Thursday, February 25, 2010

Have I become that crazy monkey girl?

So it’s been awhile since I’ve had time to write. Why you ask? Fabulous adventures? Wild nights out? Crazy experiences in the untamed North? Well sure, but there’s also this pesky thing called school. It is suddenly that time of the semester where I become locked away in my room reading for hours on end, hundreds (or at least tens) of sources to be analysed, written up, and graded to determine my future. I SO did not sign up for this. Oh wait, I did? Ah well, I suppose if I can manage only a few weeks of work at a time in grad school I can’t complain too much.

Except I’ve noticed something. Something distressing. As Allie pointed out in her last post, I am a complete literary dork. I spent five years of undergrad fully embracing my English major status and loving the fact that, as one of my professors once pointed out, I would never have to worry about running out of fun, but relatively useless, bits of trivia at dinner parties, or while watching Jeopardy. Eve notice how many Jeopardy contestants are writes or editors? Yeah. And of course this isn’t to knock my subject. I do truly love it and while not everyone might appreciate my literary obsession (See the Frankenstein incident of 07) at least as an English major my fun facts were somewhat cultured. Who doesn’t love a metaphysical digression once in awhile?

But here’s where the distressing part comes in. Destined as I am to study those areas that lead everyone to ask, “But really, what DO you do with that?” and me to shrug my shoulders pretend I see something shiny and wander off, I decided that I would give literature a break for a bit and study the more technical aspects of language. So doing my 13 years of plaid skirt wearing, Catholic education proud I decided to study Evolution. The Evolution of Language and Cognition to be specific. This involves studying the emergence of language, which given its six million year old history and a fossil record leading to all sorts of contrasting interpretations, is no easy task. Thus given the inability to go back and see exactly what happened, my course involves computational models and studies of other communication systems, from animals to children in order to try and figure out the path language evolution has taken.

Sounds exciting right? Ok humour me here I thought literature was exciting too. But anyway, you’d think that with such an extensive and interesting, not to mention controversial subject my new store of useless Jeopardy worthy facts would echo that. Except I fear that my new store of knowledge is a) not dinner party appropriate and b) does not really reflect well on me, or at least does not project an image of me I want circulated in the dinner party circuit. One of my classes, Animal Communication and Sociobiology with a side of Evolutionary Psychology (I’ll give Edinburgh this, the course names sound really impressive) has thus far involved a detailed look at…..animal mating. And the best part? This course is taught by a little, old, tweed wearing man who sports glasses that cover almost half his face. Adorable. And yet at 9am on Friday mornings, I am jolted awake by his saying things like “So when the subordinate monkeys cannot find mates, they utilize the ‘sneak and rape’ approach…” And yes, that is what it’s really called.

But we don’t just talk about monkeys. Oh no. Some recent gems, this time about humans, include:
-In regards to choosing a mate, the men with greater levels of testosterone are found to be more attractive in the short term and may have more evolutionarily desirable traits, but less testosterone indicates better long term mates. So the trick becomes how to get the better genetics with the better nurturing later. “Might be worth the illicit sex with that first person.”….Thanks Professor.
-In cases where females have more than one mate, the ideal number has been found to be three husbands, particularly in farming communities where you then have one to cultivate, one to herd, and one to trade. I’m pretty sure they meant trade the farm produced goods, not to be traded in case of a rough year but who really knows.
-There are different ways to determine the attractiveness of porn stars depending on whether they are on film or in a photographic pin up. In the pin up it’s all about the Hourglass Figure, whereas on film you want porn stars with an aesthetic BMI.

Gone are the days of Shakespeare. And dinner parties. But at least I’m a big hit with the pub crowd…

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