Tag Archives: personality

Dear Diary

It sucks to be forgotten about. It sucks even more to be conveniently forgotten about. I usually say people just assume my life is continually abuzz with social interactions and so they figure I’ll be fine. I’m not actually sure that’s really the case. I am perhaps more annoying than I am memorable or desirable.

It also sucks that lately I’ve been using this blog to relay so many negative thoughts. It’s kind of neat though – here I can be earnest with sad emotions in plain view and go totally unnoticed. Hiding in a bushel of websites, I spose.

I need to refocus my attention on the people who remember me. And on the people who are forgotten.

And I need to stop smothering, for the love of god. My excitement makes it hard for me to listen. Tom did send me that book…

I spent two hours making a 3D-printable hat with a kid at the library today. He’s got some mad digital literacies going on. And you know what, I’ve just found motivation to write up my fieldnotes. Queue the Nujabes.

Maybe god provides answers?

Hyperbolistic Depression

Hyperbole and a Half ran a come-back post recently on depression. It might say something about my current peer group, or perhaps society in general, that I saw it referenced by at least a dozen friends and acquaintances on various social media sites.

It’s a profound illustration of what some people have to deal with, and I’m glad she wrote it. I feel bad for her, and, more importantly, I feel like I understand her perspective, one that I’m sure would ordinarily be alien to me.

I have two notable points to make:

1) In reading the post, it was easy to identify who I am in this story (pictured above). I have a savior complex. That is, I’m a privileged, empowered white hetero boy who grew up upper middle class, who has always been able to make a difference in his surroundings and make himself be heard. When a person comes to me with a problem, especially if they’re posing as a helpless attractive female, I don the cape and pick up the sword and fire my problem-solving death rays at them. I may not be qualified, I may not understand their problem, it may not even be the actual problem that’s bothering them, I just do it instinctively. People complain, I want to fix complaints. I have to actively police myself to not do this, ordinarily. It’s revealing of my own discomfort with being useless. I don’t actually know how to just sit there and be a passive listener. I don’t think I will ever say something like “boy those fish are super dead” in response to this question. I can’t generally be depressed and defeated along with the person complaining in this context – I don’t want to, but I also just don’t think I actually know how to. SO, this means I’m not the right person for ultra-depressed people to open up to. Check.

2) While that’s all fine and dandy, what I’ve found is that very few people are consummately/comprehensively depressed like this. A lot of the time only a part of them is dead. For instance, I’ve had some of my heterosexual male friends (around my age) who have never really dated express that they think romantic desire has died in them. I think people can be contextually or partially depressed. Generally with my friends who tell me this I haven’t had a lot of luck helping them to solve their problem – US society isn’t well-structured for people who don’t follow the standard steps in the sprint to the white picket fence (dating in college, job plus marriage after). I think their solution often requires single assertive women, and it seems like often those women are often paying more attention to the loud, confident men in front, not the depressed, inexperienced guys in back. Or at least, that’s what often happens when I try to set them up. Anyway so my actual response is exactly what is criticized by Allie’s blog post – I try to help them work with other problems. It’s not formulaic, exactly, but I think one of the root issues is confidence and people skills, so if I can get the romantically deceased dudes out with a gang of friends and doing things those other issues get better, usually. I don’t think it’s a direct solution, but I have faith that it’s worth doing.

Revisiting the Passive

Most people that know me well have at one point or another heard me complain about people (often women) who are ‘passive’ in damaging ways. And I still think this can happen (one of my present roommates provides a powerful example but I don’t want to waste space criticizing him), but as I’ve spent a lot of time in GSLIS, a place where extroversion is about as rare as men, social conservatives and people of color, I’ve started to gain a little perspective.

Here, for the literature review, some terrrible reading that I dragged out of the archives that will make you hate me:

So  the metric I generally operate under, when thinking about passiveness and assertiveness is a spectrum based on initiation and response. People who initiate, lead, speak up, negotiate and otherwise make themselves known through action would be assertive, people who are responsive, reactive and compromise fall in the middle as reciprocative, and people who follow and don’t alter their thoughts or activities noticeably based on social stimuli and communication are passive.

