December 2001 Archives

Clocks move on

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Happy New Year and all that. Time marches on. Just remember, financing is available. Call now. Operators are standing by. A day of sloth; maybe my brain will function again after midnight.

Church Chat

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Church chat

Aimee from Raindogs highlighted the story of another book burning. It’s Harry Potter, of course. We must “save the children.” The nice thing about it was that she also provided the phone number to the Pastor’s secretary, so that you can let your voice be heard about the felicity of book burning. Feel like annoying small minds? Phone them:

Rhonda is the Pastor’s Secretary: She will tell you all about the night of the “ Holy Bonfire”.

Christ Community Church
(505) 437-4241
2960 Scenic Dr, Alamogordo, NM 88310
Though the event was actually yesterday, I'm sure they'd still love to talk about it. I understand that the line of people who showed up to burn a book was over a quarter of a mile long. According to Aimee, Rhonda quoted scripture, of course, to justify their actions:

Moreover many of those who had become believers came and openly confessed that they had been using magical spells. And a good many of those who formerly practised magic collected their books and burnt them publicly.

Acts 19:18,19 New English Bible, Oxford.

Being the curious type, I had to take a look at the passage to find the context for this biblical support of book burning. It’s really quite interesting. It seems that there were a group of Jewish mystics (Ephesians) who often performed exorcisms. They often called upon the name of Jesus to perform these rites, though they were not Christians. An evil spirit, during one of these exorcisms, rose up and said:

“Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?” (Acts 19: 15)
“Who are you?” indeed.

Of course the evil spirit gave them a sound thrashing, and they rushed off and burnt their books. Some of them became Christians, and the Bible also is quick to note what the books were worth: “when the value of the books was calculated, it was found to come to fifty thousand silver coins” (Acts 19:19). I can only hope that these “false mystics” that are burning JK Rowling’s books provide similar financial support to her. They do have to pay for the books they’re burning, after all.

Why don’t people who use the Bible to support such ludicrous actions grasp the irony of yanking words out of context? It was the “magicians” that burned the books, not Paul and the Apostles. “God did extraordinary miracles through Paul . . . and the evil spirits came out of them” (Acts 19: 11). God and his apostles didn’t burn books: only the embarrassed Ephesians did! So, have the people at Christ's Church been practicing magic, and now they need to atone for their sins?

Sometimes, you’ve just got to laugh. Maybe it's all the excess nuclear radiation from developing bombs in Alamogordo. Maybe it's the heat that's baked their brains. Maybe they just need something fun to do on Sunday. Burning things up is usually the American way to have fun.

Peek a boo

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I'm always peeking in windows


Stompathon

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Watching the Godzilla Stompathon on Sci-Fi channel.

I love it when the voices and words don't match the pictures. Just like real life. Trying to piece together meanings from little clues, it doesn't really matter much if you're right or wrong. The basic narrative is so engrained in our consciousness, that we construct meaning without really having a sense of the full picture. Mary Shelley's Frankenstein was perhaps the prototype for most science fiction. Man reaches too far. Gets stomped.

Looking down at the OED, still open from last night I see another great one:

Futilitarian
  1. (A person) dedicated to futile pursuits
That about sums me up, indeed. I must say that I've enjoyed watching Red Planet in the last few days too.

Sci-fi movies might be silly, but it was quite refreshing to see Val Kilmer blast off while saying Fuck this Planet!. Red Planet was also novel in that there were no cold-war type tyrannical subplots, the real meat and potatoes of most sci-fi. No evil military, no vindictive monsters, just machines gone wrong and an ecology impossible to predict. Not a great film, but amusing anyway. After all, sometimes, it's just fun to watch Tokyo get stomped.

So much for the thin veneer of scholarship that seems to be dominating my blog lately. Now I'm just getting silly.

Fuzzy

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Here come the fuzz.

I take it upon myself to research the strangest things. Fuzzy? Just where did this description come from, and what does it really mean? Sounds like a three-am project to me.

So, consulting the online Merriam Webster reveals:

Etymology: perhaps from Low German fussig loose, spongy
Date: 1713

1 : marked by or giving a suggestion of fuzz
2 : lacking in clarity or definition
The Shorter OED was scarcely more helpful.
1 : Not firm, spongy.
2 : Frayed into loose, light fibres; covered with fuzz; fluffy.
3 : Blurred, indistinct; imprecise, vague.
The OED was more helpful in the respect that wandering the page, I find that fuzzily is a valid adverb. The most crucial piece of vocabulary, fuzzle is a valid verb. You can fuzzle, and not just be befuzzled. It's also handy to know that there are such things as fuzzwords. I know I sure read a lot of them, especially when reading criticism. Don't get me started on words like paradigm. The usage of that word doesn't make much sense outside the linguistic arena, it's too fuzzy. I got your new paradigm's hangin'.

It was somewhat disheartening though, to find out that fuzzy-wuzzy wasn't a bear. Apparently, he had hair. According to the OED, he was either a black person, or a Sudanese soldier, or a resident of New Guinea.

I suppose it's my fault for posting while fuzzy. I'm just not sure if it's spongy, frayed, or indistinct. I think I'll opt for spongy. Because I absorb the weirdest things, and . . . well, I'll leave it at that.

Tinker, again

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an ecdysiast, er, I mean stripper, I once knew

Ecdysiast

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Sometimes words don’t fit.

I was entertaining myself a little with Words on Words by John Bremner. I ran across a new synonym for “stripper” that I hadn’t heard before:

Ecdysiast
What the fuck? My first thought was that it had something to do with ecstasy, but I was wrong. The coinage of the term was by Mencken, and the etymology is funny enough:
He thought it was a good idea to relate stripteasing to “the associated zoological phenomenon of molting” and he flirted with moltician before rejecting it because of its likeness to mortician. He then came up with ecdysiast, from the Greek ekdysis, the stripping of an outer layer of skin.

The spell check in Microsoft Word recognizes it, but I didn’t. I have yet to see a stripper remove their skin, but I’m sure they could get top dollar among those who enjoy a good public humiliation. I suppose it depends on which part of the activity you prefer, the strip or the tease. I suppose that Gypsy Rose Lee was right:

“Ecdysiast he calls me! Why, the man is an intellectual snob. He has been reading books. Dictionaries. We don’t wear feathers and molt them off . . . . What does he know about stripping?”

Sorry Mencken, but I think it’s more about the tease.

Cats and Sphinxes

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Cats and Sphinxes

Passion

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Thinking about passion

Waits

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Speaking of the tawdry arts

Here's a nice gallery of naked ladies on bowling pins.[via Raindogs]

Jack's Christmas post from a homeless shelter made me think about why I like Tom Waits so much:

It really hits home down here how appropriate his name is, too. Tom Waits. Waits for what? For everything. That's what it's all about down here. Wait for food. Wait for shelter. Wait for a hot shower or a cold shitter. You wait for everything in this system. It's not the cold or the brutality that gets you most days, not the hunger or the pain, but the tedious nature of standing in long lines with no promise of getting what yr waiting for at the end of it all...
That gets to it, a little bit. But then there's adventure. I always crave adventure too. And there's plenty to be found in the characters of his songs. I've been having a bit of a festival of his music, for the first time in a long time. Some of the songs grew too painful, but I'm getting over it now.

Wilmot

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To offset the lofty values of Shelley and Barthes

Stitches

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a scene of lighter strain


intransitive

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Is love transitive, or intransitive?


