27 July 2011

Not dead

Just busy. As heck. Promise to get back to blogging in August. All my words have been needed elsewhere this month.

22 July 2011

Graduation Day

Naomi graduated from playgroup. I am done with that thing I was doing this week. I'll tell you about it if it works out. If it doesn't, I'll keep it to myself.

17 July 2011

Three weeks!

Too busy to blog. Really, really big plans for the next three months. I can't share for fear of jinxing anything. Might be in New York in mid-October. Will be in Berlin in November. Lancaster says they can get me a visa if we can get our funding. So now we just have to get our funding.

15 July 2011

Gone home...

My in-laws have gone home and I miss them. My mother-in-law again saved our lives this year. Eating burritos and drinking beer with my father-in-law in London: also a sweet memory. One day, we will all be together in the same country, I hope...

14 July 2011


The Œuvre of Nietzsche

Nietzsche 1875Foto-Serie "Der kranke Nietzsche" Foto-Serie "Der kranke Nietzsche" Foto-Serie "Der kranke Nietzsche" Lou Salomé, Paul Reé und Friedrich Nietzsche 1882Nietzsche und seine MutterRadierung von Hans Olde zur Foto-Serie "Der kranke Nietzsche"

One of the things about blogging that I love, particularly as I come up on my ninth year, is the ability to look back on my life and see how things begin to unfold in my thinking. Nietzsche has been on my mind seriously since the summer of 2009, the summer I ran and listened to 'The Will to Power' on my iPod shuffle while I ran. This was also the summer that Bazan's 'Curse Your Branches' came out and I had, finally, really begun to make peace with leaving Christianity, and more importantly the idea of god, behind. Nietzsche played a role in this, in being able to say, if the choice is between peace and searching, I choose searching.

I envisioned myself at some time overcoming... Overcoming, yes, that's the right verb, but I'm not sure what the object is. I felt, caught up in a runner's high in a 13th or 14th mile, that it would be okay, that I would be okay.

I am okay, I'm sure of that, but I still don't feel as okay as I envisioned. Running, alone on the path, I was free of it, of all the things that tied me down, but two years on, I am not free and I feel as stuck as I always have, stuck inside of a personality and a body that I am constantly feeling foreign in. I think of Nietzsche eating alone. Yes, thoughts liberated, but body tied down.

The feeling of being foreign is something I think I have brought on myself by constantly peeling back, 'unfolding' is the metaphor from above. The more you know about something (Day 1), the less you can continue to remain true to it. Does this apply to oneself as well?

The meaning we make of Nietzsche is perhaps more important than the meaning we make of Walker Evans. Perhaps not. I want to hold on tightly to both: I think Nietzsche held onto the meaning of Walker Evans, for him embedded in Wagner's music. Liberated and free, even if it only lasts for a quick glance over your shoulder at a Ferris wheel.

13 July 2011

Human, All too Human, Day 30

Life consists of rare, isolated moments of the greatest significance, and of innumerably many intervals, during which at best the silhouettes of those moments hover about us. Love, springtime, every beautiful melody, mountains, the moon, the sea - all these speak completely to the heart but once, if in fact they ever do get a chance to speak completely. For many men do not have those moments at all, and are themselves intervals and intermissions in the symphony of real life.
Thanks for a great month, Friedrich! Cheer up: it probably won't get better, but at least we still have the sea, hey? 

A Month of Nietzsche

12 July 2011

The last eight days

12 months

On 11 July 2010, I got on the scale and it read 86.0 kgs, even. This morning, it read 70.3. Rolling average 71.1 kgs, 16.54% body fat.

So it's been a year, the longest period ever that I have been successful at 'dieting'. The success of this year was basically based on being terrified of rebounding. I have lost weight in the past, but always rebounded after about a month of being low. In September of last year, after I hit my goal weight, I did something I never did before when I was trying to lose weight: I kept weighing myself every day. And I've kept that up: almost every day I've been at home, I've weighed myself. It's such a great practice. None of this: 'I feel like I didn't eat much yesterday' or 'I feel like I have lost weight' or 'I feel like I have more muscle than fat.' Nope, there's the number. That's the truth.

