Parataxis is a literary technique, in writing or speaking, that favors short, simple sentences, with the use of coordinating rather than subordinating conjunctions.
Perhaps the best-known use of parataxis is Julius Caesar’s famous quote, “Veni, vidi, vici” or, “I came, I saw, I conquered”. An extreme example is the immortal Mr. Jingle’s speech in Chapter 2 of The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens.
‘Come along, then,’ said he of the green coat, lugging Mr. Pickwick after him by main force, and talking the whole way. ‘Here, No. 924, take your fare, and take yourself off—respectable gentleman—know him well—none of your nonsense—this way, sir—where’s your friends?—all a mistake, I see—never mind—accidents will happen—best regulated families—never say die—down upon your luck—Pull him UP—Put that in his pipe—like the flavour—damned rascals.’ And with a lengthened string of similar broken sentences, delivered with extraordinary volubility, the stranger led the way to the traveller’s waiting-room, whither he was closely followed by Mr. Pickwick and his disciples.
Perhaps an even more extreme proponent of the form was Samuel Beckett. The opening to his monologue “Not I” is a classic example:
” . out . . . into this world . . . this world . . . tiny little thing . . . before its time . . . in a godfor– . . . what? . . girl? . . yes . . . tiny little girl . . . into this . . . out into this . . . before her time . . . godforsaken hole called . . . called . . . no matter . . . parents unknown . . . unheard of . . . he having vanished . . . thin air . . . no sooner buttoned up his breeches . . . she similarly . . . eight months later . . . almost to the tick . . . so no love . . . spared that . . . no love such as normally vented on the . . . speechless infant . . . in the home . . . no . . . nor indeed for that matter any of any kind . . . no love of any kind . . . at any subsequent stage” and so on.
Although the use of ellipses here arguably prevents it from being seen as a classic example of parataxis, as a spoken text it operates in precisely that way. Other examples by Beckett would include large chunks of Lucky’s famous speech in Waiting for Godot.
A really excellent essay by Jeremy Collins at SBNation.com – Thirteen Ways of Looking at Greg Maddux. Worth a read.
Wikipedia: “East of the Sun and West of the Moon” is a Norwegian folk tale.
The White Bear approaches a poor peasant and asks if he will give him his youngest daughter; in return, he will make the man rich. The girl is reluctant, so the peasant asks the bear to return, and persuades her in the meantime. The White Bear takes her off to a rich and enchanted castle. At night, he takes off his bear form in order to come to her bed as a man, although the lack of light means that she never sees him.
When she grows homesick, the bear agrees that she might go home as long as she agrees that she will never speak with her mother alone, but only when other people are about. At home, they welcome her, and her mother makes persistent attempts to speak with her alone, finally succeeding and persuading her to tell the whole tale. Hearing it, her mother insists that the White Bear must really be a troll, gives her some candles, and tells her to light them at night, to see what is sharing her bed.
The youngest daughter obeys, and finds he is a highly attractive prince, but she spills three drops of the melted tallow on him, waking him. He tells her that if she held out a year, he would have been free, but now he must go to his wicked stepmother, who enchanted him into this shape and lives in a castle east of the sun and west of the moon, and marry her hideous daughter, a troll princess.
In the morning, the youngest daughter finds that the palace has vanished. She sets out in search of him. Coming to a great mountain, she finds an old woman playing with a golden apple. The youngest daughter asks if she knows the way to the castle east of the sun and west of the moon. The old woman cannot tell her, but lends the youngest daughter a horse to reach a neighbor who might know, and gives her the apple. The neighbor is sitting outside another mountain, with a golden carding comb. She, also, does not know the way to the castle east of the sun and west of the moon, but lends the youngest daughter a horse to reach a neighbor who might know, and gives her the carding-comb. The third neighbor has a golden spinning wheel. She, also, does not know the way to the castle east of the sun and west of the moon, but lends the youngest daughter a horse to reach the East Wind and gives her the spinning wheel.
The East Wind has never been to the castle east of the sun and west of the moon, but his brother the West Wind might have, being stronger. He takes her to the West Wind. The West Wind does the same, bringing her to the South Wind; the South Wind does the same, bringing her to the North Wind. The North Wind reports that he once blew an aspen leaf there, and was exhausted after, but he will take her if she really wants to go. The youngest daughter does wish to go, and so he takes her there.