Language is a skin; I rub my language against the other. It is as if I had words instead of fingers, or fingers at the tips of my words. My language trembles with desire. The emotion derives from a double contact: on the one hand, a whole activity of discourse discreetly, indirectly, focuses upon a single signified, which is “I desire you,” and releases, nourishes, ramifies it to the point of explosion (language experiences orgasm upon touching itself); on the other hand, I enwrap the other in my words, I caress, brush against, talk up this contact, I extend myself to make the commentary to which I submit the relation endure.

(To speak amorously is to expend without an end in sight, without a crisis; it is to practice a relation without orgasm.)

Roland Barthes, A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments



A recent program on HBO, def poetry, proclaims that it isn’t the sort of poetry you read in school. They’re right. The self-conscious prattle of folks like Jewel wouldn’t have any place at my school. Neither would the sing-song rap style delivery: that sort of basic metrics was nearly over by the mid-eighteenth century. Stilted diction is precisely what Wordsworth and Coleridge were so on about in Lyrical Ballads. Poetry is about much more than merely sounding “poetic.” However, I suppose what Russell Simmons really meant to say was that “it’s all about reality and passion.” I guess my classroom experience of poetry was different: for most of my teachers, that’s what it was all about too.

A moment with one of my teachers, Russell Murphy, has stuck with me for a long time now. I believe we were discussing Shelley when Murphy launched into an exposition about the power of love:

“Love is stronger than hate because it requires no object.”
Is love an intransitive verb?

I’ve been thinking about that every since. Even on the surface, it seems like a troublesome idea. What about the overwhelming power of teen-angst? Or the pointless anger of the alienated individual in society? I suppose that these things inevitably find some object to manifest their hatred; while it may sometimes develop in a vacuum, hate cannot survive without some way to vent its spleen. Can love?

In the most basic constructions, love takes an object. I love you. I love chocolate. I love language. In this sense, it is transitive. But reviewing English Grammar: Principles and Facts by Jeffrey Kaplan, a hard-line Chomskian text, it offers the suggestion that verbs which behave as both transitive and intransitive may indeed really be intransitive, because their objects are usually linked through causal relation. Therefore, the use of verbs like love with an object are merely a special case, with an active supportive grammar, rather than a unique linguistic variety of verb, separate from the catagories of transitive or intransitive. Of course, the same argument could then be applied to making hate an intransitive verb as well.

I suspect the difference is one of sustain. Love is often sustained through language; the rhetoric of hate usually exhausts itself, exhausts itself with the disappearance of its object. And yet love sustains itself, subject to no force but the inevitable desire which commands that it be actualized. It moves on and on, inexorably reaching for the “other.” Even after the being or object that provoked it is gone, love finds new life in language.

Barthes seems to feel that love is transitive, unlike Murphy. Nevertheless, at the same time he seems to grant special privilege to the language of love, when it wakes up and accepts that discourse does not require a direct object.

To know that one does not write for the other, to know that these things I am going to write will never cause me to be loved by the one I love (the other), to know that writing compensates for nothing, sublimates nothing, that it is precisely there where you are not— this is the beginning of writing.

Barthes, ibid.



Will

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K's post

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It's been a long time since a piece of writing as fine as this appeared on Raindogs.

Buckethead

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I am caught in this contradiction: on the one hand, I believe I know better than anyone and triumphantly assert my knowledge to the other (“I know you—I’m the only one who really knows you!”); and on the other hand, I am often struck by the obvious fact that the other is impenetrable, intractable, not to be found; I cannot open up the other, trace back the other’s origins, solve the riddle. Where does the other come from? Who is the other? I wear myself out, I shall never know.

Roland Barthes, A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments



Watching some old western with Robert Mitchum and Marilyn Monroe on AMC, the commentator mentioned Mitchum’s method of dealing with Monroe’s method acting: he’d slap her on the backside, and say, “let’s just play this scene like real people.”

I left late in the afternoon, on Christmas Eve, for the drive to my parents. It seemed to be a good omen to enter the freeway behind a ’66 Chevelle SS, 427, belching smoke and fire with a front windshield cracked like a spider web radiating around its rearview mirror. The drive was smooth, only five sections of one-lane compared to the eight of the Thanksgiving drive. I got to the nuclear power plant at Russellville as the sun went down.

I always have a Wordsworthian spot of time when passing through Russellville, and this time was no exception. The clouds were fanned out like the fronds of a palm leaf, irradiating electric colors around the pure white water plume. I took out the tape of stories I was listening to, from James Joyce’s Dubliners. Eveline pissed me off. Why didn’t she have the courage to go with her lover?

I was starting to get drowsy anyhow, so I put on The Grey Race by Bad Religion. Nothing like punk-rock with multi-syllabic words to wake you right up.

splintered dreams of unity (our lives are parallel)
so far from reality (our lives are parallel)
independent trajectories (our lives are parallel)
separate terms of equality (our lives are parallel)

. . .

side by side suffering loneliness (our lives are parallel)
phoney collective progress (our lives are parallel)
accepting that it's all such a mess (our lives are parallel)
gesturing without hope of redress (our lives are parallel)
For some reason, the anthemic quality of the “punk rock formula” sank in. Marching lockstep into the sunset of alienation? There’s just something decidedly odd about that.

But I decided that this year would be different. Last year, Christmas was an adventure. I read Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus on Christmas day, then drove through the worst ice-storm in a decade to get home. After getting home, the power went out for a week and I shivered under the covers listening to Tom Waits through headphones. Not this year. Please, not again, this year.

I suppose that’s why I took the Barthes with me. I was hoping for something more uplifting, and I suppose I found it. I couldn’t sleep, as usual, and made my way through 160 pages. Mom and Dad seemed to be recovering fairly well from David’s death, but there was this sort of aura. We talked about David’s kids, mostly, and how they were doing. It seems that James had his license suspended, and Mom mused about how “26 is such a difficult age.” It was for me, that’s for damn sure. As I recall, I was living out of my car, and showering at friends houses so that I could keep my job. My brother seemed to be in fairly good spirits, given that he lost his job just before Christmas. We sat and traded stories of crazy youth for a while. Sometimes it helps to remember that once upon a time, things were fun. I suppose that’s why the bad part of those years doesn’t bother me that much. They were fun years, after all.

Driving back, the sky was dark and I wasn’t in the mood to listen to literature. I put on a tape of the Meat Puppets first four albums, and remembered how much fun I was having when those albums came out. It isn’t punk rock to march to, unless you’ve had an incredible amount of acid.

Got no head
It's a bucket with teeth
It likes to dream
It likes to sleep
It knows hot
It knows cool
It know what's what
It's no fool

Fill up the bucket with
Whatever you got
Make sure it's something
That the bucket likes a lot
That’s about the size of it. A brief holiday pause, and then back to filling up the bucket.

The Barthes book has triggered a lot of little epiphanies when it comes to the process of writing, and just “who” I think of my audience as. I suppose I want to keep writing in a rather special way: with a goal of the state of constant arousal. It seems like a higher way to use language, rather than just reporting the state of disunion.

Christmas Even

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Santa in the Mena, Arkansas train station. Everbody has to be somewhere in the off season.


When passion's trance is overpast,
If tenderness of truth should last
Or live—whilst all wild feelings keep
Some mortal slumber, dark and deep—
I should not weep, I should not weep!

If were enough to feel, and see
Thy soft eyes gazing tenderly . . .
And dream the rest—and burn and be
The secret food of fires unseen,
Could thou but be what thou hast been!

After the slumber of the year
The woodland violets reappear;
All things revive in field or grove
And sky and sea, but two, which move
And form all others—life and love.—

Percy Shelley


Christmas is a hellish time for me.

