About ivanbaker

Writer and father and aspiring linguist. May also be considered a backseat philosopher, armchair chieftain, prophetic eschatologist, reluctant and not-so-proud member of the human race, and sometime spirit guide for weak-willed individuals struggling with basic concepts of living.

Summer: Live then Write

As the summer ends, my writing season starts. Life slows down, allows me a breath so I can take a moment to reflect on the madness of the hot months. I’ve always struggled with writing during the summer. I make little time for it, I’m too busy moving – living. But I know by the end of it, when I’m exhausted and stupefied, that the writing season of fall will slow me down and make me reflect.

This phenomenon of my writing interlude – where does it come from? 

It could be the echo of my childhood when we’d spend our time in pools and building ragtag forts and on constant adventure, abandoning the cerebral disciplines and casting off the yolk of education for a few fleeting wild months. 

It could be the echo of the post-pubescent years with the discoveries of adulthood around drunken bonfires and during house parties, dabbling in sex and drama.

It could be the adult ambition to meet with old friends and recapture youth or fulfill the social responsibilities that seem to increase with aging.  

Whatever it is, the cycle of writing always grows with summer’s fullness of life, and the fruits of the season’s mischief are always harvested and relished in the magic of autumn. 

The time has come yet again, to tack headlong into the realm of writing and unravel the madness of summer.  

Collective Nouns for American Sub-Cultures (and Sub-sub-cultures)

 

I get twenty free minutes in a coffee shop and this is what I come up with. Collective nouns for animals are quite entertaining so pondered some for America’s sub-cultures.  I I apologize for any feelings I may hurt.  Some good, some bad.  At any rate, just celebrating America’s sub-cultural diversity.

  • a ‘Stache of Hipsters
  • a Forty of Wiggers
  • a Void of Goths
  • a Drive-by of Gangsters
  • a Blot of Skinheads
  • a Huddle of Jocks
  • a Patch of Punks
  • a Clutch of Gearheads
  • a Lock of Hippies
  • a Squat of Gutterpunks
  • a Cache of Hackers
  • a Dose of Deadheads
  • a Gob of Greasers
  • a Jug of Hillbillies
  • a Huddle of Jocks
  • a Percent of Bikers
  • a Tissue of Emos
  • a Fixie of Scenesters
  • a Goggle of Steampunks
  • a Chortle of Nerds
  • a Gig of Geeks
  • a Trustfund of Preppies
  • a Nookie of Ravers
  • a Brocade of Rococo Punks
  • a Banishment of Larpers
  • a Pomp of Teddyboys
  • a Bushing of Skaters
  • a Thumb of Hobos
  • a Resentment of Athiests (not really a sub-culture)
  • a Shitkicker of Rednecks
  • a Clap of Hookers

And last but not least, my wife’s addition.

  • a Stank of Skanks

A Winter Adventure with Nietzsche: Zarathustra’s Speeches Continued

Thus-Spoke-Zarathustra-Nietzsche-Friedrich-9780140441185Back again for some existential fun time to get us through another melancholy winter.  Picking up where I left off last winter.

On the Teachers of Virtues:

Most of this section is composed of the sage lecturing about sleep and virtues then ending with Zarathustra’s pithy retort.  Let’s take a look at the sleep thing.

What is known about Nietzsche is that he suffered many ailments, and his poor health deprived him of sleep.

Consider:

  • The Sage is obviously of good conscience and thus sleeps well, but this doesn’t sit well with Zarathustra – “Blessed are the sleepy ones, for they will soon drop off.”  This is against Zarathustra’s Will to Power, obeying one’s morals is just not good enough.  I think of the aphorism Nietzsche wrote, paraphrased (can’t find it right now, I think it is in Twilight of the Idols) – the virtuous obey morals out of fear of consequence.
  • Nietzsche must have known something of Kant’s lifestyle and possibly envied it.  Kant was known to have and promote very rigid sleeping schedules.  In contrast with both sleep and philosophy/morality, Nietzsche, I believe, uses this little speech to bash all religious sages (of good conscience) and secretly Immanuel Kant (Nietzsche bashing Kant’s philosophy is a whole other topic).  But there is a hint of Nietzsche liking his despair, his amor fati (love of fate), and despite his inability to sleep, his will overcame his frailty to produce masterful works of philosophy
  • The greatest line from this speech puts Nietzsche’s ‘Power’ versus ‘Pleasure'(in this sense sleep is a ‘pleasure’) – “And verily, if life had no sense, and I had to choose nonsense, then I too should consider this the most sensible nonsense.”  This line also, naturally, attacks nihilism which Nietzsche was opposed and unfairly gets paired with.