The next morning, the youngest daughter takes out the golden apple. The troll princess who was to marry the prince sees it and wants to buy it. The girl agrees, if she can spend the night with the prince. The troll princess agrees but gives the prince a sleeping drink, so that the youngest daughter cannot wake him. The same thing happens the next night, after the youngest daughter pays the troll princess with the gold carding-combs. During the girl’s attempts to wake the prince, her weeping and calling to him is overheard by some imprisoned townspeople in the castle, who tell the prince of it. On the third night, in return for the golden spinning wheel, the troll princess brings the drink, but the prince does not drink it, and so is awake for the youngest daughter’s visit.
The prince tells her how she can save him: He will declare that he will not marry anyone who cannot wash the tallow drops from his shirt since trolls, such as his stepmother and her daughter, the troll princess, cannot do it. So instead, he will call in the youngest daughter, and she will be able to do it, so she will marry him. The plan works, and the trolls, in a rage, burst. The prince and his bride free the prisoners captive in the castle, take the gold and silver within, and leave the castle east of the sun and west of the moon.
By Steve Kandell on Buzzfeed [The Worst Day Of My Life Is Now New York’s Hottest Tourist Attraction]:
The fact that everyone else here has VIP status grimly similar to mine is the lone saving grace; the prospect of experiencing this stroll down waking nightmare lane with tuned-out schoolkids or spectacle-seekers would be too much. There are FDNY T-shirts and search-and-rescue sweatshirts and no one quite makes eye contact with anyone else, and that’s just fine. I think now of every war memorial I ever yawned through on a class trip, how someone else’s past horror was my vacant diversion and maybe I learned something but I didn’t feel anything. Everyone should have a museum dedicated to the worst day of their life and be forced to attend it with a bunch of tourists from Denmark. Annotated divorce papers blown up and mounted, interactive exhibits detailing how your mom’s last round of chemo didn’t take, souvenir T-shirts emblazoned with your best friend’s last words before the car crash. And you should have to see for yourself how little your pain matters to a family of five who need to get some food before the kids melt down. Or maybe worse, watch it be co-opted by people who want, for whatever reason, to feel that connection so acutely.
via Wikipedia, Conceit:
In literature, a conceit is an extended metaphor with a complex logic that governs a poetic passage or entire poem. By juxtaposing, usurping and manipulating images and ideas in surprising ways, a conceit invites the reader into a more sophisticated understanding of an object of comparison. Extended conceits in English are part of the poetic idiom of Mannerism, during the later sixteenth and early seventeenth century.
In English literature the term is generally associated with the 17th century metaphysical poets, an extension of contemporary usage. In the metaphysical conceit, metaphors have a much more purely conceptual, and thus tenuous, relationship between the things being compared. Helen Gardner observed that “a conceit is a comparison whose ingenuity is more striking than its justness” and that “a comparison becomes a conceit when we are made to concede likeness while being strongly conscious of unlikeness.” An example of the latter would be George Herbert’s “Praise,” in which the generosity of God is compared to a bottle which (“As we have boxes for the poor”) will take in an infinite amount of the speaker’s tears.
An often-cited example of the metaphysical conceit is the metaphor from John Donne’s “The Flea”, in which a flea that bites both the speaker and his lover becomes a conceit arguing that his lover has no reason to deny him sexually, although they are not married:
Oh stay! three lives in one flea spare
Where we almost, yea more than married are.
This flea is you and I, and this
Our marriage-bed and marriage-temple is.
When Sir Philip Sidney begins a sonnet with the conventional idiomatic expression “My true-love hath my heart and I have his”, but then takes the metaphor literally and teases out a number of literal possibilities and extravagantly playful conceptions in the exchange of hearts, the result is a fully formed conceit.
From Wikipedia: Estoppel.
Estoppel in its broadest sense is a legal term referring to a series of legal and equitable doctrines that preclude “a person from denying or asserting anything to the contrary of that which has, in contemplation of law, been established as the truth, either by the acts of judicial or legislative officers, or by his own deed, acts, or representations, either express or implied.”
Because estoppel is so factually dependent, it is perhaps best understood by considering specific examples such as the following:
Example 1: A city entered into a contract with another party. The contract stated that it had been reviewed by the city’s counsel and that the contract was proper. Estoppel applied to estop the city from claiming the contract was invalid.
Example 2: A creditor unofficially informs a debtor that the creditor forgives the debt between them. Even if such forgiveness is not formally documented, the creditor may be estopped from changing its mind and seeking to collect the debt, because that change would be unfair.
Example 3: A landlord informs a tenant that rent has been reduced, for example, because there was construction or a lapse in utility services. If the tenant relies on this statement in choosing to remain in the premises, the landlord could be estopped from collecting the full rent.
