Verifiability and Poeticism Go to the Beach

There’s a play between verifiability (which is to say, navigability, determinability, investigability) and poeticism (which is to say, surprise, variety, artfulness) which appears in natural language writing, computer programming, and all language and sequential audio/visual/touch arts. You have two things playing together, one is the structure, one is the eventual effect; and the way they talk is of the utmost. Ok, so structure, form, skeleton, this is the device by which an effect is brought to you, is applied to you; this is the punctuation in eecummings, this is the indentation and architecture of simple and masterful C, this is a paragraph in English from Donna Tartt. These are domains in which there is no known best answer; but in these domains there are most definitely right answers and wrong ones. Perfection in this tension play is achieved when verifiability is *just* achieved—nothing short of it, but nothing beyond what it requires…and, when, also, poeticism is maintained: poeticism as just enough imbalance, just enough symmetry, just enough symbolism to be manipulatable, simple-seeming, and abstract. It is the large-scale structure (the form), I think, that enables verifiability at a local level in a componentized system: a C function, a line of dialogue, a specific, a sparse, scene, is perfect precisely because it is locally comprehensible due to its seeming simplicity (via its representation in abstractable, in other words, envelopable, symbols) and as well due to its effect (via its meaning in the context of the definitions of the symbols it refers to (poetically, abstractly), in the ordering and placement and syntax that is the form of the relationships of those symbols, without which form there would be no effect). If you know me, you know I make no claims; rather, this…is a confession.

Let’s look at some text examples.

Here’s a C function that is at once simple and effectual. It is verifiable and poetic. You would pay money for such a function because you can tell that this function does something (and whoever wrote it knows what it does); it is standard and clear. The way the function is expressed indicates that its author has logical and sane thoughts (people who write functions like this are happy to make changes to their functions, because making changes to functions like these is easy):

bool server_start(server_t *server){    bool success;

    if (start(server)) {        if (0 == pthread_create(&server->server_thread,                                NULL, server_thread,                                (void *) server)) {            success = true;        } else {            success = false;        }    } else {        success = false;    }    if (!success) {        stop(server);    }

    return success;}

Here’s a C function that is neither verifiable nor poetic. It is worthless. It is meaningless. You would never pay money for this function because it is convoluted and obscure; you can’t be sure of what it does (given that the function designer is unsure of what it does). The way it is expressed is disorganized and confused; the person who wrote this function is insane (people who write functions like this are even more apprehensive about making changes to their own code than they are about other people making changes to their code, because making changes to code like this is hard):

void image(int x,int y){int i,j;    long ii,jj,z1,z2;    unsigned char array[1024];    unsigned xx,yy,a,b;    xx = XResolution;    yy = YResolution;    a = .4*xx;    b = .26*yy;    z1 = 2*1024L/a;    z2 = 1024L/b;    vsa_move_to(x-2,y-2);    vsa_set_color(250);    vsa_rect(x+a+1,y+b+1);    for(j=0;j<b;j++) {        for(i=0;i<a;i++) {            ii = (i*z1) & 0x000003ff;            jj = (j*z2+256) & 0x000003ff;            /*.....            array[i] = 144+112*sin(i*6.28/c)*cos(j*6.28/c);            .....*/            array[i] = 144+112.0*(SINE_LUT[ii]*SINE_LUT[jj]);        }        vsa_raster_line(x,x+a-1,y+j,array);    }    return;}

Even if you don’t program in C, I think the difference will be apparent. Forget trying to understand what either of these functions does inside a computer. The question is what {the language in which the functionality is encoded} does inside your mind—think of them in an abstract sense. In one example, you detect symmetries and asymmetries, repetitions and patterns that resonate with a lingual and symbolic brain; this example also deceives us with its seeming simplicity (yet, due to the contextual definitions of the symbols it contains, it is effectual, functional, potent—the symbols start(server) and stop(server) have external definitions which encapsulate meaningful functionality, yet in this context they are presented simply, through abstractions). In the other example, there is a lack of form which produces meaninglessness. That function might do something, or it might not, we will never know; it is characterized by a blindness to form; its lack of poeticism is not a strength when it comes to this function’s effectualism—the simpler one is harder to write, even though it’s easier to read. When something does something, but it doesn’t mean anything, then, again, it doesn’t do anything. At least it doesn’t do anything knowable, doesn’t do anything verifiable.