Very few people really fall into that last category, and most of those that do are probably those with more severe social disorders or conditions. Hating on shy or introverted people is stupid. I think what I’ve really been struggling with over the years has been in part people who are passive aggressive, and whether or not people are confident or positive, and these intersecting threads that are hard to tease out at times (because they’re so contextual).

Anyway this post is not about this, really.

It’s that my narrative that I clung to so desperately when I was younger, that girls are (were) passive and cause hurt because of this, is only 50% right, at best. The reason so many people have avoided me, not answered my messages, talked bad about me behind my back (I was once lucky enough to be cyberbullied at age 26 – real-time tracking making fun of my soul-crushing break up via multiple Twitter accounts established by GSLIS students) or otherwise reacted to me in passive (evasive) ways is because of who and how I am.

At best it’s that I’m weird, at worst I think it’s that I’m downright undesirable. I’m pretty convinced that if I were more attractive than I am I wouldn’t have problems with this – the handsome surprise contact is a flattering secret admirer, the ugly one is a creep, so to say. But, generally, I think people find me annoying. Since I’m so frequently an initiator people probably assume that I’ll just be fine if they forget about me – afterall, they likely assume they’re probably just one minimal contact amongst hundreds (I’m 1400 Facebook friends cool, right?). And that’s shit, really, because I took the time to make the effort to do reach out to them, which shouldn’t be dismissed, but it is, all the freaking time.

I sent out gifts in the mail to approximately 50 friends this past Christmas, a spread of variety of folk of different genders. About 25% responded or acknowledged in some way or another and there was no discernible difference between men and women. Keep in mind, I’m not bitter about this, I didn’t expect responses, and I encouraged people to continue the positive event chain in their own lives. In fact I still owe responses to some of them (sorry Alicia and Matt!). What I want to emphasize is that it’s not so much that girls are passive, it’s that people don’t have time for this shit. I have to come to grips with not being worth their time.

If I think back over people that I’ve found annoying in my life, I think the only one I’ve gone to lengths to avoid or not react to is my mother. I’m terrified of becoming her – so very out of touch and untold levels of obnoxious. Now, in my world of self-imposed isolation as a miserable attempt to finish a dissertation, the second a friend reaches out to me they’re greeted with overwhelming verbal vomit, like this blog post. And no one wants that. If Tom Fairbank, my sister and a few others weren’t immune to me I’d probably have given up long ago.

Anyway I don’t know if I have that much of a point to saying all of this, other than acknowledging to the world that, yes, I get it, I’m annoying as hell and while you feel bad for me occasionally, you don’t really want to hang out with me. That’s why it was always essential that I had groups of friends over. The question is how much I want to bottle myself. I can be subdued, ask the right questions, douse the intensity, play the ‘be mysterious’ game, all pretty unhappily. It was pointed out to me recently how easy it is for me to slip in and out of making arguments and discussions simultaneously personal or theoretical/hypothetical. Now that’s yet another flaw I get to police, along with the savior complex, pigeon holing, inability to be apathetic, duty for social good and more I’m forgetting at the moment.

I think my sister captured the meditations on this better than I could:

I actually thought it was really interesting to hear your concerns about how you interact with other people, and talk about how to choose or not choose whether to continue acting in a way they might find annoying. It’s so hard to balance being yourself and conforming to or reflecting the situation you’re in. And I think it takes a good amount of self awareness to get to where you are. I also think it’s shitty that some of these groups have made you feel shitty, though. I realized another factor in your situation might be getting older; energetic positivity is much more widely embraced and followed in idealistic college years, but in masters years it wanes, and in phd programs it dies and becomes reviled. That’s the academic course; I think in so-called RL, it follows a similar trajectory but for different reasons. People get out into the working world, or don’t, and realizes how much it can suck to have and to not have a job. They have to do taxes, sign leases, worry about carpet stains, try to make friends without the support structures they’re used to, etc. And so energy saps away–or is redirected into sterile, accepted gym environments, rather than games and adventures–and world outlooks shift to become cynical and jaded. People begin to compromise on every front, including romantic ones. I think there might be an upswing when they start to have kids and have to get excited about things like Blues Clues and delude themselves into believing their progeny will inherit a world worth inhabiting, and they become interested in making it a world worth their children living in. Maybe that will be your moment again. Who knows.


