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August 11, 2003  

Perl-handled Revolver

Finally feeling like I have the tiniest grip on Perl. Finally! Almost as bad as trying to learn French....
After seeing that Blox 0.9 was just not going to treat <PRE> tags with any kind of grace, I started adding a means to block Blox from operating on a file. To my Pascal-ish mindset, this meant adding an if/then statement, as in: IF a blox-blocker exists for this file, THEN don't run blox on this file.

Looks like this in Perl:

if ($$body_ref =~ s/^$skipper\n//) {
  return 0;
elsif ($use_noblox_file) {
 if ($blox_ref{"$datadir$path/$filename.$file_extension"} == 1) {
   return 0;

Very much und ordnung; terraced fields; checklists; CS 101.

Then I saw that Perl could say this differently, if only I could think differently.

$$body_ref !~ s/^$skipper\n// or return 0;
(($use_noblox_file) and 
  (!$blox_ref{"$datadir$path/$filename.$file_extension"})) or 
    return 0;

Very much tres extraodinaire; wildflowers; free-writing; postmodern.

It was a small thing, but every new trick is a big event for an old dog -- I had learned to step beyond my experience. For this I can thank a wonderful essay by Joan Scott, which I read in a 1994 edition of Critical Inquiry:

Experience is at once always already interpreted and something that needs to be interpreted. What counts as experience is neither self-evident nor straightforward; it is always contested, and always therefore political. The study of experience, then, must call into question its originary status in historical explanation.

This will happen when historians take as their project the analysis of the production of the knowledge attributed to experience; such a project would constitute a genuinely nonfoundational history, one which retains its explanatory power and interest in change, but does not stand on, or reproduce, naturalized categories.

Experience is, in this approach, not the origin of our explanation, but that which we want to explain. Politics is thus not undercut by denying the existence of subjects; instead, by interrogating the processes of subjects' creation, the rôles of history and historians can be refigured, opening new ways to think about and represent change.