6th December 2021

Entanglements

15th November 2021: biaswise, adv. Obliquely, diagonally; in a slanting direction or position.

16th November 2021: pantaloonery, n. Clowning or foolery, esp. by a Pantaloon in a pantomime or harlequinade; comic entertainment.

17th November 2021: greymail, n. A mild form of blackmail without demands for money; exercise of power over a person through possession of compromising information.

18th November 2021: microcinematography, n. Motion-picture filming of subjects viewed under the microscope.

19th November 2021: wildland, n. Land in a natural or uncultivated state (also in plural in same sense). Also: a region or tract of such land.

20th November 2021: slowcoach, n. (A name for) a person who acts, works, or moves slowly; a slow, idle, or indolent person. Now chiefly British.

21st November 2021: pseudepigraphy, n. False ascription of authorship.

Torrential rain needles slices biaswise the freezing air. The streets empty of people rushing to escape the weather in any shop or covered alley they can find, bodies deformed into hunched shapes, pulling coats over heads with one arm and clasping shopping bags with others, colliding and slipping all over the place in riotous pantaloonery. Now safely in the warmth of commerce they find themselves under the thumb of greymail, pressured to pay for their comfort by buying anything, anything at all, to justify their shelter. And what of those who can’t pay? There’s plenty of room inside, and yet some will never be welcome. The less fortunate, there but for the grace of… , are ignored, eyes averted, indepth studies of the microcinematography of the wildland of grime beneath a fingernail, feet hurrying by, always hurrying. But stop, here, slow down to embrace the rain. Soak it in slowcoach. Feel the slick stone of the edifice. Sign your name on the water-beaded shopwindow, beneath the pseudepigraphy of the neon sign that blinks “Welcome”.

29th November 2021

Entanglements

8th November 2021: lionfish, n. Any of several venomous spiny fishes of the family Scorpaenidae, esp. of the genus Pterois, which are native to the Indo-Pacific region and have bright contrasting stripes and spiky fin rays.

9th November 2021: mullocky, adj. English regional (west midlands). Dirty, untidy; rotten.

10th November 2021: cromulent, adj. Acceptable, adequate, satisfactory.

11th November 2021: roundaboutation, n. Speaking in a roundabout or indirect way; circumlocution.

12th November 2021: commonplaceness, n. The quality or condition of being commonplace; ordinariness. Also: an instance of this.

13th November 2021: mudlarking, n. The activity or occupation of a mudlark (in various senses), esp. the action of riding, playing, or driving in mud.

14th November 2021: anatical, adj. Chiefly Alchemy. Consisting of equal quantities of each ingredient.

This lion is a feather fish with a scorpion’s sting. It floats above the mullocky beds with its carnival stripes and predator’s hunger. Spines like spears, tipped with venom. A cromulent kill with every prick. Even giants can suffer mightily, should they tread without care, upon this beast. At first he’ll feel the sharp pain, and then will come the pins and needles. Within twenty seconds he is slurring his speech, roundaboutations of words as he struggles to maintain his balance, and the flat-surface commonplaceness of his world starts to rock like a ship at sea. Until down he falls, down into the sea-soft sand, to gargle on the silt, in amongst the mudlarking curlews and godwits, gradually resting in anatical balance, as a few brown bubbles rise then cease to rise.

22nd November 2021


Entanglements

1st November 2021: anachrony, n. Discrepancy between the order in which events of the story occur and the order in which they are presented in the plot. Also: an instance of this.

2nd November 2021: Beardsleyan, adj. Of, relating to, or reminiscent of Aubrey Beardsley or his art nouveau decorative illustrations.

3rd November 2021: hangry, adj. Bad-tempered or irritable as a result of hunger.

4th November 2021: bish-bash-bosh, int. (and n.) British colloquial. Indicating something accomplished or completed quickly or simply.

5th November 2021: mice, v. In Bermudian English: to daydream; to be distracted or preoccupied.