Agency and Appearance

I am an assertive, friendly and extroverted male of average to slightly below-average appearance. In most contexts in life this works out to be a solid advantage but there are many times that my personality traits can’t make up for how I look. I can work out, which is good, but ultimately that does nothing to change my asymmetric face. My half-wavy hair that only grows sideways doesn’t allow for alternative looks other than short and shorter and my deep eye sockets and honking nose don’t combine well with a withdrawn chin that is almost double. I almost wish I could put on makeup. I know it would be a lie, and ultimately taxing both economically and socially (not to mention it doesn’t change head structure), but it would feel nice to have some (perceived) semblance of control.

Honestly I don’t know which is worse -> to ask people out a lot and get rejected or (worse yet intentionally ignored) OR to simply feel like you don’t have the power or worth to ask others out… left stuck in the position of not getting noticed or scaring off people by being assertive.

I stand facing an odd double-standard. If people don’t want to date me because of the kind of personality I have I’m just fine with that. If they don’t want to date me because of how I look I feel bad. I think learning to accept how I look might actually present a real honest-to-god challenge. If only I could learn to find less attractive people more attractive – hormones just don’t work that way do they.

At the end of the day I spose I should probably just feel lucky. Regardless of any number of romantic advance failures, I have a million good friends and a lion’s share of opportunity in front of me, backed by relative privilege and comfort. Yes, let’s go with that.

Reconciling My Inner-BUT man

Contemplating average people: amicability, happiness, prejudice, concentric circles of concern, and a challenge.

So I’m in the midst of reading Saul Alinsky’s Reveille for Radicals, one of his most influential books . In the opening chapter he characterizes what he calls Mr. BUT in his answer to the quintessential question: What do most people say when you ask them if they like other people? Alinsky’s claim is that most people will reply “Sure, I like most other people, with a few exceptions” which I think is a fair prediction. He goes on to say, however, that when you start talking to this example “typical” person their list of people they don’t like will by far outnumber those they do. And he’s not even talking about “like” in the sense of who you might call friends, but really just general people. It is here where he unveils the grand straw man Mr. BUT, who would say something like “Oh of course I really love black people, BUT you know whenever there’s someone loud and obnoxious on the subway, it seems like they’re always black.” And this got me to thinking.

I don’t agree with him that the average person dislikes more people than they like, but I have a feeling this is my own optimistic projection operating again. I remember my roommate back in college once claimed that he thought the average person was unhappy (that is, most people are unhappy), and I was taken aback. Really? I thought. And as I started talking to people asking them this question, I began to realize that their answer really just mirrored if they, on average, were a happy person.

Anyway what Alinsky is really getting at here, is something worth turning on myself: prejudice. All of us “good-natured” privileged and educated liberals have a helping of Mr. BUT in us. I thought I’d take an opportunity to draw mine out, because I think it’s surprising. Alinsky’s Mr. BUT had resentment and dislikes for people of different religions, races, ethnicities, and more. I think my inner-BUT-man (yes, I know all of you people with a 14-year-old boy in you are laughing now, the language is unfortunate) has some really overt expressions and some subtle ones. Okay here we go.

1) Most anyone who really knows me has heard me complain up and down the wall about passive and apathetic people (or in times past, “the librarians”), but in recent years as I’ve existed in a department dominated by introverts I’ve realized that sometimes this is just tantamount to hating on the shy person, which isn’t very constructive. Sure, I’ve been hurt by my fair share of passive-aggressive people, probably in worse ways than most, but insulting or chastising these people and actions hasn’t really brought an end to them. In fact it’s encouraged the worst of them, and it has sometimes hurt the less intense people that I care deeply for.

2) The academic world is rife with rivalries. I’ve done a lot of saying things like “those cultural studies postmodernist people” or “those data-head people” in a dismissive fashion, often unfairly. The first group I often dislike more because they’re fixated on negativity, but really why make fun of people who are probably comprehensively unhappy? The second gang may at times seem cold, calculating and disconnected, but their lack of empathy or interest in social issues is probably a symptom of their own fear or ignorance, one that likely they haven’t come into in a malicious kind of way.