On the Afterworldly:

This is one of the most important sections of this book.  Let’s consider what he is saying about the “afterworldly”.

  • “At one time Zarathustra too cast his delusion beyond man, like all the afterworldly.”  So it’s apparent to Zarathustra, the belief in the afterlife is a delusion.  The word play here is great.  In existential terms, these psychological manifestations are the basis of anything religious, all gods and afterlifes, no religion withheld, and in conclusion do not help us with living none-whatsoever.   “…that dehumanized inhuman world which is a heavenly nothing; and the belly of being does not speak to humans at all, except as a human.”  
  • Zarathustra gives us a solution – Bear your earthly head freely and make meaning of the earth.  This couldn’t get any clear in existential thinking.
  • There is a very Taoist sentiment in Zarathustra’s following advice of his new will, “…to will this way which man has walked blindly, and to affirm it, and no longer to sneak away from it like the sick and decaying.”  So this ‘way’ I take to mean Life, the path we live on, which Taoist’s call the Way or ‘Tao’.  In conclusion – investment of an afterworld subtracts from the actual life, the living, we live in the now.
  • “Zarathustra is gentle with the sick.”  That has personal written all over it.  Even the sick (like Nietzsche himself) can overcome thoughts of afterlife, still embrace the will to power, but the sentiments for heaven, still “betray” one’s life, sick or not.
  • Zarathustra slams the powerful people, or godlike men, who use religious afterlife for their own power, they are very much existentialist, believing in their body as a “thing-it-self” (this is what Schopenhauer called the Will).  We can think of David Koresh or Jim Jones, but it can be more than that.  Any priestly person using the sentiments of an afterlife to feed his/her power from the flock’s fear of death and the hereafter.

On The Despisers of the Body:

But the awakened and knowing say:  Body am I entirely, and nothing else; and Soul is only a word for something about the body.”  In German, the word for soul is ‘Seele’ which can also mean life.  So we know where this is going.

His quotation of a child “Body am I, and Soul”, is an homage to the natural existential framework children possess before they are taught all the hokum of religion.

Consider:

  • Zarathustra shows the contrast – body as great reason (and Soul is a word for the body) versus a little instrument of the body is called “spirit” (in German – Geist) and a toy for a great reason.  
  • Despisers of the Body, there is a few notions of what he actually means, is one better than the other?  The two that come to mind:  those who mistreat their bodies in a general sense (over-eating, drinking/drugs, laziness), and those who deprive the body of natural functions (think priests who abstain of sex or ascetics who fast excessively).  Whatever the case, the despisers of the body still have to serve the body in some sense or another according to Zarathustra

In sum, the despiser of the body cannot create beyond himself and thus is no bridge to the overman.  Whether it is a abstinent holyman or a drugaddict, neither can create something better, someone who embraces life and the earth and existence.

Piece: A Novel for 2014

Piece – A modern tragedy

In writing, I tend to have a one-track-mind about a particular story until I see it through.  This is unlike the rest of my creative endeavors which are often left unfinished.  I sincerely eat and sleep a story, much like a method actor doesn’t breaking character during filming.  Unfortunately, the book I’m trying to finish for this spring, Dipso, keeps mentally getting interrupt by the seedling of my next novel, Piece.

