The Smart and The Terrified

Yeah', I'm smart. I have a certain kind of almost awareness of almost everything.

Yeah, I’m smart. I have a certain kind of almost awareness of almost everything. Sadly, what Brizoni looks like these days. Penalties of the high carb diet. Maybe he’ll avoid the devastating inevitable brain damage that afflicts most vapid pseudo-intellectuals.

Both Peregrine John and I have had some contact with home-schooled kids. Our experiences differ. Hence this exchange, which began on other terms.

Peregrine John on September 4, 2014 at 4:08 pm.

The death of Christianity has been greatly exaggerated.

As has your ability to give up. The desire to, well, that is likely understated, contrary as that may sound to anyone of differing descent. (Clan MacThomas, yes.) Items 3 and 4 are the real kickers, and I see no way around them short of something more easily spread than ebola – smallpox, perhaps – causing an awakening, an actual Come To Jesus moment in America. The less hard-core idiots are realizing that Dear Leader isn’t quite all that and a well modulated bag of chips, but will happily make another idiotic decision if their masters tell them it’s different this time. Say, if it’s a genuinely Marxist woman instead of a conveniently Marxist half-black man.

There is an enjoyment in shouting into the darkness, and even more in “I told you so” when there’s evidence aplenty of having done so. I’m also German, and that lot coined “schadenfreude.” You might prefer the survival through suffering, I don’t know. For me it’s fairly balanced with enjoying my enemies – and they are declared enemies, no choice of mine – hanging themselves in droves.

In the mean time, I try to guide and prod a cadre of young people, of no particular earthly wealth but loaded with talent and intellect and beautiful spirits (homeschoolers, all), toward seeing things as they are without becoming nihilists. They are what keep my nature Jovian and not something grimmer. Though the Missus is surely a boon, I do recommend finding youngsters (a relative term, certainly) to inspire and who will, I assure you, inspire in return.


Instapunk on September 5, 2014 at 1:04 am.
Not too much experience with the home schooled. The only ones I know spell like pidgin-speaking Maoris.

Youngsters have been notably not inspiring me. If they knew even half what they loudly assume they do, I’d be impressed. Am not.


Peregrine John on September 8, 2014 at 4:10 pm:

Alas. You might need a different set of younguns. It is possible that I am simply very fortunate.


Instapunk on September 9, 2014 at 1:08 am:

Maybe I’m asking harder questions than you are. In my experience old folks are foolishly eager to assume kids know what they don’t. Ask the basics. Don’t let them squirm away. They change the subject adeptly. What con artists do.


Peregrine John on September 9, 2014 at 3:30 pm.

For some topics I do need to address the basics, it’s true. Social issues, for which they’ve been fed palaver and good intentions by those who should know better, need foundational questioning. The good news there is that they have less brainwashing to untangle than the lads asking me why their marriage is faltering after 5 years after doing all the right things. Those can be slippery if you don’t handle them carefully. Too tender.

Now, you may well be asking harder questions. I get asked pretty challenging items myself, from this group that reads Chesterton, Lewis, and Hofstadter. I am absurdly hopeful that they know or come to realize things others clearly never dreamed mattered. No secret there. It’s gratifying – and no bad thing for my own thought processes – to see them reasoned out in real time.


Instapunk on September 9, 2014 at 3:53 pm.

PJ: WordPress is a bitch. Sorry.

About hard questions. My wife’s 40 year old daughter, who has an advanced science degree and a six year old daughter, had NO IDEA how many senators there are in the federal government. For asking the question and insisting on an answer I was treated as if I had farted in an elevator.


Peregrine John (maybe) on September 9, 2014 at 9:31 pm.

Good lord ‘n’ butter. I know advanced degree holders hate being called out on ignorance of basic facts, but geez. First-round items from Are You Smarter Than A Fifth-Grader don’t really qualify for categorization as “hard questions.” She should be embarrassed, not incensed.

No, the last discussion around the fire pit involved whether deep characters simply have layers of junk built up on them or have some other kind of complexity, whether the answer to that applies in real life or mostly in fiction, how as a concept it relates to what is called “depth” in game theory and design, and the common confusion between complexity and complication. It went from there to how it all relates to why ENFP personality types are so drawn to INTJ’s and the role of cognitive function order in relationships. I can’t take credit for the topic, though, since it started with one of the authors asking me about creating layered fictional characters. Some times I find myself a tad out of my depth.


Instapunk on September 9, 2014 at 11:16 pm.

I think you’re being silly. Throwing acronyms at ME is also a dodge. You want to talk about fiction with a real writer? Do so. What’s your question, PJ? (And are you quite sure you’re not Brizoni playing raccoon?)


Peregrine John (really??) on September 11, 2014 at 4:56 pm.

They’re shorthand, not a dodge – and apparently a useful way to identify how to communicate with people. Be that as it may, the question I was posed, which I pass along to you since I really don’t have a reliable answer, is this:

If a character is said to be deep, does that usually mean it is filtered through layers of crap that has accumulated on their natural personality? Does it instead mean that they prefer to be less forthcoming about their yet-unspoken thoughts, whether from the aforementioned psychic sediment or an inability to convey them to perhaps simpler minds? Or is it that a complexity of thought means that more than the usual number of things must be discovered about them to get a clear picture (for reasons other than simple obscuring)? Or do people usually mean something entirely different by the term?

Obviously, that’s distilled from some short conversation, but it’s the whole of the thing in one. The follow-on, and the reason for it, was to wonder how often a given cause of “depth” is applied in works of fiction, and why.


