“I don’t know,” she recited, as if litany, “where you get all that.” “Don’t you ever follow the stories in the ads?” he asked, as if it was the most obvious question in the world. “No,” she responded, and her tone, as well, suggested she thought this the most obvious of truths.
There is a certain futility in announcing anything, especially when there is nothing to announce. Still, two poems in two days and an actual effort to retain them feels like starting something. Here’s a joke, though, that isn’t actually a joke: National Poetry Month, having just ended, managed to remind of something apparently forgotten.
At some point in my nearly forty-five years I forgot that I am a poet.
No, really, I have no idea how this happened.
Except I probably do.
I don’t know, I should probably be embarrassed; but, y’know, whatever.
So, there is this thing people do, sometimes, and perhaps it is perfectly human behavior, except when it is so clearly statistically deviantα. Or maybe it’s just something about perception. Sometimes we exist in an environment where simple things are impossible: I am writing something; my coffee cup is empty; if you wish to take odds, no, I cannot manage to go refill my coffee cup without someone demanding that I stop what I am doing and undertake another task. And perhaps that summary sounds a bit pointed, but when you can watch someone get up and start searching the room for something to give you, they make some sort of point: Here is something that looks like it has a deadline in about four weeks; you need to stop what you are doing and do this thing right now.
And if you ask about this phenomenon, the one thing people don’t do is explain why they can’t leave you to what you’re doing; indeed, very often they come right out and—what, confess? admit? acknowledge? chide?—say the one has nothing to do with the other.
α There is, of course, a recursive dive into the question acknowledging that statistical deviance, real or perceived, is itself perfectly human; this is, to the one, a seemingly legitimate existential consideration, and, to the other, a nihilistic rabbit hole.
Does it count as Skitt’s Law if, despite being unplanned, it still manages to make the point, anyway?
I would, however, note that once upon a time I actually lost an internet argument about how language evolves. There is a word we use, from the Italian; most Americans get it from “mob” movies. In a world in which I am supposed to know, off the top of my head, that the word is now officially spelled “koppish”, because, y’know, language evolves, I have also learned to remember that some evolution leads the way of the dodo.
When you hear someone justify poor presentation with something about how language evolves, it does in fact behoove us to consider whether the “evolution” in question improves or denigrates communication.
There is an argument that says EoS only makes good people feel bad about their own writing, but there is also a way in which that argument relies on some contradictory notion about communication. There are a lot of good people who communicate poorly; somewhere between, say, failing to speak in a way that fails to frighten a stupid, frightened person with a gun and, oh, I don’t know, being able to write a sentence without netspeak shorthand, exists a viable question by which communicative skills really are a proper consideration for self-conscious good people.
It’s just hard to figure though, to what degree the Elements bring jittery self-awareness to people who don’t know what the book is, or have never tried to use it.
Did you see what I did, there?
The gaffe in the sentence about the stupid person with a gun really is a mistake of revising something or another in the moment as that jalope hit the page.
“Why ‘The Elements of Style” is out of style”. Public Radio International. 8 February 2018.
“We’ll make a little more in a bit.”
“We’ll make more in a little bit.”
Is it, then, some challenge of art, because in truth explaining what seems important enough to justify the sentiment is far more complicated than the moment otherwise seems to warrant: Of course the plate of birdseed has been moved to the dripline, that it might collect the water falling off the roof.
People are people. Humans are human. When truth being stranger than fiction starts to seem an insult is approximately the point at which one can no longer ignore the nagging, garbled question about how human imperfection seems so inhumanly, perfectly antithetical, as if an act of will.
Certain little software issues arise along the way, and it’s true, I just don’t understand why. Like one day, caption data starts disappearing from the image files I’m making with GIMP. I finally figured out the problem by reading a fifteen year-old bug report on exif data that was allegedly resolved way back when. And now it’s apparently not a bug; this is the way it goes now. But it was strange, because the problem showed up only occasionally, at first, and then one day just was. And there was no ongoing update. It was squar’ in’tween updates.
Did my update notifier just break my system? I don’t think so, but it is also true there was an update waiting when I checked. (It’s a joke about my particular Linux flavor and spice: If stuff starts acting weird and slowing down, check the update manager; once it has an update to give you, it really wants to take care of the thing, but for whatever reason the only way it lets you know is by slowing everything down.) It is true I like to blame APIs in the age of HTML 5; as a blogger, it seems everything started going to hell around the same time every website got their new bells and whistles and all the end users got out of it was a bunch of lousy pop-ups, drop-downs, and overlays.
But this is really quite simple: I have not been hallucinating my find & replace method for the last five years. Longer? Hell, I don’t remember. But you cannot convince me I have been dreaming this bit where I can highlight text, hit a key combination, and have my text replace interface waiting to replace the highlighted text.
