Category: editorials

Memorizing Poetry

As promised, Serious Business.

In order to improve my memory, impress chicks, and maybe even learn something, I’ve begun memorizing poetry. During the summer, I committed the entirety of T.S. Eliot’s “The Hollow Men” to memory, in addition to several other poems over the past seven months or so. Namely, Edgar Allen Poe’s “El Dorado,” Stephen Crane’s “In the Desert,” Ezra Pound’s “A Pact” and “In a Station of the Metro,” and Robert Frost’s “Fire and Ice.” Right now I’m working on Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.”

The process is surprisingly easy. Just going a couple lines at a time, memorizing even a longer poem like “The Hollow Men” isn’t too difficult, so long as one is willing to invest some time in the process and repeats the learned material with some regularity. Shorter poems, especially highly metrical ones like “El Dorado,” take very little effort at all.

To what end this endeavour? On a practical level, it’s a workout for one’s memory, and helps me remember portions of works that I have not even tried to commit to memory. Having a ready body of works memorized also allows one to take advantage of any opportunities for a (perhaps overly) clever reference in the course of conversation.

Of course, spending so much time with a poem also aids understanding. I feel that I understand “The Hollow Men” better now than I did when I first began memorizing it, simply because I have dealt with it so much. The structure of these poems also becomes much clearer.

In short, it’s an engaging, beneficial exercise, and a big hit at parties

Nerdy parties, anyway.…

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Online Masks and Faces

Wearing your mask right now?

For a class I recently read the short story “The Moon Moth,” by Jack Vance. Part of the premise of the story is that everyone on the planet the story takes place on wears a mask at all times. The masks serve to inform others of one’s social status, as well as one’s personality and current mood. So, a renowned craftsman would wear a different mask than a young craftsman, and both wear different masks than a slave or prince. These masks are tremendously important in this world, and are the primary means of determining how to address someone.

This sounds outlandish, and though my professor drew an analogy to the type of car one chooses to drive, there’s really no parallel in the real world. However, the concept reminded me of the avatars used on online forums.

As in “The Moon Moth,” a person has total control over his appearance in an online environment (or at least in the types of environments considered here). I’ve discussed the significance of one’s screen name before, but the avatar is just as important. After one has been visiting a forum for a while, it’s common to identify others by their avatar more than by their name, not unlike in the real world, where one first recognizes others by their face. Except, unlike one’s bare face (barring, say, battle-scars) one can use an avatar as self-expression.

Probably the most common form of self-expression via avatars is an indication of one’s interests. If I were to use the above image as an avatar, I’d clue in others that I’m at least interested in comics and animation in general, those who recognize Rei (the female character) could also assume I specifically like Neon Genesis Evangelion, and those who are really nerdy (yeah, like me…) and recognized this specific image could also infer that I’m a fan of Kiyohiko Azuma. Of course, the text in the image can also say something about me, though usually an avatar is a little more subtle than that.

For example, I change my avatar on forums I frequent depending on what topics I’m involved with at the moment (I post infrequently enough, though, that I’m often only involved with a few threads at a time). When posting a musical parody (note: this links to a Megatokyo fanwork), for instance, I generally use this image of John Lennon’s ear:

Alternatively, on other forums, such as Civfanatics, where I’m more laid back, I’ll use an appropriate image (this particular avi is taken from the webcomic Attack of the Amazing Flying Spud):

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