3) And then there’s the Christians. I just refer to them like that, as if the religion isn’t one of the most wildly diverse and complex ecologies out there. It’s downright stupid for me to transform some small extremist group into full-on representation and ignore all of the good Christians have turned loose in the world.

4) And I’m sure there are more. I’d ask readers to call me out, but that would be asking you to subscribe to my method of positive confrontational discourse (when you challenge me because we’re on the same side, building a better tomorrow), which many do not appreciate. My last prejudice I want to talk about next, because I’m not sure what to do about it.

All of this reminded me of theory I talk about from time to time, that’s not very unique or insightful, and yet has gotten me into a great deal of trouble. Here, a picture:


I sometimes call it concentric circles of concern, which apparently is a book on Amazon, and the name of the same idea as it appears on a Church website or two, according to our local expert Google. Anyway, the pitch is that most people care about the inner-most layer strongly. My roommate is this way, he’s good-natured, funny, and quite empathic at times, but quite introverted; he exhausts his social interaction needs quota at about 5 people. I think most people also expand out into the next two circles, which change composition as their life goes on, which of course makes sense. Some people don’t really have best friends (truthfully I sometimes think this is me), and many people (on a bad day I might claim introverts) don’t really care much for people in the acquaintance zone. And then there’s the last outer circle, which is what interests me. People who care, enough to act, about strangers they’ve never met. This might be environmentalists, for a counter-intuitive example, but also people like my sister, who worked with refugees for a year, or Tom Fairbank, who casually gets to know random homeless people and gives them his time and money in a compassionate way. I think there are also people who give their entire lives to random people they barely know, immersing themselves in places like the Peacecorps without really having anything in the inner-circles to fall back on.

In any event I have this tendency to really spill the haterade (prejudice) on people who don’t expand out to the outer layers. I don’t want to do this, the negativity is unhelpful. And yet at the same time I have no good way to push them out of their inner circle, other than by demonstrating my beliefs with my lifestyle. And this method, if it even is one, is certainly not satisfying or at all effective. I can’t even get past the opening questions sometimes, as asking a person “so why is it you litter?” or “why does voting not matter to you?” or “what turns you off to feminism?” often puts them on the offensive. And rightly so, I’m not just asking to know most of the time (the true dialogic), I’m asking to understand so I can negotiate a better solution. And this, of course, is one of the many reasons people don’t like me, which is mildly unhelpful when I try to act in a leadership or teaching capacity. But I’m unable to turn my back on the tremendous desire and duty to do my part in constructing a better world.

Am I looking for answers? Maybe brainstorms instead. Tom would of course tell me that the world is perfect and I should just appreciate what good we have, which would be warm and fuzzy for a second and then promptly make my life not worth living. With blissful inaction ruled out, what other strategies remain?

–Followup: It seems this diagram can be found all over the place in varied form. My favorite version is when they turn ‘strangers’ into markets.

Connectors, revisited

Some of you may be familiar with Malcolm Gladwell’s famous set of archetypes that are the key to social epidemics (social movements that sweep very quickly over a nation or group of people). He outlines salesmen (people who can convince you to do anything) and mavens (people who know a lot and like to share knowledge) and connectors (people who know a lot of people and bridge different types of people/groups together). The notion has gotten a lot of attention and spurred a lot of argument. Regardless of the usefulness of the typology or classification we can generally agree that there are traits in people that might make them connectors (relative) in almost any group.

I was giving this some thought tonight. I’ve always considered myself a connector – particularly because I’m an extrovert and leader and I know (and like!) a lot (different) of people. I tend to make invitations and initate contact and start groups. But I’ve often struggled with getting groups to be cohesive once the basic connections between individuals have been formed. It makes me wonder what a connector does, exactly. Like in some sense an alternative measure of a connector is the type of person who would be interested (not just willing and able) to go to an event or break into a new group alone. I’m sure we can think of many people we know that refuse to go to a given event, especially when it’s recreational, unless they know someone there. Moreover some go so far as to need certain people there.

And this spurred me to thinking about who those people are. I think there may be another class (if you will) of connectors who don’t initiate (usually anyway) or may not be the most outgoing or outspoken. They are instead the ones who still know a lot of people, but know how to make them feel comfortable. I’d like to think I can do this but the reality of my personality is that I’m intense, I’m often overwhelming, and if I really would like a person to be a real friend I expect a lot of them. And this is too much to face up to for some people. I’m often action-oriented and while I like to talk about feelings or ‘just hang out’ I’m usually more interested in creating something or discussing a topic towards some greater benefit. I’m overtly passionate, and especially interested in people, which is a little freaky sometimes to those who aren’t.

