Wednesday, May 17, 2006

How language flattens perception

On my drive into work this morning, I began thinking about how language flattens perception. The innate ideation inside of our heads is not innately verbal, but in order to communicate our thoughts, we must translate these thoughts into words. And words, as any artist will tell you, are often poor substitutes for reality.

Why can poetry convey much more emotional content than prose? Why can a piece of music inspire the listener to tears? Why is a picture worth a thousand words?

I am a musician, and music plays constantly inside my head. I don’t usually hear the lyrics, but rather sonic images, echoes or ghosts of music I’ve heard in the past, and sometimes music I’ve never heard before. Who hasn’t seen a stunning sunset and attempted vainly to capture it in words? How could you describe the color red to a blind person?

This discussion brings up the larger question: What is reality, anyway? I discovered long ago that reality exists only in the mind of the perceiver.

I stumbled on this truth some years ago after being stymied in my attempt to understand why most people can’t hear what I hear in music. We each have a unique, individual reality that is ours and ours alone.

When we try to communicate to others, we must utilize the common denominator of language.

And like any common denominator, language squashes out the uniquely individual elements of perception in order to achieve a translatable symbolic representation of what is at its heart non-translatable.

And so language is metaphor. It is symbol. Language is not reality. Reality is something inside my head, and inside yours.

Friday, May 12, 2006


Tonight I reunite with my dear wife.

She drove to Memphis Tuesday with a friend,

and this afternoon after work at 4:30 I start the 3-hour drive there from Nashville.

Tomorrow we're having lunch at the Brushmark Restaurant,

which is part of the Brooks Museum of Art.

That afternoon we may visit the new Memphis Farmers Market that opens tomorrow.

Then tomorrow night we'll have supper at Abuelos Mexican restaurant.

Sunday morning we may attend services at a liberal church in Memphis. We are active in our own church's GLBT+F (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender & Friends) group. We believe that it's time for straights who support equal civil rights for our GLBT friends to come out of the closet!

Sunday we'll have Memphis' best BBQ at the Commissary in Germantown (east of Memphis)

before heading back to Nashville.

Car fever!

It's time for us to replace one of our two cars, a 1995 T-Bird. Wife's brother wants to buy it, so we have an opportunity to get a more economical car. The T-bird gets 18 mpg and uses premium gas.

We're looking at small cars like the Toyota Corolla

or the Honda Civic.

either of which would save us $1100 a year in gas at the current cost of $2.89 per gallon.

That's because I now drive my 1998 Plymouth Grand Voyager minivan 26,000 miles a year. Most of those miles get driven on my 46-mile round trip to work, plus our 60-mile round trip to church.

The van is the best car I've ever owned; I can easily get all my keyboard equipment in it, along with four passengers if need be. In 1998, a few months after buying it, my wife Nancy and I drove it on a 14,000 mile, 3-month driving trip through the northwestern US and southwestern Canada. It' s a great road car with excellent visibility, smooth and quiet ride with plenty of power. But it's got almost 200,000 miles on it and even though it's still running like new, I know that one day we'll have to replace it. And it'll be better if we don't have two car payments at once.

We looked at the new hybrids, like the Toyota Prius that get an average of 44 mpg,

but they're in such demand now that a buyer has no leverage, meaning that you pay a premium of $3000 to $5000 more than you'd pay for a comparable gas-powered car. I calculated that a Prius would save us about $500 per year in gas over a Corolla/Civic, so it would take ten years to recoup the difference in price ($17,000 for a low-mileage used Corolla compared with $22,000 for a used Prius).

Monday, May 01, 2006

Kill the computers

My wife worked online until several months ago. Today she got several IMs from anonymous individuals who apparently got hold of an employee list from one of her previous employers. This really makes my blood boil!

One idiot knew her real name and the city where we live.

I'm sure I know how this happened. We have learned that many of these online employers have been downsizing

and moving more of these jobs offshore.

No doubt there are plenty of pissed-off former online workers,

and all it takes is one of them to decide to seek revenge by releasing sensitive information,

thus (the idiot apparently believes) potentially exposing the employer to lawsuits from people like us.

I'm about ready to throw #$%^&@ computer out the window!