Friday, December 08, 2006

Five More Thoughts

From social engineering to semantics, diction to diaspora, nothing is too frivolous for my pen. All items guaranteed to be of minimum weight and maximum interest, or your money back. Hell, you have an honest face, I'll give you double your money back if you don't like it.

1. Social Engineering: I don't know if anyone read so carefully, but any energy conscious types may have noticed in my last post, that Keifus and brood drove across the street from the convenience store to the remarkably dimwitted video vendors,* and maybe you found that point as irritating as I did. And it's even worse: both the convenience store and video dungeon are both within a handy walking distance from my home. Why the hell am I driving? Well, the answer is that a stroll entails an unnecessary flirtation with death. I have to walk along (and cross) the town's main artery, which is only about half-sidewalked, and the long straight road is well-suited to speed and pedestrian danger, especially with easily distracted children in tow. The workday congestion on that road is maddening (especially on the other side of town), and my little city government is battling the street residents to get it widened. If they do, I hope they add sidewalks.

No doubt, even with extra lanes, the main drag will get clogged with cars again in no time, especially if the Wal-Mart sprawl center wins its battle with the town board. Before I lived in central Massachusetts, I lived in Northern Virginia, home of the dreaded mixing bowl and other traffic horrors. They're widening that one too, but I'm confident that will also be inadequate to commuting demands. Even with the road expansion in full swing (possibly even done by now--I marvel at the non-corrupt efficiency of their road construction crews), residents in NOVA are still choosing the bus in increasing and record numbers. "You can't pave your way out of congestion," the segment quoted. I agree.

The use of public transport only becomes a viable alternative when the roads become sufficiently miserable to travel. If you make the roads bigger, then it just increases that equilibrium point. It takes more cars on the road to get people to take public transit. Interestingly enough, some of the nicer pockets of DC suburb I looked at had circuitous, labarynthine streets by design, which limited automotive traffic, and let the pedestrian and neighbors out into common spaces. Maybe the better solution (energy- and community-wise) is lower quality roads. Point for: Europe's urban areas are nice places to live. Point against: U.S. suburban cul-de-sac mazes may be better than living on the thoroughfares, but they still kind of suck.

2. Political Semantics: Maybe you've driven (or taken the bus) down the street and seen warnings about fugitive kidnappers. Thanks to the Amber alert program, it's now common to inform the public to help suspected criminals. There's no bigger blessing in politics than the death of a little girl or attractive young woman--poor Amber was kidnapped in Texas and horribly killed--and the practitioners of that foul art fall over themselves to cover their sausage-making under the banner of some poor traumatized kid. Newscasters fall over it too, because it's pure ratings. Even congress has been known to capitalize now and again. I mean, think of the chillllldrrrreennnnn. Melanie's law cracks down on drunk driving with children. Lizzie's law disallows spouse-murderers from visiting their children. Megan's law allows publication of sex offender identies and addresses on the internet. I'm not at all sure that all of these require a memorial to sell them, and those that do, needless to say, should have undergone some more honest debate. What bothers me, is that as a society we don't trust our existing mechanisms, and if somebody attractive suffers, our whoring legislative bodies fall over themselves to make new laws. It's legislation by anecdote, which isn't really the singular of data.

Earlier this year, a John Jay College student was abducted and brutally murdered (what the hell is wrong with people?) in New York City, allegedly by a bouncer at a club. In response, a new law is in the works that will require better training by bar security employees (okay...probably not a bad idea, and doesn't seem to terribly questionable viz a viz civil liberties). I'm watching the local newsie report this, and at the end of the segment, she looks into the camera with as much solemnity as she can muster, and intones that "the new law will be called Imette's Law." In what fucking bizarro world is that the most important part of the story? These people are beneath contempt.

3. Political Diction: So now you know one reason why I avoid the ridiculous preening pretension of television news. Usually, since I spend way too much driving anyway, I opt for the reasoned analysis of the radio. Here, the visuals are gracefully avoided, but like a blind musician, I still get hung up on the sounds instead of the sights. Even the staid NPR has no shortage of annoying speech patterns.

A particularly grating one has evolved when people talk about social engineering. When the positive value of something is meant to be universally accepted, commentators will draw out the important word and space it apart from the surrounding words with just a microsecond's worth of extra pause. It's particularly grating when people talk about school or healthcare like it's a bulk food item (we need more, we need better quality). In that context, you hear it in words like "drugs" and "teachers," but it's positively the worst in those words that are already are kind of stretched out. Commentaters pronounce "schooollll" or "weellll-ness" or "llearrrrn" like they're saying it around a delicious lozenge of wholesome scholastic goodness. (It's ten times worse if their accent already skews to a southern or western drawl.) I envision them pursing up their lips before and after they say these words, taking a moment to smack their tongue over the sheer savor of them. Christ, it's irritating. (Or maybe it's just me.)

