Actantial Relationships

Narrativium is a term coined by the famous author, Terry Pratchett, to describe the substance that makes up stories. According to him, Narrativium is the element that allows a story to exist, and it is present in every story ever told. Within this concept, actantial relationships have been developed as a tool for analyzing and understanding the characters and their roles within a story.

Actantial relationships are binary opposition pairings between characters, objects, or concepts that are essential to the development of the story. They are used to explain the problems within a narrative, and they help to define the roles that characters play in the story. Examples of these pairings include a hero paired with a villain, a dragon paired with a dragon-slaying sword, and a helper paired with an opponent.

The hero and villain pairing is perhaps the most recognizable actantial relationship. The hero is the protagonist, the one who the reader or viewer is meant to identify with, and who must overcome the obstacles that the villain places in their path. The villain is the antagonist, the one who creates the problems that the hero must solve, and who must be defeated for the story to reach its conclusion. This pairing is often used to explore themes of good versus evil, and it is a fundamental aspect of many stories, from fairy tales to epic adventures.

Another example of an actantial relationship is the dragon and dragon-slaying sword pairing. This pairing is used to explore the theme of power and its abuse. The dragon represents an almost insurmountable obstacle, a force of nature that must be conquered in order to achieve victory. The dragon-slaying sword, on the other hand, represents the power of human ingenuity and the ability to overcome seemingly impossible odds. This pairing is often used in stories that explore themes of bravery and perseverance.

The helper and opponent pairing is perhaps the most complex of the actantial relationships. The helper is a character who provides aid to the hero, while the opponent is a character who creates obstacles for the hero to overcome. These two characters are often in opposition to each other, but they are both necessary for the story to progress. The helper is the one who provides the hero with the tools they need to succeed, while the opponent is the one who challenges the hero and makes them stronger.

Actantial relationships are useful tools for analyzing the characters and their roles within a story. However, they are not without their limitations. While actantial relationships can help to explain the problems within a narrative, they do not necessarily provide a complete understanding of the story. There are many other factors that contribute to the development of a narrative, such as setting, theme, and tone, that actantial relationships do not address.

In conclusion, actantial relationships are an important aspect of the study of narrative structure. They provide a framework for understanding the roles that characters play within a story and the problems that they must overcome. However, they are not a complete analysis of a narrative, and they must be considered in the context of the other elements that contribute to the development of a story. Ultimately, actantial relationships are a useful tool, but the world is a complex and multifaceted place, and it cannot be reduced to a simple dialectic between two or more people holding different points of view about a subject. While reasoned argumentation and discourse are essential to understanding and solving problems, they are not the only means of achieving truth or progress.

Similarly, while the Marxist theory of change through the conflict of opposing forces has its merits, it too cannot account for the full complexity of the world. There are many factors that contribute to social change, and not all of them can be reduced to the conflict between opposing forces.

In reality, the world is characterized by a multitude of interacting systems and variables, each of which has its own unique characteristics and behaviors. These systems are often complex and unpredictable, and they do not always follow a linear or dialectical path towards resolution or change.

Furthermore, the world is also shaped by factors such as culture, history, geography, and biology, which all contribute to the way that people think, behave, and interact with each other. These factors cannot be reduced to simple binaries or dialectical oppositions, and they must be understood in their own terms.

In order to navigate the complexities of the world, it is important to approach problems with an open mind and a willingness to engage with multiple perspectives and viewpoints. This requires a deep understanding of the underlying systems and variables that shape our world, as well as a commitment to ongoing learning and growth.

Ultimately, while dialectics and conflict theory can be useful tools for understanding certain aspects of the world, they are not sufficient for fully comprehending its complexity. To truly understand and address the challenges we face as a global society, we must embrace a more nuanced and holistic approach that recognizes the multitude of factors that shape our world.

Music and Time

We start the wrong way round: thinking, by learning what we are not, to know what we as individuals are: whereas the whole of human consciousness contains not a tithe of what is, and therefore it is hopeless to proceed by a method of elimination, and thinking by discovering the motion life has made, to be able therefore to produce the motion it will make: whereas we know that, in life the new motion is not the resultant of the old, but something quite new, quite other, according to our perception.

DH Lawrence

More drinks are sold in bars when the music is slow, which makes for a more pleasant atmosphere, one in which customers want to stay-and order another round. Likewise, consumers spend 38 percent more time in the grocery store when background music is slow. The Royal Automobile Club Foundation for Motoring named Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyrie the most dangerous music to hear while driving. It is not so much the distraction but the music’s tempo that challenges the normal sense of speed of the drivers and causes them to speed up.

Sometimes you may have had the feeling when you listen to the music that time is literally grinding to a halt. The feeling is intense, palpable and strong. It is sometimes a life-changing moment, or a life-changing eon as it feels at the time. Although in my music I’ve learned to manipulate subjective time, I’m still amazed at the power of some music tricks. Composers predicted, almost two centuries ago, the neural underpinnings of the perception of time that research has underscored in recent decades

The concept of time that Deleuze formulated from the Stoics, Nietzsche, Bergson and Proust, and post-war experimental cinema has distinct ramifications for how we study music’s complex relationship with temporality. In the Stoic model, this kind of “eternal” time that precedes, gives birth to and orders time is Aion, and that which it gives rise to is Chronos. Deleuze saw that duration, or the motion of time, cannot be measured as a quantity, without infroducing a change in quality.

