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Echoes and Mirrors » notes

Archive for the ‘notes’ Category

Late Inspiration

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015

Seven or so years ago, before I went to college, I began writing an awful, sad attempt at a novel. (I posted it to my MySpace blog, if you need any clarification on how much of an amateur I was.)

A few of my friends, in real life, pestered me for years about finishing it. I think I managed to get three or four chapters completed before I realized it wasn’t going anywhere (and, looking back, was basically bleakness porn).

Today, while driving to work, I thought about it and suddenly knew where it could go.

I’m not about to start writing it again, but I did scribble the idea down for later. And I’m damn glad that it didn’t come to me then, as I may have actually kept on with it instead of devoting my energy to better projects.


Composing the Body – Some Thoughts on a Punk Rock Approach

Monday, June 2nd, 2014

I’m not a rhetoric and composition scholar, but I’ve been wading knee-deep in it as a TA for the last two years – and teaching a smidge of it, as far as I can – and every now and then, I see something that is just so applicable that I can’t let it go. I’ve used movies to teach composition in the past, notably Adaptation and the documentary Derrida.

Most recently, I watched The Punk Singer, a documentary about Kathleen Hanna, the founder and lead singer of Bikini Kill (a band I listened to whenever I developed a punk-rock sensibility during the late 90s). A lot of the curriculum at Ohio (where I’ve taught composition during my Master’s program) is based on identity composition – feminism, queer, race, discourse communities, etc. – and I’ve been immersed in much of these discussions for so long that much of the feminist rhetoric discussed in the film wasn’t terribly shocking or new to me (I was aware of the riot grrl thing then as much as I am now, as well). But I realized that it was being presented in a really unique and, dare I say, hip way. It was accessible in a way that was interesting.



Brief Encounters with Ben Fountain

Monday, April 21st, 2014

I suppose it should go without saying that I read a lot. I think I do, but sometimes I realize that I don’t read nearly as much as I ought to. Or, more specifically, I get a paranoia about not reading enough when I actually do. One thing I know I don’t read enough of is short stories. I don’t have anything against them (what could I possibly have against them?) and generally tend to enjoy the fact that I can read one while I wait between classes or any other 20 minute bit of downtime I find myself in. I can read one before going to sleep without facing the nagging questions about what’s going to happen next? They’re great.

And reading Ben Fountain’s Brief Encounters with Che Guevara reminds me of the power of short stories. The opening story “Near-Extinct Birds of the Central Cordillera,” is one of those stories that probably won’t leave me for a long time (much like Alice Munro’s “Child’s Play,” or Jess Walter’s “We Live in Water”). The ending, specifically, is so artfully done that my reaction is to simply blink at the page and say, “oh, wow.” Because it satisfies an expectation in the exact opposite way that I would expect and exactly in the way that makes the most sense: John Blair (the humble hero of this story) is rescued, but only grudgingly so, and only because he’s become more of a nuisance to his captors than he is worth. It really tips toward his being shot, instead.

Even more beautifully, his guard’s humanity is exposed through his generosity (I won’t spoil the how) in comparison to an otherwise Colombian-lensed but very Cormac MacCarthy-esque outlook on life. That is, one that is full of brutality and is washed out, desensitized. This makes his act mean more than anything John could have done and becomes more important than John’s own disillusionment and joy, if only because it is the cause for how John feels. And be cause it’s an act that’s completely organic but slides itself in unnoticed until the very end.

I think maybe I’ve become a little too complacent with what I read. It may be the case that this story is just that much better than what I’ve been reading. I’d like to think so. Because this is intimidatingly good. It sets a high bar, and one worth striving for. Certainly higher than the attempt at a clever title I used for this post, at any rate.


No Transaction, No Sacrifice

Friday, March 14th, 2014

One of the most bizarrely accurate notions I’ve seen in recent years is that of the “white knight”—the guy who defends women in order to gain approval or affection. As opposed to doing so simply because it is the right thing to do—it is a transactional act with an expected reward, with a debt incurred. There is an eerie and powerful resonance between Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morals and the notion of “nice guys,” in fact. It shares a distinct similarity to the “spiritual (or imaginary) revenge” of the put-out and downtrodden who, according to Nietzsche, seek repayment for humiliations and injuries, even those that are imagined. Who can be blamed for sexual failure more acutely than the desired that rejects you? And what better revenge—in the imaginary sense—is there than making them indebted to you? The problem is that this sense of a debt does not remain imaginary if it goes unpaid. Like anyone who feels that they’ve been cheated but cannot call on the renege, this translates into anger. In this case, misogyny.



