Posts tagged ‘writing’

11 October, 2011

The More We Change…

We are at that point in the semester (called midterms) where I devolve into a disheveled mess (I am currently wearing a sweatshirt in what I am affectionately thinking of as “caveman style”– one arm free, one arm in, zipper about half way up to allow this oddity of fashion to happen.) Dishes are piling, readings are spiraling, and then I find an article that’s basically like a present hidden in the pile of psychoanalytic jargon I’m reading on Edgar Huntly.

In my heart of hearts I am a classicist, and I admit this like it’s a perverse, guilty pleasure. In a conversation with a Nice Fellow, we were talking about classics departments, and how it’s like they’re segregated. There is no Romanticism department. Classicists get routinely deported to their own department though. Granted, you could argue there’s a more interdisciplinary bent to Classics departments, but the same could totally be said for any other era of history and the way we study it.

Anyway, my inner Classicist was thrilled to get to read about Sumer and Egypt briefly today, and loved and demanded to share this sentence:

Also, as in the Mesopotamian system, hieroglyphs were the tools of an elite priesthood expert in medicine and magic. The scribes guarded and boasted of their technological secrets, with a zeal that rivals even Microsoft.

Scott B. Noegel “Text, Script, and Media.”

While I think Apple would be the more appropriate comparison to secret mongering, I love the comparison for its silliness.

That is all. More photos come weekend-time.

27 September, 2011

Metaphor = APORIA

I try to limit the amount of super dense crap I put up on the internet, but this is too beautiful an analysis of the nature of metaphor to pass up sharing.

The rhetoric of metaphor is, after all, grounded in aporia. Metaphor, like its extension, allegory, is resorted to when the proper term is deemed inappropriate or unavailable and a non-proper term is inserted in its place–to the effect of a hovering validity which is held in suspense by the knowledge that the term is not the proper one. The paradox of the wrong term being the only appropriate or possible one accounts for the precariousness of metaphoric speech.

Hofmann, Klaus. “Keats’s Ode to a Grecian Urn.” Studies in Romanticism 45.2. Boston: 2006.

LOVE IT. I love the idea that the effectiveness of metaphor is the very knowledge that the image created through comparison is disparate from the object. It is the paradox of needing to draw weird comparisons to understand what is already understood that just screams Socratic aporia.

Aporia, incidentally, is not understood simply as the definition in the dictionary– an irresolvable internal contradiction in a text or argument– but also as the poignant Greek literal meaning: to be in a state of loss. Aporia is what the Socratic method reduces its “victims” to. A weird logical limbo, where the old understandings of a thing have been torn down. It is, literally, to “be at a loss.” Slack-jawed.

Metaphor as a state of aporia. LOVE. SO. MUCH.

 

11 September, 2011

Mapping the World

“Different maps tell very different stories, and assume very different forms, according to their function, or their point of view. Ptolemy mapped the heavens by standing on earth. Galileo remapped them by imagining that he was standing on the Sun.”

–D.F. McKenzie, Bibliography and the Sociology of Texts, 44.

I stumbled awkwardly through a mire of hilightings and underlinings until this sentiment and I ran headlong into each other on page 44. Yes, it might have been my nerd senses tingling at the mention of a Ptolemy (not, in case you’re wondering, a Pharaonic Ptolemy, but still an Alexandrian), but I also have a pronounced interest in maps and cartography.

Maps are essentially attempt 90 billion on the part of humans to put the universe into nice, neat boxes (or nice, neatly drawn grid squares, in this case), and our need to understand through cataloging is something of a source of perpetual entertainment for me.

One of the strangest realizations is that maps don’t have to be objective. They can show whatever they want to know. They are a reflection of a reflected reality. By this I mean, they are an imperfect written record of an imperfect and biased view (the cartographer’s) view of the world.

I have a character in the project I’m (re)working through right now who’s a cartographer. I wonder what form of imperfection his maps have?

Anyways, onward with the photo project…

Sept. 6: So much rain this weekend. While I was walking to campus from the T stop, I happened to look down. I like sidewalk cracks. Looking at them reminds me that nothing’s forever, and that sooner or later, everything is fragmentary. Sorry, there was no way to phrase that without sounding emo/heavy handed.I could talk more about sidewalk cracks, but I’ll spare you.



Sept. 7: I walk by several goofy signs every day, and while there is nothing inherently goofy about the phrase “Not a through street” in and of itself, I love how squished it looks on this big yellow diamond, like it’s outgrowing the constrictive size of the sign. Think of it like a typographical sumo wrestler trying to wedge himself into skinny jeans.

Sept. 8: This was my day of discovering enormously odd tiny things. Like this guy, hanging out on the concrete steps by the main library. You can tell it rained a little, looking at the discolored concrete.

Sept 9: My city’s library is cooler than your city’s library. Just saying. Beyond those paneled wooden doors? That’s a courtyard. With sculptures. And a fountain. And a garden. And chairs. Just saying. Sorry for the lousy photo quality.

Sept. 10: Today was a pretty productive exploring day. I went to two street festivals, through Quincy Market, and bookstore hunting. More bookstore hunting is in my future. I bumbled into an outdoor concert down by Quincy at the Boston Arts Festival (ahts festival, if you like) and stayed until the group finished their set. I read my book history book. I wonder if the fellow with the card in his hat is a Lackadaisy lover?

Sept 11: I, in fact, didn’t leave my apartment today, so you get a picture of something weird in my room, namely, a sculpture that I now use to keep my hair sticks in check.

 

Until next time, friends.

28 April, 2011

Flotsam and Jetsam

Sometimes the most entertaining lines get cut in the revision process:

“Ah, well. I’d promise you all sorts of sexual favors… but we wouldn’t want to scandalize the deans or anything,” she smiled again and kissed his cheek. “Please get up?” She asked, widening her eyes.

“What’ve the deans to do with sexual favors? I certainly don’t want to see that. Or receive that. Or give that,” he murmured sleepily. “Really, nothing to do with that.”

4 March, 2011

The American Skeuomorph

A skeuomorph is, basically, an ornament that imitates an earlier, functional incarnation of itself. It is something like the studs on your jeans–which once had a function but are now little more than a decorative accent– or the pocket watch pocket in pants and jackets. Like tiny ghosts, they slip under the radar, never questioned, never removed.

I’ve been thinking for several days about skeuomorphs now, since I stumbled upon them at the beginning of this week. Why do we hang on to these bits of antiquity? Why does the design feel so empty without them? Is it just tradition, or is it a subconscious demand to have something that places us as a link to the past? To something recognizable?

When you’re writing science fiction or fantasy it is always recommended not to stray too far from the familiar– readers need something to fit their fingers around. They need a schematic. Much like a skeuomorph, this schematic is only there as a link to something earlier. Something recognizable. Without it, you can alienate readers– effectively put them into something like culture shock.

Another thought: consider the jargon that gets used in American media all the time that places the United States as a firmly Christian country (despite declining church attendance and affiliation) and rhetoric that suggests we are the greatest world power, and always will be (despite the rise of other countries, such as China). As time moves forward, “old-fashioned American values” and “the American dream” have had less of a tangible role in coming-of-age in America, yet the language lives on. I expect it will continue to live on, as well. Like the pocket watch pocket, its function is minimal (and occasionally re-imagined), and yet, it endures. It is part of the standard design, and without it we would feel somehow incomplete.

“American Love; like coke in green glass bottles…they don’t make it anymore.”

-Alan Moore The Watchmen

 

This has nothing to do with my thoughts on Skeuomorphs, but I have been here, and so has someone else, apparently:

This has happened to me.