I was actually ahead of schedule when Gedit broke. It’s just a lot of stuff to highlight and replace by hand. So much for the schedule; I should probably get back to replacing.
But, yeah. The moral of the story: Never set goals.
No, really, I was going to finish all of a few minutes early, and now I’m over a couple hours behind and pretty much finished for the night.
Because I somehow managed to break Gedit.
Honestly: How the fuck do you break Gedit?
“What do you think is become of the art of forcing the thunder and celestial fire down, which the wise Prometheus had formerly invented? ‘Tis most certain you have lost it; ’tis no more on your hemisphere; but here below we have it. And without a cause you sometimes wonder to see whole towns burned and destroyed by lightning and ethereal fire, and are at a loss about knowing from whom, by whom, and to what end those dreadful mischiefs were sent. Now, they are familiar and useful to us; and your philosophers who complain that the ancients have left them nothing to write of or to invent, are very much mistaken. Those phenomena which you see in the sky, whatever the surface of the earth affords you, and the sea, and every river contain, is not to be compared with what is hid within the bowels of the earth.”
“There are not many persons who know what wonders are opened to them in the stories and visions of their youth; for when as children we listen and dream, we think but half-formed thoughts, and when as men we try to remember, we are dulled and prosaic with the poison of life. But some of us awake in the night with strange phantasms of enchanted hills and gardens, of fountains that sing in the sun, of golden cliffs overhanging murmuring seas, of plains that stretch down to sleeping cities of bronze and stone, and of shadowy companies of heroes that ride caparisoned white horses along the edges of thick forests; and then we know that we have looked back through the ivory gates into that world of wonder which was ours before we were wise and unhappy.”
―H. P. Lovecraft, 1922
“It had taken him years, and much conniving, to get access to the mighty, and more trickery still to learn which of them had dreams of magic. When pressed. He’d used the jacket, seducing those who fawned upon potentates into revealing all they knew. Many had no tales to tell, their masters made no sign of mourning a lost world. But for every atheist there was at least one who believed; one prone to moping over lost dreams of childhood, or to midnight confessions on how their search for Heaven had ended only in tears and gold.”
―Clive Barker, 1987
“See, this is my opinion: we all start out knowing magic. We are born with whirlwinds, forest fires, and comets inside us. We are born able to sing to birds and read the clouds and see our destiny in grains of sand. But then we get the magic educated right out of our souls. We get it churched out, spanked out, washed out, and combed out. We get put on the straight and narrow and told to be responsible. Told to act our age. Told to grow up, for God’s sake. And you know why we were told that? Because the people doing the telling were afraid of our wildness and youth, and because the magic we knew made them ashamed and sad of what they’d allowed to wither in themselves.”
―Robert R. McCammon, 1991
It occurs to wonder what actually happens when the written word is dismissed from duty and argumentation is carried out via social media with links to other people’s YouTube rants.
No, really, I just don’t get that bit about how someone wants their voice to be heard so they send you a link to an hour-long YouTube rant. Honestly, they’re like really unskilled salesmen; getting you to sit through an hour of their favorite bigot is the point. Seriously; they know they’re not going to convince you. They just want to demand that you waste a bunch of your time in order that they might feel special, and then despise you for accommodating.
Sometimes it feels stupid to post these notes, but then we might recall the godawful narration explaining poker to a James Bond audience; and something goes here about the simpleminded moralist explanations in Hunter x Hunter mixed in with the sexual molestation scene and the nostalgic bit with the guy standing there in the middle of an emergency sniffing the scent of a woman from his fingers.
No, seriously, at first it’s a combination of Dragonball and Boobah―(“Look what I can do!”)―with infantile moral lessons describing character motivations, and then ....
Which actually might prove useful, for once. Perhaps the proper response to, “Here is a long-assed video in lieu of me actually doing any work to post a proper argument,” would be to simply post episodes of Hunter x Hunter and One Piece, the latter of which actually has the courage to denounce sexual harassment by its name.
I don’t know, maybe it seems cryptic, but that’s also kind of the point.
Simply: It is true that we notice certain aspects about other people because those aspects are important to us.
But then there are occasions when those aspects are so apparent, not noticing requires some deliberate effort.
To wit, if at some point one makes a deliberate, sustained, focused, and otherwise sufficient attempt to disrupt another, the other will eventually notice.
The only question remaining is why, or, perhaps more directly expressed: What do you require of me at this time?
Because nothing else, in that moment, exists anymore. Not what I was about, going to be about, or need to be about; only this. You now have my attention, what do you require?