Monday, February 15, 2010

Gritting my teeth and diving into the past

     Reworking some sections of a book I started in on over five years ago. It's good to see my first work is still almost entirely usable, but there are some sentential-level techniques I'm only now working out. There are sections that are sloppy. I always worried about looking at early work, like it would be utterly neotenous compared to the masterpieces I'm obviously producing now in my more mature years (ahem) but in any event I'm hoping to move more works into the "finalized" category and get them out of my mental space, and maybe force myself out of my cowardice/apathy about submissions and publishing in general.

Nothing creepy about this loving father below!

     “So this is Prague,” said Mr. Kopfrkingl, turning his gaze from the young pink-cheeked girl in the black dress to his left, “it is beneath us as though it were in our palms. As if we stood on a high peak and regarded the world spreading out beneath us. There is the Vltava, Charles Bridge, the National Theater,” he said, “those two towers are the Týn Church, the tower closer to us it the old town hall, and the truncated one behind it is the Powder Tower….the National Museum is over there, and the big white modern building behind it in Vinohrady is the Church of the Most Sacred Heart of Our Lord. Mili, look through this glass,” he told Mili, pointing at a pane of smoky yellow glass, and when Mili looked, he said: “That bit of glass is the same color as the glass we have in the incinerator windows. The most sacred windows of the world, for through them one can see directly into the kitchen of the Lord God as the soul separates from the body and flies up into the ether. Show me how our Prague looks through that glass.” He bent over and looked at then raised his head again and said: “It is true. Our Prague is beautiful.”

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Hirsute, horror, urchin

Proto-Indo-European had (it is reconstructed) a root *ghers- meaning "bristle."

A suffixed form with -tu in Latin gives us hirsūtus, whence "hirsute."

A lengthened form *ghēr gives (h)ēriciōnem "hedgehog" in Latin, which winds its way through various Frankish dialects until it emerges in English at yrichon in the 13th century, becoming "urchin," later acquiring the denotation of "ragamuffin."

And a suffixed ablaut form gives us he verb horērre, whence English "horror."

I originally laced these together when I realized I didn't know the derivation of urchin, and the semantic threads are fairly early to follow. [I have bitten bradshaw of the future's style here for a moment, if poorly, but still in good fun.]

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

A brief manifesto

     I love massive, completist geographical projects, and a bike is an excellent way to set one in motion. Get as big a map as you can and a marker and start shading in street as you ride them.

     I went a little crazy in Santa Cruz with this in May of 2008 after a breakup and got a compass to mark off concentric circles from certain locations. I've now been on more than 99% of the paved roads (and some unpaved alleys) west of the river in Santa Cruz--probably been on every street except a few up off Empire Grade by campus. (Empire Grade ate a frame when I was rocking a single-speed; it's hard to crank up there.) It was a fun way to plan day trips and lunch breaks from work, and great for building an intuitive sense of how the city fit together in ways that were intensely personal. I've had situations where I'm leaving someone's house in a neighborhood I rarely go to but still have a mental map of the entirety of the surrounding streets. I grew my own heads-up display, basically.

     It's not necessarily for everyone (I really, really like maps). The great part about grandiose plans is that you can ignore them and just get lost and have fun. I ended up cruising down a lot of residential streets and sketchy areas and boring subdivisions, (and got a few odd looks when I would bike by the same intersection three times in five minutes, or up a short dead-end street only to turn away grinning) and it got a lot harder to "knock off a few streets" as the streets I hadn't been on receded increasingly far away.

     Restlessness is one possible side effect, too. Having been on every street on the West Side, it's impossible for me to get lost or make new street grid discoveries, and the challenge of getting to the new ones can seem insurmountable. The new environments to map are farther off, and this detracts from the spontaneity of the original experience. But that's the beauty of it all. I get to see much more of the city around me than the paths of home-work-bar-beach. All the tiny little nooks and funny ways to hack the city to meet my needs, the shortcuts that wouldn't occur to people--they really help keep my physical surroundings an organic whole.


(walking your town would be a better manifesto, but these are some notes from 2008 that I've decided to transcribe and get out of my hair. Plus I should be tuning my bicycle, and bicycle theory is a great way to procrastinate on that.)