Merry Christmas to the normal folks who don't have this problem. It's off to the parents, to make believe I'm happy for a while. Nothing like a three and a half hour drive past brown and dying hills on a torn-up freeway to put you in the holiday spirit.




memory

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a page from a pasted together book



The Joy Harjo festival that seemed to cascade across the net, now manifest on Wood s lot, made me think about the girl who introduced me to her poetry.

It was the only time I’ve flirted with the idea of a Lolita thing. I thought she was in her mid-twenties, which didn’t bother me. It turned out she was 19. She got married a little while after we met, so nothing ever happened but conversation. By the time she divorced only two or three months later, I had come to my senses.

But she had some potential as a poet, the piece above is just a bit of high school juvenilia, written oddly enough when she lived on Coleridge street. If she ever stops smoking so much dope, she might become a good poet yet. She does know what good poetry is. I thought there were roses tattooed on her arm, but she corrected me. They were gardenias, the sad and beautiful flower of Billie Holliday. And that’s what she was. A sad and beautiful flower. She had a dog just like Shauna's. I'm more of a cat person.

She used to proofread my stories. She gave me good advice. Her husband used to beat her. I really didn't like that, but she told me that she beat him back. We worked in the same place for a while, but I was fired. It was the only time in my life I've ever been fired.

I take that back. I was fired once before, on December 23rd as I recall. Merry Christmas. It turned out okay; I had a job again within two hours. However, when I was fired from the job where I worked with this girl, I just borrowed to stay in school. I haven't worked since, that is, until I start teaching next semester.

during one of the particularly bad times

I wonder where she is right now?

Very Xmas

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My ex-wife stopped by this afternoon. I haven’t seen her in several months, and she’s looking good. She doesn’t really look pregnant. She stopped by to ask if I’d help her move into a new apartment, a two bedroom. She’s hoping that she can extricate herself from the father of her child soon. He’s a nice enough guy, but a kid, who doesn’t really “get” her. It's sort of weird. She's eight years younger than me, and he's about seven years younger than her, but I think age is a mental thing.

She gave me a present. I haven’t opened it. All I had to give were some Steve Wynn CDs, but I suspect that I’ll get her a present in January. I tend to hibernate during the Christmas season, and make up for it later. I hate fighting the crowds. I asked her to read the opening to Laughter in the Dark. I could tell that she was intrigued as I was. She borrowed it.

She’s afraid the baby will be a Pisces. She said that she’d had to deal with too many of them in her life.

We watched some videos, and I felt horrible because I’d just woken up. But it was nice to see that she’s doing well. I decided it was time to shave off the three days worth of fuzz on my face.

Now, its time to have a pizza.

Heller & Vonnegut interview

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A Playboy interview with Kurt Vonnegut and Joseph Heller from 1992

Slice

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a slice of a much larger image: A Vons supermarket truck in a loading dock, if you're curious.

I don't understand why this would be such a troublesome distinction.

Some blogs intend to convey an agenda.

Some blogs intend to convey links.

It would be simplistic to say that all blogs are expressive, to use speech-act terminology. Blogs display points of view, but that's not the distinction I was trying to make. The most interesting part is their function as directives.

Slices are seldom clean and simple, and they are usually presented behind barriers. Each person determines what the function of their slice is, by their intention.

To class blogs that deal directly with personal life as being simply more expressive, is to overlook the possibility that a more concrete distinction may exist. I think that the directive function of language, and the distinctions within it, are more instructive. Classes of speech acts aren't ironclad, but instead sort of general groupings of language functions. According to the linguist Matthew Coulthard:

Directives are all attempts by a speaker to get the hearer to do something — in this class the speaker is WANTING to achieve a future situation where the world will match his words and thus this class includes not simply 'order' or request, but more subtly, 'invite', 'dare', and 'challenge'.
Approached from this direction, both the polemic and slice of life types could be subsumed. However, there is a subset of the classification of directive: the commissive. Once again, from Coulthard:

Commisives are, like directives, concerned with altering the world to match the words, but this time the point is to commit the speaker himself to acting and it necessarily involves INTENTION.

I think that when I read blogs more acutely focused on what people themselves are doing, and want to do, that this inward directed intention sets them apart from the crowd of those who are merely displaying a viewpoint. I think blogs that have this more inward intention are different. That's why I said so in the first place. Inwardly directed blogs, blogs focused on the thoughts and feelings of the people who write are not just expressive, but commissive in the sense that they are intentionally focused in a different direction than selling themselves to others. They want to change their world, not necessarily someone elses.

The distinction couldn't possibly be more real.

Obviously, it's not black and white. When you think about the people who read your site, it's easy to shift into a more directive, polemic, mode. But it's also possible to shift back, as voicing your opinion causes it to shift and be refined. Another student in Composition theory called this the hermeneutic dance. I liked that description a lot. It happens every time we write. But I think broad catagories of intention are useful in looking at what blogging does.

As usual, when called upon, I will clarify & clarify & clarify until my blog becomes a very boring place. Save the "we're all selling something" comment. I was a salesman for too long, and that thought gives me indigestion. I'm not a product.

The real truth is that it's all rhetoric. Rhetoric is the art of persuasion. Calling rhetoric "sales" demeans it in a very profound way. Persuasion is used both pragamatically and poetically, but it is aimed in different directions. I like WB Yeats's distinction between rhetoric and poetics:

The Poet writes to convince himself.

The Rhetorician writes to convince others.

Joy Harjo

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The Obvious? relayed a Joy Harjo poem, but I like this one better.



from the back dustjacket of the book

Nautilaus


This is how I cut myself open
— with a half pint of whiskey, then
  there's enough dream to fall through

            to pure bone and shell
            where ocean has carved out

warm sea animals,
                 and has driven the night
                 dark and in me
                        like a labyrinth of knives.

From She Had Some Horses (1983).





Laughter in the dark

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Nabokov is a magician.
Started to read Nabokov’s Laughter in the Dark.

It’s really quite charming; I haven’t read a modern novel in a long time. Nabokov’s control of language is just incredible. There was a device that stuck out wonderfully in the opening chapters. The husband’s response to flouting (of conversational maxims) by his wife is usually “Just dropped from the moon?” This seemed odd, until I got to the description of his future mistress’s childhood: “the sky was there, just waiting for her to star.” Beautiful.

But what made me stop and blog was the association created by a different description:

Frau Levandovsky, an elderly woman of good proportions with a genteel manner, albeit marred by a certain fruitiness of speech, and a large purple blotch on her cheek the size of a hand: she used to explain it by her mother’s being frightened by a fire whilst expecting her.

There was a young girl in one of my classes last semester who comes close to this description. She was a very religious girl, genteel and very Arkansan, who had a birthmark that covered at least 30% of her face. She got married during the course of the class, and her wedding video was used as part of her final project. When the groom kissed the bride, there were huge shouts from the crowd. She explained that she and her husband had never kissed before, only held hands.

That was perhaps the oddest example of the impact of religion I’ve ever heard. She said it was actually her husbands idea. They wanted everything to be “new” when they got married. Jaws all around the room dragged the floor in disbelief, but incredible as it sounds, I do believe her. But it still freaks me out. I wanted to write it down while I still remembered it.

I can't imagine having that much self-control. I wasn't the only one in the room that felt that way.

Missive

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Taos

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Taos, New Mexico, sometime around 85 or 86 I think.


Sleepless over Sleeper

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I can't remember the last time I watched so many movies in a row. I mean, actually watched them without reading a book at the same time. I'm losing sleep, watching Sleeper.