4. Style, or Lack Thereof: Writing patterns are as likely to annoy me as speech patterns are, but mostly, I accept their idiosynchrasies as some form of individual expression. I sometimes worry about where my own voice may lie in that vast rhetorical stew though, because I've noticed I have a habit of adopting a measure of the style of the person I'm replying to, like some goofy mental resonance. Here in the greater fray-sphere, some of y'all get me more than others. IOZ is probably the worst, and he usually inspires a lot of big, angry words (which is fun). When I've been popping into daveto's blog recently, I feel his distinctive voice affecting me too, and I let my voice get a measure of his deceptive breeziness. switters gets me all jokey, and sometimes I cry a little on the inside. Pierce Penniless has been sparking sentiments of naturalism. Too many of the rest of you--you know who you are--are digging out poetic sentiments against my will.

Is Keifus real, or is he a little bit of all of you? Scary thought, innit?

(Don't worry, I'm me.)

5. Diaspora: (Do you notice I always work this self-absorbed crap in? This point was meant as a stand-in.*) So hey, check out those links right there. I've hated blogs for years, but now I have one, for various reasons I feel myself gradually pushed away from the old discussion forums. Just the same, I'm not sure the blog experience is the better one, it's just more rarefied. I've got more or less the same people reading, and more or less the same people I follow, though in each case that list has expanded a little.

One benefit of a single discussion group is that I can get myself off of it when the content dries up. It takes a critical number of mouseclicks of divergence for a post to fall beneath the horizon of my attention span. If it does, the slim hope it's been updated is enough to motivate my wrist to click back into the original site. Over there, the outgoing trail was short enough that I fell off the edge before long, but following all of these blogs now, there are enough clicks forward so that I can keep going at it all day, like a hamster on a wheel, stopping only after I get tired enough to absorb nothing.

Or more typically, well after I stop absorbing what I read.

That's it. Have a great weekend. Me, I'm going to punish myself and hold out till beer:45. Maybe buy a DVD.


* See, that post was originally going to be "thought 1," but it went on too long. But I had the segue all worked out, so....


LentenStuffe said...


I note that you excluded my blog-name from your BOTF version, and that I'm now linked here as a "Wanker".

Seems you're believing your own -- or somebody else's propaganda. Either way, I'll be the first to celebrate when you become your own man.

Keifus said...

Whoa, what propaganda do you mean? I did more editing than that between there and here! But as for your link, mister, that was intentional. I didn't (don't) know whether you want this (actual) persona "outed" over there but I know those other guys do, and after making an ass of myself yesterday--you know what I mean--don't want to assume you do. Esp. since here I can edit it away if necessary.

(And yes, I've been finding your "essential elsewheres" quite indispensible, thanks.)

On the sidebar, that's a joke, and a lame one. It distinguishes group blogs from more conventional blogs from writing and poetry. I think I'll change it back, now you mention it.

Artemesia said...

Thanks for banishing Onan to an Anon somewhere else..

I enjoyed your 'social engineering' as the architecture of transport..

Destiny as lying where one is placed/situated in the construction or lack thereof in the highways, roads to and from the hive.

I always though of Housing Projects as machines for social engineering also. Someone once observed, not Skinner, that density of animal or human per cubic foot increases crime and socio pathological behavior in any family of mammal.

Also in the vein of the John Jay murder.. Now that a woman was killed because of the gap between trains and platforms between boarding.. We're going to have some law suit justice and remedy of a situation.

Keep up the discursive observations..and new contexts for buzz concepts.

Keifus said...

Yeah, I was projecting a little. You know about writing, it feels good, but I it's also my secret shame... Ah well, it seemed a good idea at the time.

And wrt social issues, it's almost as if there're just too many people, huh? (It would be hypocritical of me to moralize about that one.)

(John, I was going to crosspost this to Wikifray too. You cool with me keeping the link in there?)


sydbristow said...


did you buy your dvd? if not, give me a genre, i'll give you a recommendation.

nice read by the way, and thanks.

Keifus said...

Ayup. Followed up my course of action from last week (the Dude abides). Keifus likes comedies.

(Should ask when you were in Cuba. I find your perspective there interesting. It's strange how U.S. national policy is so determined (now, these days) by a small swing constituency in Florida. But it seems like Cuba aims hard to be a non-USAn tourist attraction.)


sydbristow said...


What made me laugh hardest: the scene where he meticulously jams and bars the door only to have it open the other way. For some reason that really killed me.

Was in Cuba a year ago for a couple of weeks, then a couple months ago (Havana, again) for a couple of days. I added some further thoughts here, also a link to a great Zeus-Boy post on Cuban writers.

twiffer said...

wanker is such a great word. hey Z-boy. i just refer to you a mad irishman, since i suspect that's somewhat accurate.

keif: embrace the dark side. you will be assimilated. and other various quotes in the same vein. as for being a part of everyone, well, that's part of life. we all incorporate pieces of the world around us into ourselves. there is a quote by edward g. robinson, in regards to acting, but applicable to life in general: "nothing human is foreign to us". anything that can be experienced, that is a part and piece of another, is part and piece of oneself as well.