In response to this problem, Deleuze presents a radical decentring of our temporal understanding, by pointing out that the human perception of temporal flow is only one of many differing images of time.

Unlike the literal loss of “self” that occurs during intense perceptual engagement, the subjective perception of elongated or compressed time is related to self-referential processing.

An object — whether image or sound — moving toward you is perceived as longer in duration than the same object that is not moving, or that is receding from you. The directionality of musical melody and gesture evoke similar percepts of temporal dilation.

The subjectivity of time perception can be grounding and self-affirming — a source of great pleasure, or, conversely, able to create a state of disassociation with one’s self. Deleuze not only defines human experience; he also considers the experiences of molecules and plants.

The critique of spatialised time.

Deleuze’s (and Bergson’s) says that time has been traditionally misconstructed via spatial metaphors — where time becomes merely the vessel in which music is contained.

“our exclusive preoccupation with space at the expense of time, with things at the expense of processes”

One of the ways in which we create illusions of transcendence in temporality is demonstrated throughout the history of time/space relationships in Westem thought. Euclidian geometry confirms this concept of space, and therefore implicitly, its related understanding of time. The origins of this spatial understanding of time essentially come from Classical Antiquity: from the Plato and Aristotle.

First, space is infinite and infinitely extendable; second, it is empty, for only if it is empty can it contain things; and third its unchanging immobile. As a self-contained, axiomatic methodology, Euclidean geometry proposed a conception of space that was infinite, homogenous, precisely measurable and accountable according to mathematical postulates. Think of a long line that expands from the past to the future (timelines)

Newton’s time is infinite, absolute, universal, the same time for everyone. Such a linear interpretation of temporality forms the basis of our common understanding of time, in which we plot out points that are considered in relation to the universal temporal continuum.

Western thought has produced ordered wholes from the complex flow of time. Deleuze cites the “self” as one such example: instead of viewing it as an effect of time — what it actually is — the “self” is viewed as the ground of the flow of time.

Euclidean geometry’s was disrupted by privilege the advent of non-Euclidean geometries, such as the hyperbolic geometries of Reid, Gauss, Bolyai, and Lobachevsky. Out of Gauss’ theory of surfaces, Reimann developed spherical geometry, which proposes a world of -dimensions,

Just as these new geometries challenge the primacy of Euclidean representations of space, and the accompanying metaphorical understanding of time what Einstein’s relativity most strongly rejects is Newton’s distinction between space and time as distinct, unitary entities.

Instead, for Deleuze, space, time, and matter become interconnected, undefined, relative terms that are united in spacetime. Time is not linear but “Open.” As such it defies any attempt to specify its movement. Life is governed by multiplicity and time by lines of flight, which are all suppressed by the “One-and-Allness” (universal) of Western metaphysics.

“If the whole [of time] is not givable it is because it is the Open, and because its nature is to change constantly, or to give rise to something new, in short, to endure”

Each thing, living or unliving, flows in its own odd, intertwining flux, and nothing is fixed or permanent, not even man or the god of man, nor anything that man has thought or felt or understood. Everything flows. And nothing is real, or good, or right, but in its own living relation with its own circumambient universe to the things that are with it in flow.

However, these scientific representations of space and time do nothing to describe the passage of time, this being something that we feel innately in a subjective way. We may use clocks to but they tell us nothing of the actual motion of time: the in-between, the becoming

Rather, music embodies a separate, quasi-independent concept of time, able to distort or negate “clock-time.” This other time creates a parallel temporal world in which we are prone to lose all semblance of objective time.

It has long been held that, just as objective time is dictated by clocks, subjective time aligns to physiological metronomes. Music creates discrete temporal units but ones that do not typically align with the discrete temporal units in which we measure time.


The human brain, we have learned, adjusts and recalibrates temporal perception. Our ability to encode and decode sequential information, to integrate and segregate simultaneous signals. As human beings we have a way in which we think about time that’s undeniably useful when it comes to tv, bed, lifestyle etc. There are a lot of people out there that use what can be described as a linear use of time.

But music also demonstrates that time perception is inherently subjective — and an integral part of our lives.

“For the time element in music is single,”

“Into a section of mortal time music pours itself

Thomas Mann: The Magic Mountain.

We are collections of the things that you did in the past and the things that you will do in the future. But Deleuze offers and alt take on time (attributed to Bergson) the past exist in the present. The present exists in actuality while the past exists virtually. There are cells that exist in the present (in actuality) scientist can look at them study them etc. But simultaneously there’s a set of written code deep within that cell written in the past that exists at some level in the present but the scientist cannot see it.

