Archive for the 'uncategorized' Category

14
Jun
08

And when life’s prospects…

I came across the poem “The Sprig of Moss” by the legendary William Topaz McGonagall, and that eternal truth:

And when life’s prospects may at times appear dreary to ye, / Remember Alois Senefelder, the discoverer of Lithography.

Which provides me with an opportunity to remind myself of the three main printing techniques: relief, as in Gutenberg, as in pressing a positive surface onto paper; intaglio, as in pressing paper onto a negative surface; and planographic, as in working with a smooth surface covered in oil.

12
Jun
08

My Secret Book

From Petrarch’s proem to his Secret Book:

Tuque ideo, libelle, conventus hominum fugiens, mecum mansisse contentus eris, nominis proprii non immemor. Secretum enim meum es et diceris; michique in altioribus occupato, ut unumquodque in abdito dictum meministi, in abdito memorabis. (via petersadlon.com)

And J.G. Nichols’ translation thereof:

Therefore, little book, avoid the places where men assemble, and be content to stay with me, remembering the name which I have given you. You are my secret book, and so you shall be called. When I think about important matters, what you have recorded in secret will be recalled in secret.

25
May
08

Unpopular Essays

Nothing but a good old Russellian jab at ze Germans:

It was geology, Darwin, and the doctrine of evolution, that first upset the faith of British men of science. If man was evolved by insensible gradations from lower forms of life, a number of things became very difficult to understand. At what moment in evolution did our ancestors acquire free will? At what stage in the long journey from the amoeba did they begin to have immortal souls? When did they first become capable of the kinds of wickedness that would justify a benevolent Creator in sending them into eternal torment? Most people felt that such punishment would be hard on monkeys, in spite of their propensity for throwing coconuts at the heads of Europeans. But how about Pithecantropus Erectus? Was it really he who ate the apple? Or was it Homo Pekiniensis? Or was it perhaps the Piltdown man? I went to Piltdown once, but saw no evidence of special depravity in that village, nor did I see any signs of its having changed appreciably since prehistoric ages. Perhaps then it was the Neanderthal men who first sinned? This seems more likely, as they lived in Germany. But obviously there can be no answer to such questions, and those theologians who do not wholly reject evolution have had to make profound readjustments.

(Russell, Bertrand. “Ideas That Have Helped Mankind”. [1950] Unpopular Essays. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1969. 132-133.)

06
May
08

Piecemeal Thinking

I am a piecemeal thinker. I happen to be a piecemeal writer, too. In fact, I realised today that I approach almost all of my various ventures in piecemeal fashion. While I dabble with all kinds of thoughts, quotes, mottos, concepts, I hardly ever string them together into a whole, at least not unless I put a lot of effort into it, and I usually can’t be bothered to do that. I’m not much of a rambler or ranter, either, because I never know what I want to say next, or what anything has to do with anything. *awkward pause*

However, I am also a conspiracy theorist who likes to connect the disconnected, join the disjointed, juncting the disjuncted (tiny emphasis on “junk” there). As I am thinking about piecemeal thinking, for example, all sorts of things pop into my head and link themselves to the “piecemeal” idea: my bumpy prose, my strange memory, my inability to produce coherent interpretations of literary works (unless by that you mean construing a thesis out of piecemeal observations), the way I easily lose myself in a poem’s details from which I then impose an interpretation on the entire poem, the way I’m irritated and confounded by the statement that “Milton’s blank verse is the verse-paragraph”, the way I lose interest in a project after finishing a single part (for example the way I used to paint Warhammer miniatures – spending hour upon hour on each model rather than do a quick brush-up of the entire army as was custom among my fellow Warhammer players), the way I play chess (cherishing brief tactical skirmishes and opening and endgame mechanics, but often lacking a comprehensive middle game plan), even the way I drink (slowly imbibing one gulp by splitting it up into little gulps). I’m synecdochic: I work my way from the part to a whole. But I don’t experience or perceive wholes, really. Wholes are labels referring to whatever part of the whole I can think of first. I would like to describe my thinking as a “chain of associations”, but the associations are so loose that “a ball of wool having received the kitty treatment of associations” seems a more apt metaphor.

However, the realisation that I have a tendency towards piecemeal thinking may prove to be rather redeeming and indeed productive. All you need is a hook that ties the pieces together. Here’s Alan Moore on the topic in his comments on the creation of V for Vendetta:

A couple of days later, I wrote back to Dave telling him that the Guy Fawkes idea was definitely it […] In the history of any strip or book or whatever, this is the moment where you get your real reward… the moment when all of the half-ideas and idiocies gel into something that is much more than the sum of its parts and thus entirely unexpected and utterly beautiful.

Nice.

22
Jan
08

Research yourself!

What are you waiting for?