Time to time I’ll have someone ask me questions or suggest topics and while I’ll give everything a go, sometimes I have to use complex topics I don’t understand to launch off into spaces I do. That’s why Fullmetal Alchemist is a great place for me to talk about Paratext, but not so much a place for me to talk about guns.
Here then is a short, non-comprehensive list of things I don’t know much about
- Cars. Pretty much all cars. I know the basics of how a car works, in that there’s an air-and-fuel engine that makes tiny explosions that drive some pistons and then the rest is just controlling that and making it work well, but that’s all I got.
- On that front, competitive car racing. Grew up surrounded by it, met some very important people in it, no clue how it really works. I have a tiny bit of knowledge about one thing in NASCAR and that’s it.
- Firearms. I’ve never handled one. I think I may have handled pieces of one at some point but I genuinely think I’ve never been closer than five feet away from a gun, and that was probably on a police constable’s hip. Any conversations I have about guns are going to focus on culture around them rather than the devices themselves.
- Modern military operations or aesthetics. There’s a real space for people like me who know their asses from their elbows talking about ‘real soldiers’ and whatnot, but that ain’t me and if you see me commenting on it, odds are good it’s because I’ve read something someone who knows about it is saying.
- Makeup. I have applied it once or twice to other people and experimented with using it to hide injury. I do not know anything meaningful about it.
- Recent anime. I’ll check out some stuff that gets recommended, but only once it’s all done and nothing that needs a hundred damn episodes. I want enough familiarity to talk to people at cons, not enough to go all Mothers Basement on things.
- Driving. See also cars: I don’t drive, don’t know how to drive.
- Code. I have opinions about how people should talk about code but I don’t know how to do anything more complicated than Twine or Wiki coding.
- Ways to divert the flow of history by killing, meeting or changing single events. I just don’t know this stuff. I know there are some people with firm opinions on it, and I think it’s a good idea to consider the ways that individuals have diverted history through accident, but I am by no means an expert.
- Islam! I have some broad, general criticisms of religious institutions as institutions, but if you asked me to provide specific criticisms of Islam, I wouldn’t know where to begin, and it wouldn’t, I imagine, be interesting at all.
- Oh and while we’re at it, Judaism! Everything I know about Judaism is filtered through a fundamentalist Christian background. I may know more than you expect, but I don’t know anything about Judaism as she is lived today. I may know some things that are meant to evoke jewish-ish-ness, but you can fill a barn with what I don’t know here.
- Stand up Comedians! Lots of these guys blur together, for me! And I do mean guys!
- Music. I can tell you how music and lyrics make me feel, but I am clueless about how to make music. I don’t know how to sing well, I just know how Choir drilled me.
- Game Theory. This is a wing of mathematics, and I don’t know much about it. I do Game Studies, which looks at games as cultural entities. There is some interesting stuff with ‘Game Theory’ but it’s mostly about the idea of rational actors responding to incentives, like much of economics, rather than anything to do about how political agents move.
- Carpentry. Not a clue. There’s this thing that Ian Bogost has talked about, with using the term to refer to doing philosophy through making stuff, but actual joinery and stuff? Not a clue.
- Yu-Gi-Oh. It looks like a game that has nothing meaningful in common with the games I play, but looks like it does if you don’t know either game that well.
Because I think it’s worth taking stock and thinking about what you’ve been asked. I want to be able to hold on to the ability to say I don’t know and not have that be a wound against me. It’s nice to feel like an expert, it really is – and I try to limit that to when I’m dealing with students, who I actually have an authority over and where my expertise is what they’re literally paying for.
Everywhere else, it’s important to hold on to your own capacity to be a dumbass.