We’re staring to see that the present-moment is not a snapshot in time
But more like a realm in which various thing from past present and future come to interact and within this realm they all exist. For Deleuze, time is

“a virtual flow of divergent durations”

and one can be freed from the illusion of a homogeneous linear time only by thinking time as an intensive flow. In his view, a situation presupposes

“a swarm of differences, a pluralism of free, wild and untamed differences”

Deleuze says that substance expresses itself through attributes. Expression as a process attempts to explain how a substance on its own without the help of any entity like a god can arrange itself into an infinite number of combinations, each combination a different arrangement. The universe is an expression from something within not a creation from outside. Substance, attribute and modes are the same thing. Substance is more like time than it’s like space and time it’s not time but the actualiaction of the virtual

It’s an ontology that doesn’t want to reduce being to the knowable but instead seems to widen thought to prod the unknowable. Thinking that produces new possibilities for life. In Deleuze’s schema, time is not “extensive” — that is, not the connection of separate units — but is “intensive,” as it takes the form of different and divergent “durations”:

“ […] beneath species and parts, we find only these times, these rates of growth, these spaces of development, these decelerations and accelerations, these durations of gestation”

While the sublime sense of being lost in time is relatively rare, the distortion of perceived time is commonplace and routine. Although immersed in the music, we are aware of time in the external world. We tend to breathe along with phrases, and find ourselves coming up short of breath. Neuroscience gives us insights into how during periods of intense perceptual engagement, the sensory cortex which is usually a focal area essentially switches off.

Broadly speaking, the brain processes timespans in two ways, one in which an explicit estimate is made regarding the duration of a particular stimulus — perhaps a sound or an ephemeral image — and the second, involving the implicit timespan between stimuli.

These processes involve both memory and attention, which modulate the perception of time passing, depending upon how occupied or stimulated we are. Hence time can “fly” when we are occupied, or seem to stand still when we are waiting for the water in the kettle to boil.

Rather than enabling perceptual awareness, the role of the self-related prefrontal cortex is reflective, evaluating the significance of the music to the self. However, during intense moments, when time seems to stop, or rather, not exist at all, a selfless, Zen-like state occurs

For Deleuze Time is not an a priori form; rather, the refrain is the a priori form of time, which in each case fabricates different times. Therefore, through deterritorialising the refrain, music has the efficiency of fabricating, or creating, time.

Therefore, when we study such music, we need to create concepts that take temporality into account: concepts that travel through time, as well as through space. In particular, it suggests that our musical examples have the power to transform time.

But having said that the past no longer exists. Same with the future. We may have plans for the future, we may even want to predict it but there’s a sense that future does not exist. Only the present and it’s supposed to be a gift (useful if you need to run errands)

A molecule does not operate in a certain manner by means of “slowing down” perception, thus predicting and considering. It operates at a faster speed, existing within a different temporal framework from that of human perception, and defined by different connections.

The process of creation starts for Deleuze when certain organisms are differentiated from chaos or the flows of difference which constitute life. This happens prior to any organized matter or system of relations. These organisms are not closed forms. They are rather to be regarded as “strata” which create a distinction between “inside” and “outside.” The phenomenon of stratification is behind the origin of organisms on the body of the earth: strata produce

“molecules large and small organizing them into molar aggregates”

All beings thus amount to what are just relatively stable moments in a flow of becoming life. Each organism opens out in two directions: towards chaos and towards its own limited forms. Deleuze described these connections as operating at different types of “speed” and “slowness.” As another example, when we perceive light emitted by the sun, we engage with it according to the way that the human eye and retina responds to this stimulus.

However, a plant responds to and connects in a very different way (through the process of photosynthesis), and at a very different “speed” than does the human eye. Instead, temporality becomes not only integral to music, but music becomes integral to the formation and interpretation of time. Music, through altering the time of recorded sound, demonstrates how the deterritorialising of the refrain can fabricate new images of time

Milieus and rhythms are in turn the elements from which territories are formed. A milieu is a “coded block of space-time” only ever provisionally stable in terms of its periodic repetitions. Despite its codification, a milieu is not in stasis, but rather in a continual change.

The human body. Its various components — the heart, lungs, brain, nerves, etc may be viewed as so many milieus, each with its own rate of periodic repetition. The rhythms of the body, however, take place between the various milieus, the heart’s regular measure etc

In a sense the heart’s periodic repetition produces rhythm, but not by reproducing an identical measure and not in isolation from other milieus. Its regular meter is a vital pulse, not a reproduction of the same. In other words, music can break down the forces that are integral to creating territories. The refrain is not the origin of music, but rather a means of warding off music’s explorations through its estabilizing influence.

Music can act like an instrument of time, or a time machine. We have developed the ability to use memory to consider and predict; to “slow down” thought, and act according to our past experiences. We tend to frace our perceptions back to a proper form of time representation.

The task of the classical artist is to organize chaos by distorting time perception. For that purpose musical time is notated with remarkable imprecision and ambiguity. Composers rely upon qualitative rather than quantitative directives to inform performers of intended tempo

And if the vagaries of such terms as Adagietto (somewhat slow), or Lentissimo (slower than slow) are not ambiguous enough, terms such as Allegro ma non troppo (fast, but not too fast), oblige the performer to imagine temporality from the composer’s perspective through guesswork.

While the manipulation of perceptual time is a pervasive aspect of music, particular composers, including Anton Bruckner, famous for his hour-plus symphonies, and Olivier Messiaen, took the warping of subjective time to extremes. Deleuze and Guattari present Messiaen as a composer who uses new approaches to time: in particular, his use of added values, rhythmic characters and non-retrogradable rhythms.

