Friday, October 31, 2008

Short "Poem".

Since we're discussing madness and poetry, I figure I'll post a (very short!) poem - if you want to call it that - that I thought up after class...


Beneath the eyes
Of many madman
Lies a smiling child
Born decades too early

and a Nietzsche quote:

"Madness is rare in individuals, but in groups, parties, nations, and ages it is the rule."
--Friedrich Nietzsche

And I must make an appeal that someone should get Alex on here to post his poem about "charging for human kindness" - or if somebody knows it, post it!

Paul Celan



Paul Celan was a German/Romanian

Jewish poet whose family was

annihilated in Nazi concentration camps.

He was writing his poetry, then, in the

language that had had a hand in

perpetrating the Holocaust. 

Exiled German philosopher Theodor

Adorno famously wrote that there could

be no poetry after Auschwitz. 

Like noone else, Celan felt that certainty;

and yet, till his suicide in 1970, he wrote

poems like this one (from the collection

"Die Niemands Rose," my translation):


TÜBINGEN, JÄNNER 1961

Zur Blindheit über-

redete Augen.

Ihre – “ein

Rätsel ist Rein-

entsprungenes“ –, ihre

Erinnerung an

schwimmende Hölderlintürme, möven-

umschwirrt.

Besuche ertrunkener Schreiner bei

diesen

tauchenden Worten:

Käme,

käme ein Mensch,

käme ein Mensch zur Welt, heute, mit

dem Lichtbart der

Patriarchen: er dürfte,

spräch er von dieser

Zeit, er

dürfte

nur lallen und lallen,

immer-, immer-

zuzu.

(“Pallaksch. Pallaksch.”)


TÜBINGEN, JANUARY 1961

Eyes con-

vinced to blindness.

Their – “a

riddle is pure-

origin” –, their

memory of

floating Hölderlin towers, swarmed

by gulls.

Visits by drowned cabinetmakers while

these

diving words:

If a person were,

were to come,

if a person were to come to the world,

today, with the lightbeard of

the patriarchs: he could,

if he spoke of this

time, he

could

only babble and babble,

always-, always-

atitatit.

(“Pallaksch. Pallaksch.”)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Satirical Dada article

From The Onion: Republicans, Dadaists Declare War On Art

I wish I understood all the references.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Composing While Dozing (the art of sleep-writing)

Texts, when the pages are written or printed in a language I am literate in (English so far) form a sort of soul or essence, which is encoded within by the very act of being created (or written). If, as I said, this text happens to be written within my framework of understanding—that being, the English Language Framework—I am able to look at its surface and attain some knowledge about that surface; that being, a representation of its essence. However, the essence itself is not different than my own essence, though it is different than the text. It is one of an encoding nature. You cannot judge a book, by not only its cover, but by the visualization of its very words! To read the text is to insult the text. The text is not the meaning—the essence. The text is only a representation of its essence! Likewise, your face is not you, your face is a representation of your essence, which can only be miscalculated by those who think that objective knowledge is real. Objective knowledge is reading a text and saying, “Ah-ha!”—as if you have found some answer. As if you have found this text’s true essence. But believe me, you have NOT! However… you can. You can “find” its essence. In fact, you already have it! Because the text—like your face, your clothes, your words—IS A TRICK! You think that you are reading a text-book, but you aren’t. You think that this text is a text to be understood, but… you could never be a more mistaken! This text is simply a mirror of your face—not your essence. Any text is simply a reflection of your body, clothes, et cetera. To read Foucault, Artaud, Picasso, or Caldiero, is to be a goddamn moron. What do you think you are doing by reading these things? Do you think you are learning? You can’t understand a person simply by looking at them! Fool! YOU MUST BECOME… “IT”! Alas, you already ARE! You just need to realize that you are already a part of this, this, this… text. This thing we call text. This thing we think we can master. You already have mastered it by mastering over yourself as a slave. Fools. Trying to believe. To have faith. To find answers. You. Are. The. Answers. They’re right there, inside of you, outside of you: the essence! I’ve already told you! Pick up a book, an empty shell of text, and let it in, man. Become it—or that is to say… realize this essence. You want to understand Foucault? Derrida? van Gogh? Then don’t just stop at the face of the text. You must eat its soul. “Foucault” is just a word. If you want to get at the thing, you must become it. You already are.

the politics of language or, the language of politics

Once again I bring you the insight of Geoff Nunberg:


Monday, October 27, 2008

Curious

Sometime's language just jumps up and bites you in the ass, it's so great:
A PALINdrome: Wasilla's All I saw.

Indeed.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

World War 1 and the DaDa mindset

The following 13 pages are the introduction to this book:
The book was published in conjunction with a major exhibit of DaDa work in 2006 in Paris, Washington and New York. Leah Dickerman wrote this introduction. It communicates the DaDa mindset quite well. It will give a good context for future class discussions on DaDa, and also might put into context what we all experienced in class on Friday. The text refers to several photos (fig. 1, fig. 2...and so on), all of which are included in these scans except for fig. 9: a scan of Tristan Tzara's "Dada Manifesto, 1918". The scan in the book is in French and is a bit blurry too...so, you can find the translated text here (it is very much worth reading): http:www.391.org/manifestos/tristantzara_dadamanifesto.htm

So, when you come across "fig. 9" in the text, it is referring to that manifesto (linked above). Other references in the text are to the end notes which are all included in the last 2 pages. There are also some references to page numbers (that direct to other images in the book), I didn't include those here...you'll have to check out the book to see those...
Click each page to ENLARGE THEM to a readable size. Enjoy.
The two lines that got cut off there at the bottom between the two columns say: "...implicitly in its fragmented form-that there is nothing more macro, nothing more overarching about the idea of Dada. Dada's radical rethinking of art making is..."