The synopsis thus far:  A young woman seeks out her biological mother after her hyper-religious foster family disowns her when she comes out with her homosexuality.  Her real mother, a rough-and-tumble barfly, is initially angered by the encounter with her forgotten daughter.  But after reconciling, she takes her daughter through a depressing hunt to find who the real father is.  The daughter is tossed into her real mother’s world of miserable memories, having to shuffle from man to man all in hopes of finding out which one of the rapists is her biological father.  The barfly has to struggle with her own humanity and femininity, her violent craving of revenge.  She contemplates becoming who her tormentors are – the ravishers of her body and murderers of her spirit. Can her daughter keep her real mother from descending into the grotesque nadir of the male psyche – a murdering rapist?

Obviously, it’s a sad story and quite taboo, but what I hope to play out in the story is the different ways our psychology handles tragedy, how our society deals with rape victims, how rape victims deal with themselves, how certain people cannot forgive others for who they are, the list goes on.  On the positive note, there will be an illumination of existentially dealing with misery in a positive light, self-overcoming through peaceful resolve.

I’m coming to terms with shoving things (ideas, verbiage, pictures, et cetera) related to Piece into this messy pile into the digital ether and on my corkboard.

I’m well aware that in a year from now, these characters will be very real to me and writing their story will break my heart.  Trust me, I have no qualms about crying at the keyboard.

Five reasons people hate Nietzsche

  1. Overused, over-quoted, over-sung aphorisms to no fault of his own
  • What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger (countless pop songs and tattoos on wiggers)
  • When you look into the abyss, the abyss also looks into you.  (This is from a pithy aphorism from Beyond Good and Evil that is always chopped in half for some stupid reason.)
  • One must have chaos in oneself to give birth to a dancing star.  (taken out of Zarathustra and out of context)
  • There are many more, but you get the point

2.  In his body of work he criticizes everyone, even his heroes and inspirations, and most of all himself.      When a writer offends a reader, the reader tends to stop reading.  (There’s a mock-Nietzsche quote for you!)  There are all walks of life that either hate/love him for this, e.g. feminists, philosophers, theologians, grad students, whoever.

3.  All-too-many non-scholarly types are attracted to his easy-to-read entries, especially his    aphorisms which are found in many of his books (this attraction was a fatal flaw that Nietzsche himself recognized).  Thusly, you get a handful of pop hip-hop songs and prison tattoos with his basic Darwinian observation, see first quote above.  This trendiness invokes ire from scholarly folk who tend to disregard him without thoroughly reading a significant amount of his work.

4.  He shut the door on an age of philosophy, and born from his death we get the all-too-confusing postmodernist philosophers some of whom considered themselves Nietzscheans.  This leads to some ambivalent feelings for followers of postmodernist thought;  they are stuck with the conundrum – “Who did this asshole think he was?  Oh, but my favorite postmodernist thinkers loved him and I can’t even stomach reading his rot.”  Thus spoke the self-idolizing smart people.

5.  Most importantly, no philosopher has ever been so totally misrepresented and misunderstood by so many assholes.  For example:  Nazis and other anti-Semitic shitheads (Nietzsche disowned his own sister and denounced Wagner for this), nihilist twits (Nietzsche was against nihilism), male chauvinists, grad student sophists, hateful atheists, rock stars and drug dealers, the list goes on.

My advice to anyone who gives a damn about learning from Nietzsche is that one must dig a little deeper about who this man really was and what he was really trying to do, read any of Walter Kaufmann’s commentary about the man.  And if you despise him, that’s fine, just know your enemy if you consider him such.

Nietzsche was, like all humans, a walking dichotomy full of severe maturity and childishness, drastically immoral and moral understanding, highly calculating yet sometimes whimsical observations.  One of his ultimate struggles was his quest for Truth, and through this he managed to leave behind a legacy for the thinkers of our new age.

I apologize for my lack of citations, I try to keep my blogs simple.  If anyone would like me to reference anything, just ask!

Also, wintertime’s acoming, and I’ll go back to exploring the enigmatic Thus spoke Zarathustra.

Autumn

Why would you read this box of nonsense? Around me, much death, near death, in many ways occurred in this autumn week. So here it is. Read it.

For all those that know me closely, when the matter of life and death come to call us, of course I call to some Nietzsche quote (though I do always consider Schopenhauer and Campbell). This excerpt is one of my favorites and is true to Friedrich’s writings outside the purpleprose ramblings of The Book for All and None, Thus Spoke Zarathustra. 