Weight Change
Time PeriodTotal Weight Change (kg)Weekly Weight Change Rate (kg)Daily Calorie Deficit/Excess
1 Week
30 Days
All Time

I think part of the problem of the last couple of times I've attempted to lose weight has been my inability, or unwillingness to accept several things, mainly that maintaining a healthy weight would require a change in psychology, particularly how much and what kind of food I ate. And that I would not be able to go back. I would probably not ever eat takeaway pizza in the same way that I did before. I would probably not eat french fries or chips more than a couple of times a year. I would probably need to avoid cheese most of the time too. I would probably also have to cut down significantly on the amount of bread I ate, and probably very rarely with butter. I would need to eat a lot more vegetables than I was. I would need to eat meat in much more moderation. When there were big parties with lots of cakes and pies and cookies, that not having those things would not be punishment or reduce my enjoyment of the event and I would not feel sorry for myself: I would just have to learn to not care about it (an unfortunate by-product of this being a distaste for those events). That I should probably stop spending all my time looking for low-calorie versions of whatever it is I wanted to eat so that I could eat as much as I did before, but to just eat more moderately all the time. Basically, that my lifestyle had to change.

Of course, the affordance of healthy eating has has some unexpected joyful discoveries. Like grilled eggplant, bulgar wheat tomato and parsley salad, whole grain pancakes, freshly ground coffee, sundried tomoatoes, sultanas on salad, beans, sparkling mineral water, grilled meat wrapped in Romaine lettuce, spices, hot sauces, onions, garlic... The list goes on.

So it's been hard, but not as hard as I thought: changing perspective, my ideas about what I am entitled to has been, of course, the hardest part. You can see clearly on the chart when I failed: in Spain, at Christmas, and when I went to the States. But, there were also a lot of successes as well, particularly in the run-up to Christmas, trip to Turkey, trip to Spain, birth of Mia and family influx from June. All these things would have put be back in the red in the past, but 2011 has been different.

I'm not sure I have changed completely. I have changed enough to keep the weight off, but as I've said, I am an overweight man in a skinny body now, not sure how to proceed.

Human, All too Human, Day 29

Friedrich uses some metaphors.
Whoever does not know how to put his thoughts on ice should not engage in the heat of argument.
A Month of Nietzsche

11 July 2011

Two weeks

Human, All too Human, Day 28

Friedrich slips into the real world for a moment.
At sunset in Genoa, I heard from a tower a long chiming of bells: it kept on and on, and over the noise of the backstreets, as if insatiable for itself, it rang out into the evening sky and the sea air, so terrible and so childish at the same time, so melancholy. Then I thought of Plato's words and felt them suddenly in my heart: all in all, nothing human is worth taking very seriously; nevertheless...
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

10 July 2011

Human, All too Human, Day 27

Friedrich hangs out at a tea party rally and reflects...
No one speaks more passionately about his rights than the man who, at the bottom of his heart, doubts them. In drawing passion to his side, he wants to deaden reason and its doubts: he thus gains a good conscience, and, along with it, success with his fellow men.
A Month of Nietzsche

09 July 2011

Human, All too Human, Day 26

He who has boldly prophesied the weather three times and has been successful, believes a bit, at the bottom of his heart, in his own prophetic gift. We do not dispute what is magical or irrational when it flatters our self-esteem.
A Month of Nietzsche

08 July 2011

Trusting yourself when you are young

I was very calm the day I was married, five years ago today.

Yoko knew more than me, had the experience and sense to know what was right for her, and I trusted that if she knew I was right for her, then it must be so. That's not to say that I didn't know that I was right for her (what an odd description of this, I realise now as I write it--what is 'rightness'?). I knew the rightness of she and me like you knew your own name. It was embodied, a sense of how things were unfolding and should unfold, this universe in the multiverse, the one I was living in, but although I knew it was right and logical, I was only 23, just barely 24 when we married. I knew, but it was the knowledge of adolescence which is, if I am honest, as much faith as it is knowledge. This is the risk you take trusting yourself when you are young, but I was determined to become a person who would take big risks and be ready for failure. Consequence be damned.

The day of the wedding I was unfettered by doubt. The thinking had been done, this was the time, the perfect time, to let everything go and live in the moment. There are no better series of moments in your life the day you get married. The feeling of someone in a gown next to you, my mother's hug in the processional line, the perfect blue sky, jazz in a club for the reception--the pianist played such a perfect arrangement of Somewhere over the Rainbow. Before and after, I doubted deeply, carefully, thoughtfully, but not on 8 July 2006. I knew.

Sometimes, of course, trusting yourself works out.

Five Years

Has it been five years now?