6th November 2021: antemundane, adj. Existing or occurring before the creation of the world. Also occasionally in extended use: extremely ancient.

7th November 2021: acker, n. British regional. A current in a river, etc.; a ripple, furrow, or disturbance of the surface of water.

Dear reader, you will have likewise noticed that this tale is disjointed, muddled, out of order. This is as all tales must be; anachrony is vital to order. Otherwise, the innumerable distractions of each scattered mind would render this a Beardsleyan chaos of unreadable, demonic lines. We would be tormented by the pedestrian quibbles of the hangry, the dull bish-bash-bosh of the careless, condemned as they are to mice as a substitute for living their dreams. For we loathe to be reminded of that gulf. There but for the grace… And yet, it has been said, that the antemundane condition of man was not in subjugation to some hierarchical society, nor was it a nasty, brutish, short and isolated existence. Rather, we were inseparable from each other’s pains and glories as the river is from its acker.

15th November 2021

Entanglements

25th October 2021: almuce, n. A hood, cape, or similar garment made of or lined with grey fur and worn by a member of a religious order (esp. a canon).

26th October 2021: amrita, n. In Indian mythology: the food or drink of the gods; ambrosia.

27th October 2021: aloed, adj. Bitter; full of pain, sadness, or affliction. Also in literal use: mixed or flavoured with aloes.

28th October 2021: badman, n. Originally Jamaican. A man who is (or purports to be) dangerous or menacing to a degree that inspires respect or admiration; a tough, combative, or uncompromising man.

29th October 2021: nostalgist, n. A professedly or habitually nostalgic person; a person who attempts to recreate or sentimentally recollects the past.

30th October 2021: unmute, v. To cause (a musical instrument) not to be muted.

31st October 2021: hattock, n. Scottish. A little hat. Chiefly in ‘horse and hattock’: a cry said to be uttered by witches or fairies wishing to transport themselves to another place.

He rides in the pale moonlight. Swaddled in dark habit, almuce pulled low against the light and wind, he urges his horse onwards. His stomach is empty, craving the simplest meal. Even dark, hardened bread and a morsel of cheese would be a divine filling, ambrosaic amrita. Yet his tongue is aloed by the badman he both flees and seeks, that monster whose crimes have poisoned all that was good and pure about the village, crimes no nostalgist could withstand. He felt his tongue throbbing with venom and longed to unmute it against this beast in some spell, some horse and hattock to banish this scourge to a faraway place from where he could do no harm.

8th November 2021

Entanglements

Oxford English Dictionary Word-of-the-Day

18th October 2021: hákarl, n. An Icelandic dish comprising the meat of a Greenland shark that has been allowed to ferment (traditionally by burial in sand for up to twelve weeks) then hung to dry for several months.

19th October 2021: beardom, n. The condition or state of being a bear or of being like a bear. Also: the realm of bears.

20th October 2021: dingolay, v. Caribbean (chiefly Trinidad and Tobago). To dance in an exuberant or uninhibited way. Also more generally: to twist or turn one’s body.

21st October 2021: otototoi, int. Expressing grief or pain: alas, woe.

22nd October 2021: fastenment, n. A device that closes or secures something; a fastening.

23rd October 2021: festie, n. A person who attends festivals, esp. regularly; a festival-goer.

24th October 2021: fast foodery, n. A restaurant selling fast food.

He’d been adventurous, gustatorily speaking, once upon a time. Spiced bat, reeking hákarl. The world was shrinking now, though. Recently, it had been all he could manage to collect a few tins from the shop, which he’d slowly make his way through, without pleasure, absorbing the calories in his deepening beardom as if a first hibernation loomed inexpressibly on the horizon of the future. There were many things he used to enjoy, which now would stir no feeling, the memory of which he could merely entertain abstractly, an intellectual puzzle, a thought experiment, from inebriated dingolays to the ache of a loving tryst, things that would once inspire a cry of joy or pitiful otototoi. But that was before, when he was maleable, liquid. The ice had gotten in, and pulled shut the casket lid, clasping its fastenment, and icing up the lock to prevent the entry of any key. The exuberant friends were the first to go, those frivolous besties and festies, fellow patrons of the fast foodery when there was simply no time to lose between events and experiences and the next big things. Then he was left with those tortoise-paced introverts, before they too grew impatient with his brooding. And now, he fades away, alone. Powering down for a long, long time to come.

