Withdrawal and Sickness

Posted in Vicente on January 13, 2013 by Vicente Peláyez

When a heroin addict goes without heroin for long enough, he or she suffers a combination of cramps, chills, itches, vomiting, paranoia, delirium, and other physical and psychological symptoms. Most people call this condition ‘withdrawal’; drug users, however, call it ‘being sick.’ Why? Continue reading


Population vs. news rank

Posted in Vicente with tags on December 13, 2012 by Vicente Peláyez

On Wikipedia you can find a list of cities or metropolitan areas in the U.S. ranked by population. You can also find a list of newspapers in the U.S. ranked by circulation. It doesn’t take long to notice that they’re not the same list! Sure, they’re both dominated by New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, but after that the order can vary. Why? What does it say about a city if its newspaper is more or less widely read than you’d expect from its size? That’s a good question, and we’ll get to it, but first let’s compare the size and circulation rankings. Continue reading

Desire Paths

Posted in Vicente on November 4, 2012 by Vicente Peláyez

You can tell a lot about people from the paths they build. Continue reading

Bad Jobs

Posted in Vicente on October 17, 2012 by Vicente Peláyez

Let’s define, for the moment, a “bad job” as one that’s not pleasant or fun, and doesn’t teach you any obvious skills that have any value outside the job itself. It might also be boring and/or dangerous. Outside of financial concerns, is there any value in having such a job? Continue reading

The Flexible Vowel in English Negation

Posted in Vicente with tags , on April 26, 2012 by Vicente Peláyez

It’s often observed that “no” means “no,” but less noticed that so do “naw” and “nah.” Although in writing, the negative interjection is almost always spelled no, in speech a number of vowels can follow the n and still make for a correctly-formed negation. Continue reading

The Nation and its Pieces

Posted in Vicente with tags on January 6, 2012 by Vicente Peláyez

Nationalisms often employ stereotypical, one-dimensional descriptions of the nation’s subregions in their self-regarding odes. This has a function. Imagine a view of England, say, with the coal miners of Newcastle, the industrial Manchester area, the white cliffs of Dover, and so on. Or France, with the hardy Norman fishers in Normandy, Breton seafarers and ancient citadels in Brittany, medieval castles on the Loire, skiing resorts in the Alps, sunny beaches on the Riviera, red workingmen of Paris, etc. Or America, with the amber waves of grain in the Midwest, the diligent financial men in suits in New York, the decadent film industry camped out in Southern California, pot-growing hippies in Northern California, Southern hospitality and chivalry across the southeast, oil barons in Texas, etc. Each of these stereotypes, taken literally, is impossible; it’s crazy to imagine a Newcastle made of literally nothing but coal miners, or a Paris with only communist laborers, or a Midwest with nothing but cornfields. In fact it’s only possible to imagine at least minimally diverse places, with at least an elementary division of labor between classes and types. So if America is made up of the stereotypical North, South, Midwest, Texas, and Northern and Southern California, it’s only as a whole nation that it makes sense as a place—each part on its own feels incomplete. These stereotypical descriptions are thus both a result of and an encouragement to nationalism.

Cross-posted from Empire Avenue.

The Public Imperative and the Hortatory ‘Je’

Posted in Vicente with tags , on November 22, 2011 by Vicente Peláyez

In life, we are constantly surrounded by signs urging us to do or not to do things. In English, they are usually in the imperative mood: Stop, Take one, Cut along dotted line. In the case of interdictions, they might use the gerund: No smoking. In specific cases there may be other syntaxes, but in general these two, the imperative and the gerund, form what might be called the “public imperative” in English.

Not so in French. Continue reading