josh blog

Ordinary language is all right.

One could divide humanity into two classes:
those who master a metaphor, and those who hold by a formula.
Those with a bent for both are too few, they do not comprise a class.

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16 Nov '05 08:08:37 AM

A fall breakup, again.

1 Nov '05 03:15:48 AM

A guide to Beethoven research.

30 Oct '05 06:57:05 AM

'They have lost the capacity of their predecessors to do anything in common.'

30 Oct '05 06:56:23 AM

'as though a kiss were a cheap thing'

30 Oct '05 05:49:51 AM

Ever wary of any hint of the theatrical, I tried to ignore the expectation that I would appear in costume at Christopher and Eli's Halloween party last night; ever anxious to have some kind of response, some way of accounting for myself, I compromised at the last minute and wrote up a stack of pre-planned utterances, on little slips of paper, to fit my conceptual slash performance art costume, described on the frequently-resorted-to second slip in my stack: 'I am a mute alcoholic'.

I hadn't seriously considered how thoroughly to stick with my 'costume', but I was tested as soon as I arrived, or thought I had. I was stopped at the door by people I didn't recognize who interrogated me about my obvious lack of costume. So already I began to be committed to my role, which was unfortunate since upon going upstairs I learned that it's hard to verify your suspicion that you've just entered the wrong party at the wrong house when you don't know any of the people there, 'can't' talk, and don't have a note prepared that says 'excuse me, but is this Christopher and Eli's house?'. But I figured it out; they lived across the street. Once I got over there and remained silent long enough to establish my schtick I broke silence just in order to tell Eli about my misadventure, then I clammed up again.

The effects were variable, depending on who was around. Christopher is a philosopher, Eli a philosopher turned political scientist, so the crowd was a mixture of people I know well together with people whose names I don't even remember today (I did try to stay in character, both parts). For the most part it was clear that people I had just met found it hard to know what to say after we had run through all the gags in my setup (like the backstory about my career as a motivational speaker, or insistence that no this was not a costume, I had just heard there might be something to drink at this party; plus useful miscellaneous remarks like 'that is a nice costume' and 'would you kindly direct me to the liquor?' and 'don't presume to judge me!'), and I had exhausted my basic, ad hoc repertoire of communicative gestures and faces (tell me about your costume; who are you? how do you know this other person? do you want a Swedish meatball? etc.). But sadly, or happily, the result was 'conversations' not all that different from those I might typically have, or restrict myself to out of diffidence; just less of the inescapable oh-what-do-you-do shop talk that is the rule among graduate students.

With my friends, I would say that I basically had actual conversations of varying depth, depending a lot on their willingness to guess a little and propose candidates for me to react to (I recall lots of middle fingers and lewder gestures later in the night). It also helped a lot to be 'talking' to more than one person, which only seemed to let me occupy my habitual role as commentator anyway.

My last-minute concession to ritual turned out to be much more expressive of both who I am and who I'm not (but maybe want to be) than I probably ever would have been had I prepared an actual costume. I'm so often disinclined to speak, for good (or let's say neutral) and bad reasons; and at the same time dismayed at how my taciturnity only tends to attenuate the vanishingly weak emotional connections between me and the people around me. Forced by the situation and, shall I say, by performer's integrity, to talk with my hands, my body, make faces, touch people, express myself with less frequently tapped means than usual, I was allowed to feel I was acting in ways I normally can't, or don't permit myself to, while somehow doing it on my terms.

26 Oct '05 07:16:54 AM

... slipping is crash's law ...

23 Oct '05 07:57:56 AM

Something someone once whispered to me, or at least wanted to: it really is possible to make it through. I am keeping her words close.

18 Oct '05 06:51:36 AM

'They don't split the baby! That's the whole point! Read the book, motherfuckers!'

18 Oct '05 04:09:23 AM

Geeta über Berlin.