Anyway thinking over my friends I can point out several who’ve been sort of complementary connectors to me. I bring people in and make the initial group/event formation (whatever it is, club, social, class group, etc…) and they end up making that person feel extra comfortable and bringing out the best in them. My X played this role in my life for the past year or so, which ispart of why I’m sort of floundering now trying to figure out what to do with my social life.

So where do I go from here? I suppose I could try to work on making people feel more comfortable, but honestly my personality is what it is, the fragile, picky or undependable ones are always going to be a problem. I think maybe a better direction is to show more appreciation for the connectors I know who make it their job (overtly or covertly) to create a welcoming rapport with others. Meanwhile I can continue to keep a positive hat on.

I won’t make any specific shout-outs to people at GSLIS, but there are several of you who I think really fill this role. Thank you.

Blog Piggy Bank

Shotgun Blast

I decided to break open my blog piggy bank and see what was inside:

  • I often talk about how much I value assertiveness and outgoing people, provided that they’re honest and not too negative. I’ve been wondering if maybe what I’m talking about is how much I value other driven leaders. There are plenty of outgoing friendly people who go out and party but don’t really care about others or the world.
  • My roommate watches A LOT of TV. For him it’s great, he can sit and code on his laptop for hours on end in front of the tube. TV bugs the crap out of me (especially mindless negativity [Southpark] and death news), so I usually go back into my room and close the door. It got me to thinking – I usually identify myself as part of the multi-tasking generation who likes copious multimedia feeds and yet I can’t deal with TV. I pay attention to it too much and it has commercials that interrupt the story (if there is one) all of the time. I greatly enjoy watching TV episodes that I choose to download that come without interruptions, just like I listen to MP3’s on random instead of radio. In total it’s more about sustained narrative, not jumpy disconnected bits of information. Maybe I’m more old-hat than I thought.
  • This was further emphasized the other night when I was talking to several people online who could have all hung out together. At the time I knew of 5 people in different spots who were being social (online) but didn’t want to be social in person. Granted group hang out is different but back before ICT’s these people would have had to hang out in person and I think I would have preferred that situation. I know technology enables us to be social in ways that we might not have been able to otherwise but I think it’s also, on the whole, been more of a way to allow people to be passive and introvert and that bugs me. Maybe I’m less young and technology-minded than I thought, at least when it comes to people.
  • I’ve decided my value in creation should be better described as value in creative, fun and passionate creation, not obsessive productivity. I like people who are driven in joyous ways, not super efficient cogs.
  • The election reminded me – there’s no information about local judges up on the internet. In fact I think they have identity management or protection going on, you can barely even find them on Google. I can Google my neighbor and find out more. Places like Judgapedia have tried to cover this but are far from filled out. I know we probably shouldn’t categorize them by Republican or Democrat or Green but I would definitely like to see a decision history and their stance on issues. If citizens are expected to vote yes or no for them we have to know something about them and one of the biggest places young people get information is the internet. DUH. A battle for another day.

Excitment Refresh (Facebook has ruined romance)

So I had the chance to go visit an amazing childhood friend tonight and we hung out talking… he’s probably one of only 3 or 4 people in the Universe that I can do that with – sit down without food or activity at hand and talk with endlessly, it’s a comfort I’ve learned to cherish. Anyway as we were talking the topic came to his excited interest in a girl he’s met in the Quaker group he belongs to who sounds unreasonably cool (she wrote a book! and has a had a really interesting and deviant life). He was thinking about telling her that he’d like to see her outside of a Quaker meeting sometime, etc… effectively ask her out. As we were talking I brought up the possibility that she could be seeing someone already, and Tom had thought about it but didn’t know. But what I remember most is just how joyful he was about the excited possibility of a person he likes – an opportunity, a connection, a thrill, the prospect of so much happiness!

