Dynamically vacuous
January 15, 2006 1:10 PM   Subscribe

Beyond metaphysics, there is 'pataphysics. Beyond metaphor, there is pataphor.
posted by painquale (49 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Apologies for the wikipedia link; I was originally just going to make a single-link post to the 'Pataphysics Research Library, but pataphors are just too, too cool not to share. 'Pataphysics and Alfred Jarry have been previosuly discussed here.
posted by painquale at 1:16 PM on January 15, 2006

posted by Rawhide at 1:19 PM on January 15, 2006

I can't believe I didn't think of making a reference to patafilter....
posted by painquale at 1:22 PM on January 15, 2006

Because there's not enough ways to confuse your readers, why not use pataphors too?
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 1:32 PM on January 15, 2006

wow. the second link examples are just hilariously wonderful. thanks!
posted by freudianslipper at 1:39 PM on January 15, 2006

Wikipedia unfortunately doesn't include the whole text of the Cowboy pataphor.
posted by kenko at 1:39 PM on January 15, 2006

ah fantastic. thanks.
posted by unknowncommand at 1:40 PM on January 15, 2006

Oh god, is this going to be the next big literary trend? It's already difficult enough to avoid the snickers of the hard science majors when I tell them I'm in the humanities.
posted by JHarris at 1:45 PM on January 15, 2006

MetaFilter: Dynamically vacuous.
posted by Eideteker at 1:50 PM on January 15, 2006

JHarris, if by next you mean late 19th century France, I guess so.

Great post!
posted by bardic at 1:59 PM on January 15, 2006

posted by delmoi at 1:59 PM on January 15, 2006

At last, I understand the line in Maxwell's Silver Hammer. Joan deserved to die!

This has been previously linked on MeFi, but if you missed it, there's a simultaneously cute and horrible animation called The Maxwell Edison Story on newgrounds.com. It's a darn good representation of the actual Beatles song, and far better than most Newgrounds fare.

(the link, if you were wondering, is the first three lines of the song...."Joan was quizzical/studied pataphysical/science in the home....")
posted by Malor at 2:01 PM on January 15, 2006

Damn, just got beaten to the "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" quote.
posted by Decani at 2:36 PM on January 15, 2006

i'm having trouble seeing a use for pataphor besides filling up page space in novels and english essays and poems.

eg, in example 2 of the wikipedia link, the metaphor layer of description where the surface of the egg is compared to "the deep tan of boot leather, an old oil-rubbed cowboy boot", this describes something (the egg's appearance). but "Victor the hotel manager swings open the door and gives Cowboy a faint smile." describes nothing....

is there utility beyond the excersize of poetic license that i am missing? if the contexts are separate, aren't they linked only by happening to sit next to each other in the passage?

Like if I said, "The forest monkeys share their lives among the fruits of the forest, their social hierarchy the law and politic of the smoggy city, its police everywhere, and the old woman Gladys buying a roast for her sunday dinner while outside a taxi waits, heat shimmering off of the hood while rain paints the street with neon ripples.";

it's fun, it paints a picture, but isn't it a little disjointed? Unless whatever I say next ties the roast, the taxi, and the neon rippled street, where is the value in the tangent?

Also, extending pataphor another level, or several more levels creates a psychedelic trail of word salad. pataphor just seems schizophrenic to me.

"The grey squirrels hoarding their acorns in the branches overhead rustle the branches, these tiny grey businessmen rushing from task to task, shouldering the enterprise of their markets, worrying about their bonuses because a kid needs braces, that naive trusting kid. bonuses and braces and marriage counseling dangled by a society that only sees what it can benefit from, blind like some deep sea fish circling an inky depth thinking the same thoughts as a thousand years of its ancestors, cold soaked in darkness to it's soul, brother to icy pluto in it's lonesome trajectory. The absence of neighbors fills the background tight, a balloon on the verge of bursting, its explosion slow to crack the surface tension of the yellow latex here in super-slow motion. each frame of the racing tear restrained in sub microsecond electronic struggle against the imagination of the camera engineer in San Francisco, his designs cluttering a desk in the basement, his cold coffee leaving a ring on yesterday's idea. Brightness pierces the basement as Jelly, the cat, slinks in to sleep in the clean laundry. Jelly's hairs soon occupy a cotton shirt, each hair taking its soldierly duty to hold its inch of cotton for the motherland dear, the whole phalanx clinging in disorder as reinforcements join their rank. Each soldier buries himself in the land, thinking about his girl back home, her red hair shining and her lips mouthing the words to the old family lullaby."

