Thursday, May 7, 2009

Library thoughts, pt 2.

According to Beethoven, "Ghost" = a piano trio in D major. I love associations like this, the ones that make no sense until you hear/see it for the first time. The moment between surprise and "aha!" is enlightenment - your knowledge of the word (and of the world) has just been expanded with this little destruction of the boundaries of word.

Language does not equal words, either spoken or written. Language is signs, the signifying sound/image (words) combined with the signified idea. Signs are arbitrary - nothing is inherent to our language. A tree is not called a tree because some inherent quality of those things in forests and in side walks dictates it to be called a tree. It's called a tree because we decided to call it a tree.

That's why the word ghost can become the definition of a piece of music. Our language is not defined by what we are taught in school or what we read in dictionaries. We can mold, alter, or even destroy language as much as we want.

We do this all the time. Slang is the youth culture's display of language arbitration. We call something "the shit," which means it's good - we've arbitrated the word shit from it's typical crude way of meaning feces and turned it into a synonym for cool. Euphemisms operate the same way - flossin' as a way to describe showing off. We've taken a word describing oral hygiene and arbitrated it to its original meaning, while at the same time abstracting the idea of showing off to a verb that has nothing to do with showing off.

Can we start calling young slang "youthanisms"?

No? O.K. Sorry guys, my bad.


The company that made Duke Nukem shut down today. This got me in the gut a little. Duke Nukem was one of my earliest video game memories, and to watch a piece of your childhood vanish into the abyss of bankruptcy stings. It also makes the overwhelming pressures of adulthood a tad more visceral. If video game companies, those technologies that we literally grew up with and have watched become one of the highest grossing markets in the world over the last decade and a half, can go under, how much can we, the products of the video game generation, hope for?

That being said, apparently they had been working on a Duke Nukem title for 12 years. That's bullshit. That's like asking your friend to come out to play on a Saturday and having to wait for him to finish his month of being grounded to come out to play. At that point, you've probably found a new friend to go to 7-Eleven with.

Sorry, Duke Nukem, but you probably would have been the victim of a killing spree if you came out today. Arbiter plasma swords and gravity guns are too much for your crude but witty catch phrases.


I am strongly considering reaching the lowest point of my procrastination and joining Twitter. Not like I need another medium to say stuff through (I prefer social networking of the long-winded sort), but because my friends seem to tweet with relative frequency, and I don't want to miss out on their fun. I feel like the kid who hasn't quite finished his sandwich when all of his friends run out to play kickball, so he stuffs his face with bologna and white bread and ends up choking because he's that afraid of being picked last.

To those with Twitter, you will know my decision come tomorrow.


Lots of little kid metaphors in this one. Perhaps it's my subconscious trying to counteract the thoughts of leaving school (potentially) forever. It does make me wish that ice cream truck would come by Marsh Plaza today - I could go for a Ninja Turtles Popsicle (apparently, Popsicle in the lower case is incorrectly spelled? Who would have thought that Popsicle would be a proper noun?).


  1. If you do get twitter, look me up. I'm SkinnyMeanMan.

    I was more of a Doom man myself, and my dad was HUGE into Quake, Quake II, and Quake 3--which he still plays frequently.

    I'm off to look at your poem.

  2. Looks like you've been reading de Saussure.

    I particularly enjoyed the first half of this post (pt. I, the impossibility of originality acc. to Barthes), not because it's a profoundly new topic but because it's one that's been occupying my own thoughts more frequently these days as a side-effect of a rather incredible and severe writer's block.

    It almost urges you as a writer, and specifically as a poet interested in the interplay between form and content, to embrace and swim in this allusiveness rather than pay heed to Pound's maxim (though I think when Pound said 'make it new' he was importantly also referring to the ongoing struggle of every poet to be constantly innovative in-and-of his own verse, independent of exterior precedent).

    I think in the end it's not something to fret about. I've come to wear my influences more loudly and proudly than ever before and I don't think that makes me an inferior or less interesting poet. What's past is prologue, but it's still part of the ongoing story.

    Who are your favorite contemporary poets, by the way. Considered going for an M.F.A at all? I think that's definitely the way I'm leaning at this point.

  3. Not so much reading as returning to. I've done plenty of time with the structuralists and post structuralists, and am now finding them applicable in taling about 17th century Chinese fiction. Crazy stuff. Saussure was always my favorite though.

    I don't think the unavoidable tendency to allusion, to point to the past, is a detriment to art, either - did I come across that way? I hope I didn't. No, I prefer to cultivate my influences and point to the past that everyone knows about. I'm a nostalgic being by nature, so it's silly for me to ignore.

    I hope you manage to overcome your writer's block soon. I always look forward to new work from you.

    Favorite contemporary poets? My favorite would have to be Yusef Komunyakaa. Check out "Talking Dirty to the Gods" if you get a chance. I'm also a bit partial to Rita Dove, mostly because I'm a Gwendolyn Brooks fan. And Paul Muldoon is an unavoidable giant. Whether or not you're familiar with his music, Saul Williams is also a great talent poetically.

    I have definitely considered an M.F.A., and will probably eventually get one, but the time is not right. I need a bit to decompress. Are you considering going straight into a program after your BA?

  4. Yeah, I am. But it's not an absolute necessity concerning my goals as a writer, so I'm going to be pretty picky about where I apply and if I'm rejected (the likely outcome for almost anybody) there's always something else. Time to decompress is always a good thing. Time to just get out there and live is even better. Hope you enjoy both in the coming months.