I didn’t know this sort of thing still happened these days. First off, I really, really (and I mean really) miss the days when I could actually ask a girl out. Not that I’m afraid to or unable to (well okay I’m seeing someone so it’d be downright unethical, but that’s not the point here), it’s that I’ve learned to get better at it. I liked the days when it would be the moment where you felt as if you had just jumped off the high dive (or off the 40 ft ledge canyoning) and didn’t know what was going to happen. Pure concentrate excitement, anxiety, thrill, joy, all mixed together.

Now-a-days the procedure is different. First off, directly asking a girl out is against the rules. I know not literally but there does seem to be a social norm established, it’s creepy to be that up front with someone, unless you’re some dashing lad who plays basketball or sings acappella. I’ve had individual women argue that this is different for them but my observation is that on the whole it’s not cool by most women’s standards. Most girls will shit a brick and desperately find an excuse to dodge you, quite visibly so if you do it in person. So what do we do? Trickery, step-by-step:

1) Find the person on Facebook, see if they’re single. No mystery in this regard anymore, and in fact I miss it so because it gives a false sense of permanency. People are no longer a questionable option – if you see they’re dating on Facebook then you’re ethically obligated to stay the fuck away.
2) Invite them to an event with mutual friends or a large scale public activity that’s little 1-on-1 face time or pressure. Talk to them a little more than might be out of the ordinary at this event but without really revealing your interest, for if you do they will shit a brick and you’ll be back to square one.
3) Find them on AIM (or Facebook or Gchat or whatever) and start talking to them about a common subject (question about class, their opinion on something non-political, etc…) and eventually evolve the conversation into something more meaningful.
4) Ask them out to a non-threatening activity, most common is lunch or coffee, but more creative versions in my past have been skating around with Inline Insomniacs or going to build a puzzle together at the library.
5) Rince and repeat the above until you’re fairly brick-proof and then you might think about actually asking them out on a real date. Maybe.

And honestly, I think this system flat-out sucks. I used to say fuck it and was bold and asked girls out and tried not to be dodgy. But it resulted in an endless stream of rejections and let-downs and a lot of depression. So after a while of that I tried various remixes of the misdirection bullshit game above and had a lot of success. My current relationship is actually as a result of this sort of thing, and I’m not particularly proud of it.

As happy as I am for Tom to have found a girl mystery and a new source of hope, I’m still sick and tired of a world where only guys ask out girls and being forward and honest with one another is considered creepy, not compassionate.

I really do like Facebook – on the whole – I like that it presents us a whole new level of information. But really I think it’s inadvertently helped to perpetuate this potentially sexist norm and a lot of passive or indirect type behavior. The thrill of discovering someone through asking them out on a date is immediately diminished from the get-go simply because you already start off knowing if they’re available. Sure you avoid the embarrassment of asking someone out that is in a relationship, but you also avoid the flattery, the excitement and dammit I fucking like getting reamed once a while it helps me remember I’m alive. It makes the times that it does work out all the more worth it and I’ve learned to respect the people who can look you in the eye and actually say no. We don’t feel comfortable asking a person out until we check them out on this twisted social ecology. Girls use it as a defensive mechanism to keep guys away from them, in fact – mark their relationship status and suddenly they can feel safe. I mean hell we even somehow declare a relationship real when it’s hetero and on Facebook (nevermind the LGBT discrimination here, or the age-plurality complex).

So a lot of complaining about passive women and gender roles, I know, my usual, right? This might be my best unsung argument for denouncing Facebook yet, is that it helped to keep dating dishonest, indirect and introvert.

Maybe someday we’ll see a gender-equality universe where women are just as likely to ask out men as vice versa and Facebook won’t be the biggest cock-block in town… I’ll hedge my bets with the LGBT rights movement.

Signing out for the night, positivity will return later, I swear.

Elephant Stories and Psychology: Part 3

One of Ruby's paintings

Ruby, an Asian elephant primarily associated with the Phoenix zoo, became famous in the late 80’s for her abstract paintings. After her keepers noticed the elephant scratching in the dirt with sticks, they offered her a paintbrush, and Ruby the (very profitable) Painting Elephant was born. Art collectors from all over the world joined what became 18-month waiting lists for a painting from the elephant. An individual painting sold for up to $5,000.