The illustration of bird songs is a constant source of inspiration for Messiean. Usually, he writes either for the piano solo (three books so-called ‘catalog of birds”), or orchestra with or without solo piano. Usually also, these birds are illustrated in a surrounding figured by chords or rather simple melodies, richly harmonized. Here, the scenery of the blackbird and its environment is scored for flute and piano, and so belongs to the small catalog of chamber music of Messiaen with the Quartet for the End of Times .

In the work, he turns contrasting distortions of perceptual time into musical structure. Following the opening melody in the movement, the second movement seems to move slowly and be far longer than it really is, then hastens and shortens before returning to a perception of long and slow.

What follows reverses the pattern, creating the perception of brevity and speed, followed by a section that feels longer and slower, before returning to a percept of short and fast. The conflict of objective and subjective time ultimately becomes unified in terms of structural organization.

An “added value” refers to the technique whereby one short rhythmic value is added to the components of any rhythm, resulting in “rhythmic characters” rhythm permutations that progress and withdraw over time, regardless of the normal meter.

1) Added values give us an ametrical, staggered time of variable intensities;

2) non-retrogradable rhythms, a circular and reversible time in which beginning and end are confused. They are the same whether they are played as written or retrograde (i.e. a rhythmic palindrome)

3) Rhythmic characters, an active, germinal flux of time;

These new images of time correspond to the definition of rhythm that Messiaen proposed, whereby rhythmic music was that which scorned regular metrical structure in favor of the free rhythms of nature. He effectively tricks us into perceiving a timespan far more expansive than registered by a stopwatch.

Within this illusion of stretched time, he embeds another illusion, of a considerably faster and shorter section sandwiched between slow and virtually motionless music, when, in fact, by the metronome and the clock, the sections are of equal length.

This rhythm concept resonates strongly with Deleuze’s idea of repetition. Time here is the power of life to evolve, mutate and become — the power that frustrates all attempts at attaining any stability or fixity.

“Our idea of time as a continuity, as an eternal straight line has crippled our consciousness cruelly”

In relation to any thought or idea, Deleuze envisions a state of carelessness, a state of receptivity, the awakening of the non-mental centers of consciousness. In this state of carelessness, mental consciousness and all of its behavior are suspended, as the individual human being experiences a strong sensual interaction with his surroundings. The concept of time, insofar as there is one, belongs to the knowledge field in which he only knows how not to learn.

We shall at last learn the pure lesson of knowing not to know. The apparently paradoxical dictum of knowing not to know that emphasizes the idea of becoming (something other than the stable/crystallized ego) in response to the superunknown.

We’re All Mark Hamill

“We are all Mark Hamill” is a statement that goes beyond a mere reference to the acclaimed actor who played the role of Luke Skywalker in the original “Star Wars” trilogy. Instead, it speaks to a larger concept of interconnectedness, empathy, and the capacity for self-transformation that lies within all of us.

At the heart of this statement is the idea that we all have the potential to change and grow, to evolve and become something greater than what we are at present. Mark Hamill, himself, is a testament to this, having started his career as a relatively unknown actor and eventually rising to become a cultural icon and beloved figure to millions of fans around the world.

But more than that, the statement “we are all Mark Hamill” speaks to a deeper sense of connection that exists between all of us, regardless of our backgrounds, identities, or experiences. It reminds us that, at our core, we are all human beings with the same basic needs, desires, and emotions. We all want to be loved, to be understood, and to feel like we matter in the world.

It is true that Mark Hamill has been able to channel some of the negative energy that comes with playing villainous characters, such as his iconic portrayal of the Joker in various animated Batman series and films.

In interviews, Mark Hamill has spoken about the cathartic nature of playing the Joker, describing the character as a kind of “release valve” for the darker aspects of his personality. By inhabiting the persona of a character who is evil, unpredictable, and anarchic, he has been able to tap into a different aspect of his creativity and find a way to channel his own negative energy into his performance.

The Joker, one of the most iconic villains in popular culture, has been portrayed in a variety of ways over the years. However, one interpretation that has gained considerable traction is the idea that the Joker represents the id – the primal, instinctual part of the human psyche.

Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, theorized that the human psyche is composed of three parts: the id, the ego, and the superego. The id is the most primitive and instinctual part of the psyche, driven by our most basic desires and impulses, while the superego represents our sense of morality and the ego mediates between the two.

When we examine the Joker’s behavior and motivations, we can see clear parallels to the concept of the id. The Joker is impulsive, unpredictable, and driven by his own desires and whims, with little regard for the consequences of his actions. He acts on his most primal urges, seeking to satisfy his own needs for power, control, and chaos without regard for the needs or well-being of others.

Moreover, the Joker is often portrayed as a force of nature, beyond the control of any one individual or group. He represents the chaotic, unpredictable aspects of life that can disrupt order and stability at any moment. This sense of unpredictability and primal power is a hallmark of the id, which is often seen as an uncontrollable force that can erupt at any time.

At the same time, the Joker’s character also embodies the concept of the shadow, another aspect of the human psyche that represents the dark and unconscious aspects of the self. Like the shadow, the Joker is often seen as a projection of the dark impulses and repressed desires that we try to keep hidden from ourselves and others.