The two lines that got cut off at the bottom of the second column say: "and the exis-tence of larger firms and new forms of transportation that increased distance between producers and consumers."

The two lines that got cut off of the bottom of the second column say: "...in a newspaper by Walter Serner. Baader disrupted a service in the Berlin Cathedral, an act that was widely reported in the press. In..."

What got cut off from the 2 lines of the left column is: "...maintain that novelty resembles life just as the latest appearance of some whore proves the essence of God. (footnote 47)."
And, what got cut off from the second column is: "...of the public. As a point of comparison, the Russian avant-garde, wholly contemporaneous with Dada, might be understood to mark the apogee of faith..."

Friday, October 24, 2008

How tough does a question have to be to kill?

I also had a former Iraqi general some of you may have heard of who was taken from my custody. I was told to keep him separated from the other noncombatants and give him everything he needs. If he asks for anything, hook him up, you know, take care of him, and don’t harass them. And I was like, well, I don’t need somebody to tell me to not harass somebody. He ended up—a soldier came up to me later and ended up telling me that, you know, hey, he died during questioning during his interrogation. And I’m thinking to myself, how tough does a question have to be to kill? I don’t know exactly what went on during his interrogation, but he was fine when I had him.

-Domingo Rosas. Sergeant with the U.S. Army 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, in Iraq from April 2003 to 2004

From his Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan testimony

ENOUGH ALREADY!

WAR IS HELL!!!!!!
In its basic form, it is the decision that my life is worth more than yours.
But we only denounce it when it takes a physically repulsive appearance that creates horror within us!
Like the Romans in the Coliseum, we applaud it when it isn’t bothersome to our conscience!
Our Coliseum is now in the mind. Every day we wage war in the boardroom –
IN THE CLASSROOM!
“MY THOUGHTS AND IDEAS ARE BETTER AND MORE VALUABLE THAN YOURS AND SO YOURS MUST
DIE!!!!!”
We hold no tolerance for the avenues of the mind that do not flow like ours. We take sides, just as in war, and we take no prisoners! Our weapons are no longer swords and spears of metal. OUR WEAPON OF CHOICE IS TONGUES! We throw spears and darts and

PUSH SIMPLE LITTLE BUTTONS

WITH LANGUAGE DARTS LIKE:
NAÏVE
SIMPLE
UNEDUCATED
FOOLISH
RACIST
BIGOT
FAGGOT
LIBERAL
CONSERVATIVE

And we care not for the maiming which occurs within the mind of our foe because, on the outside, our foe’s voice has been silenced
BY THE WAR WITHIN US!!!!
Animals maim and grotesquely destroy every day simply to survive, this isn't war - it is life.
We bring LANGUAGE into the fray.
WAR ISN'T OF US, WAR IS US!

I’M TIRED OF WAR

I’M TIRED OF GOING INTO BATTLE EVERY DAY

I’M TIRED OF BEING TOLD MY LIFE IS WORTH LESS BECAUSE MY WORDS ARE DEEMED LESS

I’M TIRED OF FOES MAKING WAR ON ME IN A PLACE WHERE I COME TO LEARN PEACE

I’M TIRED…….

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Thousands speaking a foreign language in unison?

All of my posts are about Radiohead, so... this one is about Radiohead.

It relates, though. I found it interesting that in this video, which was shot in Milan [where very few speak English well and most speak none at all (one of many sources confirming this: http://russell.dyerhouse.com/cgi-bin/log.cgi?log_id=6)] that thousands of people can still speak/sing a foreign language in unison, regardless of whether or not they understand what they're saying (though, they know how it feels).

So, here are a few hundred people from Milan (many of which who don't speak any English) singing in English, in unison, if you are interested.

Lyrics if you're interested:
Karma police, arrest this man, he talks in maths
He buzzes like a fridge, hes like a detuned radio
Karma police, arrest this girl, her hitler hairdo, is making me feel ill
And we have crashed her party
This is what you get, this is what you get
This is what you get, when you mess with us

Karma police, Ive given all I can, its not enough
Ive given all I can, but were still on the payroll
This is what you get, this is what you get
This is what you get, when you mess with us
And for a minute there, I lost myself, I lost myself
And for a minute there, I lost myself, I lost myself

For a minute there, I lost myself, I lost myself

Epic fail

http://www.slate.com/id/2202262/

This is an entire article devoted to the phenomenon of "FAIL" and internet language memes in general. I believe that the defining slang of this generation is being created on the internet, which is exciting, because it demolishes the concept of regional dialects. For the first time in history, people from all sorts of different backgrounds can use and understand the same words, assuming they all frequent the same sites. I'm extremely interested in seeing where language takes itself in the future, and it always warms my heart when a new word or usage enters the lexicon, especially when it's as fun to say as "fail".

