Sunday, November 18, 2012

You Can't Take Me Anywhere

Last night I went to a production of My Fair Lady with my family in DC. It was a lot of fun. However, my over-analytic mind got to thinking during this song:



Of course, empty words can get extremely frustrating and, at the extremes, can even work to disempower people. But that actually illustrates part of the problem I have with the song: I took the underlying message of the song to be that words are cheap and useless, especially compared to action. However, as I've written about before, words can be very powerful, and in this case Eliza has been deeply (and, sadly, negatively) affected by words themselves. It stands to reason that positive words (yes, coupled with corresponding actions) could have a significant positive impact.

But on an even more fundamental level, I felt like this song is taking a very anti-theory stance. "Don't talk about what you're going to do, just do it!" But everything from Nate Silver's overwhelming success in the recent election to Darwin's theory of evolution show us that understanding what's going on below the surface can completely transform one's ability to act. Sitting down and thinking about what's supposed to be happening, how it could be gone about the best, and how to know when you've achieved your goal (aka the metric you should be applying). If these things aren't fleshed out, the results are more often than not haphazard and sloppy, if not completely counterproductive. Theory is huge.

...

In other words, take me to a fun, light-hearted musical and give me half a chance at intermission and I'll be annoying you with half-baked readings of really-not-meant-to-be-deep songs. This could be a great counterargument to the whole point of this post, actually. Do theory, but not too much, I guess.

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