Despite his villainous nature, however, the Joker’s character also speaks to a deeper truth about the human experience. We all have within us the potential for darkness and chaos, just as we have the capacity for goodness and compassion. The Joker represents the danger of allowing our own dark impulses and desires to run rampant, and the importance of finding ways to integrate these aspects of ourselves in a healthy and constructive way.

In this sense, the Joker can be seen as a cautionary tale, reminding us of the importance of self-awareness and the need to balance our own desires and needs with those of the world around us. By recognizing the primal, instinctual part of ourselves that the Joker represents, we can begin to take steps towards a more balanced and integrated sense of self, and a greater understanding of the complex and multifaceted nature of the human psyche.

Overall, it is clear that Mark Hamill’s ability to channel both the positive and negative aspects of his personality into his work has been a key factor in his success as an actor. However, it is also important to recognize the challenges and potential risks that come with playing complex and demanding roles, and to approach these topics with sensitivity and respect.

Furthermore, the statement challenges us to see beyond our differences and recognize the common humanity that unites us. It encourages us to practice empathy and compassion, to listen to others with an open mind and heart, and to treat everyone we encounter with the same respect and dignity that we ourselves would want.

At the same time, “we are all Mark Hamill” acknowledges the power of storytelling and the role that narrative plays in shaping our sense of self and our understanding of the world around us. It recognizes that, like the characters we see on screen, we all have our own personal narratives that shape our lives and influence the way we perceive ourselves and others.

Weird Tales and Amazing Stories

The 20’s in fiction is an elemental soup, open source of tropes made available, redistributed and modified. That means figurative language, words, phrases, images, recurring devices, recurring motifs and clichés shuffled around for artistic effect. Most of the tropes used for world building in sci-if can be traced back to Amazing stories and Weird Tales if not as origin, at least as funnel.

This is how literary and cultural tropes evolve and transform over time, often reappearing in different forms to shape the narratives of various eras. The 1920s were a particularly transformative period for literature and culture, and they continue to influence storytelling today. Here’s an expanded look at how the 1920s contributed to the development and redistribution of tropes in fiction:

  1. Cultural and Technological Shifts: The 1920s were marked by significant cultural and technological changes. The aftermath of World War I, the rise of consumer culture, urbanization, and advancements in communication and transportation all played a role in shaping the narratives of the time. These shifts provided a backdrop for exploring themes of disillusionment, societal change, and the collision of tradition with modernity in fiction.
  2. Pulp Magazines and Genre Fiction: Pulp magazines like “Amazing Stories” and “Weird Tales” gained popularity during the 1920s. These publications featured stories spanning various genres, including science fiction, fantasy, horror, and adventure. The stories often employed imaginative and speculative elements, laying the foundation for many tropes that would become integral to these genres.
  3. Influence on Science Fiction: The speculative and futuristic elements found in pulp magazines influenced the development of science fiction. Tropes like time travel, alien encounters, advanced technology, and dystopian futures gained prominence during this period. Writers like H.G. Wells and Edgar Rice Burroughs contributed to shaping these tropes, which have since become staples in the sci-fi genre.
  4. Weird Fiction and Horror: The 1920s also saw the emergence of “Weird Tales” magazine, which showcased supernatural and horror fiction. This genre contributed to tropes involving eldritch horrors, forbidden knowledge, cosmic dread, and the blending of reality and the supernatural. Writers like H.P. Lovecraft left an indelible mark on horror fiction, introducing themes that continue to resonate in contemporary horror literature.
  5. Flappers and Jazz Age: The cultural changes of the 1920s, including the rise of the “flapper” archetype and the vibrant Jazz Age, gave birth to new character tropes and settings. Characters challenging societal norms, embracing rebellion, and engaging in escapism were often depicted against the backdrop of speakeasies, jazz clubs, and extravagant parties.
  6. Detective Fiction: The 1920s were a golden era for detective fiction, with characters like Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot and Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes gaining popularity. The tropes of brilliant deductive reasoning, intricate mysteries, and enigmatic characters became defining elements of the detective genre.
  7. Artistic Experimentation: The 1920s witnessed artistic experimentation across various mediums, including literature. This era birthed literary movements like Surrealism, which explored the subconscious and the fantastical. Tropes such as dreamlike landscapes, fragmented narratives, and the blurring of reality and fantasy found their origins in these artistic endeavors.
  8. Cross-Pollination of Tropes: The diverse range of genres and themes present in 1920s fiction led to a cross-pollination of tropes. Elements from science fiction blended with horror, fantasy intermingled with mystery, and societal changes influenced character development and world-building across genres.

Overall, the 1920s served as a rich source of inspiration for storytelling, fostering the creation and redistribution of tropes that continue to shape modern fiction. The convergence of technological advancements, cultural shifts, and artistic experimentation during this era laid the groundwork for many enduring literary conventions that writers still draw upon to craft their narratives today.

Face the Music

Congratulations, you’ve reached the end of the road! It’s time to face the music and come to terms with the fact that your niche/job/gig is about to become a public good. Don’t worry, it’s not your fault, you just happen to be the victim of circumstance. But don’t worry, I’m here to help you recognize the signs.

Firstly, if you start hearing people talk about authenticity being everything, it’s time to start preparing for the worst. The more people talk about authenticity, the less authentic everything becomes. It’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack – impossible.

