Archive for June, 2012

June 10, 2012

The Flound’ring Fish

The Flound’ring Fish

A poem by Joseluis Nunez, utilizing Iambic Trimeter

Exists a flound’ring fish
upon the ocean shores.
With skin so filled of sores,
it knows of nothing more.

I wish the twitching tail
would stop it’s frantic flail.
So I fetch a water pail.

I scoop the sucking fish
into a rusty bucket.
then I turn and chuck it
off of my front door.

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June 10, 2012

The Appeal of Language Creation

“Mein Gotlieb fur die Sieveruntbahredfurkahlt!” — Joseluis

I have often been attracted to the idea of composing my own language, and have also made several abortive attempts towards realizing that dream over the years. I have made half-baked languages based off of Spanish, Latin, English, German, the whole gamut. I’ve even tried to make other languages completely from scratch, but every time something has stopped me from continuing with the current language project that I had started.

The main impetus which drives someone to create a language is mainly an artistic one. For the individual who loves language and who also holds the sensibility of an artiste, the opportunity to create beauty out of the myriad sounds of language gives rise to a certain set of emotions that can only be described as “Divinely Inspired.” It is a different type of enjoyment that is felt by the conlanger than the individual who acquires most of his enjoyment through the use of some other already existing language. The writer or poet of a natural language loves the images and meanings and the new concepts that he or she may be able to evoke, all of which are evoked through the mechanism of a particular language, the medium of creation that they have chosen.

The conlanger, on the other hand, is less concerned with particular meanings and artistic diversity than he is with the artistic diversity of the medium itself. Language, by definition, is a highly complex system of rules and usages, but these rules and usages may certainly take other forms to describe the same meanings, and it is these other forms that so interest the conlanger, who is therefore much more likely to incorporate exotic forms in his conlangs.

Upon realizing this, I have come to the conclusion that my particular artistic sensibilities, while certainly attracted to the creation of an artificial language, are also combined with the appeal of creating novel forms through some already existing medium. This results in a paradox of sorts, for the person with both of these sensibilities truly wants to create an artistic language, and also truly wishes to create beautiful works of literature and art in the language that he or she hopes to create.

The problem, however, is that a language as a medium for expression is not capable of expressing very much, simply because of the complete lack of native speakers and individuals who speak that language. Furthermore, the idea of creating forms and innovative concepts necessarily belies a deep-seated desire for those forms and concepts to be understood by an audience. As a result, there is a large difficulty in accomplishing both goals with regards to creating an artificial language and having artistic works realized in that very same language, as anyone attempting to do both has both the challenge of convincing enough other individuals to learn the language in order to form a self-sustaining community, as well as developing the language enough to create forms and other artistic literary endeavours of sufficient literary merit.

Insofar as this applies to me, my hand has been forced to compose literary forms in the medium that I most well understand, namely, the English language. And while I am saddened that I probably will not be able to create my own works in another language to an extent that they will be picked up on and enjoyed by other individuals who take it upon themselves to learn my language, I am also grateful that the language I do understand well happens to be English. I look out upon the almost infinite vista of English composition and literature, as well as the still evolving colloquial forms of speech all around me, and I am in awe of the truly astonishing opportunities that are presented to me. And all because I am a native speaker of such an extraordinary language.

To illustrate, an unabridged dictionary of English contains over one million lexical items. If we compare this almost blatantly excessive amount of possible English vocabulary with some other language such as Spanish, which only contains about 300,000 lexical items in its entirety, it becomes clear that one may differentiate between many more shades of meaning in English than in any other language.

And for good reason, too. English is like a black whole that sucks everything into and onto its already substantial mass. It is like the Borg on TV, repeating to other languages, “You  will assimilate. Resistance is futile…” Out of all the other languages giving blowjobs to the minds of men, English is the one hooker that sucked Johnny dry.

Given this daunting situation, it is hard to conceive of a single individual conlanger creating in his spare time a language that no one will learn, and still being able to give it the amount of expressive power of English, to say much less of any other language. Understandably, then, it only for the art that conlangs are created. But that should be enough.

June 10, 2012

On Being Mexican in South Texas

“Being Mexican in South Texas is kind of like being White in Tennessee. You don’t really think about it all that much.” –Anonymous

I just read a post on a particular blog that was urging white Americans to support a political candidate that would enforce illegal immigration. I am also aware of an attempt in the Texas legislature to introduce Arizona-style immigration policy in the aforementioned state.

