Msnowe's Blog

Electric Affect

Posted in Uncategorized by m.snowe on August 26, 2008

“Home is so sad. It stays the way it left,
Shaped to the comfort of the last to go
As if to win them back. Instead, bereft
Of anyone to please, it whithers so,
Having no heart to put aside the theft
And turn again to what it started as,
A joyous shot at how things ought to be,
Long fallen wide. You can see how it was:
Look at the pictures and the cutlery.
The music in the piano stool. That vase.”
–Philip Larkin, Home Is So Sad
M.Snowe visited with relations living in the wilds of Eastern Pennsylvania over this past weekend. Of course, the wilds mean a country town on the edge of a valley, looking down at the vast green expanses of rolling plains and gently sloping hills, up until the hills hit the tree-burdened mountain ranges surrounding it all with their jagged finality. The mountains, in the early blue-gray of morning, faded into the sky by gradations, and looking at them you couldn’t tell where the earth stopped and the sky began–there was no horizon. It seemed too easy an enterprise to get lost in this mess of nature.
Like other parts of other states, this had been home for a long part of life. Not just the outdoor architecture, but the indoor infrastructure as well, including those who made it tick. Things/people have aged or changed, but most, like the scenery, has remained the same. So why is it so different now? Why does this huge mess of nature, and slower living seem unrecognizable, or at the very least, alien? Or perhaps the more apt question is: what is so alien about the visitor?
Talking to a friend while sitting on a regularly-haunted rock in Central Park (which has a clearly-defined horizon and much less greenery than the mountains), it became clear that city life suits some people very well. It also became strikingly evident that sometimes when we find a habitat with which to adapt ourselves, we loose the ability to react to the ones we previously lived in–and that’s the harsh reality of urban evolutionary theory. Perhaps, suddenly you find that you don’t like the person you are when you go “home”–perhaps people back home just don’t understand (or care to understand) the ferocity or intensity, or new found electric mundane-ness of your city life, or maybe it’s something completely internal–or a combination of all things. But the cliche abruptly comes to fruition, and you find yourself unable to come home again.

Within a span of forty-eight hours in the PA mountains, M.Snowe was baring her fangs at what might’ve been viewed as polite requests, and steely grinning with strained efforts in hopes of warding off the perception by relatives that M.Snowe might be annoyed by the remark that walking home at 7:15PM in the city is a “highly dangerous pursuit,” when the nighttime is much safer than the morning (a proven fact). The avoidance of snapping a clever yet sparklingly ill-intentioned retort when being asked for the fifth time if the tickets home were purchased took a valiant effort of self-control. All these things would normally not have bothered M.Snowe, at least not so long ago. They might vaguely vex, but never induce fangs.

Is it the city that puts us on edge? The city, with it’s electricity, seems to up the voltage on our conceptions and emotions. Without realizing it, the bright lights, public transportation, and general way of life have charged the senses–and while in the city, things can seem electrified, things can run skyscraper-high or subway-tunnel low. What might have served as a passing idea in some other mode of life can latch on in the city and follow you around like a pushy street solicitor. So when we leave the electric environment, perhaps we are so charged that other places seem dulled, or they don’t conduct the energy we have learned to feed upon; sparks fly as the differing voltages amalgamate. We might not be able to go back home again with the same outlooks and the same emotions, but at least we can prepare ourselves with the appropriate converter switches.

G & G’s awesome literary analysis

Posted in Uncategorized by m.snowe on August 21, 2008

Having read The Madwoman in the Attic multiple times, this article grabbed M.Snowe’s attention for its originality and integration of Gilbert and Gubar’s stunning, grandiose treatise on Victorian female writers, and their respective fictional characters into the Clinton candidacy aftershocks. Not sure if M.Snowe completely agrees with the exact tract of the author, but applauds her efforts nonetheless, and does agree that the female constituencies have been treated with the same freakish disregard as Bertha Mason.

