Tuesday, December 30, 2008

How does one fail without having a goal?

I don't know, but looking at the trend of my posts since this blog's inception, I have to say it looks as though I have failed as a blogger. That is, if my initial rate of posting is taken as an implicit statement of purpose, then my failure to maintain that rate indicates a failure of the blog as a whole. On the other hand, in my pop-culture inundated life (and my none-too-bright brain), in this pop-culture inundated culture, non-pop-culture topics are rare, and my natural reticence means I will want to speak about any given topic even more rarely; therefore, posts to this blog should be expected to be rare.

I'm glad we cleared that up.

I have a question, that may just be evergreen--even deathless--that I'm not equipped to answer. (As a sidelight, does the existence of unanswerables, in comparison to the complete reinvention of human life wrought by science, indicate that philosophy, as a human endeavor, has wrought less than it ought? Maybe it's a dumb question--I'm not educated enough to judge.)

But the question I want to ask is, why we have emotional reactions to depictions (written or drawn) of heinous acts? And why do we talk about the depictions as if something had actually happened?

And if we had no emotional reaction to depictions would there be any point to making art? Where is the moral line in depictions, and where should the legal line be? What harm comes from restricting depictions that the public deems undesirable?

Huge questions with huge answers, and they are cried into the wind without even an Echo as answer. But is that any better than the answers we've gotten from millenia of the best human thought? I don't know. I should go back to school--or at least read a goddamn book.

Friday, December 19, 2008

"The present study presents new postulates for the interpretation of the basic features of the Proustian universe."

That's a line from a book I might read, not from a post I'm about to write, sadly. But when I think about my schooling, it seems I really ought to be able to write about Proust from something like a critical perspective. Maybe tomorrow. Whoops, no --we have a show.

For now, here's an entry in the Copy Book, from Swann's Way, right near the end of the Combray section: "When, on a summer evening, the melodious sky growls like a tawny lion, and everyone is complaining of the storm, it is the memory of the Meseglise way that makes me stand alone in ecstasy, inhaling, through the noise of the falling rain, the lingering scent of invisible lilacs."

Oh yeah! That's what I came here for!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Pixies and Cake

Holy Crap! Only one post all month? I knew I was lagging, but come on.

And all I've got for you today is --oh, there's that dreaded word again!-- just some Pop Culture commentary. I'm start to think I'm obsessed it. Sad. My life is squandered so fully in intellectual whipped cream that there is not even such substance as would constitute intellectual dessert at the bottom of the dish --nothing else for me to write about. Not even dessert!

Right. I was astonished to hear, in the film for which Frank Capra was crowned best director of 1936 by The Academy, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, two old biddies from the Heartland repeatedly use a word which one associates today with things not particularly common in 1936, especially out in the fly-over states: pixilated.

It must have been viewed at the time as an archaism and a gem of local color, because the judge in the scene (Mr. Deeds is on trial for being crazy) explains "Pixilated is an early American expression formed from pixies, for elves; they use it where we would use 'barmy.'" I quote from memory, so don't forget your grain of salt.

I'm ever so fond of this word, all the more so because it's now ambiguous (in speech) with the altogether different word, which I presume would be spelled pixelated, in order to distinguish its separate origin, though the 'L' could be geminated to indicate that the 'e' is not to be pronounced 'ee,' though that is actually --if you can believe such things are possible in the word of orthography--a matter of choice; see 'canceled' and 'cancelled' both of which it is possible to see in correspondence from Amazon about a single cancellation.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Languishing in a Proustian fog of indolence and dissipation . . .

. . . is what I wish I'd been doing this week; instead, it's wall-to-wall LEGO Star Wars and futzing around with my new computer --let this be a lesson to you: the quickest way to a new (Windows) PC, if you don't know what you're doing, is to install Ubuntu through a complete hard drive wipe. And so I'm hopelessly behind on reading Swann's Way.

There's plenty of pop-culture fun on my mind, but that's what you have the rest of the internet for. This is the No Pop Culture Blog. The above mentions of LEGO and Star Wars are to be stricken from the record, and the readership are to disregard them in reaching their verdict. Their verdict as to whether they'll continue reading, I guess.

Let's talk about the past perfect (in English) for a while. Take a verb like swim: he swims; he swam yesterday, when he was swimming; he has swum before. My guess is that some of you --or rather, if my readership was substantially larger, then a subset of it-- were surprised by the form swum in the last example. And now we realize that this is a bad example, because swum is a rather rare form, and I'm guessing that plenty of people don't use it --I learned it, as a boy, from Disney's Robin Hood (there's that damned pop culture again), and upon first hearing it thought it sounded decidedly odd; naturally I had to adopt it as an affectation immediately, and cleave to it from then on.

Digression: on is not a preposition in that sentence, but it might be a post-position. I once did a paper on the post-position in English, because English doesn't have any, generally (ago is the exception). I don't think I collected this use of on, but I collected plenty of other bad examples of what were not post-positions at all, so it won't hurt much if I'm wrong about this one too.

I was talking about the past perfect, right? Forget swum. Let's go with the common, perfectly ordinary inflected forms, like ridden and written and taken. Whoops. These forms, if I'm going to call them PAST perfect, have to be combined with auxiliaries, and will have the same form whether they're present perfect with has or past perfect with had. Anyway, what I'm tryng to get to is that lots of people don't use this form. I had a very small collection of examples, but I've decided that, since it's impossible to bring up this kind of minuscule usage variation without sounding like you're calling for conformity to a standard, I'm not going to report the examples. And that also means that I have no point to make. I've led you down the garden path and there is nothing left to do but club you over the head and drag you back to my cooking fire.

That's kind of icky. Okay, I will peeve out a bit on this subject. Because it's easy to recognize the colloquial use of the past tense form in place of the perfect form (had wrote instead of had written) and people don't want to commit the most heinous of crimes, the solecism, I think there is a common tendency to overcorrect (you automobilists know how bad this is) and I hear a lot of past perfect forms when the past tense is what's called for. Listen for it on NPR --not the hosts, but the people on the street. Now that I think of it, it's probably not overcorrection at all; using the past perfect when you're explaining how something happened probably signals that the past perfect verbs are part of the action of the story --a way of keeping track of two different time streams, the story and the present conversation. So did I lead you down another garden path? Oh, look over there! Club club.