Now, I consider myself a Mexican-American, but I had no idea just how hostile some people feel towards Mexican culture. Then again, in south Texas, everybody’s Mexican. I don’t know how Arizona style immigration policy would work in a city like San Antonio, especially when even the police officers are all morenos. I recently ran into a young man who told me that in Oklahoma, everybody noticed if a dirty wetback sauntered into town, but that down here, everybody stared at him for being so “white.” I asked him if he would recommend my traveling up to Oklahoma.

“Oh yes, most definitely. That’s god’s country, right there.”

Well, he seemed friendly enough. In south Texas, even us Hispanics make fun of us Hispanics, and it’s not really a big deal. At the same time, I don’t suppose that intermarriage between white individuals and Mexican individuals would do much to diffuse the high tensions between north and south. Interestingly enough, however, there seems to be a perception amongst all the Mexican urban elites that to marry a white person is to marry a redneck hick from some backwoods country(This strikes me as strange, given that I myself outside the urban areas).

It is interesting, however, that in San Antonio the Mexican is the Urban Elite, as opposed to a more northern Texas Locale such as Dallas, where white and black people are more numerous.

In any case, I think it slightly absurd that Mexican or Hispanics will “take over” the country. To illustrate my point, what would happen if an Hispanic Majority ever did seize power in the annals of our government? Would we still call ourselves “Mexicans”? It is unlikely. Instead, I imagine that the new ethnic group would become the “New White” as it distinguishes itself and attempts to differentiate itself from Mexico. Chances are, the Mexican of the future will identify more with English history and European history, if only so that they(and by they, I mean “we”) may reclaim once again the American heritage.

This is a bit of a short post, but I felt compelled to write it as a way of expression my confusion and bemusement at cultural affairs. There is a lot here that I have written that might be in need of clarification and elaboration, but I feel the gist of the argument may be understood, and I reserve further exposition on the subject for a later time.

June 10, 2012

A Howl not Heard

traintracks

A Howl Not Heard

A poem written by Joseluis Nunez.

The streets are empty
and the wind is silent.
The oak tree searches
for that brave pioneer
to choose her shade
over the thermostat.

A dog barks on occasion,
amid the constant flutter
of blue jays, pigeons
and magma cardinals.

Somewhere sounds
a train horn, howling
as drizzle wets the gravel

near the tracks.

June 10, 2012

A Dog’s Understanding of Music

The music of the piano presents itself as a bit of a puzzle. In fact, music in general is a bit of a puzzle for me. The rhythm of a particular music piece, in order to sound good, highly depends upon repetition. I would say that the best music has a certain ration of repetition to complexity in that certain elements repeat, but not so often that the ear grows bored.

At the same time, different individuals possess differing abilities to recognize patterns as well as different thresholds towards their ability to endure complexity. What this means is that different individuals will enjoy and like different musical pieces according to how well they can pick up a pattern in said music piece before the so called “music” devolves into a perception of just noise.

I experienced something like this when I recently went to a high school concert where a friend of mine was playing in the high school band. The structure of the auditorium greatly enhanced my enjoyment of the music, which I can only describe as a borderline sexual experience, most probably due to the hypersensitivity with which my ear can dissect different sounds. At a certain part of the song, however, the beautiful music suddenly became a raucous development of chaotic noise.

There was no abrupt change in the quality or dynamics of the music, which itself had changed very little during this section of the music. Instead, it was as if a switch had been flipped in my mind, and instead of being able to enjoy the complexity of the tones, I suddenly became aware of an utter lack of pattern discernible at all. The actual change in the music was an increase in tempo and volume, and that little change enabled the breakdown of my ability to enjoy the music.

It is also known that famous musical pieces from nineteenth century Europe, the ones that have endured throughout time, are much more compressible in terms of their data equivalent than modern popular songs. To see for yourself, run an mpeg of Mozart and an mpeg of the rolling stones through a compression algorithm, and you’ll find that time again the universal classic will compress better than the modern hit. This reminds me of a testament to memorability and music. Indeed, the human ear loves complexity, but it remembers best simple repition.

It could then be considered that the best music sounds complex due to a complex arrangement of repetitive basic elements. Music is more than just repetitive pattern, however. The emotion of music is not transmuted through the rhythm or the melody, but through the actual tonal qualities of each note. For example, deep and low notes sound more ominous than high, flighty notes.