Secondly, if your portfolio is your calling card and should be continuously refined, it’s because everyone is trying to stand out. But the more people try to stand out, the more they all end up looking the same. It’s like a flock of sheep trying to be the blackest sheep in the field.

Thirdly, if no one knows what’s gonna happen and you’re responsible for identifying and learning the skills required to be better than anyone else at what you do, it’s because everyone is trying to stay ahead of the curve. But the more people try to stay ahead of the curve, the more they end up running in circles.

Fourthly, if you’re asked to take a ‘jazz’ approach, not a classical one, it’s because everyone wants to be different. But the more people try to be different, the more they end up sounding the same.

Fifthly, if you’re expected to be a clairvoyant, it’s because everyone wants to predict the future. But the more people try to predict the future, the more they end up creating it. But not in a good way

Sixthly, if you’re told to identify, build on and add to your transferable skills, it’s because everyone wants to be adaptable. But the more people try to be adaptable, the less adaptable they become.

Seventhly, if you’re asked to be a niche master, it’s because everyone wants to be an expert. But trying to be an expert in everything is like trying to be a main character with every power imaginable – you end up just being a hot mess.

Eighthly, if you’re told to wear all the hats, it’s because everyone wants to be a one-person show. But trying to be the star, the writer, the director, and the producer all at once is like trying to play a game of chess against yourself – you might win, but you’ll also look insane.

Lastly, if you’re told to embrace technology but never let technology rule, it’s because everyone wants to be the next Steve Jobs. But relying too much on technology is like “Advanced primitivism”- you’ll get lost with it, and you might even end up in a ditch.

In conclusion, if you’ve recognized any of these signs, it’s time to start thinking about the future. Your niche/job/gig may be about to become a public good, but that doesn’t mean you can’t thrive. Just remember, it’s not about being different, it’s about being you. And who knows, you might even be able to create a new trend that everyone else will follow. Or you can always try alchemy – you never know, it might just work.

Jump Over Rhodes

The quote “As for the individual, every one is a son of his time; so philosophy also is its time apprehended in thoughts. It is just as foolish to fancy that any philosophy can transcend its present world, as that an individual could leap out of his time or jump over Rhodes” by German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel highlights the idea that individuals and philosophies are products of their time and place. In this essay, we will explore this concept and its implications.

The idea that individuals are products of their time means that they are shaped by the social, cultural, and historical context in which they live. This context includes the prevailing beliefs, values, and ideas of their society, as well as the political and economic conditions that shape their lives. Individuals are not free to choose their context but are instead born into it, and it exerts a powerful influence on their lives.

Similarly, philosophies are products of their time, reflecting the prevailing ideas and beliefs of the society in which they were developed. Philosophy is not created in a vacuum but is instead a response to the cultural, social, and historical context in which it emerges. Philosophers are not free to choose their context but are instead shaped by it, and their ideas are influenced by the prevailing beliefs and values of their society.

The idea that philosophy is its time apprehended in thoughts means that philosophy reflects the ideas and beliefs of its time. Philosophy is not a timeless, universal truth but is instead a product of the specific historical and cultural context in which it was developed. Philosophers may strive for objectivity and seek to transcend the limitations of their time, but they can never entirely escape the context in which they live.

The idea that it is foolish to imagine that any philosophy can transcend its present world is related to the concept of historical relativism. This is the idea that there is no objective, timeless truth but that knowledge and truth are instead relative to the historical and cultural context in which they are developed. Philosophers may strive for objectivity, but they are always limited by their time and place, and their ideas reflect the values and beliefs of their society.

The idea that an individual could not leap out of his time or jump over Rhodes highlights the idea that individuals are not free to transcend their historical and cultural context. Just as an individual cannot escape the time and place in which he lives, neither can philosophy. Philosophy is a product of its time, and it reflects the beliefs and values of its society. Philosophers may seek to transcend their time, but they can never entirely escape it.

In conclusion, the quote by Hegel highlights the idea that individuals and philosophies are products of their time and place. Philosophy reflects the ideas and beliefs of its society and is not a timeless, universal truth. Philosophers may strive for objectivity, but they are always limited by their time and place. The idea that it is foolish to imagine that any philosophy can transcend its present world reflects the concept of historical relativism, which suggests that knowledge and truth are relative to the historical and cultural context in which they are developed.

The City and the City: Jerusalem

The City and the City is a science-fiction novel by British author China Mieville, which explores the concept of two cities that exist in the same physical space but are perceived as distinct and separate by their inhabitants. The book’s central themes of identity, perception, and borders make it a compelling lens through which to view the city of Jerusalem.

Jerusalem is a city that has been inhabited for thousands of years and is home to three major religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It is a city that is steeped in history, with layers of culture and identity built up over millennia. However, Jerusalem is also a city that is fiercely contested, with competing claims to land, sovereignty, and history. The city is divided into East and West Jerusalem, with each side claiming the city as their own.

