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at bay September 30, 2008

Posted by eatnorthamerica in onanistic bullshit, things that are not quite things we know, verbiage clusterfuck.
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Home is how I keep the outside world at bay. My doors are almost never all the way open, save to a minute group of people who don’t have to read this to know who they are.

One of those people was over at my place this weekend; I’ve known her since we were 9, and hadn’t seen her for a couple of years. It’s a rare thing, being around someone who knows you for all that you are and accepts you in your entirety. I savour the novelty of not having to be a novelty.

It’s funny how you can not really talk to someone for intervals of months and years, and never need to; yet when you come together again, it’s all you do.

She arrived at noon on Friday; I did hardly any work from 12 onward:

a) I was ahead of schedule
b) so fuck it. see
a)
c)
we were having an extended conversation about life, the universe and everything
d) this conversation ran from 1.45 pm to 1.45 am in the morning
e) she lost her voice.

f) all of it.

It takes a different perspective to put your life into perspective. From her viewpoint my workplace was a haven of cushiness. I think it’s all too easy to assume that everyone has the right to a job that’s at least 60% enjoyable. Meaning: we all bitch too much about shit. At least we’re not working 8-2. Yet.

 

Sunday, it was Sunday. She was gone. I was standing on the peninsular Vancouver shore, filming my friends filming my germphobic friend crawling through hypodermic sand. One of them used to be a pornographer. They’re making a zombie movie, or something. I was there for the humanity of watching people around them watch them.

“I think I have AIDS,” my friend said, throwing his weight from foot to foot, sloughing the beach detritus from his skin. In his youth he was fed a diet of rice saturated with orange pop. Why any grandmother would do that to her grandchild, I don’t know.

I watched the watchers. You can surround yourself with all the people in the world and still not understand what it means to be known; to never know what people know about themselves, to only know that people will never know what you know about yourself. Sometimes we need to be known; sometimes we don’t.

Holding a camera that wasn’t mine, I pushed the trigger again, again. I stopped carrying my own camera around a while ago. It was too tempting to turn life into a series of beautiful, bastardised pictures that show everything and say nothing. Or show nothing and say everything. Either way. The camera is broken, anyway, or I am. I could never make it say what I wanted it to say, that in a picture of a hazy sky was a certain feeling I had about the world that day.

 

Nighttime. I lie umber and mellow on yielding cushions and think about that very small cluster of people that I hardly ever think about. I don’t need to. Some doors are always open to some people, even through this veiled impermanence called life. We don’t write, or call, or look, and yet our lives are always open to each other.

Sometimes you only ever need to know that you can choose not to be alone.

I’m only lying here, tossing out cheap phrases like “you can choose not to be alone” and murmuring to you that Google only knows two other people who chose to say “you can choose not to be alone”, that not till now did Google choose to know anyone who chose to say “you can choose to not be alone”, and now you are here, and I am gone.

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specific ambition; a long foot September 29, 2008

Posted by eatnorthamerica in things that are not quite things we know.
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I had a friend who always told me she envied me for loving what I was doing;

I loved it no less and no more than she did; she could never see the amount of willpower it took me to actually get anything done.

Hell is being lazy and ambitious. It’s taken me a hell of a long time to curb some of my inherent laziness. Someone told me once to constantly surround myself with people who were willing to give me a good kick up the ass from time to time. It’s funny, because that’s how I ended up where I am today. Encircled by ass-kickers. Not by design, but because I lucked out in terms of finding good friends.

If it’s obvious that everyone must suck at something they’ve only just started doing, why then are people so willing to claim false competence? Why not assume we all have at least 99% more to learn? Even if you are latently gifted at something, chances are you’re going to get much better at it.

People keep selling themselves short by settling, or maybe just not caring.  Coasting is as seductive as any opiate.

Perhaps the problem is that good is such a subjective quality. Are we good only when we stand next to the least capable of people? Should we not compare ourselves to the best of the best, and strive to surpass them? Why not? You got hubris, might as well flip it into something worthwhile.

