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Credit Card Companies Can Predict Divorce

I found this great article SXSW 2011: The internet is over on Tyler’s Instapaper list and it’s a pretty positive “ra ra” article about the future, but this one paragraph was really interesting:

Walking past a bank of plasma screens in Austin that were sputtering out tweets from the festival, I saw the claim from Marissa Mayer, a Google vice-president, that credit card companies can predict with 98% accuracy, two years in advance, when a couple is going to divorce, based on spending patterns alone. She meant this to be reassuring: Google, she explained, didn’t engage in such covert data-mining. (Deep inside, I admit, I wasn’t reassured. But then Mayer probably already knew that.)

I’m not entirely sure what to make of that information (if it’s correct), but it seems like credit card companies, if they wanted to humanize their brands, could start saving a lot of marriages or end them sooner.

Because I could not stop for Death

For far too long I’ve written off too many things—like old poetry—for no good reason. Maybe that’s just the modernist in me; however, there are enough academics that read this blog that might argue with my understanding of modernist theory. Anyway, it appears I was wrong. Perhaps I’ve been wrong a lot more than I’ve ever stopped to realize. As I was listening to CBC radio yesterday (not sure which program) they had a special on Emily Dickinson and there was one poem they read several times—”Because I could not stop for Death”—and it is a beautiful poem.

Actually, if I were to guess (because I do a lot of that) Emily Dickinson was probably an early modernist poet. But I’ve probably abused “modernism” enough in this post because all I really wanted to do was share this poem. You’ll forgive me if you’ve read/heard this before, but I never studied Emily Dickinson and I thought it was worth sharing.

Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me;
The carriage held but just ourselves
And Immortality.
We slowly drove, he knew no haste,
And I had put away
My labor, and my leisure too,
For his civility.

We passed the school, where children strove
At recess, in the ring;
We passed the fields of gazing grain,
We passed the setting sun.

Or rather, he passed us;
The dews grew quivering and chill,
For only gossamer my gown,
My tippet only tulle.

We paused before a house that seemed
A swelling of the ground;
The roof was scarcely visible,
The cornice but a mound.

Since then ’tis centuries, and yet each
Feels shorter than the day
I first surmised the horses’ heads
Were toward eternity.

Sleep Talking Man

I can’t recall whether or not I’ve ever actually linked to Sleep Talking Man on the blog or not, but it’s one of my favourite sites out there. Basically, it’s this guy, Adam, being recorded by his wife while he sleeps and talks and says ridiculous sleep talking things.

I know a certain person who constantly walks in her sleep. Maybe I should get a video camera and start a blog about her sleep walking adventures.

In any case, Adam said something amazing which is basically the ethos of this blog. I live and breathe this statement:

“This is my story. It starts with me. And it ends with me. And everything in the middle is about me. Greatest fucking story ever written.”

Am I right? I’m right.

Myths aren’t lies

Lately, I’ve been hoping that sooner or later I would move away from all that doubt that bogs me down. I figure maybe 30 will be a better time. That’s about all I can figure right now. But I was searching around for a quote by Joseph Campbell and I was sure that I had posted this previously. But I hadn’t. And it’s absolutely my favourite story about myths. It reminded me about what I think about myths and made me feel a little better.

Joseph Campbell, Thou Art That

Let me begin by explaining the history of my impulse to place metaphor at the center of our exploration of Western spirituality.

When the first volume of my Historical Atlas of World Mythology, The Way of the Animal Powers came out, the publishers sent me on a publicity tour. This is the worst kind of all possible tours because you move unwillingly to those disc jockeys and newspaper people, themselves unwilling to read the book they are supposed to talk to you about, in order to give it public visibility.

The first question I would be asked was always, “What is a myth?” That is a fine beginning for an intelligent conversation. In one city, however, I walked into a broadcasting station for a live half-hour program where the interviewer was a young, smart-looking man who immediately warned me, “I’m tough, I put it right to you. I’ve studied law.”

The red light went on and he began argumentatively, “The word ‘myth,’ means ‘a lie.’ Myth is a lie.”