While wishing I had an orb and an orgasmatron, I can't help but still laugh at Woody Allen's response to the idea of having his brain simplified:

My brain? That's my second-favorite organ!

And then there is the all too brilliant summation, which nearly describes my point of view:

So if you don't believe in politics, and you don't believe in science, and you don't believe in God, what do you believe in?

Sex and death. Two things that come once in a lifetime. But at least after death you're not nauseous.

Laughter in the dark (duration}

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A final thought on duration:

Marx and Time

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Turner Classic Movies claims to be "answering the tough questions tonight."

Watching Go West by the Marx Brothers oddly reminded me of a Leaving Trains song from the seminal album Fuck called "Temporal Slut." Falling James is a nice guy, happily an ex-husband of Courtney Love. I was luckily able to photograph a side project of his involving my friend Slim, called the Space Okies. I'll have to dig those photos out someday.

But I digress.

While I'm digressing, the altavista translator is great for hours of fun. A German article about the Leaving Trains translates quite nicely. Here's the section about Well Down Blue Highway, the first album of theirs that I heard:

The debut has a very melancholischen Unterton and sounds in the comparison to the later work of the LEAVING TRAINS somewhat unausgegoren and toughly, but nothing the despite are some beads on the disk, which let hope for large. Until today James has never also only a lausigen cent for " waves down Blue Highway " seen. Enigma, the exploiter sow. James operates in the local public library, picks dear novels out for old Vetteln, is mostly deprimiert, no woman does not want Sex with it and many clubs to want the Trains not post, because James has so a large lip and so that a safe guarantor for annoyance is.
Many of my friends are that way: "so a large lip and so that a safe guarantor for annoyance is." And I'm always letting hope for large myself, even though I have some beads on my disk.


Where was I? Oh, yeah, the Marx Brothers. The movie featured some nicely stereotypical movie Indians running around saying How! Ever wonder why Indians in the movies say how? Why not Why or Where or When? Anyway, the only way that the Marx brothers are able to communicate with the Indians is when Harpo turns a loom (textism?) into a harp and begins to play. Music has an interesting correspondence with speech acts. They are both durative: they take place over time. Musicians are, in the best sense of the word, temporal sluts that communicate in a way that is meaningless without a sense of time.

The only way to impose a sense of time on a written text is through narrative. Give it a beginning, a middle and an end. Use tricks to speed it up and slow it down, through meter and alliteration, imitate the presence of existential time. I think that's the key difference between conventional hypertext and blogging: the presence of a sense of time. Without it, there is no narrative.

I like the definition of time offered by Michael J. Toolan in Narrative: A Critical Linguistic Approach:

Time is perceived repetition within perceived irreversible change
This ties together the patterning, the repetitions of most blog entries, into a neatly tied bundle of narrative time. It seems to me that we're almost programed to do it, in order to make sense of time.

Turner Classic Movies answers the big questions, indeed. Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex is up later. I can't wait.

You're not in Kansas anymore

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I'm not sure why, but my first response to things is to argue.

Venice Beach, redux

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Just another typical view of Venice Beach, California, in 1982. At least it was typical, if you were as wasted as I was.


A few interesting articles

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Implicature

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Interpretation is not Conversation.

Come as you are

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Who am I writing to?You, of course!


capture from the mentioned video
Come as you are, as you were
As I want you to be
As a friend, as a friend, as an old enemy
Take your time, hurry up
Choice is yours, don't be late
Take a rest as a friend, as an old memoria
Memoria, memoria, memoria, memoria.

Come dowsed in mud, soaked in bleach
As I want you to be
As a trend, as a friend, as an old memoria
Memoria, memoria, memoria, memoria.

And I swear that I don't have a gun
No I don't have a gun
No I don't have a gun

Memoria, memoria, memoria, memoria.

And I swear that I don't have a gun
No I don't have a gun
No I don't have a gun

Memoria, memoria. . .

Watching an audience shot video of a Nirvana performance on 12/31/93 I started thinking about this song again. It came up a lot after Kurt killed himself, because of the irony involved. But there is a lot more to these words than just the irony. I like to think that the repetition of the word “memoria” carries a great deal more significance than the obvious conclusion that it works metrically, where memory does not. The declension in Latin, which Kurt may or may not have been familiar with, places it in the present tense. It isn’t “in memoriam,” a past memory, but a thought borne by the mind, in the present. Consequently, it presents one more contradiction for the song— “an old memoria” is an oxymoron, echoing “as you are, as you were,” or “as a friend, as an old enemy.” Resolving the song requires dealing with the contrast: does it imply that the person addressed by the song was once an enemy, but is now a friend, or does it imply that the person accepts them as both?

I would give primacy to the latter explanation. I think the key is the phrase “as I want you to be.” Any audience is an image held in the mind, a memoria, of what we want them to be. Memoria is also the final stage of rhetoric. The only word that has greater frequency in this part of the song is the word as, used as a preposition to compare, but also to subordinate these thoughts within the overarching theme of memoria.

The closing lyrics, outside the obviously ironic context of the memory of what Kurt did to himself, suggest a sort of vulnerability to the contradiction. A gun can be either an offensive, or defensive weapon. In the end, I suppose he didn’t have a gun in that sense, really. Except, in his songs, as he was so incredibly careful and complex in composing this lament to “audience,” which highlights the linguistic affinity of enemy and memory. The image of audience that we carry in our heads is always, trend, friend, and enemy.

This connects in a really odd way with William Blake. The memory that he sought to fight was of the past, not of the present, though. The grand narratives that drive us on, to Blake, were the enemy. That sort of ahistoricism is most definately modern; embracing the problems of dealing with the everpresent nature of memory, as it impacts the present, is more pronouncedly postmodern. Cobain's enemy was clearly in the present.

But I swear that I don’t have a gun, either. Really. I mean it.

Conversation

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Lately I’ve been getting an odd sense of déjà vu.

Under Construction

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a real oldie, back before I got bored with abstraction.


Books at my elbow

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Books at my elbow.

Postmodern Rant

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It's not that obvious

The rhetorical baseball diamond

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For almost a week, the pattern has remained the same.

Just before sundown, it starts to rain. Some days, there is a little thunder and lightning around sunset. It always calms, and a soft and insistent rain fills the night. I haven't been able to sleep until the sun comes up. Occasionally, there has been a gap in the rain, and like Patsy Cline, I've gone walking after midnight. But tonight, it's raining harder.

I've been reviewing classical rhetoric, getting ready for the next round of classes, trying to commit classes to memory. Maybe coding it into a table will help. Stolen from Roland Barthes, here's the classic technè rhétorikè.

1. Inventio    
    Euresis invenire quid dictas finding what to say
2. Disposito    
    Taxis inventa disponere ordering what is found
3. Elocutio    
    Lexis ornare verbis adding the ornament of words, figures
4. Actio    
    Hypocrisis agere et pronuntiare performing the discourse like an actor: gestures and diction
5. Memoria    
    Mnémè memoriae mandare committing to memory


Barthes seperates the first three divisions into a sort of rhetorical triangle, or a baseball diamond of sorts:

from The Semiotic Challenge

Why is this important and why am I writing about it? Because I'm trying to conceptualize it in new ways. Barthes describes the challenge to writers succinctly: the agonizing question that Rhetoric seeks to answer is "what is to be said?"

Looking at this diagram tonight, it dawned on me that writing is really a sort of game. The bases of res and verba can also be related as signified and signifier, or in my twisted logic, first and third base. It's hard to get to first base. To figure out what you're trying to signify, what "thing" you want to address. Second base lines up with the pitchers mound. Figuring out how to arrange things, you are furthest away from the target audience. It's a pity that Barthe's diagram is mashed in this fashion. Taxis, or arrangement, is purely syntagmatic. All writers learn their pitches by reading other writers, adding their own embelishments perhaps, but mostly staying close to the rules which most non-writers aren't aware of. Sometimes the writers themselves don't even recognize how formulaic it is. But when you round that base to third, you must confront the lexis, the vocabulary, of the audience. You can see where you want to be, but the techné has taken you for a long trip away from the thing you started with. If your discourse contacts though, you score.

Sorry folks, but I'd just never thought about it this way before, as a game. But then, I was never any good at sports either.

The rain stopped. Maybe it's time to go for a walk.

Virginia Slims

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Advertizing creates an oddly delimited landscape. --------- Toy Circus Parking and Virginia Slims -------- You've come a long way, baby.

Happy Birthday Jane

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Happy Birthday Jane Austen

I've been thinking about delimiters. They are used by computers to know where things begin and end, stuff like using {braces} to define functions. Some people have been quite clever in incorporating them into their blogs, and writing. Using <!-- to enclose comments --> for example. However, I get really irritated by all.the.periods.

The way my bleak understanding of this stuff goes, things like window.event.srcElement.tagName in the document object model are hierarchical. Each variable following a sequence of periods acts, or is dependant on, or derives properties from, the previous object. So, a construction like net.narrative.environments follows the basic syntagm of the programing model. A construction like not.so.soft is a purely arbitrary thing, having nothing in common with its programing heritage. It makes no sense to me, except as a gesture of cleverness which falls flat on me. Perhaps I'm just too far out of the blogging paradigm.

That was the cool thing about Jane Austen really. She never went outside what she knew. You won't see two men conversing alone in her books, or any "inner dialogue" from the men in her books. She neatly delimited what her concerns were, and her concerns were primarily relationships between men and women. Entering into her stories, you know what the rules are. She doesn't arbitrarily invent them, and she sticks to writing what she knows. Austen is one of my favorite writers because you know where she's coming from, and where it's likely to end. You just don't know how it's going to get there. Tracing the story, in the moment to moment dialogue, is satisfying challenge enough, without any extra complications. It is possible to address deep issues without the added difficulty of redefining what language is and what it does.

I love Percy Shelley deeply, but I think he got lost in that language game. It narrowed his audience, and it makes him distant and unapproachable to most people. Not so with Jane Austen. Jane wrote for anybody.

Keats again

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Keats again

I don't need a brand name.

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To hell with branding.

It's as bad as people with one name. I place links on my page, mostly as a convenience to me. If other people are curious about what I'm looking at, that's great. I confess I get a little thrill when someone links to me, not because I think it might in any way increase my pitiful traffic, but because it means that at least someone might find some amusement from my daily notes.

I don't care what you call me, I'm just flattered if you do. Not that it matters, but the blog portion of the site is actually called "this Public Address." Most folks seem to like my domain name, so that's fine as well. I have never made it a secret who I am, so it doesn't bother me if you call me by my name either.

Sometimes I call myself a writer. Sometimes, other people do too. There's a certain amount of discomfort in that, but it's okay. Writing is work. Blogging is play.

Sometimes I call myself a photographer. Other people have used that label too, because I've spent about a quarter of a century doing it. But I've always disliked that label as well. Mainly, because most people who call themselves photographers have absolutely nothing in common with me. Rex had a good distinction about that: there are a lot of "owners of cameras" out there. Taking pictures is fun. The pretensions of photographers are not, especially those who consider themselves to be "photographic artists"

Artist is really an empty term. Anyone can flip a light on and off, or hold a paper up to the sky with a hole torn out of it (a piece by Yoko Ono). Ultimately, I like to think that we're all artists, when we open up our eyes and make meaning in this world.

I refuse to advertise products.

I prefer to struggle each day to make some meaning in all this. I refuse to talk in code; I prefer to deal with things straight, head-on, and without pretense. I hate funky spellings, twisted syntax, and compu-speak. If it shrinks my corner of the web, so be it.

Church windows

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view through a church window in Bakersfield, CA


Consolation of Philosophy

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The Obvious cited a bit reminding me how often I seem to return to The Consolation of Philosophy.

Russell Banks

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Meandering through Writers [on Writing]

Russell Banks seems interesting. I’ve not read him before. “A Novelist’s Vivid Memory Spins Fiction of Its Own” begins with a recounting of the story he often tells about becoming a novelist, including the almost cliché standard youth:

Back in the winter of 1961, I said, I was a twenty-one-year-old dropout, a kid with little more than a fantasy that he was a writer, living in the Back Bay demimonde among poets and hustlers, artists and drug addicts, musicians and con men. I was literary, but not literate, a late arriving beatnik with a taste mainly for getting wasted.
I love the way that this passage is offset by the “I said,” making its truth value suspect. I love the pairings of types. What a great way of chaining things together. It works. Of course it’s a sham, the same sort of sham that became the press kit for folks like Tom Waits. He goes on to recount how he gave up his lowly scrivener job to go to Florida to become a great writer, inspired by Hemmingway and all that. Great PR stuff.

In the story, he talks about an old hustler friend, Jocko, who finds him at a reading and confronts him with the lie. It was the hustler that suggested he go to Florida, not Hemmingway, and while the surface facts might be true, the essence of his motivation was a fiction. A failed relationship drove him to run away to Florida, not the pursuit of becoming a writer. The summation of the article really drives the essence of the piece home:

I asked Jocko why he’d hung around with all those poets and artists and musicians back then. “You were one scary dude, man,” I said.

He said: “Yeah, well, artists are a lot like gangsters. They both know that the official version, the one everyone believes, is a lie.”

He was right about that, too.

Looking into Banks a bit, a recent novel focuses on John Brown, who is coincidentally the poster child for the “Whiteness Studies” movement. Odd how these things all fit together.

Whiteness Studies

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Wood s lot ferrets out another great one. Whiteness Studies?

A hypnotist joke for Rex

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A hypnotist joke for Rex

Mesmer, the famous hypnotist, came onto the nightclub stage and began his act. Everyone was fascinated as he withdrew a polished-gold pocket watch and began chanting: "Watch the watch, watch the watch, watch the watch..."

And everyone did.

The crowd became mesmerized as the watch swayed back and forth, light gleaming off its polished surface. Hundreds of pairs of eyes followed the swaying watch, until suddenly the hypnotist's fingers slipped and the watch fell crashing to the floor.

"Oh, shit," said Mesmer.

And everyone did.

The Empty Room

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Bugging

Though I've just mentioned it, I'll mention it again. Badger's writing about songs that stuck with him, or bugged him in one way or another, made me think about the kind of art I return to most frequently. Things that bug me. It doesn't matter if I like it or not, if there was something about it that "stuck" then it's worth revisiting. In many ways, that's what I think art is all about.

There's a lot in the art world to bug people. The Turner Prize was just awarded to an empty room. I suppose you could say that it's not exactly empty, since it is filled with light when a switch flips on and off every five seconds. There are a couple of weird messages in this: the most positive is that this is a work of art that anyone can own. Just stand at the corner, and flip the lights in your room. Neato. What bothers people isn't that the artist has made this supposed statement, but that he got 20,000 pounds for it. It almost seems like Madonna "got it" as she scandalized Channel Four by saying live on TV:

"At a time when political correctness is valued over honesty, I would also like to say -- right on motherfuckers, everyone is a winner!"
Why would the valuation of such a simple gesture bother people so much? Because it's doing its job, I guess. Bugging people.