Here, from Nietzsche, from Die fröhliche Wissenschaft:

“The Thought of Death. It gives me a melancholy happiness to live in the midst of this confusion of streets, of necessities, of voices: how much enjoyment, impatience and desire, how much thirsty life and drunkenness of life comes to light here every moment! And yet it will soon be so still for all these shouting, lively, life- loving people! How everyone’s shadow, his gloomy travelling companion stands behind him! It is always as in the last moment before the departure of an emigrant- ship: people have more than ever to say to one another, the hour presses, the ocean with its lonely silence waits impatiently behind all the noise-so greedy, so certain of its prey! And all, all, suppose that the past has been nothing, or a small matter, that the near future is everything: hence this haste, this crying, this self-deafening and self-overreaching! Everyone wants to be foremost in this future-and yet death and the stillness of death are the only things certain and common to all in this future! How strange that this sole thing that is certain and common to all, exercises almost no influence on men, and that they are the furthest from regarding themselves as the brotherhood of death! It makes me happy to see that men do not want to think at all of the idea of death! I would fain do something to make the idea of life to us to be more than friends in the sense of that sublime possibility. And so we will believe in our even a hundred times more worthy of their attention.”

Female Body Types – from ‘All Things Humans Hate About Each Other’

Included in the list of All Things Humans Hate About Each Other is body image, in this case Body Type, namely the female’s.  Although both human genders deal with this petty disdain of people’s differences, it goes without mention that women suffer (and have suffered) the most of this judgment of body shape.

There is a mild revolution of women’s body image against the paradigms set by media and marketing.  This is great, but what is not so great when this comes out in hateful ways.  It further extends the pitting of woman versus woman that is commonplace in our society.  What I’ve noticed is that the waif-style, exomorphic type of body is steadily under attack in social media.  The idea that any particular body type should be criticized is stupid, but it’s strange that super skinny people are targeted when they are not considered the female paradigm and are only glorified in a limited corner of haut couture fashion.  If anyone looks like a waif in pop culture, they are instantly attacked for having an eating disorder.

Let’s consider the case for the exomorphic woman:

  • Exomorphic body types are a real thing, not just the result of eating disorders
  • Naturally thin women have endured several millennia of disregard, they’ve been considered not fit to bear children
  • They have only this brief window in human history to even be considered attractive starting with perhaps Leslie Lawson aka Twiggy and ending in the post-apocalypse which may be ten years from now
  • They may just eat really well, e.g.  vegan/vegetarian/raw foods diets

In contrast, the last fifty years have done a number on the endomorphic or full-figured women.

Consider:

  • Modern media has until very very recently shun the full-figured woman in the last fifty years, and even with the nod from the hoi polloi, they still have a stigma in elite circles such as Hollywood
  • The full-figured woman regardless of actual fitness has been portrayed as ‘fat’ or ‘big-boned’ in the last fifty years
  • Before the sixties, the full-figured woman had been a paradigm for the female figure since prehistory, but this does not mean that this type should be shunned in a more superficial modern era

The only thing I should mention about the mesomorphic woman applies to all women.  The pressures of our modern society on the female figure and face are grossly powerful.  All types of women have to face the judgments of people about the size of their breasts, the width of their hips, the form of their buttocks, and the shape of their lips and nose et cetera.  This is a shame, that humankind has not embrace beauty in all things, tall or wide, black or white.  Will we ever see a world that will embrace all women?  I hope so, but I think not.  We still haven’t gotten over dogmatic and medieval oppression of women and we are supposedly in the apex of our humanity.  Rubbish.

I’ll give a small case for the male figure, though as a man, I feel that we don’t deserve it.  We are the cause of all things bad, and since I am a male, I have the right to say that we do not deserve a defense.  To be equal though, here it is.

