Parataxis – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

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.

Conceit via. Wikipedia

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.

Metaphysical conceit

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.

‘Azimuth’ via Wikipedia

via: Azimuth – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

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.

‘The Wild Hunt’ via wikipedia

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.)

‘The Ancient of Days’, ‘Thumos’ via wikipedia

via wikipedia:

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.

In search of the next Lost

Entertainment Weekly has an interesting article in their current issue about all of the shows written to be the next big Lost and how none of them seem to be taking off in the way the networks are hoping. I am watching FlashFoward, and it’s interesting, but most of the shows are missing a key ingredient to the formula…

The reason I got hooked on Lost was because I had no idea at first that it was a mystery. The first episodes seemed like a scripted version of Survivor (an interesting idea by itself) – and when strange stuff started happening, there were tons of “Wow, what the heck just happened?” moments. A mystery is a mystery because you don’t realize at first that’s what it is – you think you’re going along with life, an you start noticing little stuff that just doesn’t make any sense. You pull the string, and it all unravels into one big pile.

All of these Lost imitator shows – FlashFoward especially – are coming out of the gate with “hey look at this big mystery! We’re gonna solve it, yay!” scripts that just seem too self-conscious. When you have to tell people you’re really cool – probably not so much. Start by telling an interesting story first.
I don’t know that there’s any way to really “fix” this about FlashFoward – they started off on the wrong foot to begin with. It’s interesting enough, but the constant references to how mysterious all of it is – over the top.

What motivates me

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.

Ruining It for the Rest of Us

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.

The Power of Day Dreaming

The most common criticism I received when I was a kid was that I daydreamed too much, especially in class. Even though my classwork was high quality, staring off into space would set my teachers off all the time, and it was one of the things I was always very upset about, because it never felt like I was really doing anything wrong. And I wasn’t:

An article in the Boston Globe:

Although there are many anecdotal stories of breakthroughs resulting from daydreams – Einstein, for instance, was notorious for his wandering mind – daydreaming itself is usually cast in a negative light. Children in school are encouraged to stop daydreaming and “focus,” and wandering minds are often cited as a leading cause of traffic accidents. In a culture obsessed with efficiency, daydreaming is derided as a lazy habit or a lack of discipline, the kind of thinking we rely on when we don’t really want to think. It’s a sign of procrastination, not productivity, something to be put away with your flip-flops and hammock as summer draws to a close.

In recent years, however, scientists have begun to see the act of daydreaming very differently. They’ve demonstrated that daydreaming is a fundamental feature of the human mind – so fundamental, in fact, that it’s often referred to as our “default” mode of thought. Many scientists argue that daydreaming is a crucial tool for creativity, a thought process that allows the brain to make new associations and connections. Instead of focusing on our immediate surroundings – such as the message of a church sermon – the daydreaming mind is free to engage in abstract thought and imaginative ramblings. As a result, we’re able to imagine things that don’t actually exist, like sticky yellow bookmarks.

Biomimicry, the law of unintended consequences, Chinese water torture

Via wikipedia:


Biomimicry or biomimetics is the examination of nature, its models, systems, processes, and elements to emulate or take inspiration from in order to solve human problems. The term biomimicry and biomimetics come from the Greek words bios, meaning life, and mimesis, meaning to imitate. Similar terms include bionics.

Law of unintended consequences

In the social sciences, unintended consequences (sometimes unanticipated consequences or unforeseen consequences) are outcomes that are not the ones intended by a purposeful action. The concept has long existed but was named and popularised in the 20th century by American sociologist Robert K. Merton. Unintended consequences can be roughly grouped into three types:

  • A positive, unexpected benefit (usually referred to as luck, serendipity or a windfall).
  • A negative, unexpected detriment occurring in addition to the desired effect of the policy (e.g., while irrigation schemes provide people with water for agriculture, they can increase waterborne diseases that have devastating health effects, such as schistosomiasis).
  • A perverse effect contrary to what was originally intended (when an intended solution makes a problem worse)

Chinese water torture

Chinese water torture is a process in which water is slowly dripped onto a person’s forehead, allegedly driving the restrained victim insane. This form of torture was first described under a different name by Hippolytus de Marsiliis in Italy in the 15th or 16th century.

The term “Chinese water torture” may have arisen from Chinese Water Torture Cell (a feat of escapology introduced in Berlin at Circus Busch September 13, 1910; the escape entailed Houdini being bound and suspended upside-down in a locked glass and steel cabinet full to overflowing with water, from which he escaped), together with the Fu Manchu stories of Sax Rohmer that were popular in the 1930s (in which Fu Manchu subjected his victims to various ingenious tortures, such as the wired jacket). Hippolytus de Marsiliis is credited with the invention of a form of water torture. Having observed how drops of water falling one by one on a stone gradually created a hollow, he applied the method to the human body. Other suggestions say that the term “Chinese water torture” was invented merely to grant the method a sense of ominous mystery.

The Golden Days of Usenet: Godwin’s Law

Godwin’s Law: prov. [Usenet] “As a Usenet argument grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.” There is a tradition in many groups that, once this occurs, that thread is over, and whoever mentioned the Nazis has automatically lost whatever argument was in progress. Godwin’s Law thus practically guarantees the existence of an upper bound on thread length in those groups. However there is also a widely- recognized codicil that any intentional triggering of Godwin’s Law in order to invoke its thread-ending effects will be unsuccessful.