Nicotine, You Bastard.

Friday, June 28th, 2013

Well, I quit. Two weeks ago. Okay, I’m shy of two weeks by a couple of hours or so.

And I mean quit like I am making a genuine, concerted effort this time, rather than my usual “I’m quitting, so I’ll only smoke x cigarettes today, and x-1 tomorrow, etc.” or simply not smoking for half a day. This is also my first cold-turkey attempt probably ever except for basic training, which wasn’t exactly voluntary. I’ve always attempted to wean myself off cigarettes with nicotine gum or dip.

Once, or twice, I tried Zyban. Those attempts were not only unsuccessful, but I found out how poorly Zyban and alcohol interact in my brain. The details are unimportant, but I won’t take an anti-depressant to quit smoking again. Several friends have tried Chantix, often with disastrous results. One exception is my father, who claims it worked amazingly well for him and he hasn’t smoked in years now despite my mother continuing to.

Still, I’m not tempted to try it or Zyban again. I haven’t been drinking since I quit smoking, as it’s probably one of my biggest triggers. Bigger than eating or coffee. I’ve upped my caffeine intake considerably, particularly coffee, in fact. Yes, the first few sips makes me crave a smoke, but it’s okay.

Fact is, I’ve never felt this good about not smoking before. I’m attributing it to the other major lifestyle change I’ve made, which is going on early morning runs. Before I quit, I would be winded after a half mile. This morning, I ran four miles and finished with fuel left in the tank. Of course, getting up to run at six in the morning requires that I not be a night owl anymore. And that has led to much more normalized eating habits.

It’s all really disquieting, this shift into being a morning person with ‘normal’ eating habits who sleeps eight hours a night. But I also suspect it’s the only thing keeping me sane over a long, empty summer. I always stayed enrolled full-time over the summers in undergrad so I’m not used to having nothing to do.

I haven’t managed to write one damn word of fiction since I quit smoking, which was what I intended to do with my entire summer. I was doing well at it, too. During the first couple days of abstaining from nicotine, my laptop did something that annoyed me. I don’t recall what it was but it was enough to trigger a tantrum. The result was that my laptop’s harddrive was no longer functional and everything I had written or worked on all summer was now lost. (I am managing to recover some of it — the genuinely important things, in fact — from the internet (from saved email drafts, etc); I’m tempted to look for a decent internet/cloud back up service now.)

My reading habits have gone all wonky as well. I haven’t managed to finish even one, where normally I would be finishing one every other day. I just can’t focus long enough to read more than a page or two before (literally) wandering away from the book. I’m honestly not sure where my time is going. It’s the middle of the afternoon right now: I know I ran from 6-7am, showered, made breakfast, ate and then… I had lunch at noon. And I’ve spent three hours typing this (not editing or revising, but just typing a first draft, mind you). I just can’t seem to manage my time around goals. It used to be that I could set a goal (say, read two chapters or X pages or one hour) and once accomplished, I’d get a smokey treat. Somehow, my time management was so utterly dependent on this reward system that I’m completely non-functional without it.

So, the upside is that I’ll be running half-marathons in a month or two but the downside is that I can’t focus long enough to perform simple tasks like reading or writing.

Yesterday’s post on Wittgenstein/Nietzsche/Cavell/etc. was the first thing I’d written in almost two weeks. This is the second. And it’s not going so well on that front.

I’m wondering if the negatives of smoking –a shortened lifespan, increased risk of cancers, lung disease(s), etc. — are worth the ability to actually do (efficiently) the things that I love to do? The $150-200 I save a month (yes, they cost that much if you smoke like I did) is nice, but does it make up for not being able to, well, do anything because I can’t focus?

This does end, right? I did quit for a few months once (basic training and a little after) but my life was so heavily regimented and prescribed that it didn’t matter: I wasn’t thinking or managing my own time, anyway.

I’m so lost without you, cigarettes.


The Future

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

And what a wonderful decision that is turning out to be.


Daily Links

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

New items for August 10, 2011:


Daily Links

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

New items for May 10, 2011:


Daily Links

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

New items for April 21, 2011:

  • Google ReaderEvolution of Language Takes Unexpected Turn This sounds eerily in line with Wittgenstein’s take on language in the Philosophical Investigations. Of course, scientists (including linguists) disregard philosophy as conjecture as it has no evidence aside from logical conclusions to back it up. That’s fine, but I find it amusing when science confirms what philosophy has already said.

Daily Links

Friday, December 24th, 2010

New items for December 24, 2010: