sorry, s/ward of/wardoff/

  23. david
    david November 20, 2014 10:22 am

    BTW, I share that ‘alien’ feeling too, always have, but decided it was because evolution of mankind continues and I’m the next stage and the ignorant, irresponsible, mindless slackers are the remains of the passing away stage – the me minus two level. I do think I’m better, and smarter – and those folks cannot prove I’m not. I don’t feel ‘normal’ unless I’m hanging out with other misfits of higher intelligence, and I don’t even think I’m all that smart… only in comparison.

  24. Laird
    Laird November 20, 2014 11:00 am

    I agree with s: Taylor exhibited remarkably poor judgment for someone whose job it is to be in the public eye. It was he who diverted attention from the spectacular achievement he was supposed to be trumpeting, not the screeching harpies who called him out for it. But having made the decision to wear that stupid shirt (and to display all those ugly tattoos) he doubled down on his mistake with that craven, tear-filled apology. It’s almost never a good idea to apologize, and certainly not for something like that. He should have taken the offensive, and challenged his critics for focusing on an irrelevancy while ignoring real story (and probably also implying that it was because they lacked the intelligence to actually understand it in the first place). The best defense often truly is a good offense.

    In any business there are those you want to display to the public (the salesman and “rainmaker” types) and those better left hidden in the back room. Taylor appears to be one of the latter.

  25. Karen
    Karen November 20, 2014 11:09 am

    Chalk up another one. Although I’m actually more invisible than alien, all the comments have rung all the bells with me.

  26. Claire
    Claire November 20, 2014 11:19 am

    Wow. We have enough aliens to start a clique and be snooty and exclusive. 😉

    Okay. Not a good idea.

    “I’m [not] all that smart… only in comparison.”

    David — I hear ya. I grew up thinking I was probably slightly above average, certainly nothing special, just perhaps a little quicker on the uptake than a lot of other kids. I was fascinated, pumped — and also slightly horrified — to learn, at 18 (via a battery of vocational tests), that I qualified for Mensa. I thought, “Jeez, if I’m one of the smart ones, the world is in BIG trouble.”

  27. Fred
    Fred November 20, 2014 11:39 am

    Claire,enjoyed the article about the shirt.Thank you for bringing it to us.

    Of course the guy is an oddball,to land on a comet takes a very unusual person for sure!

    So he wore a stupid shirt,BFD! Is it appropriate work clothing,how do I know what scientists wear,but I can understand how is mind is far more obsessed with his job than his clothing.Its probably a miracle the guy can even buy a shirt (I know a brilliant neurosurgeon who cant work a multi-line push button telephone!) but yet has scientific prowess we mortals can only dream of.He may well not be a great sociologist and/or doesnt have the time or ability to be one.But a genius,no doubt!

    For the whiners,screw em,bunch of losers in my book,must live in New York City.Like to see what they’ve ever accomplished,bet its like ZERO!

    Taylor,I salute you! Well done!!

  28. Fred
    Fred November 20, 2014 11:47 am

    Also why I dont tweet,twitter or hashtag this or that.Who gives a damn what these morons think,I could care less and am truly not interested in their pea brained thoughts.

  29. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty November 20, 2014 11:54 am

    This alien has only one question for Taylor – or anyone else who has the answer:

    When does registration start for the Mars colony? I’m getting old fast…

    I don’t care what shirts they wear… or if they don’t wear any. Probably a good idea on Mars, actually. 🙂

  30. Brad R
    Brad R November 20, 2014 2:44 pm

    Claire, if it makes you feel any better, the savages may be outnumbered on this issue. An online petition to support Dr. Taylor has accumulated nearly 10,000 signatures. A Faceb**k campaign to get “10,000 Likes for Dr. Matt Taylor” has got over 24,000 Likes. And an Indiegogo campaign to raise $3,000 for a gift for him, has now raised over $22,000.

    I really like your description of the savages, as those who are happy to enjoy the achievements but drive out or kill their creators. It reminded me of James P. Hogan’s humorous short story “Neander-tale”, well worth the read if you can find it.