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The devil made him do it?

I mentioned this guy in class and made a tit of myself when i couldn't remember his name, but I found the link to the youtube site with the trailer for "The devil and Daniel Johnston."

Some hail him as a genius songwriter and others just label him as pretty mad. I looked up several other interviews with him and i'm inclined to side with the latter, but who knows. It's an interesting documentary for a really interesting individual.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wJZOe65eA4Y

Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy

[From Nietzsche's introduction to a 1886 edition of the book first published in 1871]

. . . At any rate here a strange voice spoke (curious people understood that, as did those who found it distasteful), the disciple of an as yet unknown God, who momentarily hid himself under the hood of a learned man, under the gravity and dialectical solemnity of the German man, even under the bad manners of the followers of Wagner. Here was a spirit with alien, even nameless, needs, a memory crammed with questions, experiences, secret places, beside which the name Dionysus was written like a question mark. Here spoke (so people told themselves suspiciously) something like a mystic and an almost maenad-like soul, which stammered with difficulty and arbitrarily, as if talking a foreign language, almost uncertain whether it wanted to communicate something or remain silent. This "new soul" should have sung, not spoken! What a shame that I did not dare to utter as a poet what I had to say at that time. Perhaps I might have been able to do that! Or at least as a philologist—even today in this area almost everything is still there for philologists to discover and dig up, above all the issue that there is a problem right here and that the Greeks will continue remain, as before, entirely unknown and unknowable as long as we have no answer to the question, "What is the Dionysian?"

4

Indeed, what is the Dionysian? This book offers an answer to that question: a "knowledgeable person" speaks there, the initiate and disciple of his own god. Perhaps I would now speak with more care and less eloquently about such a difficult psychological question as the origin of tragedy among the Greeks. A basic issue is the relationship of the Greeks to pain, the degree of their sensitivity. Did this relationship remain constant? Or did it turn itself around? That question whether their constantly strong desire for beauty, feasts, festivities, and new cults arose out of some lack, deprivation, melancholy, or pain. If we assume that this desire for the beautiful and the good might be quite true—and Pericles, or, rather, Thucydides, in the great Funeral Oration gives us to understand that it is—where must that contradictory desire stem from, which appears earlier than the desire for beauty, namely, the desire for the ugly or the good strong willing of the ancient Hellenes for pessimism, for tragic myth, for pictures of everything fearful, angry, enigmatic, destructive, and fateful as the basis of existence? Where must tragedy come from? Perhaps out of desire, out of power, out of overflowing health, out of overwhelming fullness of life?

And psychologically speaking, what then is the meaning of that madness out of which tragic as well as comic art grew, the Dionysian madness? What? Is madness perhaps not necessarily the symptom of degradation, collapse, cultural decadence? Is there perhaps (a question for doctors who treat madness) a neurosis associated with health, with the youth of a people, and with youthfulness? What is revealed in that synthesis of god and goat in the satyr? Out of what personal experience, what impulse, did the Greeks have to imagine the Dionysian enthusiast and original man as a satyr? And what about the origin of the tragic chorus?

In those centuries when the Greek body flourished and the Greek soul bubbled over with life, perhaps there were endemic raptures, visions, and hallucinations which entire communities, entire cultural bodies, shared. What if it were the case that the Greeks, right in the midst of their rich youth, had the desire for tragedy and were pessimists?  What if it was clearly lunacy, to use a saying from Plato, which brought the greatest blessings throughout Hellas?

And, on the other hand, what if, to turn the issue around, it was clearly during the time of their dissolution and weakness that the Greeks became constantly more optimistic, more superficial, more hypocritical, with a lust for logic and rational understanding of the world, as well as "more cheerful" and "more scientific"? What's this? In spite of all "modern ideas" and the judgments of democratic taste, could the victory of optimism, the developing hegemony of reasonableness, practical and theoretical utilitarianism, as well as democracy itself (which occurs in the same period) perhaps be a symptom of failing power, approaching old age, physiological exhaustion, all these factors rather than pessimism? Was Epicurus an optimist for the very reason that he was suffering? We see that this book was burdened with an entire bundle of difficult questions. Let us add its most difficult question: What, from the point of view of living, does morality mean? . . .

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Nietzsche, Zarathustra, and Madness

In 1885, Nietzsche finished the fourth part of his "Thus Spake Zarathustra." It wasn't published till 1892. In Walter Kaufmann's translation, several of Zarathustra's teachings:


I say unto you: one must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.

No shepherd and one herd! Everybody wants the same, everybody is the same: whoever feels different goes voluntarily into a madhouse.

There is more reason in your body than in your best reason.

Of all that is written I love only what a man has written with his blood. Write with blood, and you will experience that blood is spirit. It is not easily possible to understand the blood of another: I hate reading idlers. Whoever writes in blood and aphorisms does not want to be read but to be learned by heart.

I would believe only in a god who could dance.

Have you never seen a sail go over the sea, rounded and taut and trembling with the voilence of the wind? Like the sail, trembling with the violence of the spirit, my wisdom goes over the sea -- my wild wisdom.