Arts and Letters Daily was also quick to point at an article that attempts to justify minimalism in the Guardian. While I often like the writing there, this article missed the mark, I think. Maybe it's because the writer, and his guide should have flunked literature. Standing in front of Carl Andre's Equivalent 8, Jonathan Freedland relates:

While we contemplate the bricks, I ask Wilson what qualities he sees in the work, after all this time. He is protective, having defended it for so long. "Order; it is extremely ordered. Purity, because it is perfectly stripped down. But, above all, truth because it doesn't pretend to be anything else. And, like Shelley says, truth is beauty and beauty is truth."
Sorry guys, that was Keats, not Shelley. And the lines can be taken as ironic, not as a statement of fact. "Ode on a Grecian Urn" is a statement about the futility of art, really. It pissed me off for a long time. I kept returning to this poem over and over because it bugged me. Like most people, I first read it at face value, and not being a big champion of "beauty," it really pissed me off. But when I began to sense the narrator's lack of ease with the pronouncement, I gained greater appreciation of it. It's still not a favorite poem, but at least now, I feel like I get it.

When art gets under your skin, that means it's working.

Prompt

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Prompt

Rejection Rocks!

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Rejection update

I received the rejection letter for another piece submitted to the campus publication. I’m really starting to get a kick out of this. If you’ve read the blog long, you know that the first piece, Shut Up was rejected for being too complex. They wanted to publish an all stripped down version, but I rejected that. A few days later, I got a formal rejection letter with the closing comment: “We hope you find a home for the essay.”

Of course it has a home. Right here. Bought and paid for. Rejection with actual “reasons” is a new experience for me. When photographic submissions are rejected, they seldom if ever contain “constructive criticism.” This constructive criticism stuff is kind of fun: I’m too complex? Thank you!

The letter today, for the piece Stuffed in a Box read, in part:

You write “Stuffed in a Box” in a way that suggests it is a memory, making your recount ring with an element of truth. The disjointed and unpredictable detail echoes that found in memories recounted everyday. You offer an original style in recounting your experience in this manner.
I suspect the reader hasn’t read many modern novels, if they think that this is the case.
Although this freshness is a major strength of the piece, it can sometimes confuse your readers. Keep the style, but try sharpening the details that keep the storyline intact, such as the introduction of new characters and explanation of their relationships to the narrator.
Narrator? This is a non-fiction piece. There is no “narrator,” only me. Real life can be confusing? Oh well. The follow-up suggestions really are the icing on the cake, especially in light of any postmodern notions of how texts really work. Great stories are built on aporia. It’s the difference between writing for children, and writing for adults. What fun would it be if I took their suggestions?
  • Eliminate some of the “blank spots” in the story. Sprinkle the narrative with some transitional statements of reflection as the narrator takes the reader from era to era of this experience.


  • At one point, the piece is a music review. Try to avoid veering away from the personal and exploratory tone of the piece that remains consistent up to this point.
Era to era? The events described take place over about two months. “Transitional statements of reflection?” Don’t you mean judgment? Fuck that. I occasionally write such things, but I do my best to remove them from pieces where I would prefer that a reader make up their own mind about the “moral” of the tale. Of course the essay contains the elements of a “music review.” I knew the man strictly as a musician, and it is impossible to discuss his attitude as a person, without discussing his music.

Sorry for the rant, but I actually feel really good about this reaction. Some people just don’t get it. I can now add to my gold medal in complexity, the added plus of a blue ribbon in confusion.

Thank you very much, you’ve been a lovely audience.


Next year, if I write something really challenging, I’ll have to submit it just to read the rejection letter! As far as I’m concerned, these essays are just bush-league when compared to real literature. Dumb them down further? Sorry, I prefer to head the other way, not into incomprehensibility, but instead, into richness. The best things in life are difficult, and while I don’t want to become impenetrable, I would prefer to have substance. I didn’t think I was submitting to a newspaper, aiming for sixth-grade writing. As an adult, I prefer not to have my food chewed for me. I like to think that people who care to read what I write would feel the same.

Venice

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Venice Beach, California, 1982


deadlines again

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Some things never change.

I frantically finished one writing portfolio today, and my brain has been jello. I have a ten or twelve page critical survey to finish for tomorrow, but I just can't seem to get it together. Deadline: 18 hours and counting. I suppose I'll just have to sleep on it, and see if it can't be seemlessly composed tomorrow.

I work better that way I think. I have to have things correctly positioned inside my head before I can even begin to write. The whole idea of "freewriting" just bugs me. I never freewrite. I write when I have things to say, not when I don't.

Patty Rodgers

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For all those novel writers out there.

I suspected that things like this were out there, but I didn't realize that they would be so reasonable. Xlibris.com will publish your book "on demand." It's surprisingly affordable; a $500 set-up fee if you only want to be a paperback writer. Being a child of print-culture, I wonder about the stigma attached to self-published books (though there have been some great ones in the past, including Jane Austen).

The deal actually looks fair; you retain full rights, and it is non-exclusive, meaning that if a publishing house wants to pick it up, you can sell it again. They also list your book with Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc., so that you could end up on bookstore shelves if you create a buzz. Of course, they also have a buzz creating service to help you out. The break-even point appears to be around 100 copies, for a medium length effort, if the copies were ordered directly from the xlibris site, or 200 through a retailer. Many of the online writers could make this number easily, I would think, from their site traffic of faithful followers. Not me though, I barely rate ten or so fairly consistent fans.

Paging through some of their offerings, I had to chuckle at P.I.G. [Petrified Intestinal Gas]: an inflated life story. But why give the ending away in the blurb?

His time is full of fun with living his life at its fullest with swimming, running, giving musical performances, topped by a heightened awareness of the beauty of life as a gift in itself, not related to a deity or other religious entity, thus creating his own form of ‘religious’ atheism. A tragic surfing accident happens to cut his joy of life short.
Something tells me I read better stuff online for free.

What lead me there was the newly published Passionate Spinster— The Diary of Patty Rogers: 1785. This is a new diary edited by Dr. Marilyn J. Easton. Her announcement on the C-18L list is better than the online blurb:

I would like to announce that I have published the diary of Patty Rogers of Exeter, NH. The original of this diary is at the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester. Patty was the 23 year old daughter of Rev. Daniel Rogers of Ipswich and Exeter and her diary covers the year of 1785 when she was in love with the first principal of the Phillips Exeter Academy. When the diary was first discovered, its flowery style made it seem like fiction, but I have tracked down all the references and her story is undoubtedly real. I've added information about the town of Exeter and the Rogers family using local sources and Daniel Rogers's diaries. She's a lot like a Jane Austen heroine, or like Jane herself and it's awakened me to the truth in the Austen novels in a brand new way. As a social psychologist I have found it fascinating and I wish some of you would read it and let me know how it fits into what you know of the 18th century! There isn't much primary source material from American women of that era and I think it's an important glimpse of a real young woman. Who says that how people conducted their flirtations isn't important!
So, if you're interested in the flirtation habits of the 18th century, this seems like a great source. After my recent engagement with the diaries of Mary MacLane, I'd be really happy to read more musings of a young girl. I may just have to order this one.

Trust

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Trust

While I have great difficulty with the process model of writing, I like Toby Fulwiler’s observations about the process of writing in “Writing: An Act of Cognition”:

I have learned to trust this process, and I can predict that writing for a certain period of time will usually serve to create meaning. It is this trust, especially, that we need to teach our students.
All I need to do now is get some trust. It seems to me that the longer I write, the more difficulty I have with the creation of meaning. Perhaps the “certain period” which he refers to is shorter for some people than others. Meaning usually comes to me only in brief moments, flashes, and if it isn’t contained in words within a brief span of time then it goes away. The more I write, the more it’s like flogging a dead horse.