  31. Claire
    Claire November 20, 2014 2:54 pm

    Felination, I’ve been thinking about what you said:

    “What if his shirt had depicted very racist, stereotypical caricatures of black people? Or of Jewish people, you know, the type of “artwork” the Nazis used to depict Jews? Wouldn’t civil rights and Jewish groups be justified in objecting? If the answer to that question is yes, then why shouldn’t feminists also object to a shirt they find objectionable, especially when attracting more women to STEM careers is their goal?”

    Are the pictures on that shirt really analogous in any way to ugly stereotypes of Jews or blacks? I agree that it was a dumb move on Taylor’s part to wear that shirt at that moment. However, the ugly images of Jews and blacks you mention were deliberately made to demean and justify doing harm to the groups in question. OTOH, the images of the women on the shirt, while they certainly objectified women (no doubt about that) were more in the line of fantasies, of making women look cooler and sexier than most of us really are.

    You can like that or hate that. But how are the images on Taylor’s shirt any different from …

    The Venus of Villendorf
    http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Venus_of_Willendorf_frontview_retouched_2.jpg
    (Not our idea of “sexy,” but surely a sex symbol back in her day)

    Mystique
    http://imageserver.moviepilot.com/jennifer-lawrence-as-mystique-in-2014-x-men-wallpaper-mystique-jennifer-lawrence-solo-movie-certain-to-follow-deadpool.webp?width=640&height=472

    Or from the other viewpoint …

    Chippendale dancers
    http://www.lasvegastourism.com/chippendales.htm

    People’s Sexiest Man Alive
    http://nymag.com/thecut/2014/11/sexiest-man-alive-is-chris-hemsworth-hunk.html

    Men and women idealize and sexualize each other. Have forever. Always will. It’s not the same thing as hating people of other races or religions. Should there be restrictions on sexy images in the workplace? Well, that we could argue about. (Personally, my response to a guy wearing a “girly” shirt or putting up a playmate calendar would be to put up pictures of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine or the guys from The Full Monty rather than complaining about the man with the girly images; but that’s just me.)

    Now if somebody went around leering at or pawing at his co-workers or trying to pressure them into sex or making sure they only got the crappiest jobs … yeah, THAT would demand action. But sexy pix? Maybe. But also maybe not.

    Women are hardly oppressed these days. Not in the western world, anyhow. We make up the majority of college graduates in the U.S. and dominate some professions once solidly owned by men. You could make a serious argument that if anybody’s oppressed these days, it’s little boys, who are dominated by schools run by hysterically PC women. I really wonder about the sincerity of feminists who scream over a scientist in a goofy shirt but never utter a peep about female genital mutilation or “honor” killings of daughters in the Muslim world.

    So nope … making sexy images of women equal to derogatory images of hated minorities doesn’t wash.

  32. Claire
    Claire November 20, 2014 2:59 pm

    Brad R — That’s great! BTW, so was your roundup of supportive posts for him:
    http://www.wendymcelroy.com/news.php?extend.6204

    Now I have to go find a copy of “Neander-tale.” Sigh. Hogan. Loved his work but missed that one.

    BTW, I particularly appreciated the “red mist” take on #shirtstorm by London mayor Boris Johnson:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/space/11234620/Dr-Matt-Taylors-shirt-made-me-cry-too-with-rage-at-his-abusers.html

    I don’t know whether Mr. Mayor wrote that himself, but he or his PR person got up a serious head of steam

  33. Sam in Oregon
    Sam in Oregon November 20, 2014 7:41 pm

    I too can relate to the other “aliens” populating this corner of the internet. I have a t-shirt that reads, “I sure hope there’s intelligent life in outer space – I’m so lonely down here!”

    There’s also a Monty Python song that seems quite appropriate to this discussion.