Thus I myself once sank
Out of my truth madness,
Out of my day-longings,
Weary of day, sick from the light --
Sank downward, eveningward, shadowward,
Burned by one truth,
And thirsty:
Do you remember still remember, hot heart,
How you thirsted?
That I be banished
From all truth,
Only fool!
Only Poet!

You higher men, what do you think? Am I a soothsayer? A dreamer? A drunkard? an interpreter of dreams? A midnight bell? A drop of dew? A haze and fragrance of eternity? do you not hear it? Do you not smell it? Just now my world became perfect; midnight too is noon; pain too is a joy; curses too are a blessing; night too is a sun -- go away or you will learn: a sage too is a fool.

O man, take care!
What does the deep midnight declare?
"I was asleep --
From a deep dream I woke and swear:
The world is deep,
Deeper than day had been aware.
Deep is its woe;
Joy -- deeper yet than agony:
Woe implores: Go!
But all joy wants eternity --
Wants deep, wants deep eternity."


Nietzsche and Madness

From Nietzsche's "Selected Letters," edited and translated by Christopher Middleton.







Monday, October 20, 2008

Novalis, Hymns to the Night

For a fascinating contemporary vision of the productive underbelly of Enlightenment rationality, of mourning and madness and sleep and opium and the night, see this long poem by Novalis called "Hymns to the Night" -- 1899 translation by George McDonald, for the entire translation, see http://www.george-macdonald.com/hymns_night.htm

This part of the mostly prose poem is a depiction of a vision the poet had after the death of his young beloved. 

. . .

Once when I was shedding bitter tears, when, dissolved in pain, my hope was melting away, and I stood alone by the barren mound which in its narrow dark bosom hid the vanished form of my Life, lonely as never yet was lonely man, driven by anxiety unspeakable, powerless, and no longer anything but a conscious misery;--as there I looked about me for help, unable to go on or to turn back, and clung to the fleeting, extinguished life with an endless longing: then, out of the blue distances -- from the hills of my ancient bliss, came a shiver of twilight -- and at once snapt the bond of birth, the chains of the Light. Away fled the glory of the world, and with it my mourning; the sadness flowed together into a new, unfathomable world. Thou, soul of the Night, heavenly Slumber, didst come upon me; the region gently upheaved itself; over it hovered my unbound, newborn spirit. The mound became a cloud of dust, and through the cloud I saw the glorified face of my beloved. In her eyes eternity reposed. I laid hold of her hands, and the tears became a sparkling bond that could not be broken. Into the distance swept by, like a tempest, thousands of years. On her neck I welcomed the new life with ecstatic tears. Never was was such another dream; then first and ever since I hold fast an eternal, unchangeable faith in the heaven of the Night, and its Light, the Beloved.

. . .
Hinüber wall ich
Und jede Pein
Wird einst ein Stachel
Der Wollust seyn.
Noch wenig Zeiten
So bin ich los
Und liege trunken
Der Lieb im Schoos
. . .


Over I pilgrim
Where every pain
[A prick] of pleasure
Shall one day remain.
Yet a few moments
Then free am I,
And intoxicated
In Love's lap lie.
Life everlasting
Lifts, wave-like, at me:
I gaze from its summit
Down after thee.
Oh Sun, thou must vanish
Yon yon hillock beneath;
A shadow will bring thee
Thy cooling wreath.
Oh draw at my heart, love,
Draw till I'm gone,
That, fallen asleep, I
Still may love on.
I feel the flow of
Death's youth-giving flood;
To balsam and æther, it
Changes my blood!
I live all the daytime
In faith and in might:
And in holy rapture
I die every night.

Madness and Poetry

Pieter Breugel's "Dulle Griet" or Mad Meg:


Hieronymus Bosch's vision of Hell:

Goya's "Madhouse"


and "Sleep of Reason" (1797
After thinking about these paintings, which for him represent two very different ways of thinking about madness, Michael Foucault writes in his conclusion to "Madness and Civilization" that

. . . the work of art and madness, in classical experience, were more profoundly united at another level: paradoxically, at the point where they limited one another. For there existed a region where madness challenged the work of art, reduced it ironically, made of its iconographic landscape a pathological world of hallucinations; that language which was delirium was not a work of art. And conversely, delirium was robbed of its meager truth as madness if it was called a work of art. . . .

. . . Artaud's madness does not slip through the fissures of the work of art; his madness is precisely the absence of the work of art, the reiterated presence of that absence, its central void experienced and measured in all its endless dimensions. Nietzsche's last cry, proclaiming himself both Christ and Dionysos, is not on the border of reason and unreason . . . it is the very annihilation of the work of art, the point where it becomes impossible and where it must fall silent; the hammer has just fallen from the philosopher's hands. And Van Gogh, who did not want to ask "permission from doctors to paint pictures," knew quite well that his work and his madness were incompatible. Madness is the absolute break with the work of art. . . .

. . . This is why it makes little difference when the first voice of madness insinuated itself into Nietzsche's pride, into Van Gogh's humility. There is no madness except as the final instant of the work of art -- the work endless drives madness to its limits; where there is a work of art, there is no madness; and yet madness is contemporary with the work of art, since it inaugurates the time of its truth. The moment when, together, the work of art and madness are born and fulfilled is the beginning of the time when the world finds itself arraigned by that work of art and responsible before it for what it is.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Hölderlin's "Bread and Wine"

An important elegy, the most Dionysian of Hölderlin's work, with Michael Hamburger's translation:













And, from Hölderlin's “Fragment from Hyperion” (his novel about a young German who goes to Greece to fight in the war of independence), a description of the three states of existence as he sees them:

 

There are two ideals of our being: a state of highest simplicity, in which, without any efforts of our own, through nature’s exclusive organizing, our needs reciprocally harmonize with themselves and with our powers and with everything we relate to, and a state of highest education or formation [Bildung], in which the same thing would take place, only with infinitely multiplied and strengthened needs and powers and through the organization that we are able to give ourselves. The eccentric path, along which humans, in general and individually, pass from one point (of more or less perfect simplicity) to another (of more or less perfected education or formation [Bildung]), seems, according to its essential directions, always to be the same.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Hölderlin Poems and Fragments


The first three poems here were translated by Michael Hamburger and published in 1968 as Friedrich Hölderlin, Poems and Fragments, The University of Michigan Press. The final fragment and prose piece "In the Woods," were translated by Richard Sieburth and published as Hymns and Fragments by Friedrich Hölderlin, Princeton University Press, 1984. 

Each of these is complicated, a rich text/textile that bears careful study. There are distinct pleasures awaiting curious and disciplined readers.







Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Eye-music





http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eye_music


I remembered this from the long ago days of my music degree when Alex was doing his presentation on art and language. I think it ties in perfectly. Sorry for posting it so late.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Other sets of Hölderlin translations


A handwritten poem by Hölderlin, with a silhouette (from the Mitchell site). And links to several translations.

http://www.jbeilharz.de/hoelderlin/fh.html


Hölderlin's poetry

This poem, written to the man caring for him, was written by the deeply incapacitated poet. There is a syntactical break in the second line which you'll see in my translation but which is glossed over by Mitchell. Note the ABBA rhyme scheme and the high-flown imagery.

What, readers of Hölderlin ask, is the difference between early, good, sane poetry, which is difficult and challenging and marked by very interesting syntactical breaks, and later stanzas written by the insane poet?

An Zimmern

Die Linien des Lebens sind verschieden,

Die Wege sind, und wie der Berge Grenzen.

Was hier wir sind, kann dort ein Gott ergänzen

Mit Harmonien und ewigem Lohn und Frieden.


To Zimmer

The lines of life are different,

The paths are, and like the mountain borders.

What we are here, a god can enhance there

With harmonies and eternal reward and peace.

(my translation)

For Zimmer

  
The lines of life are various, 
Like roads, and the borders of mountains.
 
What we are here, a god can complete there,
 
With harmonies, undying reward, and peace.

translation by James Mitchell

For an informative site containing more of Mitchell's translations, some contemporary images, notes, and a short biography, go to:

http://home.att.net/~holderlin/

Hölderlin's poetry and his insanity

Friedrich Hölderlin lived a brilliant and creative life as a poet, essayist, novelist, and private tutor until, after a violent and disconcerting event in France, he begin to lose his ability to function normally. He found a home, finally, in a round tower on the Neckar River in Tübingen, cared for by a family with the name of Zimmer (Zimmermann is the word for carpenter, and thus the references to the carpenter in the essay). He lived there for about three decades before his death.


Romantic poet Wilhelm Waiblinger was a friend of Hölderlin, and the following account is his.

From Wilhelm Waiblinger's essay:

"Friedrich Hölderlin's Life, Poetry and Madness" (1830)

Translated from the German by Scott J. Thompson.


 

. . . Now if one were to step into this unfortunate man's house, he certainly would not expect to meet a poet who had merrily wandered along the Ilyssus with Plato; but the house is not ugly, it is the dwelling of a prosperous carpenter; a man who has an uncommon degree of culture for a man of his standing, and who speaks about Kant, Fichte, Schelling, Novalis, Tieck and others. One inquires after the room of Herr Librarian - for Hölderlin still enjoys being addressed by title - and then comes to a small door. Talking can already be heard inside, and one assumes that Hölderlin already has company, but is then told by the honest carpenter that H. is completely alone and talks to himself day and night.

[the rest of the essay can be read here:

http://www.wbenjamin.org/holderlin.html

Saturday, October 11, 2008

the unwritten text in handwriting

I remember Scott asking Alex why he chose to include the sample of his handwritten poem next to his typed one. The reason, i assume, may be that a handwritten piece offers much more information than a typed piece. In a typed piece you have the word connoctaions, the sentence structure, rhyme themes (god forbid a poem that rhymes), literary devices, etc. to narrate meaning. In handwriting, however, there is another form of language beside only the words that communicates with us.
Graphology is the study and analysis of handwriting. It specifically relates to what handwriting shows about the psychology of the writer. The basics of graphology (according to wiki) are

* When we write, the ego is active but it is not always active to the same degree. Its activity waxes and wanes; being at its highest level when an effort has to be made by the writer and at its lowest level when the motion of the writing organ has gained momentum and is driven by it.

* When the action of writing is comparatively difficult, the writer uses those forms of letters which are simpler or more familiar.