The first is poetry, the second is rambling. The form of each is crucial to the verifiability, translatability, comprehensibility, meaning, validity, and force of the effect (that is to say, the function) of each. The funny thing (but not funny ha-ha) is that bad poets can never know how truly bad they are—what makes you a bad poet is not being able to tell the difference between a poem and not-a-poem. Bad poets think they are getting more done with their complex-seeming poetry than those whose poems are simply and elegantly expressed—simplicity and clarity are exclusively the domain of the talented; you will find the most idiotic people expressing themselves in the most opaque ways…only a person who is pure will ever be able to answer any question with a simple “yes” or “no”; the faker in the room will invariably respond to every question at length (this has an analogue in the differences between the two function architectures shown—the structure of the first answers questions simply and plainly, the structure of the second is oblivious to the value of that type of clarity). Another way to recognize idiots and bad poets is that when they summon the hero in themselves they always see a warrior; warriors, on the other hand, believe themselves to be poets. The most violent warriors, as lovers, are the most tender, the most vulnerable. Bad poets are defensive. If you have conversations with them they will think it is you who does not makes sense (because to them, what you do (and do beautifully) is unrecognizable)—those who hear not the music think the dancers mad.

Something that mediocre writers, mediocre programmers, mediocre visual artists, mediocre scientists, and mediocre businesspeople fail to grasp, is this: if what you do, what you make, or how you express yourself isn’t supremely elegant (in form), then whatever it is, is useless (in function). The idiot laughs at his listeners because he can say something they do not understand; the genius laughs at anyone who is unable to express himself to an idiot. If you find yourself trying to bowl me over by confusing me, know that the joke is on you. To be of substance and value is to speak such that everyone who hears you understands. Contrary to the attitude of the pseudo-intellectual: to confuse me…does not reflect well on you.

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Verifiability and Poeticism Go to the Beach

Some questions invite discussion;

some questions have right answers. For instance: which Real World season is the best (the most brilliantly produced, the most amazing drama, the sexiest cast)? This is one of the [few] issues of human life that has a definite answer; do you know what it is? Hint: it’s not Las Vegas or Denver. If you think it’s either of the New Yorks then you’re way too political for me. And if you think it’s Key West [no offense, but] you’re mentally ill.

Some questions invite discussion;

and the thing is

if you’re reading this and you haven’t talked to me on the phone or emailed with me in the last 24 hours then you don’t know anymore than bo knows. you called out to me and I saw a deadly spider on the wall of my bathroom. I wear paul frank glasses and watch netflix with the most relevant adjective. when I post poets come out of the woodwork calling me a poet. how funny funny funny. and if your syntax allows for it share a $5 pair of mittens with me on south broadway, cousin of mine. wolf hat. you judge the last sentence as if it wasn’t complete. and that’s your failing; and it’s never my duty to tell you of it.