I seldom write myself into a place where things make more sense. If anything, they make less sense. But writing often gives me ideas about new things to write, if I can just shut up about what I was writing about to begin with.

Just testing

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[If I were an online test, I would be The James Bond Villain Personality Test]Web metacriticism.

Somebody had to do it. I often partake of these silly little web-isms, but seldom link to them, because you don't have to go very far to stumble over one. I try to be a bit more reflective. However, I can't resist the results of the latest one: I'm The James Bond Villain Personality Test. I live in a fictional world of spies and blonde women with ridiculous names, and I like to give people plenty of options. Although whether they're villainous is not optional.


Which in turn, reminds me of what Alexander Pope's thoughts on all these web memes might have been:

Now wits gain praise by copying other wits
As one Hog lives on what another sh—
While I agree with Pope, I must disagree with the outcome of my test-test. Being villainous is always optional.

On Ruth!

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Just what is sprezzatura?

An interesting definition came across on the C-18L list, contrasting the term with chutzpah.

From Herman Asarnow:

One definition of sprezzatura I always liked was told me by Gunnar Boklund, John Webster scholar: "greatness with ease."


the 1974 versionPrince Hal, in King Henry IV, Part I-sprezzatura

Falstaff-chutzpah

Sir Philip Sidney-sprezzatura

Ben Jonson-chutzpah

Congreve-sprezzatura

Pope-chutzpah



I was watching the Dub Room Special, a Frank Zappa video that features some great footage of the 1974 band, and the 1982 band. I think the same comparison could be made there. 1974 band- sprezzatura. 1982 band- chutzpah.

Chester Thompson, sax, flute, vocals, telephone, and amazing dancing.

For the non FZ scholars out there, the 1974 band featured George Duke, Chester Thompson, and Ruth Underwood, and more people that I can't remember off the top of my head. The albums associated with this line-up are Apostrophe and Overnight Sensation, though there is substantial overlap in a lot of the personel over the years. Songs like "Stink foot," "Don't Eat the Yellow Snow," and "Dynamo Hum" might mean more to some. I've never seen these people in action before, the first time I saw him was in 1981.

Wow. That's about all I can say.

Okay, I lied.

Ruth Underwood is one of the most amazing percussionists I've ever seen. And I have seen a lot. I discovered that she even has a stalker/ fan site— On Ruth!.

sprezzatura in action

I was thinking that this classification scheme could be a useful thing. For example, Tom Waits- sprezzatura. Bob Dylan- chutzpah. Hendrix- sprezzatura. Led Zepplin- chutzpah. I could go on and on, but I won't.

Sumptuary Jerkins

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The vocabulary word for the day is sumptuary

Fog

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standing in a library parking lot, in a fairly typical Bakersfield fog

Just another depressive rant

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Sometimes it's hard to get my feet to reach the floor.

Bad Sex Awards

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How not to write a sex scene

From the Guardian, The Bad Sex Awards.

Now in its ninth year, the Bad Sex award was set up to "draw attention to the crude, tasteless, often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in the modern novel, and to discourage it". At an annual ceremony, London's literati gather to hear the shortlisted passages read out by actors during a boozy evening dinner. If the winning author actually turns up, he or she receives a bottle of champagne. Surprisingly, the Bad Sex award is an accolade many novelists claim to be proud to receive. When AA Gill picked up the award in 1999 he said, "I would far, far rather win this than the Booker." Last year's winner, Sean Thomas, described it as an "an enormous honour" to receive the award, for his comparison of a woman's body to a Sony Walkman
For fans of the truly bad, this article is a must read. A few of my favorites:
The thing inside her jerked and threshed, a rising salmon, plunging home to spawn."Yes!" she shouted, relishing the scarlet pain in her knees as he kept grinding them against the barnacled surface of the groyne.
Barnacled? Thankfully, I've never run into one of those.
It was wet and warm down there, which was only to be expected, but she might just as well have deposited my hand on a pizza for all the effect it had.
Hold the anchovies, please.
He was kneeling at the feet of his chaise and sniffing its plush minutely, inch by inch, in hopes that some vaginal tang might still be lingering eight weeks after Melissa Paquette had lain here. Ordinarily distinct and identifiable smells - dust, sweat, urine, the dayroom reek of cigarette smoke, the fugitive afterscent of quim - became abstract and indistinguishable from oversmelling, and so he had to pause again and again to refresh his nostrils.
I'm sorry, but that's just too much information for me. These passages were meant to be stimulating? I think many novelists need to get out more often.

December 6, 1989

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Sometimes the world is just ugly.

Just too much

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Television, it's just so believable

It's the second time I've seen this episode of Going to California, and I just can't help but groan when this bit of dialogue comes across:

"We can't, it's a sin against God"

"It's okay, we don't have to. This is nice."

"But I suppose it'd be okay if you fucked me in the ass..."
Life imitates porno films? I don't think so. This is decidedly odd for a show that purports to be a coming of age story. But maybe I just came of age differently from most people, as would seem to be the case reading Daniel's sex week posts, especially this one. Don't worry, I'll spare you my smut. It isn't really that smutty anyhow, at least not the parts I'd talk about publicly. I'm more often found off on a rant, rather than trying to stimulate heavy breathing. At least in public.

Speaking of rants, I really must applaud Shauna's cell phone rant. If you haven't read it, do so now.

Dance to the music

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New Tribalism

I accidently stumbled onto this bit of bizarreness: smart theramins? While the idea of creating music through body movement isn't new at all, the idea of shaping music based on a social mass of body movements is. Nice article by Yudhijit Bhattacharjee

One goal of many researchers is moving music-making into new settings. Researchers from the Responsive Environments Group, led by Dr. Joe Paradiso at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, are designing a small sensor for interactive dances that they say could be made cheaply enough to be given away with tickets and invitation cards. The sensor has a piezoelectric film, a material that produces a small electric current when it is deformed. Dancers can tie the sensor around their arms or ankles. As they move, responding to whatever music is being played, tiny signals from the piezo foil are sent to a computer.

The computer searches this cacophony of signals for recognizable patterns, which could indicate, for instance, that a sizable number of dancers are swaying with a particular rhythm. Based on the pattern, the music is digitally modified by accentuating a beat or a note to encourage a certain dance step. Over time, a motion started by a few dancers can be made to spread across the floor like a wave. The piezo sensors have been tried out at dance raves in and around the M.I.T. campus.

Using music to create conformity? I'm not sure I really like the implications of this.

Blake Archive Mirror Site

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The William Blake Archive now has a UK mirror site.

If you haven't visited it, I'd highly recommend it. The link on my sidebar is for the original site, but since it recieves over 160,000 visitors per day, many of them from the UK, they have wisely added a mirror for speedier results. I can't stress enough how profound it can be to engage with this stuff, to read it the way it was originally intended— both art and text are one.

Zoom in, zoom out, compare versions of the images, and generally just roll in the richness of William Blake.

Shelley's Jawbone

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Insight into the events after Percy Shelley's funeral from Gavin Murdoch

Long Centurys

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Thoughts from Jack Lynch regarding separating things into literary periods

Stop

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Have you washed your car?