An azimuth i/ˈæzɪməθ/; from Arabic السمت as‑samt, meaning “a way, a part, or quarter” is an angular measurement in a spherical coordinate system. The vector from an observer origin to a point of interest is projected perpendicularly onto a reference plane; the angle between the projected vector and a reference vector on the reference plane is called the azimuth.An example is the position of a star in the sky. The star is the point of interest, the reference plane is the horizon or the surface of the sea, and the reference vector points north. The azimuth is the angle between the north vector and the perpendicular projection of the star down onto the horizon. Azimuth is usually measured in degrees °. The concept is used in navigation, astronomy, engineering, mapping, mining and artillery.
via Wikipedia, the Wild Hunt:
The Wild Hunt is an ancient folk myth prevalent across Northern, Western and Central Europe. The fundamental premise in all instances is the same: a phantasmal, spectral group of huntsmen with the accoutrements of hunting, with horses and hounds in mad pursuit across the skies or along the ground, or just above it.
The hunters may be the dead or the fairies (often in folklore connected with the dead). The hunter may be an unidentified lost soul, a deity or spirit of either gender, or may be a historical or legendary figure like Theodoric the Great, the Danish king Valdemar Atterdag, the Welsh psychopomp Gwyn ap Nudd or the Germanic Woden (or other reflections of the same god, such as Alemannic Wuodan in Wuotis Heer (“Wuodan’s Army”) of Central Switzerland, Swabia etc.)
Via wikipedia: Beasts of battle:
The Beasts of battle is a poetic trope in Old English and Old Norse literature. It consists of the wolf, the raven, and the eagle, traditional animals accompanying the warriors to feast on the bodies of the slain. It occurs in eight Old English poems and in the Old Norse Poetic Edda.
The term originates with Francis Peabody Magoun, who first used it in 1955, although the combination of the three animals was first considered a theme by Maurice Bowra, in 1952.
The beasts of battle presumably date from an earlier, Germanic tradition; the animals are well known for eating carrion. A mythological connection may be presumed as well, though it is clear that at the time that the Old English manuscripts were produced, in a Christianized England, there was no connection between for instance the raven and Huginn and Muninn or the wolf and Geri and Freki. This mythological and/or religious connection survived for much longer in Scandinavia.
Very cool news from comic writer Mark Waid:
For the last few months, a talented university teacher named Christy Blanch has been putting together a college-level course called “Gender Through Comic Books”–but it’s not limited to college students. It’s the world’s first comics-related Massive Open Online Course (MOOC)–meaning that it will be FREELY AVAILABLE to ANYONE across the world who has web access and who’s interested in comics and in the creative process. There’s no obligation, NO COST, and all you have to do is take thirty seconds to enroll at the following site:
It’s about comic books, gender and women’s issues, writing. Boy is this up my alley. I signed up for it. If you’re interested in similar topics, you should too.
This is worth reading… Via Dr. Beetle: Evolutionary Psychology and its Top Ten Failures.
The dreadful pseudo science of evolutionary psychology is founded upon concepts such as survival of the fittest, selfish genes, inherited instincts and mind modules. It has shot to prominence in science and societies’ thinking, and found many a willing ear.
How to Commit to a Goal
The key, according to PsyBlog, is not to simply fantasize about how much better it will be when you achieve your goal, or to wallow in how unhappy you are now, but to contrast those two with each other each time. Fantasizing tends to make you give up the goal because you hoax yourself into believing for a bit that it’s true. Wallowing in the reality tends to bring you down.
But contrasting the fantasy with the current reality motivates you to make a change.
The ability to observe the private lives of strangers from the windows of our homes — and the knowledge that they can often watch us, as well — has long been a staple of city life, one that was immortalized in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1954 film “Rear Window.” It has provided material for countless movies and books since then, most recently “The City Out My Window: 63 Views on New York,” a book of drawings by Matteo Pericoli that asks well-known New Yorkers to describe what they see from their windows, and is the subject of “Out My Window NYC,” a new series of photographs by Gail Albert Halaban.
This often inadvertent voyeurism gives rise to relationships that can be deeply meaningful, although the people involved may never actually meet, said Ethel Sheffer, an urban planner and past president of the American Planning Association’s New York Metro Chapter. “One doesn’t always know their names, but it’s a connection of some sort and it becomes part of the fabric of your life,” Ms. Sheffer said. “The density and the closeness, even if it’s anonymous,” creates a sense of intimacy, she added, and “makes for an understanding that we’re all here” together.