According to her “CNN obituary”:http://www.cnn.com/US/9811/06/dead.elephant/, Ruby’s paintings raised about $500,000 for the zoo. She died in 1998 at 25 years of age and at 9,000 lbs. during complications from an attempted c-section.

Elephant paintings have since become something of a fad, and there are multiple other endeavors to sell paintings done by the animals; “this NOVICA article”:http://www.novica.com/news/index.cfm?articleid=51 details just a few. Multiple kinds of animal art has been sold in auctions such as Christie’s. A team of two Moscow-born entrepreneurs, Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid, have even organized elephant painting-only auctions; they “began with dog art,” have exhibited photographs taken by a chimpanzee, and after their elephant project intend to “work with beavers using processed wooden boards on an architectural project” (read more about Komar and Melamid “here”:http://archives.cnn.com/2000/STYLE/arts/03/22/life.art.reut/).

Elephant Stories and Psychology: Part 2

Batyr, The Talking Elephant (1970 – 1993)

In 1977 the young elephant Batyr made his ability to mimic human speech known to his keepers at the Karaganda Zoo in Kazakhstan. Batyr apparently learned to produce about twenty words by using his trunk–placing it in his mouth and using his bottom jaw and tongue. A. N. Pogrebnoj-Aleksandroff studied Batyr, recording the elephant’s speech and writing many articles about him. “Wikipedia”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Batyr says that Batyr “delighted zoo-goers at large by asking his attendants for water and regularly praising (or, infrequently chastising) himself.”

Batyr had been rejected by his mother as a young calf and hand-reared by humans. He had no interaction with other elephants after his infancy.


According to Pogrebnoj-Aleksandroff, Batyr was able to reproduce the following words, phrases, and noises:

Баты́р — Batyr — abruptly (the trunk in the mouth)

Я — I’m — very abruptly and to combination of his name, at a long pronunciation so “I’m-Batyr,” sounded almost together

Ба́ты́р — Batyr — thoughtfully-tenderly and lingeringly (the trunk in the mouth)

Батыр, Батыр, Батыр… — Batyr, Batyr, Batyr — joyfully running in a cage (the trunk in the mouth)

Воды́ — Water — ask (the trunk in the mouth)

Хоро́ший— Good — as is good fellow (the trunk in the mouth)

Батыр хоро́ший — Good Batyr — (the trunk in the mouth)

Ой-ё-ёй — Oh-yo — (it is very sonorous — the trunk in the mouth)

Дурак — The Fool — seldom and abruptly (the trunk in the mouth)

Плохой — Bad — it is rare (the trunk in the mouth)

Батыр плохой — Bad Batyr — it is rare (the trunk in the mouth)

Иди́ — Go — (the trunk in the mouth)

Иди (на) хуй — Go onto penis (on-similarity the American expression ‘fuck you’) — the obscene Russian slang; first and unique time during telecast shooting (the trunk in the mouth)

Хуй — The Russian slang of the penis — seldom and abruptly (the trunk in the mouth)

Ба́-ба — the short of “babushka” — the grandmother; short children’s sound “ba” (the trunk in the mouth)

Да́ — Yes — (the trunk in the mouth)

Дай — Give (me) — (the trunk in the mouth)

Дай-дай-дай — Give, give, give… — (the trunk in the mouth)

Раз-два-три — One, two, three — dancing, being turned and hopping (the trunk in the mouth)

A whistle of human

The words of human speech said at level of infrasonic and ultrasonic frequencies

A gnash imitation of rubber or polyfoam (foam plastic) on glass;

The peep of rats or mice

The bark of dogs

The natural blares of elephants

In 1993, Batyr died; I have found two different accounts: that Batyr didn’t wake up from sedation after being put under for foot care, or that he died from complications regarding inflammation of the kidneys and kidney stones.


A short list works about or including the story of Batyr:

The most truthful history or who are talking? An Elephant?!
A.Pogrebnoj-Alexandroff, 1979-1993. ISBN 0972126600.

A.Pogrebnoj-Alexandroff, 2001. ISBN 097212666x.

Speaking Animals
A.Dubrov, 2001. ISBN 5879690865.

Speaking Birds and Speaking Animals
O.Silaeva, V.Ilyichev, A.Dubrov, 2005. ISBN 5944290161.