and the thing is

You can’t write on blogs

not if you want to speak what you really feel and speak in specifics, self-expression is anti-social, the survival trait in groups is delicately not to offend, groups require exactly this, I used to think me and my friends were special, but no, this is all groups, all workplaces, or maybe I just miss my old friends, and that is no offense to my current friends (some of whom are old friends), it takes time to get to know people usually, except for those rare sparkling soulmates you meet on the first word (actually before, in the first look), that’s those though, some are built well with time, built better?, not sure, think it varies on a case by case basis, and actually me and my friends are special, when I compare what I thought at the time with what happened later they never match, now I remember that when I think at the time, the present seems all-consuming right now, and the relevance pass, I mean relevance passes, but the syllabic nature of the present tense works so much better in that statement don’t you think?, sometimes I feel like I can’t understand what someone is saying, I feel like I’m slow and stupid, and sometimes later it seems instead that we were talking different languages, or maybe I convince you that what I’m saying makes sense right at the moment that I am convinced that what you are saying makes sense when the two are at odds, as of late I think of the meta-skill of knowing what to do that goes with knowing how to do, favorite example being the old man and the sea, why is that his most revered book?, it’s no mistake it came nearer the end of his career than the start, that book wasn’t hard for him to write I suspect, the writing was easy, the unusual thing he did there wasn’t writing a book, it was knowing what book to write, that’s the difference between young hemingway and old hemingway, old hemingway knew much much better not how to write, but what to write, what was appropriate to write, what was timely and what would be resonant and impactful to write, a million people know how to tend the gardens of software but none of us know what to plant hardly that would make any difference, the skillful application of a tattoo is relatively common compared to the insightful wise judicious selection of a tattoo I’ll never forget, like a comma, like lincoln, those are good tattoos, but mostly everyone gets tribal knots and kanji symbols, what else can I say without offending anyone?, of course everyone including me is afraid that everyone else will take offense to what we say and who we are but of course actually everyone wants to really hear all those things and see us be all those things that are really us, but it’s still hard, there’s still that temptation to fear, I never really understood karma until this year, in my early twenties people used to say I had karma in the bank, at present that account is overdrawn and I think it had to happen before I could appreciate what karma is, I used to think it was this crappy new age thing but now I know it’s more like you make your bed and you lie in it, it doesn’t really have anything to do with anyone else, I have this new policy I love, I love my policies, my new policy is if you’re a shithead I don’t have to be nice to you, well actually that’s the crude version the real version is if you’re aligned against me I won’t help you in any way ever, for instance my policy used to be that I needed to be true in a moment, which meant being true to others too, I had to change that, when you’re sharing a moment with someone who wants to hurt you, it doesn’t make sense to help them, even if to avoid helping them you have to withhold information (which I classify as a lie), you start with a clean slate naturally but once you become a shithead the normal laws do not apply, once you become a shithead I don’t need to speak to you, respond to you, help you look good to people I know who you are trying to impress, once you become a shithead I can without qualm withhold information from you that would prevent you from being hurt, yep, once you’re a shithead I no longer have any duty to help you, once you’re working against me, once you’re trying to hurt me, I put you in the last page of my book and I refer to the policy whenever coming in contact with you, once you become a shithead you can basically suck it, and you can become not-a-shithead, it’s actually quite easy, I don’t keep grudges, all you have to do is stop doing things to hurt me, simple, so simple, and yet so hard for some of you, and if you’re reading this and you’re a shithead, then stop being a shithead, although most of the people I know who read this aren’t shitheads, but we’re all shitheads a little bit, and I reject any content that objects to style, form follows function and all that, of course it doesn’t, of course it doesn’t, I saw this ad in a magazine, it said subaru is a proud sponsor of women who kick butt, they were trying to get women to buy suvs, I cut it out and taped it to my door and when I look at it I say to myself, of course they aren’t, of course they aren’t, even if subaru gave an suv to every woman on the planet there’s just no way that statement could ever be true, subaru is a proud sponsor of women who kick butt?, of course they aren’t, of course they aren’t, of course form does not follow function, function is impossible without form, form is impossible without function, a form cannot be without effect, nothing can be effected outside of form, so take your movie reviews that say elizabeth the golden age is bogged down under the weight of its visual grandeur, it’s a movie not an almanac, movies are pictures and sounds and if you don’t go gaga over pictures and sounds when you make a movie and when you watch a movie then I suggest you stop making movies and stop watching them, that’s you in the plural, as in, all of humanity, what makes a movie a movie and not a book, what makes prose prose instead of poetry, is the nature of the snapshot, the nature of the snapshot, there I made it a title see, the nature of the snapshot is it’s a unique moment in time that will never exist again, of which there will never be a copy, that look on a face, the way the sky was for one hour on one night of the entire universe, that’s what poetry is, what’s poetic in a thing is what can’t be translated into another form, what’s poetic and meaningful and special about the gettysburg address is everything I have never felt because I was never there, what’s poetic about it is everything that would be lost if someone else spoke it, what’s poetic about it is everything that would not survive translation into any other language, as such if you’re going to make anything in a form, which if you make anything you’re going to be doing whether you like it or not, you better do things that you can only do in that form, that are loved and supported by that form better than they are supported or loved or made possible by any other form, otherwise you do not understand the form you are using, and you do not know anything about form, and anyone who considers form to be a frill is the very picture of an idiot when it comes to function, it goes the other way too, you know who you are, scientists who consider business an assailant to the purity of your methods, businesspeople smug in your inability to feel art, artists too visionary to consider what is right in front of your face, your hunger your need for sex your want of comfort, you are a fool to deny the pain in your wrist as any less important than all those wonderful abstractions, I am speaking to myself of course

You can’t write on blogs