July 12th, 2006

ozarque figure

Emotional weather; part ten...

I had an off-LJ note from fibermom saying (with regard to my proposed negative emotional weather front):

"I've spoken to some people about it in real life, and found that several, while not themselves feeling that way, agree that it exists and see it as a practical problem. Something that keeps people from voting, for example, or that causes poor parenting with bad consequences for the children. ... I have noticed one thing about this that seems like a serious problem but which has not I think been mentioned in the discussions: People seeing this emotional weather front coming do want to get away from it. The people already feeling that way are seen as an obstacle, a problem, a source of 'negative energy,' toxic people you don't want to be around. Folks may offer what they see as help, but when it is rejected, they brush off their hands and think they've done what they could. ... I don't think it is a lack of compassion per se. Maybe it is like a quarantine."

This makes a lot of sense; most people don't like hanging out in an environment of hopelessness and futility. And it's frustrating to try to help and get nothing back but "That wouldn't work" and "That's just naive" and "There's no point in trying that -- it would just be a waste of time," and perhaps even more unpleasant responses than those. But it brings up a crucial point that demonstrates the need to choose the right metaphor.

If the phenomenon we've been discussing is most accurately understood as an epidemic, as some of you have suggested in your comments, then the idea of handling it by quarantine follows logically. It may not be the best choice, but at least it makes sense: the goal would be to make certain that this incapacitating negative emotion spreads no farther in the population than it already has.

If, on the other hand, the most accurate metaphor is weather, you can't quarantine it any more than you could quarantine a hurricane, and some other measure -- including, I suppose, "just let it blow over and wear itself out" -- has to be chosen.

If this were a linguistic problem on a written page and confined to a textbook, you'd start looking for semantic features and reality statements that would help you determine which metaphor was the better fit, or would help you determine that some other metaphor was an even better choice. The textbook could be relied on to provide you with enough data to carry out that task. When it's a problem that's loose in the real world, looking for the semantic features and reality statements might still be the right strategy, but you don't have a neat set of data to do the work with.

Some time back, xthread, responding to my hypothesis that there's a negative emotional weather front out there, moving across the country, getting stronger as it goes, sucking people in as it goes, commented: "Perhaps you mentioned this earlier in the thread and I missed it, but where do you feel it has progressed to?" I can't answer that; I don't know where or how it started, or how large it is, or how large an area it covers, only that the evidence for its existence keeps accumulating.

And then there's the comment from therck: "I simply think that it's as damaging to believe that all problems have solutions as to think that none of them do. Does that make sense?"

Again, I can't answer that; I don't know. It's an interesting concept, but foreign to me. Linguists are trained to believe that all problems based in language have solutions and that most problems are based in language; they're trained in a set of systematic strategies and techniques for working toward the solutions to the problems. And they either get toughened to having that evoke as a response "That wouldn't work" and "That's just naive" and "There's no point in trying that -- it would just be a waste of time" (and even more unpleasant utterances), or they take care to confine their efforts to ivory-tower issues.
ozarque figure

Recommended listserv; womanpoets...

I am really enjoying the "Discussion of Women's Poetry List" listserv, which I joined recently; I recommend it to those of you who are interested in the subject.

To subscribe, you send an e-mail to listserv@lists.usm.maine.edu, with a blank subject heading and the message "SUB WOM-PO YOUR NAME"; there's the usual verification process, and then a set of very clear instructions for participating.

Lively list. Interesting messages and poems. A post of favorite poems by "Foremothers" each Friday. And, to my great pleasure, list members who delete all that long trailing text that accumulates as a discussion goes on, so that I don't have to spend endless time scrolling through it to get to the new material.
ozarque figure

Breadmaking note...

As I was making bread this morning I realized that I'd left something out of my recipe when I posted it to this journal -- not something crucial, fortunately, but something useful. I'd like to fix that.

The recipe is at http://ozarque.livejournal.com/174694.html . At Step 7 it tells you to put the dough to rise for one hour. Standard procedure would be to take the dough out of the bowl you've been mixing it in, put the aforementioned dough in a nice clean different bowl, put it to rise, and wash and dry the other bowl.

You don't have to do that. You can just leave the dough in the original bowl, even if there are still streaks of flour on the sides of the bowl, that you weren't able to mix in. (And there will be.) Leaving it in that bowl won't affect the taste or texture or appearance of the bread in any way, for good or for ill, and it will save time.

I know Martha Stewart would never do this. But it's one of the things I do to get two loaves of excellent bread with only ten minutes of actual labor, and I give you my word that it does no harm.