From the New Yorker – Groupthink: The brainstorming myth, by Jonah Lehrer
In the late nineteen-forties, Alex Osborn, a partner in the advertising agency B.B.D.O., decided to write a book in which he shared his creative secrets…. His book “Your Creative Power” was published in 1948. An amalgam of pop science and business anecdote, it became a surprise best-seller. Osborn promised that, by following his advice, the typical reader could double his creative output…
But Osborn’s most celebrated idea was the one discussed in Chapter 33, “How to Organize a Squad to Create Ideas.” When a group works together, he wrote, the members should engage in a “brainstorm,” which means “using the brain to storm a creative problem—and doing so in commando fashion, with each stormer attacking the same objective.” For Osborn, brainstorming was central to B.B.D.O.’s success. Osborn described, for instance, how the technique inspired a group of ten admen to come up with eighty-seven ideas for a new drugstore in ninety minutes, or nearly an idea per minute. The brainstorm had turned his employees into imagination machines.
The book outlined the essential rules of a successful brainstorming session. The most important of these, Osborn said—the thing that distinguishes brainstorming from other types of group activity—was the absence of criticism and negative feedback. If people were worried that their ideas might be ridiculed by the group, the process would fail. “Creativity is so delicate a flower that praise tends to make it bloom while discouragement often nips it in the bud,” he wrote. “Forget quality; aim now to get a quantity of answers. When you’re through, your sheet of paper may be so full of ridiculous nonsense that you’ll be disgusted. Never mind. You’re loosening up your unfettered imagination—making your mind deliver.” Brainstorming enshrined a no-judgments approach to holding a meeting.
The trouble with the absence of criticism was that it doesn’t work – groups working together to solve problems come up with fewer solutions than individuals working alone. But what does work with groups? Critique does. A group can come up with better, more creative solutions if ideas are criticized and evaluated and discarded if they aren’t used. Challenges to our thought process cause us to reevaluate our ideas and take us off in new directions.
According to Nemeth, dissent stimulates new ideas because it encourages us to engage more fully with the work of others and to reassess our viewpoints. “There’s this Pollyannaish notion that the most important thing to do when working together is stay positive and get along, to not hurt anyone’s feelings,” she says. “Well, that’s just wrong. Maybe debate is going to be less pleasant, but it will always be more productive. True creativity requires some trade-offs.”
Another factor that helps open the door to mass group creativity is the makeup of the group itself. Brian Uzzi began studying what ideal teams should look like by studying teams responsible for creating Broadway Musicals. He picked a particularly successful period of Broadway shows and analyzed their creative teams:
Uzzi wanted to understand how the relationships of these team members affected the product. Was it better to have a group composed of close friends who had worked together before? Or did strangers make better theatre? He undertook a study of every musical produced on Broadway between 1945 and 1989. To get a full list of collaborators, he sometimes had to track down dusty old Playbills in theatre basements. He spent years analyzing the teams behind four hundred and seventy-four productions, and charted the relationships of thousands of artists, from Cole Porter to Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Uzzi found that the people who worked on Broadway were part of a social network with lots of interconnections: it didn’t take many links to get from the librettist of “Guys and Dolls” to the choreographer of “Cats.” Uzzi devised a way to quantify the density of these connections, a figure he called Q. If musicals were being developed by teams of artists that had worked together several times before—a common practice, because Broadway producers see “incumbent teams” as less risky—those musicals would have an extremely high Q. A musical created by a team of strangers would have a low Q.
He discovered that having a low Q was bad, but having a really high Q wasn’t the most successful configuration of a team either. It took having mostly incumbent members with a few new folks to challenge their thinking to keep interactions from becoming stale.
Another important component of creative thinking on teams is space and how it’s arranged. Physical proximity matters to group interactions, and having creative teams run into one another and interact in a casual way sparks lots of creative ideas. Steve Jobs understood that concept and continually reworked the architecture of Apple to generate those sorts of spontaneous interactions among his employees.
And a famous lab building at M.I.T – Building 20 – was ground zero for some of the most successful scientific and cultural collaborations in American history, simply because it had a ramshackle design that encouraged creative thought – researchers could rearrange their space they way they wanted and routinely knocked out walls and rebuild their labs if needed – and the building’s convoluted layout meant that researchers from wildly divergent teams ran into one another in the hallways, formed friendships and triggered intellectual thought outside of their area of expertise.