It's Grampa Simpson material. But it doesn't convey anything. A metaphor conveys something about the original context. A pataphor says "oh and by the way, since we're talking about what to order from the chinese restaurant, let's discuss what car each dish would be, and whether hand-waxing really adds life to the finish.
posted by modernerd at 2:38 PM on January 15, 2006

besides filling up page space in novels and english essays and poems

posted by bardic at 2:43 PM on January 15, 2006

MetaFilter: I must not be so poop.

(thanks for the link, Malor. I haven't watched that in awhile and forgot how delicious it was)
posted by Eideteker at 3:06 PM on January 15, 2006

beyond inquale, there is painquale.
posted by stirfry at 3:11 PM on January 15, 2006

David Mitchell's The Cloud Atlas is a contemporary example of nested pataphor, I think. (This comment is for the MeCha book club readers out there.)
posted by painquale at 3:12 PM on January 15, 2006

beyond inquale, there is painquale

posted by painquale at 3:13 PM on January 15, 2006


Yo mamma's a fish.

posted by Richard Daly at 3:30 PM on January 15, 2006

Example of "Pataphor":
Tom and Alice stood side by side in the lunch line.
Tom and Alice stood side by side in the lunch line, two pieces on a chessboard.
Tom took a step closer to Alice and made a date for Friday night, checkmating. Rudy was furious at losing to Margaret so easily and dumped the board on the rose-colored quilt, stomping downstairs.
(The pataphor has created literally the world where the chessboard exists, including the characters who live in that world, entirely abandoning the root context.)

Can anyone tell me why this is not enirely stupid? I'm tempted to nominate this article for deletion, since it's just likely to confuse anyone interested in more significant theories of metaphor.

The lack of links to wiki pages for this theory's author raises flags for me that this is just an annoying vanity meme.
posted by washburn at 3:46 PM on January 15, 2006

string theory is not in fact physics, but 'pataphysics

Snicker. String theorists are already quite put out by New Scientist's recent editorial which basically said string theory was going nowhere. Wonder if they know about this guy.
posted by Zinger at 3:47 PM on January 15, 2006

modernerd: precisely. If you have read anything by Alfred Jarry, you already realize that he is essentially useless. His ideas are sadly not mere "vanity memes," but do serve as a good example of frivolity in academia.
posted by youarenothere at 4:24 PM on January 15, 2006

youarenothere, Jarry would resent being taken that seriously. Shame on you.
posted by bardic at 4:28 PM on January 15, 2006

It's fortunate that no one has ever heard of this before. Is is possible to rewind reality just to just before it was introduced, and then skip over this invention?
posted by ParisParamus at 4:35 PM on January 15, 2006

Modernerd has no sense of humor.
posted by kenko at 4:36 PM on January 15, 2006

The problem with that idiot Stephen Hawking is that his sestinas really suck.
posted by bardic at 4:43 PM on January 15, 2006

youarenotthere, "Pataphysics" is an idea of Jarry's, but it seems that "pataphor" is a mere vanity meme parasitic on Jarry's idea, and adds nothing to existing theories of metaphor. (Or am I wrong?)
posted by washburn at 4:46 PM on January 15, 2006

It takes a sense of humor to know that something is not funny.
posted by elwoodwiles at 4:52 PM on January 15, 2006

Of course it's useless - it's art.
posted by Sparx at 4:53 PM on January 15, 2006

beyond inquale, there is painquale

And then there is Dan Quale.
posted by fixedgear at 5:13 PM on January 15, 2006

One of my favourite Gene Wolfe short stories has WW2 played out as a car race. The rules of the car race are simultaneously akin to the physics of a transistor. Wish I could remember the title.
posted by Ritchie at 5:15 PM on January 15, 2006

metametaphoric - of or relating to the discussion of what is or is not metaphoric

epistemetaphoric - pertaining to the knowledge of metaphors

petaphor - 1,125,899,906,842,624 metaphors
posted by muppetboy at 5:26 PM on January 15, 2006

And then there is Dan Quale.