The reason for the differing emotional reactions held by various individuals towards the tonal qualities of music lies in the evolutionary aspects of sound. From an evolutionary standpoint, a deep low sound usually indicated a larger animal, while a more high-pitched tone usually came from smaller animals, such as mice or squirrels. The predatory aspect of a deep rumble and the invitational aspect of a songbird’s song might demonstrate how humans have evolved to perceive sound according to our own emotional psyche.

Now, there is another aspect to music: The length of the tone which is heard. In general, short bursts of tones create a more panicky or giddy effect, while slower tones create more of a relaxing atmosphere. Interestingly, it would seem that contemporary music is all very much faster than older songs of a more rustic setting. Rapid, high complexity music evokes the urban centers and the cutting age of human development, while slow songs evoke the rustic atmosphere of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

What’s more, even fast paced accompaniments of days past seem mellow by today’s standards. Even so, the enjoyment of music is a perfectly human experience, one that relies on the human’s advanced ability to process sound and understand patterns. It could be, then, that an animal such as a dog might not have the ability to enjoy the music of the human world in the same way that we do. That’s not to say that a dog or a cat would not enjoy music, but probably enjoys music only to the extent that they are able to perceive differences and patterns in tone, length, and rhythm.

June 10, 2012

Political Shortsightedness

President Obama was ushered into office on a storm of good feeling characterized primarily of the very keyword used so often in his campaign: Hope. In more contemporary times, his re-election chances are uncertain, largely due to the massive amounts of negative advertising focusing on the President. He has essentially been cock-blocked out of office.

But one must understand that all of this negative pressure from the republican party, the members of which that are so desperately trying to regain power, will most likely not end with the election of a republican candidate to the presidency. Instead, it is much more likely that the democratic party will feel very betrayed by the republicans, whom they will claim gambled the future of america on such things as the debt ceiling and other such things. In truth, the negative emotions espoused by the republican party during the years of Obama’s Presidency will probably be returned in the four years afterwards. Mitt Romney, if elected, will probably be just as cock-blocked as President Obama was.

The interesting thing is that the republicans were never out of power. In America, anyone can influence any politician regardless of whether they hold office or not. Indeed, the entire system is built to engender compromise and loyalty of a politician towards his or her electorate. Of course, corporate entities possess a great deal of power through the use of televised advertisements, but this ignores the complete lack of presence any corporate entity has on the internet.  Amongst the internet savvy young people that use their computer or phone more than they watch television, a much different sort of political culture is emerging.

I don’t think that any political culture on the internet will actively support one party over another. The internet is far too divisive for that. On the other hand, among individuals who flock to political debate sites and other sites of a political nature, there is a constant push-back that helps individuals organize and make compromises with other groups. It would then seem that while the members of congress refuse to make compromises that should help the nation, the movers and shakers of the internet make these compromises for them.

There is still the question, however, of whether the government still has relevance to the people of the united states. It should be noted that during every new session of congress, the members of said congress have felt compelled to draft up and create at least one new piece of legislation. The result is that, over the years a pile up of legal intricacies has developed and the system has become difficult to navigate.

Luckily, there seems to be some truth to the proposition that the essence of american character is to be found in the spirit of the pioneer or the amateur. Usually america reinvents itself every few decades to accommodate new ideas and concepts, as well as new challenges. I don’t doubt that such a thing will happen again, regardless of whether Mitt Romney or Barack Obama is elected in 2012. I will say, however, that an election of Mitt Romney might reinforce a political gridlock due to resentful democrats striving to make Romney a one term president. An election of Barack Obama to a second term would probably reset things a bit.

Indeed, the second term of any presidency is usually marked by a greater amount of  cooperation and goodwill than any first term.

June 10, 2012

Reading Competency and Reading Comprehension

The library is a nice place to visit. At the same time, it is oddly striking how, when visiting the library in my home town, there are many more people using the computers than there are people that are perusing the book sections. I don’t think that the use of books, both for pleasure and for work, will subside, but I do think that the medium of pen and paper is facing increased competition from other forms of media.

My best guess would be that the continued use of literature and prose as a means of influencing our culture and society will be modified to the extent of the literary and linguistic ability held by the literate majority. To give an example, it is much easier to watch a movie than it is to read a book, particularly if your skill at reading is not very high. Those that are literate often forget the difficulty that they had as a child in learning to read, and this very difficulty, when compounded by the fact that many educational institutions perform a failing job at teaching individuals to read, illustrates very a well a possible reason for the decline in usage of literary forms.

