Category Archives: Wtf did I just read?

Municipal lines of flight

The shortest distance between two points is a line.

This might not seem like much, but it has serious and far-reaching implications for policy-making everywhere. For instance, it might seem like a good idea to connect everything with lines.

Thus, regulations are put in place to ensure that such connectivity happens. Subtle encouragements and cooperative ventures are set in motion, nudging actors ever so subtly to line up, and hopefully acting as examples for others to follow. Direct action turn to indirect output, and like ripples on the water, the straight line turns rather fuzzy.

Then, the policy efficiency buffs get a hold of this notion, and things get better. The shortest distance is a line. From this would follow that it would be faster with two lines, fostering faster travel from place to place. The regulations are ever so slightly altered to promote more lines. The subtle encouraging and nudging momentums into a new shape. Direct action finds itself indirectly backtracking itself in an effort to keep up.

Over time, reforms are made, recursively recurving this process, turning the straight line into a very complicated doodle of impressive expressionistic value.

As you might imagine, nothing is so simple that it cannot be transformed into a traffic jam. –

So then I said – what was I saying?

Discourse acts in many ways as a social marker. By adopting (or not adopting) certain words, turns of phrase, or other distinct linguistic behaviors, a writer can create a persona suitable to whatever situation they might stumble into. Take, for instance, these wordings:

These words embody a rich tradition of stories, myths and legends. To fully comprehend them, we must take into account the complex context in which we find them, and negotiate the contradictions found in the struggle to adapt to modern life. It is against the backdrop of this interlocked weave of traditions we must understand these types of contemporary expressions. Identity is not static – it is an ever changing dynamic formed by the constant struggle for recognition, legibility and respectability inherent in the very act of being social in a multicultural and neoliberal world.

As you might imagine, such wordings signal a strong “HELLO FELLOW HUMANITIES SCHOLARS” to those who identify themselves as such. To others, it bedazzles through sheer verbiage. To yet another other, it signals something, but fails to garner the desired response, as they do not identify with the group. And so on.

Let’s look at more words:

The logos of any given piece of text is usually secondary with regards to its ethos. The persuasiveness follows not from the argument that is being made, but rather from the implied personage that must be understood in order to grasp the text. Both the persona of the writer, and the second persona of the reader – the social setting and the shared doxa that inevitably must follow from the text being as it is. The text not only tells it like it is, it also tells it like we – writer and reader – are. Logos might be the focus of philosophers, but for the reader, ethos and pathos reign supreme.

The rhetoricians among you will immediately feel at home in these words. Everyone else will probably wonder what the deal is with logotypes.

Let’s keep at it. More words:

The author function does not, as a matter of course, need an author. It functions autonomously, whether or not there is an actual someone behind the discourse. This is the root of fiction, and it is also the root of lying: it is the act of saying things as if there is someone saying them. Which there might or might not be. On the one hand, the author might author something that functions very well without further participation, perpetuated by the continued reading of others. On the other hand, it is possible to author a person into something they only become aware of ex post facto – such as when someone is informed that he or she is a certain gender.

Foucault would most likely object to being the subject. But the first three words signal all too clearly in which manner the other words are to be read, and thus they are read by those who can read such signs. Everyone else are most likely still trying to make some sort of sense out of this dysfunctional wordplay.

No reason to stop now. More words:

Grammar is prescriptive. Not in the sense of what you can and cannot say – grammar always finds a way to mean something, even if this something is socially useless. No, it proscribes the limit of what metaphysics can be, and thus places an invisible filter over the world. Between you and what you can think – and, more importantly, express – there is grammar. While it does not make it impossible to express things, it does make it that much harder, and various workarounds have to be employed to describe certain features of the world. Poetry being the prime example, where the rules of grammar are broken in such a way that language cannot but produce the intended meaning. Seeing as we don’t speak in poetry in our everyday being, the things we tend to say grammatically form what is easy to think – and there we have the prescrivity.

The social markers are omnipresent. They are in the world, dasein, for everyone to see. And to shake your metaphysical sticks at.

Now, for the last set of words:

Why can’t people just say things straight, by saying what they mean, and mean what they say?

Because words don’t say what you mean, and they definitely do not mean what you think you say. Whoever you are. –

Learning by recipe

Okay. Recipes. Let’s start out easy, begin from the basics, learn slow, take the bottom-up approach. One step at a time. Nothing fancy-pancy. Just follow the recipe as it is written. We’re learning, by doing.

Aight. Recipe book. Let’s read and learn.

Spiced chicken

Buy a chicken from the local market. Be sure to wake up early – the competition for the best chickens is fierce, and you want to get to it before the crowd arrives. If possible, try to engage in friendly chit-chat with the farmer – it is usually possible to negotiate a better price if you make a good impression –

…maybe not just yet. Let’s move on.

Plum pie

The best time of year to plant plum trees is in the spring. Plant them on the south side, where they can get plenty of sun and –

…maybe something more immediate would hit the spot.

Ice cream sorbet

This can’t go wrong.

Milking a cow takes practice. First, make sure you feed it adequately. Neither quantity nor quality should be lacking – what goes in also goes out. Then, make every effort to provide an environment that enables –

…that’s it. I’m ordering a pizza. Why didn’t anyone tell me it was going to be this hard?

The the the – all the the thes!

Let’s do grammar for a spell.

The common notion of grammar is someone nitpicking on someone else making minor mistakes. Which, to be fair, pretty much summarizes what it’s all about, if only by putting all the right parts together. Nitpicking and making are vital components of any grammatical excursion, as is minor – it’s those small things that makes meaning happen. And someone has to do the nitpicking, and someone else has to care for it to be more than the strange thought of some random person. Preferably, so that they can share a laugh making intentional grammatical “mistakes”, making meanings that cannot but be jokes unto themselves.

Thus, let’s get it on.

What’s the difference between these two sentences?

The rock hit the street

Rock hit the street

The first impulse is to conclude that it is a definite article. “The.” The one sentence has it, the other doesn’t. And that’s the end of it, right?

Naaaaah. Let’s nitpick.

The first sentence is, clearly, about the rock. The one rock. The rock that, at some point and in some context, hit the street. It could be a small rock, somehow put into falling motion by a child in a temporary state of rocking action. Or it could be a radical revolutionary, making history by throwing the first stone that will spark the coming of the new order, setting things in motion as the rock hits the street and unmotions.

Or it could be an earthquake, putting many a rock – including the rock – into action. Or –

This could go on.

“Rock hit the street.” Now this is interesting. What is rock, in general? Is it a thing, a genre, a subculture, a mentality, a flow of hard to define emotions, a retroactive description of an ideal past state? And what does it mean for it to hit the street? Note – the street. The one particular street. Not “the streets” as a metaphor for urban settings in general, but the one street. That one.

We could have fun imagining each of these meanings hitting a particular street. And we could have fun varying the particular kind of street that’s subject to this hittage – from the small village street to Wall Street. But I think you’re subject to the particular thought right now:

All this wordage about one word? About one “the”?

Yep.

And even more wordage that didn’t undergo the formality of actually happening. We don’t have to explore them all, just note that they are there, inherent in every word choice, telling untold stories by being the one way rather than the other.

Let’s rock the.