So I replied with my definition of myth. “No, myth is not a lie. A whole mythology is an organization of symbolic images and narratives, metaphorical of the possibilities of human experience and the fulfillment of a given culture at a given time.”

“It’s a lie,” he countered.

“It’s a metaphor.”

“It’s a lie.”

This went on for about twenty minutes. Around four or five minutes before the end of the program, I realized that this interviewer did not really know what a metaphor was. I decided to treat him as he was treating me.

“No,” I said, “I tell you it’s metaphorical. You give me an example of a metaphor.”

He replied, “You give me an example.”

I resisted, “No, I’m asking the question this time.” I had not taught school for thirty years for nothing. “And I want you to give me an example of a metaphor.”

The interviewer was utterly baffled and even went so far as to say, “Let’s get in touch with some school teacher.” Finally, with something like a minute and a half to go, he rose to the occasion and said, “I’ll try. My friend John runs very fast. People say he runs like a deer. There’s a metaphor.”

As the last seconds of the interview ticked off, I replied, “That is not the metaphor. The metaphor is: John is a deer.”

He shot back, “That’s a lie.”

“No,” I said, “That is a metaphor.”

And the show ended. What does that incident suggest about our common understanding of metaphor?

It made me reflect that half the people in the world think that the metaphors of their religious traditions, for example, are facts. And the other half contends that they are not facts at all. As a result we have people who consider themselves believers because they accept metaphors as facts, and we have others who classify themselves as atheists because they think religious metaphors are lies.

The Rule of Writers

Do not feed the coyotes

What an ambiguous title.

Well, all good writers will tell you that there are no rules for writers. Almost no rules. I mean, for the most part, there aren’t rarely any rules. Except don’t copy other writers, but even that’s up debate. Right? Translation is an art. Apparently. I’d probably respect it more if I knew another language well enough to translate anything, but since I don’t I can raise my nose in ignorance. That’s not the rule I’m talking about anyways.

There are no rules for writers. Sure, you should strive—perhaps if you are a prairie poet—to be extremely concrete. I don’t want to see the word abyss anywhere, especially if it uses some awful adjective. But there are no rules, except the one golden rule: You must read. This rule, by and large, is accepted by everyone. Except me.

I hate reading. It’s not that I hate reading. Reading is just the third thing I would like to do. First, I would like to be on my computer/internet. Second, I would like to watch TV. And for the record, just so that we all stay polite, Leah trumps all three (though I am sure she will have some comment about the first).

Rhett how did you get an English degree if you hate reading? Excellent question. I read Coles/Sparks notes. Or wrote down quotes, important pages, dog-eared and underlined pages. Took notes of plot-lines from the prof. Some times, I read the whole book. I wasn’t a great student. Delinquent, they say.

Other than being delinquent, I enjoyed the doing more than the consuming. And you might say that one has to do with the other. I am not sure. A large portion of my English classes were based around writing. Not just creatively, either.

But, these days I am a real writer. Or at least, I am being paid to write and edit. After not really writing (except blogging, etc) for a while, I needed to jump back in and quickly. And like all those conflicted with a certain delinquency, I started cramming. So I am reading again. Every night. Part of that has to do with the confidence I lost being laid off, but the bigger part of that is completely enjoying my job and want to be good at it. I want to be good at writing, so I am reading.

I know all you boomers and x’ers are rolling your eyes and saying just do it. But I am a Gen-Y’er. And I need to settle into everything. Re-learning how much I enjoy crafting words—even corporate ones—is such a joy. Now that I am reading and following all the rules of writing, I am settling into the definition of writer.

Currently, I am re-reading Green Grass, Running Water. Even though Thomas King was a jerk that one time I met him, I still love the way he tells stories. Hopefully, going forward, I will channel a little Coyote in my writing.

Photo by Jeremy Keith

Deathly Hallows Quote

The floor on which he lay seemed to be white, neither warm nor cold, but simply there, a flat, blank something on which to be. – J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows