Ironical Coincidings

May 22, 2011

And so it has come to pass. Please visit to see my new blog entitled “Ironical Coincidings.” Thus far three posts have been made, all obscure quotations with no explanation. A post will be appearing shortly that will explain everything. Or least why those three posts exist. Subscribe to the RSS feed at to follow my new adventures there.


Joseph Simmons, B.A.

May 19, 2011

This past Sunday in an obnoxiously long ceremony I received my diploma from the University of Dallas and took official possession of my dual degree in mathematics and English literature. I am no longer an undergraduate. Next year I’ll be beginning a PhD program with the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago. Until then I’ll be reading, writing, and ‘rithmeticking, though probably mostly the first of these.

The passing of my undergraduate career suggests to me that this blog, too, ought to pass away. I’ve been maintaining it for four and a half years, and this will be the 332nd post, for an average of roughly one post every five days, but I’ve been slowing down in recent months. This has happened for various reasons, including more schoolwork and a more active social life, but I think the main one is that the format of this blog no longer suits the way in which I think.

To explain further: “Turin Speaks” has, naturally enough given its title, tended towards manifestos, in which I take a topic and pontificate on it for a thousand words or so. But my thoughts now are both more complex than this and more focused in subject matter: my papers freshman year tended to be 1000 words, but are now on average 5000, and while four years ago I was vaguely interested in literature, philosophy, and mathematics, by now I’ve decided to spend my life studying literature through a philosophical lens with mathematical thoughts always lurking in the background. (I still have plans to write fiction, but probably won’t be going public with such plans any time soon.)

It’s not that I’m now incapable of writing a vaguely-general-interest blog in which I explain in detail whatever I happen to be thinking, but the posts on such a blog begin to feel repetitive, and if I were to go into enough depth to make them feel fresh, they would grow unbearably long, and take up time I ought to be spending doing actual academic work.

So I’ve resolved to let “Turin Speaks” fade into the past. But I did like the habit of constant reflection that blogging forced upon me, and have felt it somewhat lacking in previous months as my posting rate dropped from once a week to once a month. I’m considering starting a new blog, one less portentously titled, that will have posts that will fit better into my current mode of thinking. They will most likely include:

  • Reading journals: .I’m going to try to write something about everything I read, including popular novels, literary fiction, academic writing, and television and film. The journals won’t be called “reviews,” because I won’t try to give a comprehensive evaluation of the text and whether or not it’s worth reading, but they should give some idea of whether I liked the text or not.
  • Poetic commentaries: I’m going to try to keep reading poetry, and when a poem particularly strikes me I’m going to try to write briefly about why it does so. These will likely take the format of posting the full text of the poem followed by a paragraph-long description of what the poem does followed by a line-by-line commentary pointing out the interesting poetic techniques used.
  • Dictionary entries: I’m going to try to keep track of the words that influence the way I think about things and write a little about each one, where it comes from, and what effect it has.
  • Links: I’m going to try to post links to interesting articles I read online, including a paragraph or two of explanation so it doesn’t feel as if I’m just piggy-backing on what others have written.

These sorts of posts have all appeared in these pages before, but have always felt like digressions from what the blog was really intended for. On my new blog, they will be the primary focus, and will also likely be shorter–I’ll shoot for less than 500 words each–and of the same frequency–once a week. I haven’t actually begun this new blog yet, but when I do I’ll post a link to it here, and a request that you shift your RSS feeds from here to there.

Finally, you might ask, why start a new blog, rather than just continue here under the same aegis? Mostly, I think, because “Turin Speaks” is the work of a sixteen-year-old, and I associate it with my high school and undergraduate years. I don’t want a clean slate–my first post on the new blog will link back here–but I do want to start afresh.


February 6, 2011

For the last three years I had been growing my hair out. By a week ago it was maybe a foot long, kept tied back in a ponytail. Then last Saturday I got a haircut.

Almost immediately, my head felt lighter, and I felt naked. But that went away soon. It took longer to adjust to seeing myself. For several days it was jarring to see myself in the mirror–who is that person with short hair? Ah, right, it’s me. Even when I got used to mirrors, though, my shadow confused me, I think because it was just as different as my reflection but having less detail and so with a less obvious explanation.