Walker Evans (American, St. Louis, Missouri 1903–1975 New Haven, Connecticut)
[3 Views of Wedding Cake on Table]
Film negative
2 1/4 x 2 1/4 in.
Walker Evans Archive, 1994
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Human, All too Human, Day 25

I like the ones about how knowing a little bit about something tends to be more successful than knowing about something deeply. Has been my experience, at least.
A little knowledge is more successful than complete knowledge: it conceives things as simpler than they are, thus resulting in opinions that are more comprehensible and persuasive.
A Month of Nietzsche

07 July 2011

Oh wow

I apparently have some brilliant friends:


When the muse who has been visiting me mercilessly for the last month speaks, she sounds like this. The scribble here, a Cy Twombly painting of sorts, is what she said to me as I rode my bike furiously to work today, trying to get to my desk so that I could write it all down before losing it. She kept me up until 23:30 last night. After everyone had gone to bed very early, I locked myself in my office at 18:30  and waited, but she didn't come. I waited and she didn't come and I was about to give up when at 20:00, she began speaking, quietly at first and then in what seems like erratic, nonsensical staccato phrases and beats that I don't understand at first, but if I am diligent and simply write what she says, they develop into a clear narrative. She doesn't tend to speak in a linear fashion, she sometimes tells me the last paragraph first, or the third paragraph when I think I am writing the seventh, but if I just follow and listen she will bring it together in the end. I finished a full draft of Section 6.3.1, Non-metaphorical Categories, which should mean nothing to you, but to me, it was/is/will be, quite simply, the linchpin of the whole thesis, a description of what is actually happening in the dataset. Around 22:30, I thought I might stop, I was having trouble keeping my eyes open, I went downstairs, Yoko was up and we talked for a bit, I went back up, and she was still there, still waiting for me.

I tried to explain these visits from my muse to Yoko's parents, but my Japanese failed, I said, An angel is visiting me, telling me what to write, do you have this story in Japan? This wasn't adequate, I don't think: Yoko married a madman. Not a real angel. It's a story, an old story about people who write poems. What do you call them? Poemists? Poeters? Poets? My father-in-law looked at me warmly, told me to do my best. I will, I said. I will do my best. Unfortunately, it isn't my choice. When and how she comes is up to her. I just wait. So far she has told me between 58 and 72.5% of the story. I hope she tells me between 3 and 5% more today. I hope she does. 

Muse in Japanese is 詩神, by the way. One part poem, one part god. Perfect. The kanji are read quite oddly as 'shi-shin'. It should be 'shi-jin' I would think, but 詩人 or shi-jin is poet. I suspect if you just said to a Japanese person in Japanese, Do you know what a shishin is, without any context or without showing them the kanji, they probably wouldn't understand what you were saying anyway as it's such a rare word and a strange reading...

Are you there now? Are you ready for me?

Human, All too Human, Day 24

Love quotes like this because I read them and spend the day thinking, do I agree with that?
He who wants to set a good example must add a grain of foolishness to his virtue; then others can imitate and, at the same time, rise above the one being imitated - something which people love.
A Month of Nietzsche

06 July 2011

1.1 General Aims of the Thesis

This is the first paragraph in my thesis and probably the only writing that really matters for the whole day.:
The general aim of this thesis is to investigate the interaction of Evangelical YouTube users (YouTubers) and discover how different components of discourse activity contribute to the emergence of user grouping and affiliation. Building on the Bakhtinian notion of heteroglossia, or the tension between 'centralisation and decentralisation and unification and disunification' (Bakhtin, 1981, p. 272) in discourse activity, my goal is to show how dynamic notions of convergence and divergence can be seen at all levels of community development, from the emergence of community from interaction to contested power positions and structures which develop within communities. I will seek to describe and analyse discourse phenomena, particularly metaphor, categorisation, and impoliteness, observed in the dataset as dynamic, inter-dependent, and effectual with empirical social consequences for the observed users. Moreover, a critical stance will be taken towards theories which give primacy to and describe human interaction primarily in terms of cognitive functions, suggesting instead that description and analysis of dynamic interaction between humans must guide conceptualisations of human interaction particularly when attempting to answer questions about social organisation developing in and through discourse activity.

Cy Twombly dead

Cy Twombly is dead. Who's Cy Twombly? Apparently he was one of America's best painters.

NY Times obit here with this great bit that I first saw on Althouse:
In the only written statement that Mr. Twombly ever made about his work, a short essay in an Italian art journal in 1957, he tried to make clear that his intentions were not subversive but elementally human. Each line he made, he said, was “the actual experience” of making the line, adding: “It does not illustrate. It is the sensation of its own realization.” Years later he described this more plainly. “It’s more like I’m having an experience than making a picture.” The process stood in stark contrast to the detached, effete image that often clung to Mr. Twombly. After completing a work, in a kind of ecstatic state, it was as if the painting existed and he barely did anymore: “I usually have to go to bed for a couple of days.”