Imagine that

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I don't ever read Rolling Stone, but David Fricke's written a surprisingly good article concerning John Lennon's Imagine. There is an interesting contradiction with Lennon's own words that I heard regarding the song on the video collection I downloaded last week. The article states:

Lennon had written "Imagine" earlier that year, one morning in his bedroom at Ascot, while his wife and collaborator, Yoko Ono, looked on.
I always love this stuff. Were they there? What's the source for this information? What Lennon said on the videodisc release was that the lyrics came from a notebook that he shared with Yoko. They had been riffing on "imagining" and said it was impossible to tell who wrote what, or came up with what idea. Consequently, he later gave her co-writer credit. However, it is impossible for most people to accept the idea that Ono was responsible for anything "good" when it comes to John. That sucks, in a big way.

However, they do credit Neil Young's wife with the idea to do the song for the WTC tribute, and even attribute the source of the information:

According to Don Was, the show's musical director, it was Young's wife, Pegi, who suggested he play "Imagine."

Sometimes I wonder just what the fuck people think artists do, and how they come up with stuff. This bit in particular just grated like fingernails on a chalkboard:

"It's extraordinary that Lennon was able, out of a clear blue sky, to construct this elegant appeal for a saner universe," says songwriter Jimmy Webb. "I could see something like this being inspired by a horrific event like the World Trade Center attack. But he was just sitting around one day and came up with this idea for a song calling for a better world. It's clairvoyant.
Uh, remember Vietnam? No, there were never any horrific events before the WTC to inspire anyone, no wars, no need to think of a better world. Yeah, he's psychic. And he was just sitting around and perked the damn thing up, and had never thought of stuff like peace, or imagining before. Get real people. Most artists I know of spend a lot of time engaged with the big subjects, playing with things and experimenting until eventually something works. It isn't as mythic as most people seem to want to claim. It's called work. Lots of it. I tend to think of the song as a very well-wrought conversation, between John and Yoko, that Lennon has invited the world to join in on. With great music besides.

Later in the article David Fricke goes on to say much the same thing. But it's way past the attention span of a typical reader, after the strangely biased scene painted in the beginning. Fricke invites the help of Michael McClure to explain the song's poetry:

The poet Michael McClure, a charter member of the Beat movement in San Francisco in the 1950s, describes the actual metric structure of "Imagine" as a combination of "white soul and American, black Southern heart. It would have been a pretty good blues song - it has that kind of cadence. But it also echoes, in a subtle way, the English tradition of William Blake, saying, 'How sweet I roamed from field to field' - the classic English ballad structure.

"It's a great poem," McClure says. "It's a great song. But I think that's minor to the fact that it's really a wisdom work. The essentials of life are all in this poem, all in this anthem. And we're so lucky to have it in Lennon's voice. We don't have the voice of the writer of the Book of Job or the Tao Te Ching. But we have the voice of Lennon.
McClure actually gets it. Which is a nice way to close the article. But Fricke didn't. He went on with some more stuff. Okay, so maybe I don't think it is as good as I originally stated. But as an artist, and a writer, I can't help but have my say as well.

Art stuff

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Links? Yeah, I remember that concept.
Finding an audience

An unusual query about whether George Harrison would have found an appreciative audience in the 18th century came across the C-18L list. I really rolled on the floor when I read the response:

......Certainly with the *original* Day-Tripper, Nowhere Man, Fool on the Hill, Walrus, Flat-top, and Plasticine Porter with Looking-Glass tie:

William Blake!
I wish I could say that I’ve found an appreciative audience in the 21st century.

I was notified that a piece I wrote a while back, Shut Up, was selected for a campus journal. There was only one catch, as I found out today. They thought the piece was too complicated, so they cut it in half by editing out all the themes of the piece except one: the question of art vs. pornography. This reduced the only four-page essay to two pages.

This really gives me something else to laugh about. This was the theme that my instructor told me I should cut out of the piece to make it less complex! Being a rather obstinate guy, I told them to just forget it. I’m a complicated guy. I don’t want some reader’s digest version of me floating around with my name on it. That theme was just one of many in the piece, and I thought they all were woven together fairly well at least.

Sorry, I’m complicated and damn proud of it. It took years to turn into this big of a mess, and I can’t see giving people the false impression that my writing is monolithic. To attempt that, is to completely miss the point of why I write. It’s to bring things together, not rip them apart.

Restating the Obvious

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I don't want to be a paperback writer

George and John, from the Paperback Writer video of course

I read my latest attempt to the expository writing class today. The result was startling, once again. The teacher said:

"Now I know that some teachers always say this, but this piece is really publishable. You should send it out!"

Somehow, I suspect that the only place that it will ever be published is here.

So, submitted for your approval: Restating the Obvious.

It's a rumination on reading, and comprehension, and the factors contributing to such things.


As an essay on the desired topic, "nature," it's certainly a stretch. I think the somewhat green-oriented teacher was surprised to find that almost every essay read today was a rant about not really giving a shit about it.

My favorite was a bit of a sketch of a drag strip in Tennessee. Jeffrey (I'm cursed with a common name; there are two of us in this class) did a bang-up job relating the Christmas tree of the drag strip with a modern sort of forest; the sensual experience of nature, as experienced by watching blown-fuel dragsters. But I suspect that Jeffrey won't finish this piece. He had another idea, and I suspect he's scared of incurring the wrath of the greenie by suggesting that scent of nitromethane and fresh leaves have anything in common.

One thing I haven't figured out is why the teacher always asks: "Did you just write this, or did you write it before the class?" It's as if she thinks I just have my ready-made essay file handy and I toss out the one that comes closest to the topic. Nope. Yes folks, this is all spontaneous and unrehearsed. I just think these things up, and then write them down. Hey, I like that. "Up and down" has a somewhat universal appeal.

But I'm just getting silly now. I'd better shut up and finish the other two essays I need for tomorrow.

Lets Roll

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just another headless construction

Neil Young recently debuted a new song written about the events of 9-11 on KFOG in San Francisco. Thanks to the miracle of the Internet, and the generosity of Neil Young fans, you can find an mp3 here. It's considerably more hawkish than his performance of Imagine on the benefit.

Shedding the illusion

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Perhaps I'm odd, but a trip to the shed was never like this for me:

From Shedding Writer's Block by Noel C. Paul.

The MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, N.H., offers writers tiny studios in which to work for up to eight weeks. "Writers constantly tell us that the walk to their studio through nature proves invaluable to their creative process," says resident manager David Macy.

Leaving the house and heading for the studio, some writers say, is no easier than rolling out of bed and hopping into a cold shower. Many, as a result, detest their shed, even as they admit they would cease to function as human beings without it.

. . .

I don't have a shed, though when I was a boy I did have one. It was filled with tools, old boxes of letters and books from the previous residents on the farm, and dust. Lots of dust. I never went to the shed to accomplish much of anything. I stayed in my room. But Paul cites an interesting possibility:

. . .

Today, individualism and bohemianism largely characterize writers' social identity. Isolation, in turn, is far more acceptable, if not expected. For many writers pressed with domestic distractions, it is also pragmatic.

"I have a theory that women escape from home to write, while men I know escape from the world by staying home to write," says novelist Katharine Weber. "I suspect that this is because the dishes and laundry do not call out their name."

This is quite true; I'm not distracted in the slightest by the mountains of books that need to be shelved, the carpet of laundry in the bedroom, or the dishes that need to be done. These things do not speak to me. If I feel like writing, I just write. I don't need to go anywhere, especially to a shed. But I can empathize. I had an uncle who had his own "poutin' house" outside the main house. He was backwoods moonshiner, and went there when his wife had enough of his shit. My mom told me another story about him when I visited on Thanksgiving.

It seems that Bill (my moonshiner uncle) gave her a ton of grief over the fact that she had no tits at age 12. Anyone capable of that sort of behavior does need to be sent to the shed.

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