So, look, we need to talk about this:
The night of Tuesday, August 10, Trea Turner of the Los Angeles Dodgers scored a run against the Philadelphia Phillies by defying multiple laws of something.
The slide was brought up on the most recent Poscast, which I happened to catch the end of tonight, and which led to me watching the slide again, and it occurred to me there might be META-SPIEL readers who somehow missed this, and now you haven’t.
The word that occurs to me here is viscous - as in, this slide is somehow the opposite of viscous. If a slide at its worst is bumpy, sloppy, unduly frictive… then what could we call this? If you search for the video online, you’ll find a lot of people using the word smooth, but I find the word insufficient for such a feat. Not that I am bemoaning the achievement of maximum smoothness. Yacht Rock guys: I am merely trying to find the word that most fully means the opposite of viscous.
I went to dictionary.com and two of the three words offered for antonyms of viscous are:
Now think about that for a minute. The opposite of viscous is dry, and the opposite of viscous is watery.
There is something fascinating there, perhaps as fascinating as Trea Turner’s slide. Maybe the correct word for Trea Turner’s slide is… viscous.
And that in turn is what makes Trea Turner’s slide all the more wonderful. It so shatters our visceral understanding of what should be possible that it sends us scurrying for superlatives and we wind up saying things which don’t make any more sense than the physics-defying athleticism on display.
If we just absorb the viscous nature of the slide, it is, as Michael Schur put it on the Poscast, oddly satisfying. If however we pursue the viscous nature of the slide, it is a different kind of oddly satisfying. In other words, it is oddly satisfying to different parts of the brain.
Michael mentioned, I think, a Reddit page devoted to things oddly satisfying. Which would be this:
But he might have mentioned TikTok. Search for “oddly satisfying” and a great many things come up. And I think the idea of “oddly satisfying” is wonderful in part because it is a light oxymoron.
Something satisfies when it solves or resolves. Odd things do not usually solve or resolve.
Generally I would not recommend Reddit to people, because I find Reddit to be antithethical to satisfying. But this seems a very appropriate use of the medium.
Warning… you might get sucked in.
Now what’s oddly satisfying for you and what’s oddly satisfying for me might be at extreme variance.
Last night I discovered Lyubov Popova, a Russian artist from the early 20th Century. I’d never heard of her before. (I’ve also seen her name spelled Liubov.) Among other things she did a set of artworks under the name Painterly Architectonic. This is one:
You can find more by searching, or perhaps try this MOMA page for her work.
A different one, which I can’t find a good image I can paste in, I discovered while on Etsy, looking for a new phone case. I was not expecting to buy a phone case with a reproduction of the work of a Cubo-Futurist Russian ca. 1917, but there you have it.
I find a lot of this kind of art to be… oddly satisfying.
Merriam-Webster offers two antonyms for abstract. One is nonabstract, which I declare to be unhelpful. The other is concrete. I suppose by extension we could cite words like specific or tangible. But I find the choice of concrete to be particularly interesting.
The architectual form of brutalism centers largely on blockiness, on rigid geometric form, with its primary material being concrete.
Blocky? Rigid geometric form? You mean like…
Now obviously “concrete” means different things as a noun and as a verb. But the building material’s name is derived from the adjective, not vice-versa. When we talk about someone like Mondrian being an abstract artist, while it might make sense to say that there’s nothing concrete to the work, what you really mean is that nothing is being represented. It’s a painting, after all. It’s not real, except in that it’s a real painting. To say that it represents something is to concede that it isn’t really real, just a representation. But if it’s not representing anything, then to the extent that there is anything real, it itself must be what is real. Stretch this out further and you find yourself not at the abstract but at the concrete.
You know what else is a potentially good antonym for concrete? Viscous.
I fumbled around some in my mind with the word “abstraction”, trying to figure out what song it was that this word fit so concretely in, before I finally placed it:
For my money, “Laffitte Don’t Fail Me Now” may just be the best song Britt Daniel ever wrote. And it’s the b-side of a single almost nobody ever heard.
This is apropos to pretty much nothing else up to this point, but this being META-SPIEL, we’re going to stretch words far beyond an appropriate point: “Laffitte Don’t Fail Me Now” also stands as one of the best examples of how Jim Eno is one of the truly great drummers in rock ‘n’ roll. Britt’s guitar can be meandering - to put it mildly - and Jim provides not merely the beat but truly the sonic structure for Britt to operate in. He makes the songs concrete. Britt is the viscous one. But Jim is the Brutalist of the band.
Look: I had no intention of diving off the etymological cliff tonight, and I certainly wasn’t expecting to do so based on sharing a video of a man sliding into home plate. It just so happened to turn into your lucky day!
Oh, somebody might think about wading in here bemoaning my lack of attention to musique concrète and how I really should just spend the whole thing writing about Stockhausen or whatever. Instead I’ll give them some Art Brut to chew on:
You know, I think I would buy a phone case with a picture of Trea Turner sliding.
Also, I think Joe and Michael should really give me credit here for distending something thrown off during the Poscast into something far more meaningless than they might have imagined. Perhaps I will harass them for feedback. It is the least they could do, considering just yesterday I ordered The Baseball 100! It would be very interesting indeed to hear them discuss Russian Cubo-Futurism.
Very interesting indeed.