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September 06, 2003

Higgledy Piggledy

Higgledy Piggledy
Albert A Michelson
Did his experiment,
Came away miffed.
"Need a more accurate
Interferometer!
Back to the drawing board --
Can't get the drift."

A splendid example of Double Dactyl comic verse, there. A competition winner, I believe, from Asimov's way back in my youth -- sometime in the early 1980s, I should think. Funny what sticks in your mind. Alas, though I remember the words I don't know their author, so this flagrant copyright breach can't even be mitigated by proper attribution.

Drunk and delirious as I am, I can't remember why I started with that. I'm sure there was a good reason, but now it's gone with the wind.

Still, what a great verse, eh? The Double Dactyl form is taxing in a pointedly silly way -- the kind of constraint-based comedy that would surely have appealed to the Oulipians -- and yet the writer here, whoever s/he was, glides over it effortlessly to summarise a seminal moment in late 19th century physics. Of course, if you don't already know what it's about, you're stuffed. Those scant syllables aren't there to impart knowledge, only to entertain. It's a classic geek joke: wonderfully witty to those in the know, utterly incomprehensible to everyone else. Don't understand it? Welcome aboard the B Ark. (Look, there's another one.)

The point of all this escapes me. Except, obviously: steer clear of alcohol and drugs, kids. They fuck you up.

Ahem.

There's this tendency I have, and I think others have it too, to consider myself more approachable than I am, and everybody else less approachable than they are. This can be bad news in nearly every kind of social interaction, and it's certainly a curse on the gay scene. From genteel tea dances to sleazy naked fuck parties, you can rely on that wallflower gene to express itself. I can't tell you how many dodgy backroom hellholes I've been in where everyone has hung back exchanging looks until the end of the night and then tottered off untouched and unsatisfied. All so busy trying to look available that we never avail.

The same dynamic, I suspect, affects the blogiverse. Certainly, there are many blogs I regularly read that I'm far too intimidated by to comment on. I'm not going to presume the converse is true here -- other considerations aside, who could possibly be intimidated by lickle ol' me? -- but I do find myself reading the entries in some blogs and being astonished to see them go uncommented. While not commenting myself, of course.

My defensive response to this -- this shyness, I guess we should call it, with apologies to Shyboy -- is to be a bit of a twat. Thus I wind up posting comments on various blogs that, if not exactly belligerent, are at least pompous or pedantic or somehow tinged with hostility. This is a pretty despicable -- and self-defeating -- trait, but I can't seem to help it.

Goddammit, I've lost the thread again. Was there actually something I intended to say here?

Apparently not.

As you were.

Posted by matt at September 6, 2003 06:01 AM

Comments

You managed to pass through my domain causing no insult at all; this must amount to a failure on my part. It used to be so easy...

Posted by: Stairs at September 6, 2003 09:06 AM

I haven't passed through it, I'm still there, just waiting for the right opportunity to offend :)

Posted by: matt at September 6, 2003 05:45 PM

But Matt! You're missing out on the blog opportunity of a *lifetime!* Do you realise what fabulously entertaining reading your amassed bitchy comments would be?

Why not put them together on a page (along with the entry which prompted you to crack open the vitriol) for our delight and delectation...

Posted by: Eurodan at September 6, 2003 10:08 PM

Fucked up on drink and drugs
Sleepless young programmer
Feels philosophical,
Bangs out some text:
Vaguely confessional,
Cod-exegetical,
Self-deconstructing and
Damn under-sexed.

Posted by: M at September 7, 2003 01:11 AM

Cod-exegetical? Dear me.

You've got the metre but not the constraints, so I can only give you a B+. All the same, it's quite an honour to be commented in verse :)

[Dan] No, they wouldn't. Trust me.

Posted by: matt at September 7, 2003 06:15 PM

Huffery puffery
Walkytalkologist,
Stuck up on formula --
Rather a bore.
Anal-retentive or
Hyperfastidious?
Mornington Crescent links
Out him for sure.

:)

Posted by: M at September 7, 2003 07:19 PM

My unintended mistake. This is where you post a PayPal link for the "charitable" donations needed to pacify your simmering passions.

M, you may be a genius.

Posted by: Stairs at September 7, 2003 09:53 PM

I've always loved this sort of thing - text becomes so much more entertaining when put through some sort of constraints.

My dear Austrian friend Jan and I used to have some great laughs by changing the lyrics of pop songs into the highest register of bureaucratic German, so that "Oh baby baby" became "Oh Kleinkind, Kleinkind", and so on. Thus a possible rendering of Britney's "Do it baby one more time" becomes "Betštigen Sie es bitte noch einmal, Kleinkind". Not great for scansion perhaps, but unforgettable nonetheless.

Our e-mails to each other in the language of East German party functionaries are, I fear, another treasure lost to the text world. Bethnal Green became "London, Capital of the British Democratic Republic". Ah yes, memories...

Posted by: Eurodan at September 7, 2003 10:24 PM

somewhere near Berlaymont
sits the interpreter
sweating and hoping he's
getting the gist

later alone in his
two-bed apartment a
ployglot blogger sits
fretting and pissed

Posted by: me again at September 7, 2003 10:32 PM

sorry - that's meant to say polyglot

Posted by: me again at September 7, 2003 10:33 PM

Well, if we're allowed to post corrections, it occurred to me too late that Walkytalkographer would have been better.

Posted by: M at September 7, 2003 10:34 PM

So who is M, anyway? (Apart from a talented poet).
And are we about to subvert the comments section into a kind of real-time webchat?
Would that be wise?
So many questions!

Posted by: me again at September 7, 2003 10:36 PM

It looks like we are, he replied performatively.

Posted by: M at September 7, 2003 10:41 PM

True enough... but the other questions remain tantalisingly unanswered...