    It begins with the following:
    “Whenever life gets you down, Mrs. Brown,
    And things seem hard or tough,
    And people are stupid, obnoxious or daft,
    And you feel that you’ve had quite eno-o-o-o-o-ough, ”

    And ends with:
    “So remember, when you’re feeling very small and insecure,
    How amazingly unlikely is your birth;
    And pray that there’s intelligent life somewhere out in space,
    ‘Cause there’s bugger all down here on Earth!”
    (http://www.montypython.net/scripts/galaxy.php)

  34. LarryA
    LarryA November 21, 2014 1:54 am

    What if his shirt had depicted very racist, stereotypical caricatures of black people? Or of Jewish people, you know, the type of “artwork” the Nazis used to depict Jews? Wouldn’t civil rights and Jewish groups be justified in objecting?

    Yes.

    But in this case, from what I saw, the better analogy would have been Blacks and Jews shown as powerful comic-book heroes.

    YMMV. There are feminists who believe that teaching women to shoot (even ray-guns) is demeaning, patriarchal, and victim-blaming.

  35. Ellendra
    Ellendra November 21, 2014 8:47 am

    When your gut is telling you something different than what the world wants you to think, it’s hard. Sometimes the differences are more extreme than others.

    There are a lot of people looking for ways to explain their feelings of “other-ness”: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Otherkin

    Or, as a friend of mine used to say: “Blessed are the cracked, for it is they who let in the light!”

  36. Ellendra
    Ellendra November 21, 2014 8:58 am

    “I was fascinated, pumped — and also slightly horrified — to learn, at 18 (via a battery of vocational tests), that I qualified for Mensa.”

    I can totally see that, actually. From your writings, you seem to be able to see multiple facets at once. Most people have to break things down into either-or categories in order to analyze or make decisions. I sometimes call it the “Binary Mindset”, since it requires false dichotomies. Things are either A or B, nothing else. It takes intelligence to recognize that things might be X, Y, Z, Q, alpha, or 9.

  37. Pat
    Pat November 21, 2014 8:59 am

    Re: otherkin, I like it. If there are elvinkin and dragonkin, I think we should be anarckin! Or for those who prefer another word — liberkin.

  38. Claire
    Claire November 21, 2014 9:30 am

    Ellendra — Fascinating link about the Otherkin. Given the number of “aliens” here, what a wonder if would have been and how much suffering it may have alleviated if we’d known there were others who felt as we did. (Yeah, some Otherkin concepts seem ridiculous to “adult” eyes, but even now I’ll bet a lot of us feel the lure.)

    And Pat — Anarkin! I love it.

  39. Claire
    Claire November 21, 2014 9:52 am

    “I sometimes call it the “Binary Mindset”, since it requires false dichotomies. Things are either A or B, nothing else. It takes intelligence to recognize that things might be X, Y, Z, Q, alpha, or 9.”

    Good observation. I agree it takes intelligence to see the world (including the world’s moral dilemmas) as multi-faceted. OTOH, it also takes a certain kind of intelligence. I know a fair number of intelligent people who have the “binary mindset” (good term) you describe. Whether they have it because that’s their native way of thinking or whether it’s just emotionally safer to see things as being all black or all white, I don’t know.

    It certainly is comforting when you can label something as “all bad” and never have to consider it again or label something as “all good” and never need to question your belief even when your “all good” entity behaves abominably.

  40. LarryA
    LarryA November 21, 2014 8:16 pm

    “Binary Mindset”

    Good definition. My analogy is people who see in black and white, as opposed to shades of gray. Everything s either right or wrong.

    In class I say: Using deadly force is alwaysa BAD idea. Unfortunately it’s not alwaysthe WORST idea.

    Most students get it. Some people, however, simply cannot comprehend the idea that shooting someone in self-defense is the lessor of two evils, not a choice between a bad thing and a good thing.

    I have noticed that such people tend to focus much of their moral energy on avoiding sin (and trying to make everyone around them focus on avoiding sin) rather than focusing on doing good. It seems such a grim way to live.

    And found out I was Mensa eligible about the same way. We spent the last two years of my father’s military career in California. I basically lost sixth and seventh grades because even c 1958 I was that far ahead. Then we moved back to Texas and I had to catch up. When my PSAT came back I had a series of “What the heck are you doing in average classes” conversations. My junior and senior years were a lot less boring.

