Author Archives: Steve

All Poems are Failures (as poems)

Good stuff:

Poems can, of course, succeed in any number of less grand ambitions than the ones I’m describing (they can be funny or lovely or offer solace or courage or inspiration to certain audiences at certain times; they can play a role in constituting a community; and so on), but I’m attempting to account for a persistent if mutable feeling that our moment’s poems are bad, that we hate them or at least strongly dislike them, and that it’s their fucking fault.

Thanks, R.

On Willful Ignorance

From The Chronicle:

Anyone who has been paying attention to the fault lines of academic debate for the past 20 years already knows that the “science wars” were fought by natural scientists (and their defenders in the philosophy of science) on the one side and literary critics and cultural-studies folks on the other. The latter argued that even in the natural realm, truth is relative, and there is no such thing as objectivity. The skirmishes blew up in the well-known “Sokal affair” in 1996, in which a prominent physicist created a scientifically absurd postmodernist paper and was able to get it published in a leading cultural-studies journal. The ridicule that followed may have seemed to settle the matter once and for all.

Game of Thrones and Plot Lines

As an avid Game of Thrones watcher, I enjoy reading what other people have to say. R and I talk about the show a lot and we have interesting reactions. I’ve followed the reactions to the “wedding” violence, the “rape” violence, and the unexpected “snuffing” of a variety of characters, from Ned to Shireen.

A lot of this has resulted in a loss of interest in whatever story is developing on my part. I have favorite characters: Jon Snow, Arya, and Tyrion. I have minor likes, sure, but to eliminate a character is to eliminate a path or narrative line. One of the more interesting developments in the final episode of the 5th was Cersei’s humiliation walk (this may or may not prompt a change in character) through King Landing, where one of the great ones is “finally” yanked down beneath the level of stones. But the psychology would tend to add up to a reliance on retribution narrative: even though Cersei became or has always been an unlikeable, but interesting character, the audience will want some measure of justice in the form of revenge against her tormentors, in this case, the Sparrows. But is this a persistence or pattern that can be sustained as a “totality.”

This is where my interest is starting to lag. It would appear that the driving elements of plot have a lot to do with this “affect” toward “someone getting theirs” after a long list of doings, plotting, or interest seeking. Who doesn’t want to see Ramsay Bolton “get his,” for example, for the laundry list of evils he’s committed. But even Raskolnikov does not stay Raskolnikov.

The problem is if Ramsay does “get his” then what and so what? I’m starting to wonder at this type of strange narrative entropy of retribution goads (a goad can provoke or annoy). First we have a significant jaw-dropper in whatever developing arc (Jamie rapes, for instance) or event that would serve or suggest to serve that something is causation. A case in point in terms of event is the hapless Stannis. The audience must wonder why we went through all this meander only to end with a form of narrative throttle.

Does the raping Jamie serve his character either in terms of cause or lateral implication? I seriously wonder about this, as this would seem to only suggest someone else’s “vision” and not his, a “statement” about relationships in the Thrones world rather than a careful study of Jaime’s potential, given who he’s become or who he’s becoming.

Whether Jon Snow lives or dies doesn’t matter, but his story should matter, whether he lives or dies. Of course, we don’t know the “grand narrative,” though I suspect it will become a fight between the Zombies and the “not” Zombies. But there’s a reason why Sam and Gilly are interesting as characters. There was a reason why Cersei was interesting, though unlikable. Arya has yet to teach us something. One reason for sustained interest goes back to ideas about character in fiction: we expect the unexpected not the expected, the unpredictable not the predictable. In this idea about character, genre doesn’t matter.

Tech and Being Mindful

I recently purchased a Macbook Air because the Pro was getting a little cranky after seven or so years. I’m rarely not on a computer doing something. The new buy is sleek and soft and hums and the battery is so far so good. But it’s also a pain in the ass in a lot of ways (because new in many ways).

I also purchased an iPhone 6 many months ago. The relationship between the new technology is a little surprising. Both machines want to manage everything they can manage. From messages to email to whatever update wants to leak in, including messages from the newly installed Nest system R and I have running in the hallway, which claims to know now when the house is empty of breathing creatures.

But why pain in the ass? Maybe not pain in the ass but a new sense of transitional mindfulness about clutter. I still go back to the Pro, as I’m been able to relieve it some of all the thousands of ghosts inhabiting its go-betweens, like the Steam app, which I never used and who knows how many hidden files. I have no idea how many versions of Rails or Git I have on the Pro. How many versions of VC.

I’m reluctant to install on the new box. It’s a certain kind of tentativeness about weight and balance. Kind of like remembering not to lift heavy objects with my healing broken elbow.

On How to do a Number on an Elbow

On Monday, I fell back on the basement stairs and broke my ulna, cracking it clean in half. Luckily I had R to rush to the emergency room for support and assistance, meeting me there as I got off the EM truck. She is fantastic and now must put up with a one armed person for a few months. Not a good time for this, end of the semester and all, lots of plants to plant and papers to grade.

In any event here’s to R!