Mind you, when you have a lot of general ambition but struggle with specific ambitions, things get frustrating. Maybe that’s the problem; people don’t ever find something they want to do. Maybe people don’t find something because they don’t care to look. Or maybe they just don’t realise there’s something out there worth looking for. Or maybe it just doesn’t matter.

Probably the latter.

I am guilty of all this, and of lacking focus. Independence is learning the fine art of kicking yourself in the ass.

Stephen says:
hmm, well i think you should probably start with some goals that aren’t that concrete, like getting ___ done
start by doing some things that’ll increase your capacity to get other shit done, so you can take advantage of the snowball effect
Candice; says:
i want to own a planet
not a big one like jupiter, i think
just a little one. this one’s pretty good.
Stephen says:
then eat it?
Candice; says:
yeah.
Stephen says:
that’s pretty good!
Candice; says:
thanks
Stephen says:
i hear pluto’s crunchy, if that counts as a planet

preachers in the street September 25, 2008

Posted by eatnorthamerica in onanistic bullshit, things that are not quite things we know, verbiage clusterfuck.
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Fifteen years ago, fifteen years from then, I thought I would be standing on a stage like the band that played tonight, night after night into the longest night. It was something I thought I knew would happen, but never did. I was fifteen and my heart sang starstricken dreams as I stood, arms uplifted, a player on a slumbering stage, and waited for the world. I thought I knew all things about time and god and love and death. The world never came to me; I went to it. I met people I wish I’d not. I became, briefly, whom I wished I had not. I learned about truth and life and love and other trite things that stubbornly resonate, like empty vessels under electric storms. And if there was one song, my song, it waxed crazy and dumb and young, and dreamt stages glowing gold and dark.

You could have asked me if I understood, then, what I would come to understand now, and I would have told you that I did, and not been able to do anything but tell that lie, without ever knowing why. I couldn’t tell you now what at fifteen I would have done. I would have laughed. I should have laughed. I, now, would have reached out, put a finger on that unweary cheek, told you it was okay. And now I laugh.

Today the mirror says, look away from what is past, into dreams long-extirpated, into bliss, into a patient accretion of all that gentled you — that asks but what did you regret? and what did you expect? and I pause and say nothing, everything, and briefly, I realise it is true.

And looking at the face I grew into, I shut my eyes and find myself finally able to say; yes, it was me. Yes, I am, I am, a different dream.

The sun on my skin, the wind in my hair, here it is — gold, in October, the honied homecoming scent, red cedar. And the song has changed, as all songs do. Or my ears have, or the world has, or all of us, or just me, and you.

synaesthesia September 20, 2008

Posted by eatnorthamerica in pseudo-informative bullshit, things that are not quite things we know, verbiage clusterfuck.
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You’re a subtitle in my head.

You might have heard of the oddity known as synaesthesia, the merging of two or more senses. Some synaesthetes see colours when they hear sounds. I see you talking in monochrome text. The colour/sound association is such an archetype of the condition that I hadn’t realised what I experience is classifiably synaesthetic (not least because it seems prosaic to me, compared to gustatory synaesthetes who taste lemon when they hear ‘k’).

Well, I’ve finally found someone else who sees everything they hear in text.

http://blogs.warwick.ac.uk/acronick/entry/how_do_you/

…which is top Google search for ‘when I hear people speaking I see subtitles’.

The trigger for this query stemmed from a joke my colleagues were running in the kitchen at work; they were getting passersby to ‘help them work out a code problem’ by saying it out loud and having them write down (there was a bit more to this) p, 3, n, 1 and 5. Most people get it after completing the word; some canny individuals get it after writing the p3.

“‘Penis’?” I said the moment I heard the sequence, and didn’t understand their surprise. I didn’t get why the joke would possibly work on anyone until I remembered that most people get direct aural input from speech. It wasn’t until late high school that I realised that having subtitles in your head isn’t a universal experience.

I know there are plenty of other people who are quite capable of converting the letters; but for me the association between sound and text is inexorable. I will see letters/numbers in print somewhere in my head. Usually in Arial, Helvetica or Times New Roman, white floating on a black field.