Like the two cities in Mieville’s novel, Jerusalem is a city that is divided not just physically but also mentally. The different communities that live in the city often exist in parallel universes, with their own narratives, histories, and identities. The Jewish residents of West Jerusalem see the city as their capital, the heart of their state and their ancestral homeland. For the Palestinians who live in East Jerusalem, the city represents a symbol of their national identity and their struggle for self-determination. The Christian and Muslim communities also have their own unique perspectives on the city, adding to the complexity of its identity.

The separation of the different communities in Jerusalem is reinforced by physical barriers such as walls, checkpoints, and roadblocks. These physical barriers create distinct spaces within the city, which are often defined by their inhabitants’ ethnicity, religion, or political affiliations. These barriers are also reinforced by psychological borders, which are created by the different narratives and histories that each community has constructed for themselves.

One of the central ideas in The City and the City is that the separation of the two cities is maintained by a process of ‘unseeing.’ The inhabitants of each city are trained from birth to ignore the existence of the other city, to the point where they can walk past each other on the street without acknowledging each other’s presence. This concept is reflected in the way that the different communities in Jerusalem perceive each other. Each community constructs a mental map of the city that is filtered through their own narratives and histories, which can lead to a kind of ‘unseeing’ of the other communities that inhabit the same physical space.

The City and the City also explores the idea of identity, and how it is constructed and maintained. In the novel, the citizens of each city are required to wear specific clothing and act in specific ways to reinforce their identities. This is similar to the way that the different communities in Jerusalem construct their identities through dress, language, and cultural practices. The different communities in Jerusalem also have their own symbols and narratives that are used to reinforce their identities and justify their claims to the city.

In conclusion, The City and the City provides a fascinating lens through which to view the city of Jerusalem. The novel’s central themes of identity, perception, and borders are all relevant to the complex and contested city of Jerusalem. The separation of the different communities in Jerusalem is maintained not just by physical barriers but also by psychological borders, which are reinforced by the different narratives and histories that each community has constructed for themselves. The City and the City is a thought-provoking exploration of the way that we construct and maintain our identities and how we perceive the world around us.

Awaken the Mind by Fixing it Nowhere

The Zen proverb “Awaken the mind by fixing it nowhere” is a powerful reminder of the importance of mindfulness and meditation in our daily lives. At its core, Zen is a philosophy and practice that emphasizes the cultivation of awareness and mindfulness, with the goal of achieving a state of clarity and inner peace.

The concept of “fixing” in the Zen proverb “Awaken the mind by fixing it nowhere” can certainly be interpreted in multiple ways. While the term “fixing” could be seen as implying fixation or attachment, it can also be interpreted more broadly as a means of establishing a point of focus or attention.

When we “fix” our minds in this sense, we are not necessarily becoming fixated or attached to a particular idea or thought, but rather establishing a point of reference or anchor that allows us to remain present and focused in the moment. This can be particularly helpful in the context of meditation, where a specific object of focus – such as the breath – can help to calm the mind and cultivate a sense of inner stillness.

In this interpretation of the proverb, “fixing” can be seen as a means of establishing a sense of clarity and focus, rather than becoming attached or fixated on any particular idea or concept. By fixing our minds in this way, we are able to let go of distractions and cultivate a sense of inner calm and clarity, without becoming mired in thoughts or attachments that might prevent us from fully experiencing the present moment.

Whether seen as a means of fixation or attachment, or as a tool for establishing focus and clarity, the goal of the proverb remains the same – to awaken the mind and cultivate a deeper sense of mindfulness and awareness in our daily lives.

The practice of Zen meditation, or zazen, is a powerful tool for cultivating this sense of mindfulness and stillness. In zazen, practitioners sit in a specific posture and focus their attention on the breath, allowing thoughts and sensations to arise and pass without attachment or judgment. Through this practice, we are able to cultivate a sense of inner stillness and clarity, and to develop a deeper understanding of ourselves and our place in the world.

The Zen proverb “Awaken the mind by fixing it nowhere” also speaks to the importance of letting go of our attachment to external goals and expectations. When we are constantly striving for success or seeking validation from others, we can become lost in a cycle of anxiety and self-doubt. By fixing the mind nowhere, we are able to let go of these external distractions and focus on our own inner truth and wisdom.

Ultimately, the practice of Zen is about learning to live in harmony with the world around us, to cultivate a sense of inner peace and stillness, and to let go of the distractions and attachments that keep us from living fully in the present moment.


Edwin Turner | January 14, 2019 | 9 comments


Paul Kirchner’s Hieronymus & Bosch collects over eighty comic strips that riff on the afterlife of a “shameless ne’er-do-well named Hieronymus” and his faithful wooden toy duck, Bosch. The hapless pair are trapped in Hell, the primary setting for most of the strips (although we do get a bit of heaven and earth thrown in here and there). Kirchner’s Hell is a paradise of goofy gags. The one-pagers in Hieronymus & Bosch cackle with burlesque energy, propelled by a simple plot: our hero Hieronymus tries to escape, fails, and tries again.

And what sins have damned poor Hieronymus to Hell? When we first meet the cloaked miscreant he’s passed out, drooling all over an altar, clearly having enjoyed too much communion wine. An annoyed bishop prods him awake and kicks him from the church doors and into the village, where he proceeds to sin his ass off. Kirchner’s Hieronymus doesn’t quite fit all of the seven deadly sins in this morning (those same sins that the historical Hieronymus Bosch captured so well in his famous table), but he comes pretty damn close. Notably, he steals his comrade Bosch–a toy duck–from some poor kid. The wages of sin are death though, and poor Hieronymus, in a fit of wacky wrath, slips in some shit, falls on his toy duck, and careens into death.

