Thursday, July 26, 2012

Writerly writing, coderly code

When I try to show my brother a good song, he sometimes rolls his eyes.

"That's easy. It's just the same three chords over and over."

This is the kind of thing that a classical guitarist like my brother might be expected to say. People who lecture in music theory typically don't drive home listening to Britney Spears.

It's the same for every kind of art. There are two classes of successful artists: those who enjoy fame and respect among the critics and theorists, and the proletarian underlings that the normals listen to.

In literature, these two classes are commonly termed "writerly writers" and "readerly writers."

Yeah that's great James. Thanks a lot.
There are guys like Stephen King, whose stories you know from the myriad movies derived from them even if you've never picked up a book, and there are guys like James Joyce, who you need a master's degree, a handle on Greek mythology, and a primer on Irish dialects to even begin to misunderstand.

I think both categories are cool. There's a lot of snarky back-and-forth between the camps, but I think they're both good for what they're good for. It only starts to be a problem when your career expectations align with one camp and your body of work belongs to the other. This happens sometimes. How badly does Madonna want to be seen as a serious artist? How badly did Plato want to be king?

The greater the respect you can command, the smaller the number of people who are able to give it to you. In a modern ideational universe with so many narrow caves to passionately explore, the most severely elite are often appreciated by almost no one but themselves. Daniel W. VanArsdale has never seen a dime for his godlike understanding and collection of chain letters. The best graphic designer I know makes website backgrounds that actually stir one's soul. They're original. They're painstakingly well composed. It's designerly design. How it stacks up against a default WordPress template when it comes to moving product, I don't know. He has a day-job at Kinko's.

I like interesting stuff, myself. I write programs in prolog. I read a lot of anarcho-taoist-individualist philosophy. But I have yet to be cold-called by a prolog recruiter, or put on the anarcho-taoist-individualist philosophy lecture circuit.

It bothers me that I can't find a prolog interpreter for my android phone. Maybe someone started building one, but shelved so they could turn their attentions towards the world's ever more dire need for mind-blowing million-download apps like the Big Fart Button. Which is really what this post about: farting may be the key that could unlock my life. If you want success, start farting. That's what I've decided. (Hat tip, Levi Self.)

Your deep thoughts can't get you your beach house in Bora Bora. In fact, the deeper your thoughts, the less far they can take you. Fart buttons can take you to the moon.

Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind, but if you have goals involving Davos, a mind with much integrity will steer you towards things pedestrian.

I'm trying to learn to do this.

Someday, maybe, when I've sold enough funnel cakes, I can work machine ethics.

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