1st November 2021

Entanglements

Oxford English Dictionary Word-of-the-Day

11th October 2021: plutomania, n. Excessive or frenzied pursuit of wealth.

12th October 2021: mariachi, n. A small group of Mexican strolling musicians who perform traditional folk music.

13th October 2021: cakeage, n. In a restaurant: the cutting and serving of a cake that has been brought in by a customer from off the premises; (hence) a charge levied for this service.

14th October 2021: redivivus, adj. Brought back to life; come back to life, revived.

15th October 2021: zeeping, adj. Designating a high-pitched noise like that produced by friction or something travelling at speed; (also) that makes such a noise.

16th October 2021: fairy bells, n. Any of various plants having somewhat bell-shaped flowers, as the foxglove, Digitalis purpurea…

17th October 2021: almond butter, n. A creamy dessert made with sweetened ground almonds. Now historical and rare.

They saw themselves dripping with gold. It hung off them, cold yet molten, in folds of phenomenal expense. These visions were just daydream dances of undeniable plutomania. Yet, one could imagine them perceived, like some ugly twinkle in the eye. Here, in the luxurious booth, tucked away in a quiet section of Cantina Andaluzia, they saw themselves across the millions of cotton threads of the tablecloth. The festive mariachi waltz was a dull, low-volume texture. Above it, the tickling of glass and cutlery, like the constant snapping of threads on the wire of a suspension bridge, babbling gossip and laughter, occasional hushed hagglings over corkage and cakeage and happy birthday tooo yoouuu.

Arise, arise, redivivus.

And, barely perceptible above the restaurant din, a soft zeeping — like the opening of foxgloves, a vibrating ring of fairy bells –floats and lands, smeared like almond butter on the eardrum of our most distinguished guest.

8th June 2020

 

A few days ago, #BlackintheIvory started trending on Twitter, documenting Black experience in academia. The stories were unsurprising and are an important front in the recent surge in #BlackLivesMatter activity. A little under sixty years previous, in the Jim Crow South, Vivian Malone famously suffered an attempt to obstruct her enrolment at the University of Alabama. Across the Mississippi, another V. Malone had faced the barriers of segregated education.

 

VMM

In August of 1961, in her home town of Waco, Texas, Vivienne Malone-Mayes applied to pursue a Ph.D. in Mathematics at Baylor College, Texas. She already held B.A. and M.A. degrees in Maths and was teaching the subject at Paul Quinn College. A few days after she wrote to Baylor’s admissions board, she received the following reply.

 

August 28, 1961

Dear Mrs. Mayes:

Thank you for your letter of August 24. I have discussed it with my superiors in office here but have nothing favorable to report. We have not yet taken down the racial barrier here, although I have been hopeful that it would be done eventually. It seems that everyone is waiting for everyone else and no one will take the initiative in such matters.

I sincerely wish that it were possible for me to process your application for admission to Baylor University as a student.

Very sincerely yours,

Alton B. Lee, Registrar and Director of Admissions

 

(It’s worth noting that Baylor didn’t even offer a Ph.D. Mathematics programme at that time, which Lee does not feel it necessary to point out). It was the University of Texas at Austin that would, in 1966, confer the title Dr. Malone-Mayes. After which, Baylor College had slightly lowered one racial barrier and offered Dr. Malone-Mayes a professorship. Yet, of course, as Claudia Henrion notes, “The obstacles she [Malone-Mayes] confronted were both large and small, and it took tremendous determination to pursue this path in relative isolation as an African American, and as a woman in mathematics, at Baylor”(Henrion, 1997).

