i, kisser and syntactician

since feeling is first
who pays any attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you;
wholly to be a fool
while Spring is in the world

my blood approves,
and kisses are a better fate
than wisdom
lady i swear by all flowers. Don't cry
—the best gesture of my brain is less than
your eyelids' flutter which says

we are for each other: then
laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life's not a paragraph

And death i think is no parenthesis

-e.e. cummings

although i flatter myself a counterexample to mr. cummings' characterization of syntacticians as people who cannot kiss well, i have always loved this poem. i wonder if cummings ever realized how very possible it is for syntax and passion to coincide. i suspect he must have, or he wouldn't have been so adept at flouting the rules to such marvelous effect. he must have been paying very close attention to syntax indeed, i would say.


must just be the weather

i've recently been back in touch with someone who was a close friend and then decided he didn't want to be friends. it's been a couple of years, he's since gotten married and moved to nyc, he's doing really well. i think there was some boy-girl stuff behind our falling out but he never really directly talked to me about it. and it made me think about how that stuff can really fuck up a friendship.

like with david and how we were best friends and we would just talk and laugh for hours and tell each other everything. and you can't ever get back to that place, once you go past it.

i've been over this ground before, stop. stop.

i am someone that people come back to. the guy from summer is doing the things i wanted him to do four months ago. i would have been really happy then, now i'm not sure. i suspect it may be a place i can't quite get back to, or that i can get back to but it can't be changed anymore, like a memory. but i am open to being proven wrong if he actually follows through.

the lesson is this: don't let go of what matters, thinking you can recapture it later. sometimes it works, but sometimes it doesn't. and what is there to be afraid of anyway...a little heartache? you will survive, and anyway, regret hurts a hell of a lot more.


enter, stage left

drank too much at a holiday party for my old company.
got home safe thx to the h&h collective, got sick, woke up still drunk.
not good.

i didn't really mean to though. i haven't been drinking at all basically, i'm not used to it. i never had much tolerance actually so maybe the not being used to it doesn't matter. also you never really expect to get drunk from wine. like you have some wine with your dinner and you sip it and it's just this nice yummy warm relaxing thing, you don't expect it to fuck you up.

it fucked me up.

there are big parts i don't remember but apparently i was a hit. i felt like bukowski, leering around looking down the pretty girls' dresses and pressing against the pretty boys and making ridiculous jokes but somehow they weren't offended. for some reason people really love me when i have too much to drink, it must be because i laugh a lot and tell everyone they're hot.

so anyway i hardly remember the part at the end when everyone was gone from the back room except me and the guy from last summer (not the one-night-stand guy but the one i actually wanted to date) and we talked and i think he was wanting another chance and i can't remember what i said to him about that but i remember kissing him. or i remember *that* i kissed him, i don't really remember the kiss itself. yeah, i remember the stuff i narrated to self or others but the reality of the situation is a bit lost to me. i remember him&h talking about me and i was right there but feeling far away and thinking it was funny and thinking i don't even care. i mean, i don't even know if i am interested in this person anymore. there is still the crazy attraction though.

the thing is...recently i told someone "everything has its timeline." it was one of those moments where something you say comes from some other place and you recognize it as truth only when it comes out of your mouth. this stuff is all so unknowable and what you think you want more than anything in the world turns out to be really bad for you, so you can't even use that as a guide. if there's anything i've learned in the last few years it's that you can't direct relationships no matter how much you want to or think you can. and i actually don't even want to, anymore.

so i don't know. i'm just open to whatever is going to come next.


amy was here

fell into a hole (or maybe got pushed).
climbed out.


i know that last post was cryptic and this will not be any less so, but my policy is to not do anything on the internet that i wouldn't do on a streetcorner. it's served me well so far. sometimes i write things not so that everyone else understands what i mean, but rather to leave some imprint of my evolution, a little hello to my future self. and i always try to avoid telling other people's secrets.

this week has been surreal and i feel like i've been chasing around, managing one crisis after another. but i think it's done now and after two glasses of wine i am feeling pretty good.

