Monday, January 21, 2008


Despite feeling like the bottom of a dredged channel, I'm going to attempt to write in praise of vagrant metaphors, shiftless paradoxes, and approximations. The title of this post is most emphatically not related to my subject, although it might be a pretentious fourth cousin by marriage.

'See how without confusion it is
all that it is, and how flawless
its grace is. Running or walking, the way
is the same. Be still. Be still.
“He moves your bones, and the way is clear.”' -- Wendell Berry, "Grace."

Come on in, we've got the truth surrounded, the phenomenologists suggest from the other room. You cannot hold it in your hand, and your hands are hardly true, themselves, but they are the boxes around which you contain the hands you imagine you have. You have precision only in your own imagination, and there is any other precision only in the out-there somewhere. The real is up on the shelf that you can't quite reach.

Oh, no. No fear: I'm not going to get into all that rot. Tulips have streaks, and you can like them or not. It's none of my business how solid you think things are. It's enough for me to start with a scary word like "phenomenology" and a scary jangle like the previous. I don't want to spend any time doing that particular treadmill dance.

No, it's enough for me to say that I, the Geogre, have had little rest in the concept that all my concepts and percepts match, that there is an ideal that I can know, and that there is a real that I can know without a category or concept. I'm plentifully puzzled by Wittgenstein, and I do not know if the blue house is blue, really. I do not know what I would do, if I met a man who was blue, too, because words might fail me, and then I'd really make a lot of noise.

I have to give credit for these thoughts to Jimi Hendrix. I got one of his CD's on sale a couple of days ago, and I finally put it in the car CD player today. It's hard for me to be in a receptive state for exciting music when I'm in my car or at home or at work, so it can be a while. Mainly I just listen to Wimpy Hill music and wait for Garrison Killer to come on the radio, when I know it's time to take my Geritol to help with my iron-poor blood. (Hey, it beats listening to Hawaiian nose flute music on subscription satellite.)

So, I was listening to "Purple Haze" and "Wind Calls Mary" (and Mary never returns the calls), and I noticed that both songs have incredible amounts of hiss on them. In fact, they're both absolutely awash with "bad" recording technology. Compact Discs are digital things, and they are absolutely faithful, and that means that they reproduce everything from the master tapes, and that means that the noise you hear on a Hendrix CD is the noise that was on the tape, and not the noise produced by a piece of your sock that went rogue and landed in front of your record needle.

I hate the fact that this hiss was present and that it was so precise. The CD meant that I could hear things that I had otherwise not made out. For example, at the end of "Purple Haze," there is someone-not-Hendrix saying "Purple haze! Purple haze! Purple haze!" Whoever he was, he sounds ridiculous, retarded, and revolting. I preferred having a hiss there, a hiss of imprecision, not the hiss of precision. It's better to have the ambiguity as a part of the process than as part of a clean, mechanical injection.

Ever heard "Wild Thing?" It's great, right? The band involved, the Troggs, were too drunk to speak, just drunk enough to fight, and too stupid to compose, and yet this great song comes out of a five and ten cent studio. Great guitar sound, isn't it? Listen on a CD, and you can tell where that guitar sound comes from: it comes from the snare drum rattle. The drums weren't isolated, so the "fuzz" is actually bleed through. Weren't you happier not knowing that?

You know the beginning of Sergio Leone's masterpiece, "A Fistful of Dollars?" There is a great theme song by Ennio Morricone. Whoowahai! Whoowahai! Great!

I heard it on a CD, and, unfortunately, I could make out the male voices. They are, I am sorry to say, saying, "We can fight! We can fight."

I will avoid, at all costs, hearing the flying monkey guard song from The Wizard of Oz. I do not want to know that it's not "Oh-ee-oh, Oh-eeeeee-oh."

You know, I think I'm happier, now, in my older age, in having not even a small, vague, squishy clue about truth. Or rather, I am happy because I have a vague clue, but no proof. I have an approximation of a truth, and that seems a great deal better to me than one that has been inked in.

The healthiest dogs are mutts. The most beautiful people are generally mixed "race." Heterogeneous is most often strong. At the same time, knowing only somewhat, having the operative misprision, the effort that results in nearly there, is immensely comforting to me. I can live in a room whose color may be blue. If I need to get up to the very top shelf to get to the real, I can jump. Otherwise, I prefer to know that I don't have a handle on things.


The Geogre said...

I forgot to explain my photos. Normally, I only use photographs that I have taken. In this case, I used the USGS satellite image of Needles, Arizona, which I then altered and filtered with Photoshop, as my lead image, and my tail image was a series of faces of beautiful women overlaid on each other with various levels of opacity and then filtered with a gaussian blur. The image, I believe, ends up being like one of those perspective puzzles: every time you look, you make out a different woman.

The Geogre said...

I have little patience for people who can't read anymore. An essay is a particular literary form. For example, in this essay, there are two competing discussions that are about the same thing: the active approximation is a direct apprehension of the world. Metaphorically, this is the difference between the accidental noise of an LP and the precise noise of a CD. Theoretically, this is what phenomenology is about: the circumscribing of noumena. For truths worth living with, life requires the approximating, the verb of nearing, rather than the presentation of a description.

Some people can read, and some people can't. This blog is for those who can, as I have had absolutely enough of those who cannot.

Question: are you reading to find something to complain about, or something wrong, or are you reading to try to understand? If either of the former two, go screw yourself: you'll have more fun, and I'll have more peace.

The Geogre said...

Oh, and one more thing: notice that the essay is not about how CD's suck? No? Well, go back and read it. The CD in question is "Experience," which is the Hendrix estate official disk, and the hiss I was commenting upon is because the first record was made on bad equipment. Later records are clean. "Foxy Lady?" Hiss. "Voodoo Chile?" No hiss. It's not about that, though. It's about the explicit versus the ambiguous, the mysterious and the obvious, the clinched fist and the open hand.

See how the essay is filled with witty references, word play, and the like? No? Well, re-read it. Listen to the words. Notice the assonance? No? Well, go look up "assonance."

See anything artful in the essay? Figure those pictures are hasty, slapdash things I got to demonstrate my skill with light meters? Think they're unclear because I'm just joshing around? See above, where I explain the pictures?

Nothing to praise here, though. No. Just a fight to pick.

I don't mind that you don't understand things. I don't mind that you're incurious. I don't mind that you're bad tempered. However, if you can't find any beauty at all, then you needn't tell me about it. The previous essay wasn't about how stupid vegetarians are. The one before that wasn't about puberty. This one isn't about CD's. I'm not sure you're ready for essays, and I'm quite sure I'm sick of you.

Anonymous said...

Maybe you could write about food

The Geogre said...

Because it doesn't interest me. It's not exactly thought provoking. I'm sure someone will discover the deepest hole or the tallest midget, too. However, if you were actually interested in learning things, you might do some research. You might find that some people are extremely sensitive to peppers, while other people are insensate louts. Now, since I know you won't believe anything I say, no matter what, nor conclude that I'm doing anything but being ignorant, and because I know that you will never in a thousand years admit your own ignorance, let me let you go argue with someone else:
here>. This way you can persuade all those people that they're hilariously wrong and that your cuisine is best.