Despite her personal strength and the support of her Church, Malone-Mayes’s health problems, in particular, were exacerbated by Baylor’s institutional racism. Her story is a key study in what bell hooks famously described as ‘systems of domination and the inter-relatedness of sex, race, and class oppression’ (1984) – yet one that also reclaims and reframes mathematics from something unattainable and abstract to a powerful pedagogical ally.

1st June 2020

 

regressus in infinitum – you can’t get to “100” without first passing “50”; you can’t get to “50” without first passing “25”. Und so weiter. This infinite regress is vicious, of course, because ‘you’re required to complete an infinite number of actions before attaining your goal, which – since the whole point of ‘infinite’ is that there’s no end to the number of these actions – renders the goal logically impossible’ (Wallace, Everything and More, pp. 48-9). Nothing changes. I know nothing of the Sisyphean hell, an eternity, a temporal ∞, of pain now smouldering in American cities. But I can see the infantry viciousness – ignorance sharp as knives and quick as a whip. Think critically, down on the street level. Analysis pending. Analyse. Limiting processes, the summation of infinite series, infinite processes, indefinitely continued without ever coming to an end. Such a series may be convergent, in which case it has a finite value or limit to which it approaches, or divergent, in which case it has no such limit. It was Weierstrass who proved that the infinite of Zeno’s Dichotomy is actually not an infinite regress requiring endlessly proliferating subtasks, but rather one task of traversing the distance from one side to its limit (the other side) – a convergent infinite series, whose limit we’ve been approaching for centuries. Or, perhaps, we instead find ourselves at a function’s exceptional point of singularity – undefined.

25th May 2020

 

On the 18th of November 2016, Sarah Kendzior implored her fellow Americans to “write about who you are, what you have experienced, and what you have endured”. What follows is a condensed, public-friendly version of my continuing attempts to honour the imperatives.

 

Write down what you value; what standards you hold for yourself and for others:

I value fairness, vision, and vitality. I try to be kind, curious, tolerant, and honest, and I try to empower others be the same.

 

Write about your dreams for the future and your hopes for your children:

I dream for a courageous future, where the braindead megaphones have long since fallen silent, and the birds don’t have to scream to be heard.

 

Write about the struggle of your ancestors and how the hardship they overcame shaped the person you are today:

My ancestors suffered and inflicted colonial atrocities. With little more than their words and their hands some acquiesced and some resisted. Their stories teach me that nothing is determinate, that there are always choices, that education can help you make the right ones – whether for the good of the self or the good of others. Even both.

 

 

Write a list of things you would never do. Because it is possible that in the next year, you will do them:

I will never underestimate greed. I will never consider a human being as anything less (or more). I will not stop calling out lies.

 

Write a list of things you would never believe. Because it is possible that in the next year, you will either believe them or be forced to say you believe them:

I will not believe in (false) equivalence, that there are always two equal sides – some things people say are just incorrect; some things they do are just plain wrong.

18th May 2020

 

It’s been a fairly productive week. I’ve kept on top of marking, organized upcoming Summer projects (some of which even pay!) and, most importantly, have completed a draft of my chapter for a forthcoming book on David Foster Wallace. Getting back into critical reading was a vital step, but it was still a very strange experience to be writing at this level, on a topic very close to my PhD research (but just different enough to require significant effort to reframe, especially on a very restricted wordcount). Getting these words on the page again is sparking all kinds of creative connections in my head. I’m feeling a bit manic about it all, simultaneously struggling to keep up with my thoughts and completely exhausted, what with all the global crises erupting all around. Thus, I’m loath to set any other deadlines, or even to really start something new. I don’t think I can handle simultaneous projects right now – going to try to get better at completing things sequentially for a change.