* The muscular movements involved in writing are controlled by the central nervous system. The form of the resultant writing movement is modified further by the flexibly assembled coordinative structures in the hand, arm, and shoulder; which follow the principles of dynamical systems. The specific writing organ (mouth, foot, hand, crook of elbow) is irrelevant if it functions normally and is sufficiently adapted to its function.

* The neurophysiological mechanisms which contribute to the written movement are related to conditions within the central nervous system and vary in accordance with them. The written strokes, therefore, reflect both transitory and long term changes in the central nervous system such as Parkinson's disease, or alcohol usage.

* The movements and corresponding levels of muscular tension in writing are mostly outside of conscious control and subject to the ideomotor effect. Emotion, mental state, and biomechanical factors such as muscle stiffness and elasticity are reflected in a person's handwriting.

* One must examine the handwriting or drawing movements by considering them as movements organized by the central nervous system and produced under biomechanical and dynamical constraints. Given these considerations, graphologists proceed to evaluate the pattern, form, movement, rhythm, quality, and consistency of the graphic stroke in terms of psychological interpretations. Such interpretations vary according to the graphological theory applied by the analyst.

* Most schools of thought in graphology concur that a single graphological element can be a component of many different clusters, with each cluster having a different psychological interpretation. The significance of the cluster can be assessed accurately by tracing each component of the cluster back to their origins and adapting the meaning of the latter to the conditions of the milieu in which the form appears.

Some basic examples(also from Wiki):

Slant (handwriting) of the letters:
A forward slant indicates high emotional expressiveness
Vertical handwriting indicates moderate, restrained emotional expression
A left slant indicates emotional withdrawal.

Angle of the lines on unlined paper:
An upward slant indicates optimism and higher energy.
A downward slant or lines with trail off the page indicate low energy or physical exhaustion.
A slant to the right can indicate sensitivity, while a slant to the left can indicate a hardness of the character. Fairly straight writing can indicate a balanced frame or state of mind.

General shape of the strokes:
Circular handwriting indicates an agreeable, easygoing nature.
Angular handwriting with sharp points indicates aggressiveness, directness, and high energy
Square handwriting indicates a real world, practical based approach
Squiggles and irregular strokes indicate an artistic and non standard approach

Individual letters:
The letter "t" has the largest number of interpretations. For example where the horizontal "bar" of the t is placed on the vertical "stem" indicates where one places their goals, while the height of the t stem indicates the potential to accomplish those goals.
A low t bar indicates goals or self esteem set lower than what can be accomplished.
A t bar high on the stem indicates goals set high and a high self esteem.
A t bar that is above the stem indicates setting goals higher than can be accomplished.
A cursive y that has been crossed back over ornately or several times can indicate a perverted state of mind.

Pressure applied on the paper while writing:
The emotional intensity behind a person's behavior. The heavier the pressure, the more intense the emotions of that person.
The pressure on the paper can also indicate the level of stress that the person is experiencing. (The more pressure applied, the more stress the person is under.)

So, in writing, we often say more than we intend.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Son of Man

Not to be Reproduced


The Lovers

I couldn't get Magritte out of my head as I left class today after that discussion and I had to get on a computer as soon as I got downstairs and check out more of his work. To me all of these pieces just scream out as questions of identity and perceptions of reality. One of the things I wrote down while in class is how that painting in class felt like a mask for what actually is. The painting in front of the window has ruined what is actually outside of that window because we will never know what was in fact actually there. All we will ever know is what we were supposed to see and the reality that was painted for us. It's just breathtaking and absolutely amazing. When Son of Man was the first image to come up on the search I felt blown away. As I did for The Lovers and Not to be Reproduced.


Madness and Art

I would like to write a lot about Foucault and Madness and Art, but I have a midterm to write...I think there are many connections between those works and ideas that are those that form the framework of an episteme are almost always created by "madness" or at least those typified as being "mad". There's a unique change, as I see it, in our readiness to ascribe "mental illness" on to people in contemporary society, lumping together people who are sad, or anxious, or those who talk to ourselves, or who have multiple personalities as all "suffering" from the same affliction. Additionally, we medicate away pain that possibly, in an earlier era, could have created great art. Now we numb and hide and diffuse all of these strong emotions. Having been heavily medicated at different times in my life for such "ailments" I wonder whether I would have been better off letting madness run through me, letting whatever came of that experience be the end, ultimately or not.

Recently a study at Stanford tried to get at this question, whether or not madness and art are interconnected, and the results are pretty interesting. Read about it here.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Zombie Jesus

My wife happens to be reading Dostoevsky's The Idiot right now. For those curious (as I was), here's the passage that refers to the Holbein painting of Christ's rotting corpse we looked at today:

"Over the door of the next room there hung a picture of a rather curious shape, about four feet wide and no more than ten and a half inches high. It showed our Saviour, who had just been taken from the cross. The prince threw a cursory glance at it as if trying to remember something and was about to pass into the other room without stopping. He felt very depressed and was anxious to get out of this house as soon as possible. But Rhogozin suddenly stopped before the picture:
'All these here pictures,' he said, 'were bought by my dad at auctions for a rouble or two. He liked them. An art dealer examined them all. A lot of rubbish, he said. But this picture here, over here, also bought for two roubles, isn't rubbish, he said. One fellow offered my dad three hundred and fifty roubles for it, and Ivan Dmitrich Savelyev, a merchant and a great picture-lover, offered as much as four hundred for it, and last week he raised his offer to my brother to five hundred. But I've kept it for myself.'

(....)

'Tell me, prince, I've long wanted to ask you, do you believe in god?' Rogozhin suddenly broke into speech after walking a few steps.
'How strangely you speak and - look!' the prince observed involuntarily.
'I like looking at that picture,' Rogozhin muttered after a short pause, as though he had forgotten his question.
'At that picture!' the prince exclaimed, struck by a sudden thought. 'At that picture! Why, some people may lose their faith by looking at that picture!'
'Aye, that may also be lost,' Rogozhin assented unexpectedly."

Monday, October 6, 2008

Sigur Ros music video.

This is a video from an Icelandic band "Sigur Ros". It's not shocking really, though it contains pretty much only nudity throughout. I think that this goes well with what we discussed in class today, and also as looking at things in their natural form


The remarkable language of Vai


Vai is a language spoken by 150,000 people in western Africa, specifically in Liberia and Sierra Leone. The language is noteworthy because it uses a remarkable system of sounds. Speakers must be able to pronounce seven oral vowels, five nasal vowels and 31 consonants all of which come in various combinations. In its written form, Vai has 229 characters.

So perhaps it wouldn’t be surprising if Vai had some interesting statistical characteristics not shared by other languages. If so, that might give some insight into the language’s unique history and evolution. This week, Charles Riley at Yale University and a few pals make exactly that claim.

Their analysis focuses on the the written form of Vai and the complexity of the characters in its alphabet. The complexity of a character is a measure of how difficult it is to draw. For example, the letter ‘O’ consists of two arches connected by two line sections which, using the strange arithmetic of character complexity, gives it a complexity of 8. The letter ‘X’ which is two straight lines that cross, has a complexity of 7.

By contrast, most characters in Vai have a complexity of more than 20 and one letter has a complexity of 48.

In all languages analyzed to date, the complexity of characters is governed by an overarching rule which is that it is uniformly distributed. That means that there should be roughly equal numbers of characters with similar complexities. That’s true whether the language be Latin, Cyrillic and Runic scripts.

But Vai turns out to be different, says Riley and co. The complexity of the Vai alphabet is a better fit to a Poisson distribution rather than a uniform distribution.

So does that mean there is something special about Vai that sets it apart from other languages?

Maybe. The authors say non-uniform complexity is probably the result of the way the language was first written down in the mid-19th century. Riley and co suggest that this may have been influenced by a Cherokee native American who lived in an American mission in the area at the time.

Cherokee was famously first written down by a tribesman named Sequoyah who had seen western script without knowing what it meant. He then wrote out a similar looking script in which each sign represented a Cherokee syllable.

The clear, if improbably, implication by Riley and pals is that Vai was written down in the same way.

There are two problems with this analysis. First, as far as I know, Cherokee has not been subjected to this kind of analysis. If it has a uniform distribution, this idea is scuppered.

Second, what the authors fail to take into account is that although the alphabet has 229 characters, there is a large amount of redundancy and only 100 or so are in common usage.

When the analysis is redone using only these common characters, I wouldn’t mind betting that a uniform distribution of complexity emerges.

Which means that Riley and co have a little work to do before they take their analysis of Vai any further down this little backwater of linguistics.


[read more, and download the entire paper here]

story from here

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Pinker weighs in on VP debate, Palin, and language

"SINCE the vice presidential debate on Thursday night, two opposing myths have quickly taken hold about Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska. The first, advanced by her supporters, is that she made it through a gantlet of fire; the second, embraced by her detractors, is that her speaking style betrays her naïveté. Both are wrong.

Let’s take the first myth: Governor Palin subjected herself to the most demanding test possible — a televised debate. By surviving, she won. As the front page of The Daily News of New York screamed this morning, “No Baked Alaska.”

But as a test of clear thinking, the debate format was far less demanding than a face-to-face interview — the kind Ms. Palin had with Katie Couric of CBS.

Why? Because in a one-on-one conversation, you can’t launch into a prepared speech on a topic unrelated to the question. Imagine this exchange — based on the first question that the moderator, Gwen Ifill, gave Ms. Palin and Senator Joe Biden — if it took place in casual conversation over coffee:

LISA How about that bailout? Was this Washington at its best or at its worst?

MICHAEL You know, I think a good barometer here, as we try to figure out has this been a good time or a bad time in America’s economy, is go to a kid’s soccer game on Saturday, and turn to any parent there on the sideline and ask them, “How are you feeling about the economy?”

Lisa would flee. (This was, in fact, Ms. Palin’s response.) In a conversation, you have to build your sentence phrase by phrase, monitoring the reaction of your listener, while aiming for relevance to the question. That’s what led Ms. Palin into word salad with Ms. Couric. But when the questioner is 30 feet away on the floor and you’re on a stage talking to a camera, which can’t interrupt or make faces, you can reel off a script without embarrassment. The concerns raised by the Couric interviews — that Ms. Palin memorizes talking points rather than grasping issues — should not be allayed by her performance in the forgiving format of a debate."

