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Particulates - De File
Does Collecting Make You Feel Dirty?
cbertsch
cbertsch
Particulates
I'm listening to John Darnielle go on about "spring cleaning" in his song. I would like to go see the Mountain Goats tomorrow in Phoenix and meet my editor at Phoenix New Times in person, but I can't really rationalize missing two nights in a row, especially since Kim now is sick with another respiratory ailment or the same one I had in a second-coming.

Anyway, I was too under the weather and oversaturated with Zithromax to do much of consequence this afternoon, but felt like I had to move around, make some progress in some corner of my life and thus found myself unpacking all my boxes of newspapers and magazines and schoolwork and memorabilia in the garage.

The idea was to group all my music magazines, especially the old copies of Melody Maker, New Musical Express, and Spin, together so that I could have easier access to them as I work on my punk book.

But my desire to dredge up material for this journal was a great ulterior motive.

In the end, I found most of what I was trying to find and a whole bunch more, while mildly assaulting the neighborhood with Pavement's Brighten the Corners, Exploding Hearts' Guitar Romantic -- I'm reviewing the record tomorrow -- and my new post-2000 My Bloody Valentine compilation.

Of course, I had to breathe in tons of dust, much of it coming from what I now, after the termite problem, recognize as "cricket poop." Little round, black pellets. Everywhere. Disgusting.

I had decided against posting any of my discoveries today, but had a change of heart when I took some Coke cans out to the recycling bin and randomly extracted a folder which turned out to have papers and assignments from Comparative Literature H1A, my first semester of freshperson Composition from the fall of 1987.

Here's something I wrote out longhand as a response to something my teacher Bob Rennicks -- an older guy, formerly a Math major at Dartmouth, who worked on Latin and typed out the most amazing comments on each paper -- had given us to read:

[Incidentally, this was probably written during the "suspension of relations" alluded to in the previous post, for what it's worth]


Thoughts on Italo Calvino's essay on "The Uses of Literature," or rather my own thoughts inspired by reading it:

The classics are to me great reservoirs of sub-atomic particles. There are, of course, millions upon billions of sub-atomic particles that do not stem from classics, but the classics are rich in them. Why sub-atomic particles? I visualize these particles streaming about the air, each one charged with some force or energy. Most pass me by. But a few collide with that small receptive part of my brain and act as a catalyst, which sets a reaction in motion. After the collision, my brain springs out of the everyday stupor of rest and commences to act. Reading the classics, which shoot out so many of these catalytic subatomic particles, increases the chance of a "collision" and thereby makes it more likely that I will, in some way, act. To me, classics of art, literature, science, and music are all equally capable of emitting the particle that will incite me to greatness. Likewise, non-classics are capable of inciting me, but the chances are greater that a classic will do so, simply because they literally matter more, i.e. they contain more matter (in the form of the kinetically active "sub-atomic particles" I have described).



I'd like to say that I was trying to kiss the teacher's ass here -- he was a classicist, after all, and quite conservative in appearance by Berkeley standards -- but the fact is that I surely believed most of what I wrote. It's the sort of metaphor-derived-from-science (or "science lite," really) writing that I gravitated, ahem, towards in high school.

Then again, if you read what Hobbes wrote about matter after Leviathan, I'm in decent company.

Underneath it all, I suppose I've always been a materialist.

But wait: can a real materialist use matter as a metaphor?

It would be nice if the "meta" were derived from the same root that "matter" and "mother" share, but that's not the case, far as I know.

Of course, there is matter implied in the word "metaphor". The "phor" comes from the Greek verb that means "to bear or carry" -- you can do the transformations to get from "phor" to "bear" without breaking a sweat -- and the "meta" means something like "across".

A metaphor is that which carries something across.

And that "something" matters, otherwise there would be nothing to carry.

The labor is directly proportional to the size of the burden.

I suppose that carrying-across can be synchronic or diachronic. We tend to view metaphors as doing the former -- "The sun is an apple" -- because it's easier. But they become more interesting if you conceive of them temporally.

What would it mean to transport something across the stream of time? The copula -- "to be" in the example above -- would then bring us back to the question posed so beautifully by our previous President, when he inquired about the duration of "is".

I am the person who wrote that silly response about sub-atomic particles.

Identity is founded on the metaphor that ferries us back and forth over the river of forgetting.

In order to free ourselves from the past, then, we must heed the immortal words of Chris De Burgh:

"Don't pay the ferryman!"

I fear, however, that buying music that you listen to over and over amounts to the same thing. At least, that's what I meant when I wrote my piece "Autobiography in Music Criticism" which contains metaphors which I'm still proud to claim as my own. As a matter of fact, it's my favorite piece ever, my "Love Will Tear Us Apart," my "Eight Miles High," my "Teenage Riot".

But what does it really matter?

Mode: pneumatic
Muse: Baboon - The Mountain Goats

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