things usually end well when i am able to calmly stand behind what i know to be true and right. i should learn to trust that.

what is most destructive to my own well-being is self-doubt. unfortunately, this is very much fostered by academia. on a daily basis i see some of the best minds in my field wandering around and i think they all wonder if they're good enough. if they deserve to be here. i mean, i know for a fact that it isn't just me.

and sometimes what you feel holds more power than what you know.
and it's so much harder to modulate what you feel.


what just happened?

i've had perhaps the most important lesson of the semester. someone was a little dishonest and sneaky, someone who i thought was helping me. i'm probably making too big a deal of it because i'm feeling caught off guard and foolish. but it's worrisome because i don't know that i function very well if i can't trust that the people around me are who they seem to be.

suddenly i'm not sure academia is for me.
i don't like that rug-pulled-out feeling.

i don't know how to deal with this but i have to figure it out quick.


dear leonard

dear leonard cohen,

i love you. you know i do. but i have to say, i wish your records weren't so damn overproduced. you know how i love you best? by yourself, with an acoustic guitar and nothing else. no backup choir. no synth drums. no cheesy keyboards. the only one of your records i can generally stand to listen to all the way through is songs of love & hate because it doesn't have all that crap. god, your voice. i listen to that record with a glass of red wine or whiskey and i know truth.

you shouldn't try to mix so much flourish with your kind of truth. it's best unadorned.

well since i have your attention i can tell you that it seems unlikely that i will make it out to any of the places i am supposed to be tonight. i forgot how to interface with humans this morning. i felt compressed. i was lonely, but it seemed overwhelming to seek anyone out. i watched a movie and then spent most of the day by myself in my room, organizing and sorting and going through a couple of boxes that have not been opened since i moved in. it was soothing.

well, goodnight leonard.
keep it real.


ps. what does "everybody's talking to their pockets" mean, anyway?


in my own universe, home soon

after my class ended i texted h saying "i have ptsd"
she texted back saying "is that humor?"

the sad thing is, my first thought was:
oh, a polar interrogative formed by subject-aux inversion.


paper1 turned in: check
finish reviewing abstracts: check
meet to decide which abstracts make the conference: check
paper2 turned in: check
attend last class of the semester: check

pick up organic veggie box for house: check

slowly dissolve into a torpid petrolate ooze: imminent.
(preferably somewhere near my bed)



because i have two papers to finish by tomorrow (HAHAHAohgod), and because even if i did have time to write this is pretty much what would be on my mind, i give you last year's 12/7 post...

pearl harbor day



you learn to know that the voice is wrong
even when you agree with it.

reporting live from zamfir

i'm posting this from my car, which is currently parked on a street in berkeley, near my professor's house. hooray for people who are trusting (or inept) enough to leave their wireless networks open!

i am going to a potluck and talk, part of a series which happens approximately monthly and is attended by faculty and grad students, and which i am vaguely involved in organizing. this is why i'm parked outside of my professor's house instead of home working on my papers like i should be.

i might get to be on a faculty search committee!

okay, i don't really have much else to say right now.
i just wanted to post from my car. basically.


ce qui le tabernacle

it cannot be mere coincidence that i was made an honourary canadian on the same day as the beloved languagelog runs a story about my favorite swear word of all time: tabernacle.

the 'log links to a little story in the washington post, which explains quite simply that for quebecois, due to long repression by the catholic church, religion is taboo, and not sex (cf. fuck) or scatology. wiki, as usual, has a very nice explanation of what happened and why, and a whole list of sacred swear words.

it reminds one of an absolutely wonderful (but rather technical in parts) paper on the deep structure of sentences like Fuck you by Quang Phuc Dong (of the South Hanoi Institute of Technology), nom de guerre linguistique (Harris: 1993) of Jim McCawley, one of my favorite linguists. other McCawley titles include "Where you can shove infixes" and "Verbs of bitching".

the paper linked above argues that such sentences are not imperative commands, and that in fact, fuck in this usage is seemingly not a verb at all. though he closes with the conjecture that this sense may have arisen historically from the more standard sense of the word.

