Column #004 – Fractals

For the lazy and reasonably damaged among us who also succumb to fits of creativity resulting in half-done projections of their ideas, you occasionally have to take that stack of notes and mental filth you scribble down and make something of it if for no other reason than to see if you remember how to tie the knots and lash the thing together. That is indeed this, and it is a waste to burn notes after they spent so much time crumpled in pockets, bag corners, or underneath furniture.



One note is barely decipherable. Yellow paper, unlined, written with U.S.A. General’s Cedar Pointe #333 – 2HB pencils:


Get it out of the way: one of the best things you can do as a teacher out here is to compare your students to the people where you come from. At first, this seems unfitting, or even harsh, but let’s not dicker straight here, I’m not talking about judgments and damnations. I’m talking about similarities and the fractions of humanity large and small we bear like huge packs on uneven trails.



Another note appears to be stained with coffee, and what look like dry banana flakes. Undated but from this month:


It’s early. Addicts of online games are just settling to sleep, and cigarettes want to be smoked… grammar loses its grip on you when you teach your own language to foreigners… but it’s terrible form to start so early in a day, with smoking that is. Thoughts on the ilial crest, knee bent, and the perpetual long stare everyone keeps saying I have mixed with Lipton tea, a light breeze, and far away rains. The sun lambasts the world East of here, I delight to imagine in a Yeatsian sense. And, just perceptibly hanging in terrible dejection on the horizon sway the telling streaks of heavy waterfall, but not here–not yet at least.



This note was an attempt from yesterday to start this column, but it didn’t progress into anything. Blue lines on white Tops Jr. Legal Pad paper with speed-stripe-red vertical ledger lines (Covington, TN, U.S.A. available in packages of 3 or 12 with 50 sheets/pad (also available in Canary)) and written in black ink:


Exciting things back in America. Some of Mark Twain’s columns, long lost, were rediscovered to be capitalized upon no doubt. Prince debuted a song called ‘Baltimore’ at a concert raising funds for kids programs in the city just weeks after Freddie Gray’s death, if I heard the news stream accurately.


On this cool morning, already hot as the first whispers from a tea kettle on the verge of spastic boil, the brain wants something to hold onto. Something both abstract and tangible. I look at the small thorny tree growing on my porch and… ah, yeah, fractals. They seem like a good way to wrap the brain around the days ahead.


Fractals it is then. I first learned about them from a professor at Western Connecticut State University, which may be a community college at this point. I should check on that. Anyway, to explain them quickly fractals are self-similar patterns. Look at a tree, then look at its large branches, then at its smaller branches on those large branches, and aside from the size of the leaves, they all look similar. There are some really trippy videos on YouTube which depict fractals, which you should look at because I’m simply not smart enough to explain in three sentences what fractals are without doing the old Wiki copy and paste. An important concept to understand, when I first began to understand what they were everything I looked at turned into a part of a pattern, which was interesting, but also immensely annoying, because I was trying to wrap my head around academic subjects. But, that was many years ago when life made more sense and seemed as though it could be more meaningful. Just take a break and look up fractals on YouTube before you go on.


Fractals in the shoals of motos moving like rapid streams or the way vermicelli noodles stick to the wall the way spaghetti sticks to the wall the way that some of the trees out here grow or how in the North of Vietnam where it can snow and does get cooler the people are said to reflect the weather which is what’s said of people like me from the Northeast of America. I see fractals the most in how people think in the classroom. Very visual. Hard to explain, but one example is how people look at dating and entertainment and money in general. If you took how the three related to many Americans twenty years ago and photocopied it it’d look a lot like how the Vietnamese look at the same things today. I suppose a simpler way of say that same this is that you can see the influence of their parents of the students in the students, which seems like a fractalization.


Enlightening, I’m sure… so, our eyes snare light similarly to the way that telescopes peering deep into the universe snare light from billions of years ago. With a good eye, you can see fractals of America in every bit of life out here. This isn’t to imply this is the correct glass to look through, but it is mine simply because that is where I am from.



And finally, a note that began on A4 blue wide-lined paper with a green vertical ledger line, ripped edges, and folded four times that I found neatly wedged between a copy of Matt Taibbi’s The Divide and a Vietnamese language primer:


All those goddamn damaged thoughts about those goddamn damaged things… I was dictating a voice message for my brother last night while it was cool and dark and easy to think and I began to tell him about how it’s funny that many foreigners–Western or Eastern alike–who seem to think life is so vastly different here in Vietnam than back wherever home happens to be. It’s not, and its notness exists because of the Internet and the young and old who have had it for some time now and are International-minded people.