war of the words: moore vs. carroll

something that's been ticking over in my head, i've decided to thrash it out here and see if it makes sense.

normally, when i'm reading a couple of books at once or in quick sucession, i'll automatically notice similarities between them, and to me, they'll both end up being about largely the same thing. i can't help but see the unity between two texts, most of all with my long-term project godel escher bach, which seems to contain all human knowledge and rings with any book i'm concurrently reading. as you can expect, especially with things that you don't notice until they're gone, this recently was broken, and the man responsible? alan moore.

give him half a provocation, and the he'll rattle on about language; the power of language, and how language is magic (in fact, i can't believe peter jackson didn't get him to play gandalf). take this excerpt from judgement day (ta dan):

young glory: you're silly.
hermes: ah, but "silly" means wise or divinely touched. did you know that? you ought to be careful with words.
demeter: do not trust [hermes]. the god of mind and mirth and language is the deadliest god of all!

but do words have 'ultimate' meanings? the confrontation here comes from lewis carroll, via hoftstadter; surely words only mean what the person saying them wants them to mean? 'this language is your language', to misquote woodie guthrie. i've always naturally believed this, coming from a background where religious services are given in herbew - can't god understand english? or more likely, god doesn't even listen to the language, but feels the devotion behind it, like when one talks to a cat with a mixture of compliments and sweet noises - the compliments are there because one likes the cat, and expresses it in one's own language, and although the cat cannot understand the words, it understands the sentiment.

a short excursion into the world of insults.
i have often pondered about the usefullness of insulting someone; calling someone a cunt is only comical. why not just explain what they did wrong? (see previous post about being human) in this respect, one does need to be very careful with what word one chooses. 'cunt' is surely related to the french 'con' which translates better as 'arsehole', or maybe more abstractley, 'orifice'. to me, 'cunt' has no negative 'cunnatations' any more, and even with nathan barley, i understand his nickname as a reference to how someone else would use the term, in a blunt and p'haps misdirected way. we have to take something out of the recent history of the word, because cunt is still used as a slang for vagina, and not to harp on, but unless you're a gay man, what's wrong with that? tumour is a much better insult; something that works against the whole, and also something that no-one would want, but best of all, no-one is a tumour, so it is better than spac, or scoper. of course, you would not want to over-insult someone. if someone drops a plate on your toe, it would be wrong to call them a 'hitler', one would prefer 'klutz' or 'prat', but these only mean clumsy, they're less offensive because they only describe what the person is, fairly accurately. you knocked something out of a cupboard, so i'll call you a name that means clumsy. fair enough. slightly redundant, but most human communication is. this essay, for instance.

but moore always equates language with magic. my conception of magic is the same as how i talk to cats; i have always assumed that a focus word could be anything, as long as it worked it for you. i'd be surprised if this wasn't true, and so far, moore hasn't convinced me. i'm not dissing the power of words - i still believe they are inextricably linked to the concepts in our minds, and as such, do hold tremendous power. to anarchically fool around with them as carroll does is dangerous and nihilistic. but it is also as truthful as using them correctly. in moore's 'the courtyard' (spolier warning!), when the protag gets his dose of 'aklo', which turns out to not be a drug, but a language, he is given words such as 'wza-y'ei':
"a mental floor gives way beneath me. i realise i know what the word means; have known all along. wza-y'ei is a word for the negative conceptual space left surrounding a positive concept, the class of things larger than thought, being what thought excludes."
the protag goes apparantly mad with this new knowledge, his mind unable to cope, but is that just how us mere mortals, with our unexpanded conciousnesses, view his actions? regardless, through this elegant and moving section, moore shoots himself in the foot: he made that word up. he could have put any series of letters there and the concept would have been the same. tangentally, this illustrates the platonic ideals that exist in our minds already, something else that both hofstadter and my AI studies have implicated; visually, we cannot help but see spheres, converging lines, squares askew and so forth. these things are in our head already, and i believe the same is true of fundamental concepts like love and fear, upon which more complex functions of thought are built, and clustered, and represented as words.

where moore succeeds in 'the courtyard' is in the teaching metaphor. when studying something new, it pays to accept the terms used by the people you're learning from; why would you want to confuse matters by having a different word for the same concept, or worse, a different concept for the same word? indeed, can any of us have any concepts that are the identicle to other people's? coincidentally, this is the chapter i am still reading in godel escher bach.

there is no conclusion.


!!ADD ME!!

tom vs. the anti tom

this is interesting, and i came across it while browsing random livejournals; war in myspac. tom, founder of myspac, is your default friend, and since most people don't remove him, he has very nearly 20 MILLION 'friends'. then this anonymous guy turns up, and has made it his mission to have more friends than tom. the carrott is to add him, and the stick is to remove tom. he currently has nearly 300. you can see it's early days, but what if..? tom is still gaining friends every day as more people sign up, but everyone who switches to the anti-tom counts narrows the difference by two, meaning !!!add me!!! only needs to convert 10 million people, by which point the exponent will be huge anyway and soon the only friends tom will have are the (does quick calculation)..

oh my god. in one minute, 806 people became tom's friend, whilst !!add me!!'s friend count didn't tick at all. !!add me!! is fighting a seriously tough uphill struggle here. this makes it even more exciting. i'm nipping down ladbrokes, as soon as i find some work. i keep thinking 'i'll do anything', and then the offer of cleaning and sterilising operating theatres arises (like it did this morning).


it was funny at the time, but now it's terrible.

a really fascinating thing happened. you know how there are only so many jokes, only so many basic stories that can be told? it's amazing to find how they reoccur, and how the same algorithm can be funny when instantiated one way and tragic the other.

last night, it was hilarious. vicky, our new house mate was being ceremoniously inaugrated into the house by jess, by virute of having her height drawn on the wall in pencil. when she took off her platform sandals, she was the third shortest person on the wall after rachel and ultimately asami (japanese girl from across the road). jess said, "well, you're the tallest of these three," and we all laughed, because what a daft thing to say, 'you're the tallest of this subsection the shortest people.' (interestingly, she did belong to a group of girls significantly shorter than the mass of our guests). this is true of anyone.

today, it upset me. upon finding the pass list, sharon wood pointed out my name and said 'you're there.' i got a third. i was a little disappointed, but it was what i realistically expected. after a little more food and drink and jazz (all free), i called my mum and told her my result. she said, "are you serious?" she said she was disappointed, which hurt somewhat. but what was the result saying? 'you're the least intelligent of this arbitary subsection of the country's most intelligent people.' it's exactly the same story as last night but with the names changed.

in fact, they're both recursive tautologies of the form 'you are the most extreme bound of a set that is defined as having your value as the restricting bound', and to express it in any form is redundant. so why is it funny? and why is it sad? because we're human. the universe is the ultimate tautolgy, but that doesn't mean it's not an interesting equation.


this is the big one.

i don't expect you to read this in one sitting.

julie said, "why have you got 'death' written on your hand?"
i looked at my hand. right enough, 'DEATH' was scrawled on it in large blue, the 'h' finally spreading across several fingers and a knuckle and the 'd' loking slightly too isoceles. i burst into laughter.
"i can't remember. i wrote it down to remind me of something that i didn't want to forget, i thought writing something arbitary would just me of it, i can't think for my life what it could have been, except that it had nothing to do with death."
"why 'death' then?"
"first thing that came into my head."

this happened in brighton the other night. several other things have happened in the meantime...

on the way north, i stopped over in london to see girls girls girls.

you can tell i'm drunk, because i'm drawing on ed's teeth.

pictures for/of bertie:



obscure bertie


it was well excellent, and the night was stupid. drawings were drawn, hats were insulted (by rugby shirted stag-doers) cities were traveresed an a very interesting meal was cooked, of which i can remember only that it was largely fried cucumber and milk. then the girls and i played anal cunt chicken ('i like it when you die' is played loudly, and the last person to go to bed wins), which we all drew; i thought it was a very good record. lyrics are a little rough.

then i went home, the most overhung i've been for a long time - not in pain, but finding it very difficult to leave the flat. straightened myself out by the time i got to ashbourne. i learned that well on her way to fully accepting the country inside her, my mother had arranged to serve tea on the lawn as part of the local open garden mini-fest. 50p cup of tea, 1.00 cake slice.. we made over 170 quid. i say we, but my job was to sit in the garden and read my book (sadly, bobble hat and fising rod were unavailable). other than that, the most interesting thing that happened that week was helping to rake out 16 tonnes of gravel. interest be damned, the manifold valley is a marvellous place to be.

actually, what was interesting was the dice-man like moment of finding a bratz top trump while cleaning the holiday cottage, picking it up and turning it over and fuck, it's chloe. you know how i was writing about fate? it's so much fun believing in the power of co-incidence. (note to self and danny: must write 'the tao of don't panic: philosophy and the hitchhikers guide to the galaxy'. we'd make a mint)

the next sunday was fascinating because it involved me blacking out in the kitchen after dinner. we were watching some bushcraft program and the presenter was having his penis inverted and pushed back inside his body, as was the custom of the men of the tribe he was with. it was when he said "ooh, that doesn't feel right, i feel faint" and nearly collapsed himself that my vision started to mist over with those speckly squares one gets sometimes. the program moved on, but i was getting worse; i stood up to get a glass of water, not wanting to seem like anything was wrong, and then decided to go to the toilet; if i was going to be sick or lose conciousness, that's where i'd want to be. by the time i hit the door, i couldn't really see or hear much anymore, and i could just think enough to lift the latch, after which i my brain seized up completely and i fell onto the tiled floor. i can only have been out for about ten seconds, the next thing i remember is tim's hands on me, propping me up against the shower cubicle. i recovered fairly quickly and spoke to the nhs direct nurse, who was at once patronising and very helpful.

the next day, i saw the doctor who was a jolly fellow in a simpsons tie, and told me i had a relatively low blood pressure and took a sample of my blood. the results would be back on... friday. the friday i was supposed to be going down to bournemouth to see the christ punchers! i wouldn't know until i had to leave whether i was fine to go or not! oh the excitement. i still felt quite fragile, so what better to do than watch a 'psycho-sexual thriller'? yes, i finally got around to watching my copy of mullholland drive. riveting stuff, which i very nearly understood. stayed with grandma susan and thouroughly enjoyed her company, finally bought the adventures of luther arkwright (after growing up with a signed poster of it on my wall) by bryan talbot (not bolland, duh) and my own copy of irony is a dead scene. met up with rufus/alun and his girlfriend, took part in a pub quiz and drank guiness shandies (guiness for the iron, shandy for the lack of alcohol). the next day my dad took me for lunch with ann mitchell, who was selling her house (see this post) to move to london. i saw those dark wooden corridors for the last time, the courtyard, the warped floors.

on friday then, on the 'phone, the receptionist looked over the test results. all fine, she said, except this one.. 'hba052'. there's no data from it. either it was inconclusive or it wasn't carried out. or something to that affect; being the receptionist, she didn't know how or why or what the test was. i'd have to speak to the doctor himself later. but if i was going to make it to bournemouth - at least five hours away - i had to go then. i took my chances that i was all clear and had shell drive to ashbourne to get the derby bus. of course, we were running five minutes late with the traffic, so we turned down the derby road and found a bus stop. we waited, you know, in case the bus was late. nah. five minutes went by, we must have missed it. of course, the only reason i'm bothering to write this is because no sooner were we going the other way back to ashbourne than said bus drove past us. oh, memories of schoolbus chasing were unlocked as we found a suitable place to turn around, then got all the way to the outskirts of derby where i was dropped off, got a different bus and made it to the train station. when i spoke to the doctor, he said the test that hadn't been carried out, long-period diabetes, was unneceassary because it was covered by the other ones. i was well and truly fine, which didn't explain why i fainted - i must have just been ill - and made my mum say 'hmmph', because she's always thought me mildly aneamic.

i was in bournemouth. i feasted upon 3 bags of crisps and a fursty ferret and put some depeche mode on the jukebox, and made felications with thom, paul, and tim - the christ punchers. when they went to soundcheck, i found myself talking to two guys, the spitting image of two friends from school. it's great meeting strangers and having to talk to them because one finds oneself saying exactly what's upon one's mind; in this case, what i'm going to do with my life, the subject of a heated discussion immediately before i left.

a disappointing picture of the christ punchers.

thom admits to the christ punchers basically being a crap pub covers band, which is somewhat undersellig them, as the prog-metal original 'legacy of pain' and their gang-of-four-ish take on santana's 'smooth' demonstrated. sadly, now the first album and the merchandise is out in the world, it seems that they won't be able to change their name to something less used, unless they just have the cheetah picture as their name. anyway. bournemouth people were lovely.

seemingly no sooner had i got back to brighton on sunday, then jo came for a couple of days. over this period i had a curry a day for three days (plus chip shop curry sauce the day after). i just had such an insatiable craving, maybe it's all the hot weather. on monday night, we had so many options; sly and robbie, turds, patrick wolfe, smog.. instead, we played some daft and hilarious party games, drunk on heat (and wine). tuesday i rearranged my room into a much nicer shape, wednesday i continued to cane my todo list and watched 'casino' with simon who munched his way through an entire pot of brand ice cream (i could only manage half my tub [different brand] which i left in his freezer as a guarantee of my return). i got the feeling scorcese really cares about his films.
erm.. i think that's it.
hope it was enlightening.

has anyone thought of this yet?

(click for bigness)

is this a funny story.
i was making breakfast, like usual, or like i assumed a usual person would, in my dressing gown that i have become quite accusomted to during my days of post-studentdom, and i heard the postbox very quietly flit shut. so i thought, "i'd better get that, maybe my new keyboard (three pounds on ebay, no photo) has come through the letterbox." so i jumped upstairs like it was christmas eve. there was a junk mail for me, a phone bill for l (for all of us) and a delivary slip for jess. hmm. 10.40? june the first? that was right now (then?). why had the posty gone out of his way to quietly put this shit through the letterbox, and not even checked if anyone actually is in? so out of the door i went - the posty was some houses down now - and for want of anything better to say (please remember, i *had* just woken up) shouted "wait a minute, mr postman!"

couldn't look him in the eye.
got jess's letter.
standing in my bare feet and green towelling dressing gown, in the fucking street, printing and signing my name into the man's book, taking the thin recorded letter off the man, whose face has been entirely replaced with that of the george galloway who had invaded my dreams.
jess opened the letter. apperantly the police had recovered and impounded her stolen scooter.
her scooter, that, until that moment, she had assumed was sat on the street outside the house four doors down, with a flat battery.

oh fuck.

i had an erotic dream yesterday, that i take as progress.
not, as l suggested, i actually had intercourse with a woman.
no, but the reason we didn't have sex was due to a mere lack of condoms! nothing to do with the usual physical excuses. so close.. next time. i'll buy condoms every fucking day from now until my next horny dream, and then i'll have no excuse. i'll be sleeping in nappies 87).
i'm sorry, i really am.
normal service will be resumed when i'm a student again.