Some random things about all male body types:

  • No body type seems to be superior to the next
  • Height is an issue for men, but this doesn’t seem to reflect on the body type itself, I’ve never heard a woman say she likes short guys, they’re out there I’m sure but I haven’t met one
  • Exomorphic guys are presupposed to have large penises (not sure if this is scientifically true or if people believe this)
  • Women/men seem to enjoy all different male body types but the pressure to be one or the other doesn’t seem to be there for most men(of course that are men that really suffer from body image problems but this seems to be a very modern and isolated thing)
  • Bodybuilding doesn’t seem to carry the same prestige as it did in Ancient Rome and Greece, but the ‘fighter’s build’ on the other hand seems to still be popular
  • Big bellys were considered attractive and prestigious during the Renaissance, not so much now

I will not deny that men have their own personal issues with body image, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of significance to actual body type.  The issues that men do have with body image though, are generally perpetuated by men themselves.

Our human pettiness has barely progress since fifty thousand years ago, and I doubt that we are going to get much better.  But it is worth having an ideal, a hope, that we as human beings can get over all these measures of differences and realize the we are all in the same sinking boat.  We can let it sink, or we can bail and float together.

Speak good Yoda does not: A Critique of language used in Star Wars Episodes i – iii

When Luke Skywalker meets Yoda in Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back, the cute and powerful Jedi Master speaks in his trademark VSO (Verb Subject Object) speech.  I can justify this dialect in the Episodes V and VI.  But I cannot justify this type of language in Episodes I – III.  I’ll explain why.

I’ve been introducing Star Wars to my kids recently, more through the Lego video game than the movies since they are still quite young.  A friend came over while I was watching the third movie Revenge of the Sith, I hadn’t seen the ending before (fell asleep the first few times).

We were discussing the major differences of the two Star Wars trilogies, not uncommon so I hear.  Being both writers, much of the dialogue, the plot, and character issues were compared or criticized.  Then the topic of Yoda’s speech came up.  And my friend said something like, “Does he really have to talk like that all the time?”

“No, he doesn’t.”  I said.  I was reminded of a linguistics study I read.

In this socio-linguistics article, there is a phenomenon of age related speech change (I can’t find the article but I’ll dig it up if you ask). It has to do with the speech change from your childhood dialect to the language standard and back again.

In other words, when people retire and are no longer expected to speak the way they had adapted to in whatever speech community they had spent their working life in, they convert back to the dialect of their youth.

Some criticisms in a galaxy far away:

  • Yoda would be mentally capable as Jedi Master of switching his word order (syntax) from the OVS to the Standard Galactic English SVO when serving on the Jedi Council unless there is a justification otherwise
  • The only justifications for Yoda’s syntax in Episodes I-III is that his mysterious humanoid race isn’t neurologically wired for SVO syntax and/or Yoda suffers from some weird aphasia or some other neurological speech disorder
  • Exiled in Dagobah, his speech would, by socio-linguistic theory, revert back to the speech of his youth, so in Episodes V and VI, Lucas was justified in picking that particular speech idiosyncrasy
  • There was alot more VSO consistency in Episodes I-III which only shows that Lucas hired a linguist to deal with Yoda’s language, but this would indicate that Yoda’s Standard Galactic English had improved with his solitude.  probable? No.  But this is science fiction after all
  • Two fucks Yoda gives not:  The Taoist/Buddhist tendency of Jedi religion might just give Yoda a devil-may-care attitude about how others think of the way he speaks and feels no motivation to talk the same as the rest of the Jedi Council

Some criticisms in a galaxy right here:

  • George Lucas approved the continued use and improvement of Yoda’s accent to sell starfleets more Yoda action figures and plush dolls
  • Language oversight:  Aside from improving the VSO structure of Yoda’s language in Episodes I-III, Lucas may have had many oversights on language use unless of course he really intended to sell an imperial surplus of Jar-Jar Binks talking dolls
  • The amount of money made by pandering to a new and more modern fanbase was estimated to be equal to or greater than loyal fans from the original trilogy

So in a cosmic nutshell, it is my opinion, based on some educated value, that Yoda could have easily spoke Standard Galactic English like the rest of the Jedi in the Council.

We are born with greatness that only we can retain.

Image

We are born with greatness, and only we can retain it.