Perhaps another way of explaining it is that most people read by converting text to sound; for them reading is double the effort of listening. For me it’s the exact opposite.

There are some odd aspects to all this, like how it’s really hard for me to make out song lyrics (I’m fine with the actual pitches, just not with the speech aspect — most of the time the words don’t even exist to me), or how I used to have the worst trouble in school spelling the simplest words out loud. ‘C-A-T’ is a struggle. Breaking a word into letter sounds is an alien concept. Soldier is [soldier]. Cat is [cat]. It is what it is. Every word is visual gestalt, an indivisible conglomerate.

I have heard Japanese is processed similarly by fluent readers. Not because the characters are pictures — very few have any remaining pictorial root — but because of their necessary visual chunkiness.

I read by processing huge chunks of text rather than going word by word. I don’t remember ever not knowing how to read, so maybe this oddness is a function of that.

I had the most horrible time maintaining concentration in classes because extended amounts of speech are unbearably arduous for me to process while maintaining focus (too slow. Being impatient doesn’t help).  I have to focus pretty hard on conversations to figure out what people are saying, especially if they have accents or are speaking softly.

I can’t play games with very slow text output, either. It’s unbearably frustrating to have to wait for word/sentence/paragraph chunks to drip onto my screen. It’s like having a conversation with someone who spells every single word to you instead of saying it. Somebody tell me how t-h-i-s i-s a-t a-l-l t-o-l-e-r-a-b-l-e.

Often I pronounce words the way they’re spelled (eg, salmon), which has led to my having gotten a lot of stick over the years. I’m still filled with a child-like pride when I remember how to pronounce a word that is phonetically counterintuitive. If I hear foreign words, I have to know their spelling system or it’s almost impossible for me to remember the words I’m learning. I ask people to spell out confusing names for me so that I can chunk the letters into meaningful units and then remember their appearances.

There’s only one word I’ve ever had serious trouble with, and it’s bizarre. It looks ‘wrong’ no matter how I look at it. I have no idea why. I know how to spell it, but I don’t know how to spell it. It doesn’t exist as a natural [word unit]; it gives me a queasy feeling. Sometimes, if I concentrate hard enough, words start to look like text patterns rather than ‘words’; that’s how bizarre looks to me.

I don’t have eidetic memory, but I do have good general visual memory.

This isn’t exactly the same condition that the blogger linked above does; she can’t hear voices, pitches or accents in her head, but those aren’t an issue for me. I have a decent grasp of scansion in text and have no problems with music. Just speech. I often have trouble recognising voices on the phone (possibly due to aurally-triggered cognisance anxiety). No, my hearing is neither damaged nor abnormal, and if anything is better than average when it comes to aural tests like micropitch differentiation, etc etc.

Is it useful? It’s not great that I have trouble with lexical-auditory functions, but I process text very easily; it’s just the way I’m wired. Hell, I don’t know any better.

See what I’m saying?

I glossed over the mainstays of synaesthesia because I didn’t want to tarry too far beyond my personal experience with it. Here are some links for additional pursuit:

http://otherthings.com/uw/syn/ <- a fascinating representation of the most commonly-known type of synaesthesia (or synesthesia if you must). Check out the flash demonstration at http://otherthings.com/uw/syn/flash/syn25.html. I definitely don’t experience that. Seems as though his synaesthesia doesn’t involve letters as text but as flashes of colour sensation.

http://www.mindhacks.com/blog/2005/03/test_your_synaesthes.html
http://icanhascheezburger.files.wordpress.com/2008/09/funny-pictures-one-in-every-five-kittens-can-see-captions.jpg <– a waggish take on the issue
and a recent anecdote: I went to the dentist and had a new hygienist assigned to me, who had an unusual name (to me). I transliterated it to ‘Aneece’, but not knowing how to spell it (the timing was off and I missed my window to ask) made me so uncertain that I couldn’t say it until after I received my invoice and saw his name spelled ‘Aneez’ (though it did sound more like Aneece with ‘standard’ English pronunciation). Until I know how something’s spelled, it’s not quite tangible.