Human, All too Human, Day 23

SHOCKED at how right on this one is.
He who speaks a bit of a foreign language has more delight in it than he who speaks it well; pleasure goes along with superficial knowledge.
Human, All too Human
A Month of Nietzsche

05 July 2011

Wait, the world's still turning? What now?

Although I find Angry Atheist Stephen to be quite disagreeable, I think Melancholic 'Don't-Talk-to-Me-I'm-Writing' Stephen is probably even more difficult to be around. When I was a high school senior and slowly becoming aware of intense changes in my life I wasn't going to be able to avoid, I wrote a novella called The Silences which was nothing special really, but in the month I wrote it in the spring of 1999, I really fell in, and was, as I recall, impossible to be around. Luckily, in college, I wrote mostly short stories, which I could draft in one or two sittings and the submerged feeling would be much more momentary, as I was only trying to connect two or three different strands of the story. Well, this was true until my last year when I wrote another novella, Omerza Walking, which was marginally better than the novella I wrote in high school, but much, much more demanding with fieldwork, interviews, tours of abandoned underground mines in the middle of the winter. It was intense. Very intense.

Dissertations have been even worse, much longer endeavours with not just narrative strands to tie together, but theoretical ones. Analytic frameworks, real datasets: you can't fake it like you can in a story. And you also can't write 10,000 plus words in a week or month, much less a sitting. This PhD thesis, the first book-length manuscript I've ever worked on is more than anything I've ever attempted, thousands and thousands of words that have to hang together moment by moment. A giant swirling fractal. A black hole. I'm not sure which metaphor is right.  

I am now really experiencing submergence in a way that I haven't before. I feel like I can only write, only express myself on the screen. An affordance, perhaps, of being surrounded by Japanese speakers all the time at home now. Suddenly I am a foreigner again: a foreigner to my family, yes, but also to my work, to the thesis genre,  to everything but the sentence. Because, if I have learned one thing, it's how the sentence works. 

Well, I say that, but in the last year, my writing has had to undergo significant changes to make the thesis possible. I feel like a professional golfer having to change my swing: of course, I don't need to change my swing, I'm a professional golfer. But no, I've needed to change my swing. Luckily, I am being taught by a superb academician (certified!) who, among her numerous talents, is very good at detecting bullshit. As I am a bullshit artist 95% of the time, she's forced me to cultivate the 5% of raw talent I have. To swing without dipping my shoulders at all. Does that metaphor work? Do you see what I mean? 

So, until the thesis is done, I feel like I will be sleepwalking through my days and nights, eager to get back to my words on the screen — Arial 12 point for normal paragraphs with a six-point space at breaks, Arial 12 all caps for categories, Arial 10 point for tables, Arial 12 point italicised in all caps for systematic metaphors--avoiding my family and the sudden instability of my home life at least until August. With no context at 68 Booker Ave, I'll find context in the thesis. The thesis. You were personified in a dream last night: I slept and woke and slept, but I didn't stop writing. I ate and talked with my in-laws briefly, but I didn't stop writing. I went for a run, but I didn't stop writing. 

Visa mess resolved?

The government might do exactly what I hoped they would do as far as the visa laws go. Still only a rumour, no one really knows what's going to actually happen as the government is still sorting things, but if the UKCISA is reporting the following, perhaps having hope and pressing forward with the plan is best. A good portent in a sea of omens. Or a dissipated omen in a sea of good portents: the metaphor isn't quite clear.
What is happening with Tier 1 (Post-Study Work)?
This work route will close in April 2012. We do not yet have the details of what will replace it. However, it looks as if you will need to meet most of the requirements of Tier 2, except for the Resident Labour Market Test, or of a new student entrepreneur route which does not yet exist. This means that a Tier 2 employer will not have to show that the job was advertised and no UK or EEA nationals could do it. However, the job will have to be a graduate level job with a specified minimum wage, and the employer must have a Tier 2 licence.
If the UKBA does decide to waive the Resident Labour Market Test for post-graduate students in the Tier 2 working visa category, then I will be able to work at Lancaster per my original plan, provided we win the bid for funding. Yes, the visa process will be expensive, but not impossible. Even if we don't succeed in our bid, I will be able to look for work for about 6-9 months around my completion period of my PhD.

Now, to do the best work possible until then.

The last couple of days