Placenta prints of Antoinette II and Ivan IV – With a society and culture that lacks importance in rituals, I wanted to fully embrace my children’s births with my own ritual. The greatest symbol of birth besides the mother and child is the placenta. To further the ritual, I’m getting these prints tattooed with the ashes of the placentae.

Why in tarnation are they honking?

Driving too slow and they’re being a speedy asshole?  Maybe.  Getting woke up when sleeping at a traffic light?  Perhaps.  Getting honkingly admonished for pedaling through a red light?  Mayhap.

Why do we use our car horn?  What are we saying?  Why some more than others? 

I may have used my horn once last year, reluctantly, but I’m a shy type of guy.

The car horn is our primary means of audible communication when driving, unless you have a CB which is its own speech community and not in question here.   Besides the horn, crude sign language (middle finger or fist shake), indecipherable cussing, blinkers and brights are our other means to speak through vehicles.  As a pedestrian or cyclist, your options are fewer.

Leaving out the issues of road rage (that’s a whole other psychological shit-mess), I spent some time pondering the language of the horn.  This is how it started.

Quick story:

I was walking with my daughter a while back when a car honked as it came down the alleyway.  I couldn’t see the car yet.  Before crossing that particular alley, you have to peak your head around because the garage obstructs the view.  I was about to peak my head.

Honk.  Honk.

Instantly and involuntarily, I felt angry.  I shook it off.  The car let us pass.  I waved in thanks, sincerely.

My reaction, that unintentional anger, bothered me for days.  I couldn’t help but wonder why did I get so mad, why the visceral reaction?  Why does the car horn instantly mean some jerkface is being a dick?  When in reality, it’s our only audible way to communicate with a vehicle, with both respect and disrespect.

This seems to be with cars or trucks only.  I can’t picture a “ringring” of a bike bell ever pissing me off.  Or a jogger saying “coming through”, then with me flipping them off in response.  What gives with the car horn?

 So I’ve been keeping a mental inventory of horn communication.

Here are some words that the horn sounds “beep” or “honk” could mean to you.  This is what I have so far:

The Horn

  • “Screw you!”  –  When someone is beeping for no good reason.  Their life sucks and they don’t know how to deal with it and they want to take it out on everyone driving and walking and biking.  Simply put, Road Rage.
  • “I’m coming through and you might not see me.”  –  This is the incident I described above.  A courtesy beep for unknowing pedestrians.
  • “Hey buddy, wake up, light’s green.”  –  When someone is sleeping at the light.  I’ve been there before, getting woke up, a third shift type of thing.
  • “Hey dude, quit texting, lights green.”  –  Probably the most common phrase for the horn nowadays.  In my opinion, this is definitely NOT a gender related issue.
  • “You almost hit me!!”  –  There is no purpose to this honk besides releasing some emotion.
  • “You hit me.”  –  It’s too late, damage is done, last bit of communication before face the accident.
  • “Hey baby!”  –  Catcalling via horn is popular followed of course by the actual catcalling.
  • “Viva los peatonales!”  Honking in protest with protestors.
  • “Horny”  No doubt Honk if you’re horny still exists.

This horn form of communication has gotten us, those without radio communication that is, through the last century I guess.  Is it enough?  Even The Roadrunner could inflect his “meep-meep”.  The best we can do is sound out every syllable of what we want to say or get a customized horn and whistle Dixie like The General Lee.  Bullhorns were in trend for a spell, but they’re probably better off being reserved for the police.

The different ways to non-audibly communicate from a car are also very neato.  The main ones are with the hand signals for turning or stopping (on a bike this is your blinker unless of course you actually have blinkers on your bike).  The headlights are used to let someone pass or to let a driver know if his lights are off when they should be on.  The one use of headlights that impresses me most is when someone is warning you that a cop is up around the bend.  There must be a law against this, okay, but I think it’s a pretty cool way to pass a message.

There may be no solutions in our future, but it is interesting to note how we humans with our insanely complex language, both verbal and non-verbal, can function audibly with one sound in such a dangerous environment. 

It baffles me, how that one sound can bring so much ire even under the most benign of circumstances.  Is that because the honk is used for anger too much?