Occam’s Razor

Occam’s Razor: one should not increase, beyond what is necessary, the number of entities required to explain anything. Via Wikipedia:

Occam’s razor (also written as Ockham’s razor and in Latin lex parsimoniae) is a problem-solving principle devised by William of Ockham (c. 1287–1347), who was an English Franciscan friar and scholastic philosopher and theologian. The principle states that among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected. Other, more complicated solutions may ultimately prove correct, but—in the absence of certainty—the fewer assumptions that are made, the better.

The application of the principle can be used to shift the burden of proof in a discussion. However, Alan Baker, who suggests this in the online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, is careful to point out that his suggestion should not be taken generally, but only as it applies in a particular context, that is: philosophers who argue in opposition to metaphysical theories that involve allegedly “superfluous ontological apparatus”. Baker then notices that principles, including Occam’s Razor, are often expressed in a way that is not clear regarding which facet of “simplicity” — parsimony or elegance — is being referred to, and that in a hypothetical formulation the facets of simplicity may work in different directions: a simpler description may refer to a more complex hypothesis, and a more complex description may refer to a simpler hypothesis.

Solomonoff’s theory of inductive inference is a mathematically formalized Occam’s Razor: Shorter computable theories have more weight when calculating the probability of the next observation, using all computable theories which perfectly describe previous observations.

In science, Occam’s Razor is used as a heuristic (discovery tool) to guide scientists in the development of theoretical models rather than as an arbiter between published models. In the scientific method, Occam’s Razor is not considered an irrefutable principle of logic or a scientific result; the preference for simplicity in the scientific method is based on the falsifiability criterion. For each accepted explanation of a phenomenon, there is always an infinite number of possible and more complex alternatives, because one can always burden failing explanations with ad hoc hypothesis to prevent them from being falsified; therefore, simpler theories are preferable to more complex ones because they are better testable and falsifiable.

Wabi Sabi

Japanese Aesthetic principle: Wabi-sabi is a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. It is the beauty of things modest and humble. It is the beauty of things unconventional. Material characteristics of wabi-sabi: suggestion of natural process, irregular, intimate, unpretentious, earthy,simple.

From UTNE Reader:

According to Japanese legend, in the sixteenth century Sen no Rikyu sought to learn the Way of Tea. He went to tea-master Takeeno Joo, who tested the younger man by asking him to tend to his garden. Rikyu cleaned up debris and raked the ground until it was perfect, then scrutinized the immaculate garden. Before presenting his work to the master, he shook a cherry tree, causing a few flowers to spill randomly onto the ground.

Later, when he had become one of Japan’s most revered tea-masters, Rikyu served under Toyotomi Hikeyoshi, a warrior known for his ostentatious taste. One day the ruler went to visit Rikyu’s famed morning glory garden and was shocked to find it in shambles, all the flowers uprooted. He entered Rikyu’s humble teahouse to find the master sitting in front of an alcove, where he had placed one perfect morning glory in a clay pot.

To this day, the Japanese revere Rikyu as one who understood to his very core an elusive cultural thread known as wabi-sabi. Emerging in the fifteenth-century as a reaction to the prevailing aesthetic of lavishness, ornamentation, and rich materials, wabi-sabi is the art of finding beauty in imperfection and profundity in earthiness, of revering authenticity above all. In Japan, the concept is now so deeply ingrained that it’s difficult to explain to Westerners; no direct translation exists.

Broadly, wabi-sabi is everything that today’s sleek, mass-produced, technology saturated culture isn’t. It’s flea markets, not department stores; aged wood, not Pergo; rice paper, not glass; one single morning glory, not a dozen red roses. Wabi-sabi understands the tender, raw beauty of a Decembral landscape devoid of color and life, the aching elegance of an abandoned hut on a wintry shore. It celebrates cracks and crevices and rot and all the other marks that time and weather and use leave behind. To discover wabi-sabi is to spend time finding the singular beauty in something that may present itself as decrepit and ugly.

Wabi-sabi reminds us that we are all but transient beings on this planet–that our bodies, as well as the material world around us, are in the process of returning to the dust from which we came. Nature’s cycles of growth, decay, and erosion are embodied in liver spots, rust, frayed edges. Through wabi-sabi, we learn to embrace both the glory and the impersonal sadness of these blemishes, and the march of time they represent.

‘Cambrian Explosion’

Remember when you were a kid, and all of the sudden, for no apparent reason, you shot up several inches one summer? Like growth wasn’t a slow, glacial process but an abrupt one? Sort of like some of the theories on evolution that suggest mutations aren’t as gradual as we think. (A Cambrian Explosion, per Jim C.)

Although, when you look closely at the theories, the idea of a real ‘explosion’ is probably a misnomer:

The Cambrian explosion, or Cambrian radiation, was the relatively rapid appearance, around 542 million years ago, of most major animal phyla, as demonstrated in the fossil record.[1][2] This was accompanied by major diversification of other organisms.[note 1] Before about 580 million years ago,[note 2] most organisms were simple, composed of individual cells occasionally organized into colonies. Over the following 70 or 80 million years, the rate of evolution accelerated by an order of magnitude[note 3] and the diversity of life began to resemble that of today.[5] All present phyla appeared within the first 20 million years of the period,[6] with the exception of Bryozoa who made its earliest known appearance in the upper Cambrian.[7]