Instapunk on September 13, 2014 at 6:46 am.

Apparently NOT a useful way to communicate, since I don’t understand it. With every response, you get more faux intellectual. Funny.

Instapunk on September 12, 2014 at 8:42 pm.

Peregrine John.

I hate to offend you. Why I’ve been slow to respond.

You seem amazingly determined to miss the point. But it’s an important discussion. You are not inquiring into what your bright young things actually know.

Deep? For any writer, it’s an easy determination. Paragraphs and chapters you need to read out loud. Narratives, characters that stick with you through time. Structural elements that require you to reassess your own cultural base. I AM a writer. Sorry to take this off your big wide multiculti table.

Sunday School stuff, really. But asking questions, that’s hard. Old farts don’t want to ask questions of intelligent youngsters who can’t answer them. Do the kids have a continuum of dates that places them in relation to the Egyptians, the Romans, their European heirs, the Enlightenment, Napoleon, blah blah? Geography? World capitals? Great rivers by continent? Mountain ranges by continent? Masterpieces of art by era and nation? Dante? Picasso? Newton? Of course not. Old man having too good a time pretending he’s having an intelligent conversation. (Or young man just pretending for fun’s sake?)

More pedestrianly, do they know the state capitals, the rules of punctuation and grammar, Algebra, the Constitution, the presidential succession at least approximately, the Revolution, the Missouri Compromise, the Civil War, World War I and II?

My guess is, they don’t for the most part. I’m guessing they haven’t read Twain, Hemingway, or Fitzgerald. Or Shakespeare.

My granddaughter, niece of my wife’s daughter who didn’t know how many senators there are, worked her way back to the date of Pearl Harbor. She didn’t know it, mind. She figured it out. Hope for her. Not a lot. But she has a brain.

You can continue to fool yourself with how talented the Millennials are. But if they don’t know anything, they have no context for anything they believe. Which renders their opinions on the depth of any literature from any time moot.

If you’re keeping score, PJ is the smart one. Obviously. (“Does it instead mean that they prefer to be less forthcoming about their yet-unspoken thoughts, whether from the aforementioned psychic sediment or an inability to convey them to perhaps simpler minds?”). Jeez. No one could keep up with that. Me? I’m terrified.

P.S. Don’t know exactly when or how my conversation with PJ got hijacked. But it did. Some Internet trick, no doubt. Faux intellectual talk doesn’t work here. If you think you’re smart, confront me. Don’t waste my time with idiotic semantics.

SOS. What have you done with my friend Peregrine John?

  1. Alfa’s avatar

    Peregrine John, where are you? Who is this impostor trying to sound like an upper class Brit twit? What do you want?


  2. Ron’s avatar

    Homeschooled kids aren’t any different from other-schooled kids. What a kid learns is largely determined by what kind of teachers the kid has, and how involved the kids’ parents are. Good teachers, whether parents or otherwise, will be able to teach kids. There’s so much wasted time and weak curriculum in public schools around here that we decided to homeschool our three boys (5th, 3rd, and kindergarten). There are schools around here that I’d like to put my kids in, but it’d cost me upwards of $30k/yr to do that, and I can’t really swing it. We do lots of history at our house. We started at the beginning and have been working our way up. About to get into the American Civil War. Yes, when my 1st- (now 3rd-) grader took the Stanford Achievement Test, he missed questions that involved identifying MLK Jr. or the White House. However, he could distinguish a Greek hoplite from a Roman legionnaire, and could recognize the Parthenon and the Coliseum. The 5th-grader recently learned how to say “Luke, I am your father” in Latin. His penmanship is truly horrendous, but he already spells better than his mother much of the time.

    Every generation of parents faces a different set of challenges. I’m not likely to lose a child to polio, measles, smallpox, rickets, or some opportune infection. But in our urban environment, my boys have no “Little Egypt” to explore. We have access to the collected knowledge of all of human civilization, instantly, in our pockets. But that also includes things that young boys shouldn’t have to encounter, like girls performing oral sex on golden retrievers, public beheadings, beatings of women in elevators, or the floor of the US Senate. My sons are not likely to need to be able to defend themselves from an attacking wild animal. But they will need to know how to protect themselves from scorned jr. high bitches who can text nude photos to their phones and then get them arrested for possessing child pornography.

    I’m not whining though. The Preacher said “Say not, ‘Why were the former days better than these?’ For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.” (Ecc. 7.10)


  3. Instapunk’s avatar

    I hear you. You’re providing the backbone of the continuum. That was my only point. I do not dispute your choices. I congratulate your resolve.

    I was chiefly reacting to the suspicion that the commenter was not really Peregrine John, who has always heretofore written in clear English, not pretentious pseudo-academic bullshit.


  4. Peregrine John’s avatar

    Naw, it’s me, just through the filter of a horrible virus. I’m well again now, and have to admit I only vaguely have a clue what the hell I was talking about. The past couple of weeks have been a bad, achy dream with a strange smell to it. I could translate the embarrassing babble above, but it’d take a while and I really doubt it’s worth the trouble. On the other hand, it’s a useful reminder that the ability to communicate is a revokable gift.

    It might also be a clue into the minds of those who talk like that regularly, but I’d prefer to wait a while before wading back into the horror of an unmoored brain.

    In any case, my apologies.


    1. Instapunk’s avatar

      No apology needed. Just glad you’re writing in English again. Hope you’re feeling all the way better soon.



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