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An Interesting Ruse

Lorca, in a book of interviews I have recently purchased, talks about his success, and says that he, personally doesn't care about his t...

Monday, February 19, 2018

An Interesting Ruse

Lorca, in a book of interviews I have recently purchased, talks about his success, and says that he, personally doesn't care about his triumphs.  He only cares for the sake of his friends. They will be disappointed if he doesn't have great success in his plays, and he can please them if he does.

(Now Lorca is not exactly a modest man, and he had to play the role of a celebrity.  As Christopher Maurer points out, very astutely, in his preface to this book (Palabra de Lorca), the celebrity interview during this period was a new journalistic genre, and Lorca had to figure out how to present himself to the public. He was gregarious and could do this, but you can also see the toll it must have taken on him. If you read all the interviews straight through, you see he has to repeat himself, and present a fairly consistent image, even though Lorca himself was mercurial and had a private side. They mostly want to interview him about theater, not poetry, which is understandable because theater is more public, and because during the years Lorca became famous, it was more for the theater, and he wasn't writing as much poetry [the 30s rather than the 20, and not as much in the early 30s before Bodas de sangre].)

So, of course, the adulation of a smaller group of friends and admirers is more meaningful than the adulation of thousands of strangers. That much is easy to see, and probably sincere. But it turns out that this adulation of Lorca's friends depends on his adulation by the larger group. His friends need him to succeed with the larger group. So the result is that the claim that he doesn't care about success for himself, but only for his friends, is transparently spurious. Of course it for himself, even if it needs to go through his friends as well.    

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Walking and Thinking

I walk in the gym, because it's been cold out. I walk outside, too, if I want to get somewhere.  My goal is the proverbial 10,000 steps a day, and I'm meeting that goal (as of now, for this calendar year). I will often decide to think about something in particular, develop ideas as I walk around and around the track. An hour is a good stretch of time; you can develop some ideas in that amount of time. Today I was thinking about how to assume my new role as someone who actively thinks of himself as a top scholar, rather than a bum, but still not be an asshole or arrogant prick of the kind I hate, especially in myself.


One rule, for example, is not to be a professor at all out of context, unless very irritated by someone, to the point at which you need to get professorial on their ass.

 Another would be to worry about being a prick. The real pricks don't worry about it, or if you point it out will have some excuse or not even see the problem.  

Another rule would be not to write in a way that is designed to make you seem smart, at the expense of the reader.  You can be smart, if you have a smart point to make, but you can't write just in order to make yourself seem that way. You cannot condescend either, or even practice false modesty.  

You might depend on friends to tell you not do it. And you should listen to them.

You might pick and choose your times for making a point, or showing someone else. A colleague was all excited in the meeting a few days ago for having invited a slam poet to campus. I said nothing, even though slam poetry is inherently crappy. If you pass up opportunities to try to make a point like that, you will find it is easy just to let most things slide.  

You might look at your motivations: competitiveness?  A sensed of being aggrieved, and not getting your due?  Anger?  Frustration?

Let me know if you have rules in order not to be an asshole.

Some people just aren't that way anyway, and don't need rules to keep themselves from assholic behavior.  Sadly, I am not in this category.  


It is hard to walk 10,000 steps a day (on average) if you don't walk at least that most days, because if you walk 5,000, then you need a day of 15,000 to balance that out, and that is harder to do. It is hard to accumulate 10,000 simply by walking where you need to go.  You have to take a walk of some substantial length, at some point. Otherwise you will be in the 3-7k range. So if you walk at least 10 a day, you will average more like 11.

Friday, February 16, 2018

My Mind

I like things like prosody, grammar, and music theory because I like to look at how things work as systems.  I guess literary too, but not as a series of buzz words* as it now is, but real theory, where the theory actually explains and predicts things. I've never understood language learners who didn't want to understand the grammar inside and out, or who actively dislike understanding syntactical relationships, or musicians who want to play but don't want to know what it is they are playing. What I like about the jazz harmonies is that the player knows what the chords are and their relation to each other: they aren't just reading notes off the score.  I'm not a good improviser at all; I like it because I like how it makes sense structurally.

A musical rule is, for example, that the fourth tone of the scale sounds bad against a major seventh chord. So play C,E,G,B in the your left hand, and see if F sounds good. It doesn't. Now you could F if you wanted to, if you trying to find something very dissonant, but you wouldn't use it if you were going after a different effect. A grammar rule is that you would say the big red barn and not the red big barn, or "Never have I seen such a thing" and not "*Never I have seen such a thing."

I should actually be good at math, but I am not.  I think it was because I didn't see myself as talented in that, so I tuned out at a very early age from it.

So I don't always think like other humanists do. I guess it is a good thing that I am accepted in my field and not seen as some crazy person. I can sometimes see right away why someone is wrong, and I get impatient and want to cut through the bullshit.


*By a buzz word, I mean a word that does all the theoretical work just by sitting there as a point of reference.  That's what I see in a lot of job candidates. They say, I will be using "Mayhew's theory of the subtextual valence," quote the theory, and then analyze the text in the same way they would have otherwise.  

Thursday, February 15, 2018


"Jonathan Mayhew helped me polish Chapter 1 with his superb editing skills."

Yes, I will be in your acknowledgements.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Not a bum

I made a significant decision the other day.  I will no longer think of myself as some bum who happened to get lucky and publish some things that gained me some measure of academic respectability.  I will fully inhabit my non-bumness. For example, I won't have a book sitting in a drawer for a year without seeking a publisher, as I did with the last one. I will apply for everything, seek out intellectual and academic connections with no trepidation.  

Meta-interpretative Sandwich

Word and music studies is like translation studies in that it is meta-interpretative. You interpret a text, then interpret what the composer has done with it, producing another verbal object comparing your interpretation of text with your interpretation of the composer's interpretation of the text.

The music the filling on the sandwich, there is text before and after.

The problem is the degree of arbitrariness, because you aren't really comparing words to music, but rather your interpretation of a text to your interpretation of the composer's interpretation.  Thus L. Kramer in something I was reading last night was comparing "Goethian" and "Schubertian" interpretations of a poem by Goethe. But, of course, Schubert's reading of Goethe is as Goethian as Kramer's.

I've already written of the melodramatic mode of music analysis, the anticlimactic descent into the tonic and the startling diminished chords, all that jazz. Does anyone listen to music like that? It makes a good story...  What I'd like to propose is to look at cultural and idiomatic relations between musical and poetic styles.  

Tuesday, February 13, 2018


This word, as reported by Clarissa and by Spanish people on my facebook feed, makes no sense, feminist or not.  Let's review the morphology here.

porta + voz falls seems to fall into the morphological category of 3rd person verb + noun. These nouns are masculine and invariant for singular and plural.  

Usually, the noun is plural, like "el sacacorchos"    ["removes corks"].  In the plural "los sacacorchos." The cork remover or the can opener (abrelatas). There are many such words, like aguafiestas (throws water on the party, the spoilsport.). Some refer to people, like "perdonavidas," [bully.].

But portavoz uses the singular form.  The curious thing, though is that the word voz is feminine. The idea that we could make it more feminine by saying "voza" is stupid beyond belief.  The noun is masculine because of the morphological pattern, not because of the word voz.  Why don't we just use the elegant solution and say "la portavoz" [the spokesperson in female gender] instead of "el portavoz."

We don't say "persono" or "víctimo." Certain nouns just don't correspond to the gender of the person we are talking about. Or "Juan es buena gente."