Oh lord, no.
posted by painquale at 5:32 PM on January 15, 2006

We already have these...

con·ceit (kən-sēt')
  1. A favorable and especially unduly high opinion of one's own abilities or worth.
  2. An ingenious or witty turn of phrase or thought.
    1. A fanciful poetic image, especially an elaborate or exaggerated comparison.
    2. A poem or passage consisting of such an image.

    1. The result of intellectual activity; a thought or an opinion.
    2. A fanciful thought or idea.

    1. A fancy article; a knickknack.
    2. An extravagant, fanciful, and elaborate construction or structure: “An eccentric addition to the lobby is a life-size wooden horse, a 19th century conceit” (Mimi Sheraton).
posted by armoured-ant at 5:46 PM on January 15, 2006

What? No inline CSS? Boo!
(Although... fair enough)
posted by armoured-ant at 5:47 PM on January 15, 2006

But it doesn't convey anything

That is exactly the point of pataphors.
posted by ShooBoo at 5:59 PM on January 15, 2006

alfred jarry was a belligerent drunk ... but amusing
posted by pyramid termite at 6:24 PM on January 15, 2006

Some of you are taking this concept a mite ... seriously.
posted by kyrademon at 6:50 PM on January 15, 2006

So, basically, they're the equivalent, in literary terms of something like this?
posted by Jon Mitchell at 10:48 PM on January 15, 2006

armoured-ant, if you can't tell that the examples aren't conceits, then I pity you.

Anyone who worries that that article will distract people investigating serious theories of metaphor ought to chill out.
posted by kenko at 11:00 PM on January 15, 2006

I really like this. Especially the crack about string theory being `pataphysics. That's probably the best, most concise description of string theory I've heard yet.

Only a traitor
undresses his meta pataphors
As if they were whores

posted by blasdelf at 1:31 AM on January 16, 2006

Hey, look! The Emperor hasn't got any clothes on!

(The idea is entertaining, but it's just literary masturbation; there's no way I could read any quantity of text which uses this contrivance. It's just too artificial - like the difference between meat and soya protein; I might as well order a salad instead...)
posted by Chunder at 2:37 AM on January 16, 2006

Funny, Chunder, that's about what was said about Joyce, Faulkner, Proust, Pynchon, Eliot, Pound & so many others, even David Foster Wallace.

Jarry doesn't do much for me either, but his work is more "useful" to me than, say, Dan Brown or Michael Crichton (whom I've also read).
posted by Joseph Gurl at 3:24 AM on January 16, 2006

I thought of the string theory/multi-dimensional universe thing too as I was trying to grasp this. Interesting.
posted by ParisParamus at 5:11 AM on January 16, 2006

Jon Mitchell: something like this?

That's quite bizarre. If you watch it for a few minutes continuously and then stop, there is a strange motion aftereffect.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:48 AM on January 16, 2006

There are interesting, enlightening, and funny ways to critique our world. Jarry accomplishes none of these. Also, Michael Crichton...hahahahaha!!!
posted by youarenothere at 12:02 PM on January 16, 2006

Who says he's trying to critique our world?

I'm so sick of the complaint that something is "literary masturbation." What's wrong with masturbation, literary or otherwise?
Is there anything artistic that ISN'T masturbation? You show me two books fucking and I'll take it all back, though.
posted by papakwanz at 1:10 PM on January 16, 2006

What's wrong with masturbation, literary or otherwise?

Well, nothing. It's just usually nicer for the person doing it than for the one watching, that's all.

Sometimes, I don't mind at all. Even just watching can be fun. I'd say Cloud Atlas was literary masturbation, too, albeit the mutual literary masturbation of two really hot lesbians, Anna and Alison, the taller of the two, with rich chocolate brown hair flowing past her supple shoulders, was growing bored She extricated herself from Anna's embrace, and left her hastily erected pataphor feeling a delicious admixture of delight and disdain.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 1:54 PM on January 16, 2006

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