This has all gotten me thinking about how one visualizes oneself in one’s memory. One doesn’t see oneself from a third-person perspective in real life, but many memories, I have found, are in fact from a third-person perspective (just another indication that memory is extraordinarily unreliable), and the person appearing in the place of the main character, so to speak, doesn’t always look as one did when one was the age one was in the memory. Often one sees oneself in one’s current appearance, even if one’s physical appearance has changed radically.

For example, I know that, when I had long hair, my memories from back when I had short hair would show me having long hair, despite that being impossible. Or, when viewing a memory from recent years but in which I considered myself to have done something immature or childish, I would often (unconsciously) fill in the me with short hair, rather than the me that actually was at that point in time.

At this point I wonder two things. 1) How long will it take me to adjust my “default” self-image to be short-haired me, rather than long-haired? The instinct is to say “a long time,” but I suspect that somehow it won’t be that long–it takes the human brain a surprisingly short time to form new habits. 2) Once I have done so, will I now have three self-images, younger-short-hair, long-hair, and older-short-hair, and choose one for each memory based on some more complex criteria than simply “immature” and “mature”? Will it perhaps be “childish,” “adolescent,” and “adult”?

Return, 2011

January 16, 2011

The hiatus announced three months ago has official come to an end. Regular posting will resume tomorrow, or whenever I get around to writing something up.

For those wondering why it took me until January 16th to return when I said it would be late November: I got quite busy with schoolwork around Thanksgiving and it didn’t let up until mid-December, at which point I had applications to finish up, and I decided not to return to posting until I was done with all of them. I submitted my last one yesterday. The final semester of my undergraduate career is about to begin, but I don’t expect it to be particularly work-intensive, so there will (one hopes) not be another hiatus. Also, I’ll make an announcement here if/when I hear back from grad schools and decide where to go (if anywhere).

After 49 Years

October 23, 2010

The Texas Rangers are going to the World Series.

I’ve gone to every home playoff game so far this year, including last night’s pennant-clinching 6-1 victory over the Yankees, and will be at Rangers’ Ballpark this Saturday, Sunday, and (if needed) Monday to see them play either the Phillies or the Giants, whichever ends up winning the NL pennant.

This could be a slight impediment to getting anything done regarding homework or applications over the next week. But other than that, I’m pretty happy with the current situation.

P.S. A quasi-normal posting schedule will likely resume some time near the end of November.

A Short(?) Hiatus(?)

October 7, 2010

As the astute observer will have noticed, over a week has passed since my last post (my goal is generally to post at least once every week), and similar delays have occurred several times over the last month or so. There is an explanation for this, which will perhaps not surprise you: I’m really busy. I’ve taking above a normal load of classes, several of them are  graduate-level, and I also have graduate school applications to deal with. These excuses, combined with the fact that inspiration has rarely struck regarding topics for posts, have led to me not fulfilling my quota.

Anyway, I’m going to declare victory on this one and say that I’ve been going on hiatus for an indefinite amount of time. I’ll probably make at least a few posts in the coming months, but probably (probably) won’t be back on a regular schedule before December or so. I apologize for not being able to provide an adequate amount of intellectually stimulating material, as I’m sure I usually do. Don’t delete me from your RSS feed.

On Running

August 16, 2010

There is a jogging trail at the end of the street my parent’s house is on (whether it’s still “my” house is an interesting question I don’t intend to address for a few years yet), and I often walk it and sometimes run it. Both are, as many people have observed over the years, excellent ways of refreshing the mind and interacting with nature, especially for people like me who spend too much time indoors reading.

What I’ve noticed recently is that these are the only two forms of “exercise” that I can really bring myself to do. Everything else strikes me as moderately distasteful, and if I bring myself to begin, say, doing push-ups, I quickly lose interest and stop.

I have a theory as to why this is. Most other forms of physical exercise are aesthetically displeasing because they are essentially aimless. When lifting weights, there is no incentive to continue, because there is nothing to achieve beyond some arbitrary numerical goal. When running, one must either get to the end of the trail, stop running and walk the rest of the way, or turn around. The latter two are clear declarations of failure, and so aesthetically unpleasant, while I find nothing particularly wrong with stopping lifting weights at 20 repetitions rather than 30. Significantly, I only enjoy running when it is “in nature” — running on a treadmill is no better than arbitrarily lifting weights a set number of times.

It seems, then, that I would find more productive physical activity, i.e. some sort of manual labor, more satisfying. Perhaps building a brick wall. That’s something I might be able to enjoy; it’s almost like building LEGOs at life size.

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