The Ancient of Days
The title “Ancient of Days” has been used as a source of inspiration in art and music, denoting the Creator’s aspects of eternity combined with perfection. William Blake’s watercolour and relief etching entitled “The Ancient of Days” is one such example.
The Ancient of Days is the title of a design by William Blake, originally published as the frontispiece to a 1794 work, Europe a Prophecy. It shows a figure, the Ancient of Days, crouching in a circular design with a cloud-like background. His out-stretched hand holds a compass over the darker void below. As noted in Gilchrist’s Life of William Blake, the design was “a singular favourite with Blake and as one it was always a happiness to him to copy.” As such there are many versions of the work extant, including one completed for Frederick Tatham only weeks before Blake’s death.
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Thumos (also commonly spelled “thymos”) (Greek: θυμός) is an Ancient Greek word expressing the concept of “spiritedness” (as in “spirited stallion” or “spirited debate”). The word indicates a physical association with breath or blood. The word is also used to express the human desire for recognition.
In Homer’s works, thumos was used to denote emotions, desire, or an internal urge. Thumos was a permanent possession of living man, to which his thinking and feeling belonged. When a Homeric hero is under emotional stress he may externalize his thumos, conversing with it or scolding it.
I swooned at the thought of her reading something undoubtedly wonderful in the adjoining compartment but forced myself to nod. We looked out the window: a herd of camels, for a flash of a second. We were in the Gobi Desert.
Nights were hard. She was inevitably inches away, sleeping peacefully as my desire for her boiled. In Ulan Bator, under a sky thick and white with stars, we decided to sleep in a yurt on the steppe. As her brother slept, she whispered to me: “Have you heard about that hand-built, nine-grotto Virgin Mary shrine some priest spent 42 years piecing together in Iowa?”
I told her I’d build her a bigger one if she wanted.
She laughed and played with my hair, knowing it was true but not wanting to show it. The shrine I had already built for her was painfully exposed; in two years my mainstream existence had been razed to the ground to make room for a garden in which her every eccentricity was welcomed to bloom. What was I doing in Mongolia? It seemed I would follow her anywhere.
“[She] went straight home in a flood of tears, and a sedan chair.” –Charles Dickens
I’m not motivated by a bunch of platitudes about “finding the edge” and “exploiting your potential.” I’m not motivated by people who engage in competitive behavior with people they should be collaborating with. I’m not motivated by people who rest on their laurels and do the bare minimum to get by, or people who spend all their time protecting and polishing their egos. I’m not motivated by self-made, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstrap jackasses who think they can do everything themselves, and screw what other people can contribute.
I’m motivated by people who are intoxicated by creativity, and who suck other people into their creative endeavors. I’m motivated by people who turn work into play and play into money. I’m motivated by people who collaborate, who engage, who strive to entertain. I don’t want minions. I want co-conspirators, partners in crime. Cohorts. I want to be in cahoots.
I only follow a couple of podcasts regularly because my drive to work is relatively short, and I otherwise can’t keep up. But I happened to read about one particular episode of This American Life – entitled Ruining It for the Rest of Us – on a blog somewhere, and was interested enough to loop back and get caught up with that show. The Prologue was particularly interesting:
A bad apple, at least at work, can spoil the whole barrel. And there’s research to prove it. Host Ira Glass talks to Will Felps, a professor at Rotterdam School of Management in the Netherlands, who designed an experiment to see what happens when a bad worker joins a team. Felps divided people into small groups and gave them a task. One member of the group would be an actor, acting either like a jerk, a slacker or a depressive. And within 45 minutes, the rest of the group started behaving like the bad apple. (13 minutes)
A very interesting study — one person with a bad attitude can indeed spoil the whole barrel, even for people who have a good reason to want to succeed. Bad apple behaviors tend to pull the whole group down, and groups were only as successful as their poorest member. And one of the interesting things is that only one particular type of person was able to short-circuit the bad apple behavior in their study — one of the participants was the son of a diplomat, and was able to diffuse the behavior of the bad apple and lead the group.
I’d strongly recommend listening to that podcast – It made me think about my own behavior and how I react to others, both at work and at home.
I did some additional research and found the Journal where Felps published this report — Research in Organizational Behavior, Volume 27. Dunno if I’ll go ahead and order it, because I have lots to read already, but I thought it was really cool.
This is a really good point – and it was made to me many years ago by a woman who objected to me doing web design on a volunteer basis. She pointed out that the reason so many women are downwardly mobile is because they give away their work through volunteerism, where men demand to be paid.