    Unfortunately I never did find the class where they taught you the equations for understanding girls. 😉

  41. Karen
    Karen November 22, 2014 5:53 am

    With so many mentions made, it would be fun/interesting to do a poll to see how many of the commentariat qualified for Mensa.

  42. Shel
    Shel November 22, 2014 10:03 am

    FWIW, Clair, Mensa seems to be a collection of people who can pass an I.Q. test but can’t figure out what to do with themselves. I mean that as a statement of fact, not as an indictment. You might have “fit in” just fine 🙂

  43. jed
    jed November 22, 2014 3:04 pm

    As a former member, I can say that characterizations of Mensa members as generally disfunctional aren’t correct. I met many fine people, many of whom have become longtime friends. Back in the 80’s, the local group I belonged to had a lot of fun. We went hiking, skiiing, camping, dining out, had game and movie nights at people’s homes, and quite enjoyed ourselves. Over the years, I’ve encountered a fair number of misperceptions about the group. What I can tell you is that the mix of people is just as diverse as within society overall.

    Nearly all the Mensans I know do know what to do with themselves, so I’m not sure where that comes from. Surely, there are some whose lives are at loose ends — I’m one of those, I guess, and I’ve met a couple social misfits in the group too. But I’ve never met another member who was arrogant or snooty about it.

  44. Shel
    Shel November 22, 2014 4:43 pm

    My comments on Mensa came as a result of a relatively brief active membership in the D.C. area in the 1970’s. Perhaps I just didn’t mesh with urbanites or didn’t give it enough time. I also exchanged some correspondence with a few “special interest groups” within Mensa. I simply lost interest after a while. Even after thinking about it now, I don’t have any sense of regret about not continuing.

  45. Brad R
    Brad R November 23, 2014 5:35 am

    Stop me if you’ve heard my own Mensa story before:

    Shortly after I left college and went to work for a large corporation, I was approached by a co-worker to join Mensa. He gave me a copy of the local chapter’s newsletter. I glanced at the first page, and then handed it back, pointing out that the word “intelligence” was misspelled.

    That was the end of his recruitment effort.

  46. naturegirl
    naturegirl November 24, 2014 1:06 pm

    This and all the comments are very interesting. Made me think about why I thought I was (and accepted being) an alien when I was young – I always attributed it to the way I was raised and my parent’s fault *LOL*…..I have to say that it was easier to be an alien when a child because it was easier to hide by simply being silent about it. As an adult it’s been a constant fight and much louder and unavoidable. Apparently adults “should know better” to be like everyone else *eye roll*….

    As for smart, I think there are many ways to be smart and not just one (or one based on tests)…..and that usually makes the dumb ones stand out much more because they miss falling into so many categories I consider “smart”, lol…

    Is it easier to be an alien now a days vs decades ago? No…if anything I believe it’s worse……

  47. Paul Bonneau
    Paul Bonneau November 25, 2014 9:35 am

    Umm, where’s the link to Kardashian’s backside? 🙂

    If you want a pick-me-up, just read the comments to the story you linked:
    http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/392755/new-gunner-girls-shirt-becomes-bestseller-non-scientist-declares-victory-over-actual

    Also, be happy the lady who made the shirt is now going to make a pile of money making more of them.

    The only sour note is that Matt allowed the dog whistles* to bully him into an apology. I am getting thoroughly tired of people apologizing for nothing, while those who have a lot to apologize for (mainly in government) never apologize for anything.

    *dog whistle: someone whose asshole is so tight that dogs bark when they fart.

  48. Paul Bonneau
    Paul Bonneau November 25, 2014 10:06 am

    As to Mensa, I too was invited once to join Phi Beta Kappa, which I simply ignored as foolishness. I like Feynmann’s take on honors:

    Our Physics department got whacked by the feminazis down in the University of Oregon because there were so few female students (therefore, we must be discouraging them from entering). The whole thing was nonsense. The last thing our collection of science nerds or our professors would have done was to discourage girls in joining our classes. We all happened to like girls, and were lonely for them.

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