Thursday, April 10, 2008

5 Thoughts on a Thursday

1) It's finally springtime in Chicago. How do I know that? Well, yesterday it was almost sixty degrees out and sunny. Today? Lower forties and raining. Saturday's forecast? Snow. It almost reminds me of springtime back home in Oregon.

2) Another sign of Spring is that there are men outside of our bedroom window every morning, fixing up the outside of the building. We have to be very careful when we wake up, especially on Saturdays, in case there is a construction worker or two outside, looking into our 12th floor apartment. The strangest part of it is that apparently our building is hiring scabs. Because whenever I walk to the bus in the mornings, there is almost always someone from the Caulker's Union picketing outside. But there has never been more than two guys. Can you have a union with only two members? Isn't that just normally called "being friends," or if you're seven years old, "a secret club"? They must have plenty of funding, though. The other day they set up a giant, inflatable rat on the corner, like something you might see used to advertise a sale at a used car dealership, except this rat definitely has rabies and may or may not be Mexican. It also has blood-shot eyes, which suggests to me that all non-union workers are pot-smoking immigrants badly in need of vaccinations.

3) We have a cat! Her named is Coraline, after the Neil Gaiman character, and she is 2 years old. (Sorry, no pics.) My favorite thing about her so far is that she likes to play fetch. We've made a couple of aluminum foil balls for her, and if you crinkle one in your hands to make that lovely crinkle-crinkle sound, and then throw it for her, she will almost always run after it, pick it up in her mouth, and bring it right back to you for you to throw it again. I am a little concerned about her fondness for trash, however. Right after we got her, R.A. went out and bought her a whole bunch of toys; several fuzzy balls, some mice-shaped toys, a stick with a feather on the end. But, of course, she prefers the tin-foil balls, loose pieces of paper, and those twisties that you use to tie up the bag for your loaf of bread.

4) One of the books that I'm reading right now is The Mother Tongue, by Bill Bryson, which i have been meaning/intending to read for a while. At one point, he's talking about how English speakers tend to pronounce the verb form of a word differently than the noun form, such as "We convict the convict," or "I decree such a decree." The tendency is for us to emphasize the first syllable in the noun form, but the second syllable in the verb form.

One of the words that Bryson cites as an example of this is mistake. This word definitely exists in both a noun and a verb form in English [I am assuming for now that we can treat the noun and the verb as the same word, although this may be a mistake.] But then I tried out the following sentence: "I mistake a mistake," and it didn't make no sense! When, I ask, do we or can we use the verb-form of the word "mistake" in the first-person present indicative? The situations that R.A. and I came up with were very particular. One was when one recounts a dream, especially a recurring one. "Next, I mistake my hamster for Jesus and build it a little shrine made out of human teeth..." The other was when one gives some kind of stage directions for a play, but this requires one to be speaking of one's self as a kind of a character: "I mistake the vodka for water, and drink the whole glass..." The problem with these cases is that the tense is still not clear; I bet that French has one that distinguish between an action taking place in the past but being related as if it were occurring in the present, and an action being actually present indicative. Also, both of these examples require a kind of distance between the speaker and the actor - I am not right now making the mistake, it was my dream-self or my character. It is a very different kettle of fish to say "I mistake the Chevy for a Ford," as if I am saying, "I prefer the Chevy over the Ford," or "I exchange the Chevy for a Ford." It's not that we can't use "mistake" in this way, it just sounds weird.

It is akin to what's called Moore's Paradox, named after the early 20th Century philosopher G.E. Moore, which says that there is something funny about someone saying, "It's raining outside right now, but I don't believe that it is." This isn't strictly speaking a paradox, but it is an observation about how our language works. Grammatically speaking, we should be able to say sentences like, "I mistake the bidet for a toilet," or "I believe that the Patriots won the Super Bowl, but they didn't." But we don't, or at least, we usually don't. Instead, we say sentences that have the grammatical structure, but have a different kind of content. We say, "I mistook the bidet for a toilet," or, "I tend to mistake bidets for toilets." Or, "He believes that the Patriots won the Super Bowl, but they didn't." But if I try to use the word "mistake" in the first person present indicative, it entails my being in the (psychological) state of "being mistaken" while at the same time being able to realize my mistake enough to remark about it. And we can't do this (usually, or without lying.) Instead, we say "Oh! I must have been mistaken," or "I'm sorry, I mistook you for someone else," or even, "I made a mistake."

(5) Phew. Sorry about that. But if you're still reading at this point, I have a job for you: I need a baseball team. I feel like an orphan, or a loose piece of seaweed adrift in the Atlantic current. There is no team that I can find a reason and a desire to root for. Geographically, I should root for the White Sox, but I don't really feel a connection there. And Cubs fans are always drunk and rowdy on the El, so I don't really want to be like them. Most of my friends are Red Sox fans, but everyone is a Red Sox fan. That's too easy. I could root for Seattle, but they're team never seems to really care, and I don't like their logo. I like the Padre's logo, but could I really root for a team from California? Help me out here. Maybe Kansas City? They're scrappy. Or Cleveland? Everyone from R.A.'s family are Indian fans. Blue Jays? Mets? Twins? Anyone?


Anonymous said...

The Tigers. Not too far away, classic uniforms, always screwing things up one way or another (currently screwing things up by having the second-highest payroll in baseball and yet managing to lose the first 7 games of the season). You really can't go wrong there...


tiffky doofky said...

The Oakland A's. Though I may have to revoke my allegiance to them now that they have a new stadium and are sponsored by McAfee. I liked them a lot because they were cheapskates, had a creaky old stadium with an unwieldy name, were accessible by BART, and had dollar-dog nights on Wednesdays. Also, they had that whole "getting thisclose to a championship every year" thing going.