Where have all the politics gone? (Limerick Recap)

Posted in snap limericks, summer fatigue by m.snowe on August 18, 2008

Perhaps M.Snowe suffers from a perpetual summer fatigue. But more likely, the political news outlets are the ones suffering vernal weariness. And you can’t entirely fault them–the primaries were more exhausting than listening to the overly laudable sputum currently ejaculating from the Olympics announcers’ mouths. We have our two candidates, and they have been weighed and measured. The outlets seem to have decided that it’s time now for some relaxation and an easy transition from the primary chaos to the official party nomination pomp and circumstance. Chances are, the real stories won’t pick up again until we have some VPs to criticize and over analyze with flow charts, pie graphs, measuring tapes and fertility testing (got to be careful there, Mr. Edwards [not that you have a shot in hell]).

That’s all well and good, but M.Snowe still wants the news–and stories about “whale calfs bonding with yachts” and “strange microwave death” cases just aren’t up to snuff. (Mind you, these stories get top billing, over the protest situation in Kashmir.) But in the meanwhile downtime, let’s settle for looking at some stilted world news instead of McCain/Obama.

Georgia and Pakistan: Five Second Limerick Recap

It once was a Soviet satellite,
now independent–it was just alright.
But the Russians came in
–we won’t enter the din.
apparently they’re not worth the fight.

Musharraf used to be the man,
now his rule is summarily banned.
We wanted him in,
though he’s been quite a sin–
most think we’ve got nary a plan.

On Silences

Posted in language theory, silence by m.snowe on August 14, 2008

(M.Snowe wrote this silently, at least.)

Silence, as a term, is over-used, misapplied and under-defined. It’s misapplied because many people think silence means the same as “quiet,” or “the absence of sound.” But this is not silence. Stopping your ears with plugs or corking yourself in a sound-proof room does not produce silence either.
As counter-intuitive as it might seem, silence is a part of social interaction. In fact, some (this blogger included) believe silence is more communicative than speech. Silence involves the deliberate absence of speech. Silence, in itself, carries neither negative or positive connotations–but it can be utilized to transmit either.

Back when M.Snowe dabbled in linguistic theory she learned all about the concept of the “signifier” and the “signified.” Basically, words are signifiers, in that they point to something else; they are representatives of actual people, places, things, emotions, etc. The things words refer to are “signified” in language. Example: we use the word “dog” to represent the idea of a dog. But the word itself is not a dog (well, of course!).
Also, language must exist as a whole unit in order for individual words to have relevance. Explanation: every word is defined by its difference from every other word’s meaning (kind of like colors). Without an extensive vocabulary, individual words would lose their meaning, just like without other colors to compare it to, one color would loose its meaning.

Silence is vital to communication–language just can’t make the cut sometimes. Silence is quite possibly the best way to say what you mean, with no words to get in the way. Silence also leaves an incredibly blank slate upon what could turn into an overly wordy situation. Sometimes M.Snowe wishes that she could walk through NYC and not hear any speech while being silent herself–just amble up sidewalks and communicate with the streets in silence–and try to better understand it all. Sometimes trying to say what you mean gets you further away than where you started.

Silence (as a communicative tool) can be confused between people, to be sure. But M.Snowe would like to propose that speech is actually more tricky than silence to comprehend. There are outright liars, fibbers, and people who like to consider themselves as innocently “bending facts.” Then there are people who want to say the right things, or communicate directly, but they just don’t execute. It’s a spectrum of all shades, a rainbow of spoken confusion with no gold at the end in sight. People spend incredible amounts of time puzzling out what people mean from the most mundane of statements. Chances are they will never know from studying the words. The fact of the matter is: the words you say (or can’t say) will never fully do the job. The signifier will never be the signified. What “you mean” and what you say never quite meet. And we wonder why things are so disconnected, on a global or a personal scale.When all this becomes clear–that’s when we should turn to silence. Not only because it transmits multitudes, but because it leaves an aspect of untarnished mystery–it respects the fact that we can’t communicate perfectly–unlike language and it’s futile attempts at lucidity.

Some people in the city find silence unnerving, or uncomfortable. Beware these people. It suggests that they are unnerved or uncomfortable with their thoughts (or with your thoughts) and impulses. But if you can find people who are secure and comfortable with silence now and then in this city of verbosity, and can read the silences…