Thanks to Chris’s comment I listened to Joe South’s song ‘Games People Play’ (1968) and spent time thinking about its lyrics (below). Here’s also Cajun original version to dance to. We love the bass player.
Oh the games people play
every night and every day
Never meaning what they say
never saying what they mean
Well, they wile away the hours
In their ivory towers
Till they’re covered up with flowers
In the back of a black limousine
(Laden da laden da la da
Laden da laden da la da)
I’m talkin’ ’bout you and me
and the games people play
Well, we make one another cry
Break a heart then we say goodbye
Cross our hearts and we hope to die
That the other one’s to blame.
But neither one will ever give in
So we gaze at an eight by ten
Thinkin’ ’bout the things that might have been
It’s a dirty rotten shame
People walking up to you
singing Glory Hallelujah
Then they try to sock it to you
in the name of the Lord
They’re going to teach you how to meditate
read your horoscope and cheat your faith
and further more to hell with hate
Come on, get on the ball
Look around and tell me what you see
What’s happened to you and me
God grant me the serenity
To remember who I am.
‘Cause you’ve given up your sanity
For your pride and your vanity
Turn your back on humanity
When you don’t give a damn
The Cajun song the melody comes from is Tit Galop Pour Mamou. The Barefoot Movement explain the lyrics.
In the Cornelsen coursebook I’m writing, and in my classes, I warn my students against turning their presentations into straight pitches. Robert McKee, the Hollywood scriptwriter, has pointed out that the audience doesn’t really engage with and is not convinced by a presentation that tries to sell only strong points. People aren’t dumb. They’ll instinctively know that the presenter is giving them only half of the story. Instead, McGee says, presenters should use the typical shape of stories for their talks, and take their audience through all of the highs and lows.
Now, that may be true for the basic pattern, but there are clearly variations. In this lecture, novelist Kurt Vonnegut (Slaughterhouse Five, Breakfast of Champions, God Bless You Mr Rosewater) presents three such variations along a line from B for Beginning to E for… Electricity.
Also see below one of the last interviews with Vonnegut. It showcases his full life and his signature phrase: “And so it goes.”
A seminal, very useful book is turning 50 this coming year. Published in 1964, and the best selling non-fiction book of the 1960s, Games People Play by Dr. Eric Berne introduced Transactional Analysis, which looked closely at human relationships. He opted to study interaction as transaction, since he said we communicate to get something out of it.
For example, if one person says hello, and the other person doesn’t respond, the first person feels cheated or irritated, since he or she expected to get something out of saying hello.
Berne said we communicate in three ego states, as the parent, the child and the adult. Everybody has these three people inside their head, which explains the mental cacophony we sometimes experience. When we are emotional, we are the child. Supportive or exerting power over others, we are the parent. Acting rationally, and focusing on the objective problems at hand, we are the adult. And the obvious way to go is to be the adult. This still comes across as fresh to me. It’s good, solid, everyday advice, the very basis of Emotional Intelligence, i.e. applying reason to how we engage in social situations with others.
Berne identified six different ways in which people communicate:
rituals (highly standardized exchanges)
pastimes (predictable conversations, polite exchanges of opinions)
activities (eg doing math or building something together)
games (underhanded, exploiting others)
intimacy (a game-free relationship)
The games we play, he says, like “If it weren’t for you”, are all rackets. Anger is one of those rackets, he says. It makes you feel righteous for a while, but doesn’t solve anything. Instead he says we have to decide to look at what is making us angry and think about why the other person is doing it. That means not letting the other person win the game by allowing ourselves to get angry. It’s an interesting and engaging challenge, and one that can actually improve the situation.
Every game has three parts:
the con – the way of cheating used
the gimmick – the weakness that makes the other person play the game
the payoff – the feeling that people get from playing the game
Among the aspects Berne identified as worthy of therapy are scripts that he said we develop and follow early in life, and can for instance recognize in fairy tales.
Below is a wonderful 1966 NET Science broadcast special on the book. The reporter interviews Dr. Berne at his home in Carmel where the author explains the theory behind Transactional Analysis. The camera then follows the two of them along the gorgeous Carmel coast – where incidentally Helmut and I spent almost a week last summer. And finally we see Dr. Berne in with other California psychologists, Swinging Sixties style. Watch these four short videos for an exquisite introduction to the theory, and take an evocative journey into the epoch when Transactional Analysis was still new.
Eric Berne passed away in 1970. A website dedicated to him contains selected games he identified. See if any of them ring a bell with you. They did with me. ‘Uproar’, with slamming doors, is a game I used to play a lot with my dad when I was a trouble-making teen. And I find it quite sobering to recognize that I still like to indulge the Child in me.