[click here to read full text]

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Steven Pinker's "The Stuff of Thought"

Last year Steven Pinker published a book called "The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature." Here's a blurb describing the book:

"How does a mind that evolved to think about rocks and plants and enemies think about love and physics and democracy? Why do we threaten and bribe and seduce in such elaborate, often comical ways? How can a choice of metaphors start a war, impeach a president, or win an election? Why do people impose taboos on topics like sex, excretion, and the divine? What does the peculiar syntax of swearing (just what does the "fuck" in "fuck you" actually mean?) tell us about ourselves? Why do some names thrive while others fall out of circulation? How do we control the amount of information that we absorb? And what good does this actually do us? Pinker answers all these questions and many, many more. He shows us that language really can tell us unexpected and fascinating things about ourselves."

And for a 17-minute film of Pinker talking about ideas from the book, see:

http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/steven_pinker_on_language_and_thought.html

Friday, October 3, 2008

Some "Poetic" Thoughts on Language

All this talk about poetry and language has made me write poetry about language.

and knowing id never get the message, I had em send it anyway.
and listening patiently, I misread purposely.
faked understanding the whole time.
and when asked to repeat back what was said,
i lied

i lied

and I didn’t try to explain
they never get it when I try

words confusing words perpetually
in the obvious of ways
its just better to pretend

its just better to pretend



harmless poet give me of your wisdom. “Okay.
the Clouds of thunder are not so gray.
the words of misunderstanding won’t fade away.”


how much wind moves the ship, and where does it come from?
it just comes and goes.
sometimes for long periods; sometimes in short blows.
where it listeth no man knows.

a full sail
a steady breeze
in moments of
ocean ease



Palin's Poetry

The good people at Slate.com have compiled the poetry of Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Whether you agree with her politically or not, her use of language is not the way language is typically used in a political campaign. Slate offers that Palin is not speaking incoherently, but rather speaking in poem. They took word for word her responses in recent interviews, and when viewed on the page, one could begin to believe they're right...

"On Good and Evil"

It is obvious to me
Who the good guys are in this one
And who the bad guys are.
The bad guys are the ones
Who say Israel is a stinking corpse,
And should be wiped off
The face of the earth.

That's not a good guy.

(To K. Couric, CBS News, Sept. 25, 2008)

More here

Also, for those of you fortunate enough to have grown up diagramming sentences in your grammar classes, the following may look vaguely familiar.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Future Man's opinion on language, music, and mathematics

Check out this link, it is a musician named "future man" talking about language and mathematics and music's correlation. i think guys like this are so interesting, maybe he's crazy, but i love the way he thinks about language and communication. This is the Drummer for a World Renowned contemporary band, Bela Fleck and The Flecktones, that is very amazing in every aspect. so after you check out his link you should check out some of the music too.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-HHsS4geh54&feature=related

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Todays Conversation

Today got me thinking about one of the pieces of art in The Fall 08 Touchstones named Handset Type by Peter Gibb, it's on page 84, if anyone has access to that. Maybe i'll bring the copy into class, but it makes me wonder if he was inspired by the language made of images book Alex showed us. Everyone should go check it out.

Aaaaaand, just as a little reminder that the touchstones submission date is this Friday the 3rd, at 5pm. If you in any way have a love, passion, or even passing interest in Writing Prose Poetry or Art, you should consider Submitting to us.

Wittgenstein (I can't get this out of my head)


I can't remember if this was mentioned in class - it may have been. But I've been thinking of this quote/dialog between Wittgenstein and another person lately. And to look at anything this way might be helpful. Language? Free Will? God? Religion? Science? Anything.

Again, I can't remember, was this discussed in class? (I feel it may have been) If not, it fits perfectly with so much of what we are/were discussing.

Wittgenstein was speaking with a colleague and asked: "Tell me, why do people always say it was natural for men to assume that the sun went round the earth, rather than that the earth was rotating?" His friend replied, "Well, obviously, because it just looks as if the sun is going round the earth." To which Wittgenstein replied, "Well, what would it have looked like if it had looked as if the earth was rotating?"

Consider the Lobster

I really don't intend to harp on this whole animal/language thing for much longer, but I just re-read this brilliant piece by the late David Foster Wallace (if you haven't read anything by him, might I suggest his collection of essays "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again". Hilarious and heartbreaking, but I digress...) called "Consider the Lobster". I again am faced with 2 opposing arguments, both with which I agree: namely, that we can never know an animal's experience (or another human's for that matter, hence this damned mind/body problem we keep encountering) and so language and emotion I THINK (as in, logic/science, etc.) are imbued upon the object, and so I can't claim that an animal feels pain, at least not in the way I feel pain. However, I also FEEL (as in, an emotional/spiritual/psychological response) that animals do feel pain and do suffer in ways that are like mine (if not ours).

The discussion of Alex's work in class today taught me that these language games, the distinctions I want to make among types of understanding, simultaneously blend and bleed all over each other, into one another. But they also wall themselves off from one another, keeping my scientific understanding distant from my religious beliefs (a little Wittgenstein, no?) and that for me, the interesting study of language doesn't happen within the walls, but rather in those bloody areas in between.

I highly recommend Wallace's essay. It is a bit long (and I suggest printing the whole essay and reading the footnotes as you go along, as that's often where the story lies with Wallace) but tragic and exciting and beautiful.

Consider the Lobster