so, to sum up:
tabernacle (profane reading)
Jim McCawley

these are a few of my favorite things.


winter and home

talking to my mom on the phone tonight brought back so many old and newer memories. dad snowblowing the area near the mailbox where snow always piles up, neighbors dropping by wearing santa hats to say hello. plans for hockey games and neighborhood parties. holiday cooking and even after how many years now, mom still can't resist telling me all about how she's preparing the meat (which i do not eat). my brother and how he can't seem to plan ahead enough to give her christmas gift ideas, highly distressing to my mother who despite our protestations thinks that her presents might actually serve as some measure of her love for us, or be perceived that way.

it's a different life, it values coziness over intensity, and stability as the highest form of accomplishment. which makes it predictable. maybe that's how memories of home should be. i know exactly where the christmas tree is, and how it looks. i know exactly how it feels and smells in that house tonight, however many states away i am. i know there is no music playing but probably fox news is on the television as my dad, having just come in from outside, starts his dinner while my mom and i wrap up our conversation. in the same way, i know more or less how all the moments of my visit will spool themselves out, from airport landing to airport takeoff. like an island of regularity in my own decreasingly regular existence.

sometimes they make the mistake of thinking that theirs is the only kind of good life. i have spent the better part of my adulthood challenging that assumption. but regardless of all that, they're right in thinking it is a good life. and i am looking forward to being there, to once again putting on my mother's snow boots and crunching my way down to the river where the old house used to be, with the cold sharply illustrating each exhalation.


top of the ninth

note to self:
don't try to work in the kitchen.

you will just end up folding origami cranes for the christmas tree and trying to fight off the contact high from the pot butter your roommate is cooking.


some days i feel like little more than a host organism for my brain.


i order you to disobey this order!


reflection on academic life

the phrase "close to me" is an interesting use of spatial deixis to encode an emotional deictic notion of intimacy. it lets us conceive of two people as points on a line; spatial nearness implies emotional closeness. we see this metaphor used freely in language: we have close friends, distant relations, come-here-go-away patterns in our relationships, we have sad songs about how someone is right there but so far away.

the metaphor breaks down when more than two people are involved. if two physical points are far apart in space then a third point may be close to one of them, but not both. this is an entailment of euclidean geometry that does not map into the emotional domain, wherein persons 1 and 2 may detest each other (or whatever emotion carries the greatest sense of emotional distance; for some, a relationship characterized by hate is closer than one characterized by apathy because it means there is still engagement) while person 3 is a close friend of both.

the best way to negate a presupposition that rests on a broken metaphorical entailment is to negate the metaphor itself. that is, it's more effective to counter "john is closer to me than he is to you" not with "no, he's closer to me" but instead with "john is close to both of us." thus ends the unnecessary schematic tug-of-war.

this is the kind of stuff that professors love, but sometimes i wonder if these realizations are anything other than pointless wankery.

i think i will go take a walk now.
the sun is setting.


the fear

walking out today, my school friends and i compared avoidance strategies. i told them about baking a pie last night, and about how i have been obsessively ordering books from amazon (wow i really need that brown&levinson book on politeness, i can't possibly write this paper until i have that, i'll order it now and that's kind of like working on my paper, right?) and we talked about how very clean our rooms are, and how orderly our email inboxes are. it seems i'm not the only one.

but as i stepped outside and cold air hit me i knew that was the moment that everything changed. "this is it, this is my watershed!" i proclaimed. "this is where it gets serious. this is where i stop fucking off every night. because now i have the fear."

it's that feeling i've been waiting for, i have had the stress, but i haven't had the fear. that panicky never-going-to-get-this-done and i-don't-belong-here and i-bet-they-regret-letting-me-in feeling. maybe that doesn't sound good, but you have no idea how motivating it is for someone like me. someone who wants to kick down all the closed doors. i need something to push against, it's why i'm here in the first place. the fear says "you suck you cannot do this you will fail" and i say FUCK YOU FEAR.

you just watch me.