On this note: I want a sun umbrella just like Dr. Bearne’s.
Craving Yoda’s funny and wise pontifications, I went and found some quotes, with their charming and haunting backward sentence structure:
No. Try not. Do… or do not. There is no try.
Much to learn, you still have.
Truly wonderful, the mind of a child is.
Ready, are you? What know you of ready?
For eight hundred years have I trained Jedi.
My own counsel will I keep on who is to be trained!
A Jedi must have the deepest commitment, the most serious mind.
(to the invisible Ben, indicating Luke)
This one a long time have I watched.
All his life has he looked away…
to the future, to the horizon.
Never his mind on where he was.
Hmm? What he was doing. Hmph.
Adventure. Heh! Excitement. Heh!
A Jedi craves not these things.
(turning to Luke)
You are reckless.
Yes, a Jedi’s strength flows from the Force.
But beware of the dark side.
Anger, fear, aggression; the dark side of the Force are they.
Easily they flow, quick to join you in a fight.
If once you start down the dark path,
forever will it dominate your destiny,
consume you it will, as it did Obi-Wan’s apprentice.
Fear is the path to the dark side.
Fear leads to anger.
Anger leads to hate.
Hate leads to suffering.
You will know when you are calm, at peace. Passive.
A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack.
When you look at the dark side, careful you must be.
For the dark side looks back.
You will find only what you bring in.
Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm?
Hmm. And well you should not.
For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is.
Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us.
Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.
You must feel the Force around you; here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere, yes.
Even between the land and the ship.
When 900 years old you reach, look as good, you will not.
I support GoldieBlox www.goldieblox.com, a toy startup dedicated to introducing girls to engineering through a combination of building toys and stories. That is, I bought 3 or 4 boxes of their first product from the USA on blind faith. The combination of hands-on building with hard and soft materials, abstract building materials and concrete characters, and a storybook in relatively simple English, is really nice for 4-8 year-olds, whether or not they’ve been born into playing in English. I do think the storybook is a bit dim, I’m afraid, but the concept and the toy itself is fine. So I have these boxes of the GoldieBlox Spinning Machine sitting around my flat, waiting for my favorite little girls to pick them up. GoldieBlox has produced a followup toy, as well.
The GoldieBlox venture is more idea than toy, at this point. CEO Debbie Sterling is using social media to create a community to empower girls.”In a world where men largely outnumber women in science, technology, engineering and math…and girls lose interest in these subjects as early as age 8, GoldieBlox is determined to change the equation. Construction toys develop an early interest in these subjects, but for over a hundred years, they’ve been considered “boys toys”. By designing a construction toy from the female perspective, we aim to disrupt the pink aisle and inspire the future generation of female engineers.”
This advertisement was created by GoldieBlox to enter into a contest for broadcasting rights at the Superbowl. The Rube Goldberg machine employs mechanical components that come with the toy set, and just a few more doodads you might find around the house. Unfortunately, it was not built by the girls acting here, who are however power-users and testers of the toy. The ad is intended to inspire others.
PS: The video has gone viral. 2,796,595 hits in 2 days.
I hope to resume proper blogging when this book project is done.
I’ve learned so much, including to love scheduling time. I think the way forward is to go back to the format I had at the beginning, which was to write once a week. That is valuable in that it allows a more essay-like approach than the notebook-approach I’ve been employing over the past year or so. Proper essay writing is far more intensive, and therefore more worthwhile online. I do teach business English, after all, but you wouldn’t know it to look at this blog lately. So back to the drawing board.
Tomi Ungerer has just been honored with a long-overdue homage film. I was once very close to seeing him live at an opening of his drawings in Munich, but there was a drunk down in the subway in serious danger of falling off the platform and killing himself who needed saving, so in the end I didn’t get to the venue in time. It seems fitting to have missed Ungerer due to such a physically and mentally challenging experience, somehow. Ungerer is so real, knows the human condition, is unblinking and always has an undertow that is both funny and violent. He seems to have been forgiven for the erotic drawings that from 1970 made him a persona non grata. It was simply unthinkable at the time that a children’s author could also have a dirty mind. I don’t like those pictures myself, but I can’t deny his unbelievable creative genius. Now many of his books with his immediately recognizable drawings, including his fantastic Vietnam protest posters, are being republished. Here is a preview of the film. I’m adding two animations of one of the books I remember well, The Three Robbers, from 1972 and from 2007. My favorite is “Otto”.