Learning to read, and learning to write is difficult, certainly. But reading comprehension entails much more than just comprehending the individual meaning of words. One must also understand the general concepts that are expressed when words are strung together in ever larger units of language, such as sentences, paragraphs, chapters, and treatises.

As for myself, I have never felt more exhilarated when reading a good book, but I fear that one of the major difficulties I have, even when reading books written by the so-called intellectual elite, is that many of these books are not sufficiently nuanced or complex enough to hold much of my interest. A perfect example of this is the book recently recommended on The Daily Show by John Stuart, A Bunch of Amateurs: The search for an American Essence.This book not only contained simple grammatical and syntactical errors within the book itself, but also created a type of cyclical change in myself as I read deeper into the book. Typically, I would become interested when a new concept was introduced. Then, I would become incredibly bored by having to wade through the ugly and dense thicket of fluff that attempted to “illustrate and explain” the concept that I had immediately grasped.

The result was a fascinating read during the first page of each chapter, and an incredibly boring experience everywhere else.

The necessary boredom that results from my hyper linguistic competency might not apply to lesser competent individuals. At the same time, someone reading at a fifth grade level probably won’t read at all.

June 10, 2012

The Picture

I hold a picture of a gun
pointed to the temple of a child.
He is smiling, “Cheese!”

June 10, 2012

A Paragraph

A paragraph is milk
poured down the mouth
of a baby paper suckling.

The edge of the quill
is the nipple sucked on
by the page.

Unlike a mammal’s teat,
a quill is sharp and bitter
when it feeds its young.

It is medicine that tastes
like vinegar. Like salt.
But children of the quill,

sometimes get lost
in a forest of words.

June 10, 2012

The Key

The key, long and narrow, was a bad match for the wide brass joints of the Smithon lock. The man with the irish cap–which he wore because he was balding, and thought well of the irish–forced it into the lock. He didn’t have much success. The key jiggled at first past the mushroom joint clips at the front end. It stabbed past the cylinder end and damaged the mechanism. Bent, broken, and useless, the man in the irish cap tossed the metal junk into the bushes by the path.

Hopefully, magdalena would see him and offer a drink. He often brushed such sympathies aside, but Magdalena almost tied him down and poured the scotch down his throat before he had grumbled something about the stern will of women. Tonight, however, the wind whispered to the leaves, which in turn shook their heads and waggled their fingers at the man in the irish cap.

A car, or rather, the lights of an old ford automotive, sped across the horizon and turned onto the dirt road called Soledad street. The man with the Irish cap followed the lights until the pulled directly up to the house. Out stepped a tall, dark-skinned man. He wore a thin cotton shirt and chomped a cigar in his mouth. He was wearing dark tinted sunglasses–it was the darkest of night–and his arms were the size of two columns at the parthenon.

“Sorry son of a bitch. Try to rob me–!” The man in the automotive reached inside of the car. The man in the irish cap held up his hands and stood up.

“Wait, sir, please, I can explain–” He was cut short by the mechanical cocking of a long barreled rifle and steady aim with which the owner of the house used to look down the sight. In that moment, the man in the irish cap was hit with a sudden burst of inspiration. “Good goddamn lord what the fuck is wrong with you! Put that damn thing away and calm down, motherfucker!” It may have been the adrenaline that evoked this sudden change in temperament, but it was at the wrong time, and the man in the irish cap had to hold his hand over his chest to stop the bleeding, but the blood came out anyway.

The man in the automotive was talking on the phone with, presumably, the cops. The coversation went something like this:

“Hey, assholes, get your fat asses down here. I’m reporting a robbery. What? Naw, I shot his ass, and–wait, what the fuck you mean, liable? Fuckers, is this the kind bullshit I gotta put up with–hello? Fuckers!”

The man in the Irish cap woke up in the hospital, with Magdalena squeezing his hand and sitting by his side. Her face was a mass of creased up worry lines as she stared intently into his face. “God, she’s ugly”, he thought.

“We’re getting you wasted, John. Seriously, boy, you survived a gunshot to the chest? Well that’s too bad, because you’re gonna need a new liver after we celebrate tonight.” Magdalena hugged her man, and John, the Irish capped wonder, grunted in pain.

“Ack! John, you ok?”

“Let’s hold off on the Jack Daniels just yet, hon. Maybe a ginger ale first, eh?”

“John. What the hell were you doing out there?” The room got silent, and a muffled voice blared over the loudspeaker.

“I was hoping you would not ask that, hon.”

“The hell I won’t. Spill the beans.”

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