Bad news: He’s in Hell, where hope is strictly prohibited:

And yet there is hope in Hell. The set-up in almost every strip in Hieronymus & Bosch is predicated on hope: Hope of escape, yes, primarily, but also hope for a bit of reprieve, a touch of novelty, a brief moment of entertainment, a flash of human contact. Maybe just a juicy red apple.

But juicy red apples are hard to come by in Hell. The damned are far more likely to encounter shit and piss. Hieronymus & Bosch puts the scatology in eschatology. “People often talk about all the shit they have to put up with in life, so I figured that if they end up in Hell they will have to put up with a great deal more,” Kirchner writes in an essay on the genesis of his latest collection. He continues: “My Hell is less about torment than frustration, aggravation, and humiliation, and shit seemed a good way to depict that.”

Kirchner’s Hell is full of shit: pools of it, moats of it, ice-cream cones full of it. And it’s not just the devils and demons that supply the excrement. No, even more insulting to Hell’s sorry denizens is the fact that they are literally being pissed and shat upon by the angels of Heaven above, a constant source of humiliation. If Kirchner’s vision of Hell is a space of abject indignation, his vision of Heaven is also colored by abjection. In Kirchner’s Heaven, schadenfreude is one of the greatest joys. The angels above are privy to all the punchlines below.

The demons of Kirchner’s Hell are downright sympathetic in comparison to these casually-cruel angels. Sure, the demons torture the damned souls, but they do so with a zany elan that almost comes across as loving. The demons are central to the Looney Tunes energy of Kirchner’s Hell. In each strip they foil our hero Hieronymus, out-tricking the would-be trickster in an eternal cycle of slapstick gags. And just like every other poor soul in Hell, the demons are just out there trying to have fun.

The demons get their jollies torturing Hieronymus and the other inhabitants of Hell by introducing something fun or entertaining to their prisoners, only to convert the potential pleasure into a degrading punishment. However, just as the demons torture the humans in Hell, they too are tortured by the Big Bad, Satan himself.

Satan is an intriguing figure in Hieronymus & Bosch, demonstrating a strangely perceptive ironic intelligence in the handful of strips in which he appears. He’s a creative figure, conjuring new tortures on the fly, and even with all his powers, he too is not immune to the degradation delivered from on high in Heaven. The last strip in the series is a masterstroke delivery of a classic slapstick punchline, but even if the joke is on Satan, Kirchner gives the Dark Lord the last word in Hieronymus & Bosch—quite literally. Satan authors the book’s postscript, an enthusiastic note delivered in the tone of an ebullient CEO bragging about his latest innovations. It’s all quite endearing. Indeed, one of my favorite moments in Kirchner’s strip happens when Satan sees that he’s been mocked. Some culprit (Hieronymus of course) has applied graffiti to the Satanic propaganda that decorates Hell. Instead of tracking down the guerrilla artist for additional tortures, Satan decides to keep the goatee and ‘stache.

Hieronymus’s tactic in this little episode is typical of his main strategy of resistance. Like most tricksters, he’s an artist, and Hell is his creative space. Throughout the collection Hieronymus tries his hand at all sorts of creation: he writes, sculpts, paints, and even puts on a shadow puppet show. Creative action is a form of protest in Hieronymus & Bosch, and there’s an implicit argument here for Kirchner’s readers. Hieronymus might be damned, but at least he’s going to make something out of it and have a little fun.

So hapless Hieronymus tries to have a little fun in Hell, as do the demons, as does Satan. Kirchner’s Hell often erupts with circus energy: there are dance contests and merry-go-rounds, whack-a-moles and magic shows, Punch and Judy shows and carnivals. Of course, these amusements are always tricks—but at least someone’s having fun.

Appropriately, Hieronymus & Bosch has a fun visual style. The work here is a bit simpler than Kirchner’s early surreal Dope Rider strips, and rounder and softer than his bus strips. This isn’t to say that Hieronymus & Bosch doesn’t showcase Kirchner’s affection for surrealism and Escheresque drafting techniques–it does–but the strips in Hieronymus & Bosch show restraint in employing those moves. There’s a cartooniness to these strips that’s reminiscent of a less-frenetic Sergio Aragones or a less-grotesque Basil Wolverton. And while the collection employs occasional motifs from the painter Hieronymus Bosch, Kirchner is not overly-beholden to his strip’s namesake.

For all the simplicity of his design, Hieronymus himself is remarkably expressive. His frowns protest, his smiles plead, his grins show flashes of (momentary) triumph. He’s our human in Hell, and Kirchner imbues him with an heroic spirit, despite his loutish ways. Hieronymus exemplifies the human position as an artistic position, one which opposes the existential despair of living in a world of repetition and boredom. If life often seems boring, repetitive, and even meaningless, it’s up to us to convert boredom into fun, to find meaning in our own creative action. The gags and goofs in Hieronymus & Bosch illustrate that there can be fun in failure, that even if we fail we can get up and try, try again.