“It is only possible to succeed at second-rate pursuits - like becoming a millionaire or a prime minister, winning a war, seducing a beautiful woman, flying through the stratosphere or landing on the moon. First-rate pursuits - involving, as they must, trying to understand what life is about and trying to convey that understanding - inevitably result in a sense of failure. A Napoleon, a Churchill, a Roosevelt can feel themselves to be successful, but never a Socrates, a Pascal, a Blake. Understanding is ever unattainable. Therein lies the inevitability of failure in embarking upon its quest, which is none the less the only one worthy of serious attention.”
-Malcolm Muggeridge.

Normal: the romanticized average

What percentage of the time is the concept of “normalcy” referenced in relation to human fears I wonder?

I am wary of the adjective “normal,” as I’m sure many people are, when used to describe anything other than geometric relationships or chemical solutions. It is a dishonest sort of adjective I think, seeking, at worst, to describe something which does not exist, or, at best, to pretty-up something which does exist, but which ought to be called by another name entirely.

11.01. filed under: !. humanity. observations. 9

I am about a third of the way through Jeff Vandermeer’s newest novel Shriek: An Afterword and am enjoying it immensely. I’ve been a fan of Jeff’s works since first getting a whiff of City of Saints and Madmen way back when. Shriek is an incredibly satisfying book thus far, with a unique structure that fractures time, as so many contemporary “post-modern” narratives do, but in an altogether more intimate and rewarding way. I won’t say anymore since this isn’t a review, I haven’t even finished the book yet after all, but anyone interested in more in depth reviews can see the following: SFCrowsnest, Shaken & Stirred, or Infinity Plus. What I wanted to share with you tonight was something entirely more specific, a short section that might very well represent the greatest book rejection ever put in print. With Jeff’s kind permission I will reprint it for you below.

It is usually my practice to limit my image posting here to those things which I find pleasing and which I assume you might find pleasing as well. This is only natural. We all like pretty pictures. Today, however, it is my intention to post some decidedly ugly images, images which are so ugly, in fact, that they might correctly be called “the ugliest” images in existence. Don’t fret, they are not close-up proctological photos used for diagnostic purposes. Images of that nature are not meant to be pretty, but rather functional, and in the satisfying of that function do have a certain merit; No, the images I am about to show you were created by human hands to fulfill a purpose (like said proctological images) but to simultaneously be aesthetically pleasing as well. The ultimate statement on their awfulness is that they fail miserably on both counts, which is to say their ugliness is so great that it actually hinders their intended functionality. That is the definition of failure in design I’d say. Brace yourself…

A Billion Dialects

Or, our secret languages and private lexicons

Language. Isn’t our relationship with it strange? There is a sense somehow that language exists outside of us, that we are users of language only, consumers rather than manufacturers. When we are children language is offered to us as a fully formed quantity, to be learned and employed in just the way mathematics or chemistry are, replete with correct and incorrect solutions to the “problems” of expression. Language, of course, has the added characteristic of containing within itself “forbidden” ground– words and phrases which were you to utter them in polite company would illicit outrage, stern reproach, and disgust. Imagine, by way of comparison, stating the correlation coefficient between two variables at the dinner table only to be knocked up-side the head by an incensed Grandma. As adults most of us would seem to think about language only when searching our numb skulls for that elusive perfect word. And yet… behind closed doors?

09.21. filed under: !. observations. people. 20

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