And do you think Matt's going to tell us to get a room? (Metaphorically speaking, of course).

Posted by: me again at September 7, 2003 10:45 PM

Mystery personage
Pseudonymed 'me again'
Rather flirtatiously
Glosses the blog.
Odd how this page makes a
Counterintuitive
Substitute forum for
Cadging a snog.

(I know, but it was a rush job ...)

Posted by: M at September 7, 2003 10:57 PM

I wouldn't dream of telling anyone to get a room who was being so entertaining :)

Posted by: matt at September 7, 2003 11:02 PM

Well it's not such a mystery who *I* am, surely...

But this is the first time I (or indeed I daresay many people) have been accused of flirting with a capital consonant! And not even one with serifs!

Posted by: me again at September 7, 2003 11:03 PM

But I must say it *was* a good double dactyl.

Posted by: me again at September 7, 2003 11:05 PM

You can always force me into a serifed font if you like.

Posted by: M at September 7, 2003 11:11 PM

Ooooh! I bet you'd just *love* to be forced into a serif font.

Posted by: not saying at September 7, 2003 11:16 PM

Talented consonant
makes with the syllables
charming participants
into the loop
soon there's an audience
raising the decibels
threatening possible
alphabet soup

Posted by: me again at September 7, 2003 11:17 PM

I guess it's inevitable that I'm easy to read.

Posted by: M at September 7, 2003 11:18 PM

That last one was really rather good.

Posted by: M at September 7, 2003 11:19 PM

*I* can't force you into any other typeface at all... we're all at Matt's mercy...

Posted by: me again at September 7, 2003 11:19 PM

Why thank you (blushes)

Posted by: me again at September 7, 2003 11:20 PM

Matt, haven't you hacked in some kind of java chat yet?

Posted by: M at September 7, 2003 11:21 PM

Stuck in Verdana through
.css tyranny
Don't feel I'm quite myself
Inside this skin.
Need to be forced by a
Toppy typographist
Into a shape that I'm
Comfortable in.

(should have stopped before that one)

Posted by: M at September 7, 2003 11:30 PM

Typograph*er*. Jesus.

Posted by: M at September 7, 2003 11:30 PM

No you shouldn't.

If you're particularly bloody-minded most browsers will allow to specify a stylesheet to override the one specified by a page.

I'll have to consider adding a Java chat facility (or something) if you two keep this up, but I imagine this little dialogue will be forgotten by the time anything goes up, and the whole thing will lie fallow for the rest of eternity.

I am *unbearably* curious as to M's identity, though :)

Carry on.

Posted by: matt at September 7, 2003 11:36 PM

So am I, (curious, that is). Matt, can't you look at your logfiles, please?

But then I think that maybe the grand guignol moment of the identity being revealed would somehow signal the end of the thread... (if the sheer passing of time doesn't anyway).

But it *does* sound a bit like you're throwing down the guantlet there with your 'this will all be forgotten' rhetoric. ;-)

Posted by: me again at September 7, 2003 11:39 PM

I wasn't really trying to be quite that anonymous. Assumed you could do something with your log files if you were really curious. Anyway, you're not logged into iChat.

Posted by: M at September 7, 2003 11:40 PM

Synchronous logfile suggestion, there. Great minds.

Posted by: M at September 7, 2003 11:41 PM

No not *currently*- [just doing a quick Google on i-chat]...

Posted by: me again at September 7, 2003 11:43 PM

Get a Mac.

Posted by: M at September 7, 2003 11:44 PM

He *did* have a Mac once upon a time...

Posted by: not saying at September 7, 2003 11:52 PM

Yes, I was just coming to that conclusion. *Sigh*. As Matt will no doubt remember - I used to be a Mac-boy, back when they wrote all the best tunes.

Posted by: me again at September 7, 2003 11:54 PM

I seem to remember it died of PSU failure.

Posted by: not saying at September 7, 2003 11:55 PM

And indeed, as Adam will no doubt remember...

Posted by: me again at September 7, 2003 11:55 PM

I wouldn't know if you were logged into iChat anyway, not really knowing who you are either. That particular remark was directed to Matt.

Posted by: M at September 7, 2003 11:56 PM

Yes, although the hard-drive is still stacked on my bookshelf, ready for some kind of resurrection - a bit like the Macintosh version of a rich Californian in cryogenic storage.

Posted by: me again at September 7, 2003 11:56 PM

Yes, I realised that much after posting, M. And as for who I am, well my blog reveals a certain amount...

Posted by: me again at September 7, 2003 11:58 PM

So it does. Matt's let us down with his java skills, but I'm in the optician/optometrist room on gaydar chat for a few minutes (unless you need to Google gaydar too). Then I'm going to bed ...

Posted by: M at September 8, 2003 12:03 AM

'One for the road'
said the dactyling Eurodan
rhyming and scanning
his neurones to sleep
only to wake with his
face on the keyboard
from trying to scan
'counting', 'triplets' and 'sheep'

Posted by: me again at September 8, 2003 12:08 AM

'unless you need to Google Gaydar' - get you! ;-)

Posted by: me again at September 8, 2003 12:09 AM

Well that has to be some kind of record for most comments in the shortest period :)

Thanks M(ax) and Dan. Same time tomorrow?

Posted by: matt at September 8, 2003 12:42 AM

sure - see you there ;-)

Posted by: me again at September 8, 2003 01:26 AM

A record, I think
As I drift by this morning
Forty fresh comments
It just cannot last
Alcohol tempered
These wits that I'm reading
Or could it just be
My mind works nowt as fast?

Crikey, I don't know how you guys manage; my breakfast-time garbage doesn't compare.

Posted by: Stairs at September 8, 2003 07:38 AM

Comments for this post are now closed, but feel free to email me if you have something interesting to say.