Archive for the ‘ Absurdity ’ Category

A Post Both Overdue and Insignificant:

Another year of college has slipped past me. I’m taking a summer statistics course (one week left, let’s see if this English major can survive). In light of this (and of my laziness) I humbly submit a TED talk on statistics. Those who know and love TED will see the truth in this clip:

The TedPad is available (for free!) at this site.

Heidegger, Dialectic, & Simba

The Lion King is known for being one of the greatest Disney films of all time. Until last night it had been quite a while since I’ve watched it — and this time I couldn’t help going through some analysis. So as not to ramble, I’ll begin by laying out the basic dialectical structure of the story.

Thesis = Mufasa. The start of Simba’s life is the start of his philosophical growth. In all honesty, there is not a lot we see of Mufasa. He tells Simba about the social structures of their kingdom, he gives a hunting lesson, and he dies. However, in this short time Mufasa makes himself out to be the most Heideggerian character in the movie. Yes, I am allowing the assumption that an anthropomorphic entity can be Dasein given the context of fiction. His whole “Circle of Life” spiel is essentially a leonine articulation of Bewandtnis (which Macquarrie & Robinson translate as “involvement”). Bewandtnis or Bewenden more crucially refer to the fact that the world is turning or that it is bent. All that equipment (for lions: gazelle, grass, weather, etc.) is tangled together. The understood state-of-mind (Befindlichkeit) Mufasa articulates is one of responsibility — the world matters to him. He has concern for it and solicitude for Others. We may also note that Mufasa ignores Zazu when he begins recounting gossip (idle-talk, a clear sign of the they-world). We will return to Mufasa later.

Antithesis = Timon and Pumbaa, the hippies. My sense of Hakuna Matata is a total immersion into the they-world. All is given over to ambiguity. The past is behind you, you merely flit from one grub to the next. Indeed, Timon and Pumbaa’s strong emphasis on eating (which almost gets Pumbaa killed) is a brilliant depiction of lust for the new. Simba learns from them how not to worry about anything. Maybe the lack of red meat in his diet is what causes his voice to be higher-pitched than all of the females in the film.

Synthesis = Rafiki. This half-senile, poo-flinging wizard effectively combines Timon and Pumbaa’s willful covering of the past with Mufasa’s Circle of Life business. Basically, the moral is “The past can hurt… but you can either hide from it or learn from it!” I’m pretty sure Mufasa would not disagree. Actually, I get the sense that Mufasa and Rafiki may not be in total philosophical agreement. When King Hamlet’s ghost… I mean, when Mufasa’s ghost appears to Simba, he tells his son to remember who he is as an individual. I would argue that the conversation between Simba and his ghost-dad represents a call of conscience in the Heideggerian sense. The content of the call is nothing, and it merely comes from Simba to Simba. It is a call from his Self to his Self — it goes over the they-self. Indeed, it pulls him out of the they. Timon and Pumbaa lament that their friend is “doomed” and they are very correct. The call of conscience reveals to us how we have been thrown into the world and the possibility of our Being as Being-towards-death. Because Simba realizes that he has the possibility of having no more possibilities as a Being in-the-world, he is confronted with the question of “What really matters?”

The synthesis, I would argue, is not necessarily what Simba takes. Rafiki’s emphasis on learning from the past doesn’t really have any further importance in the movie. Probably this is because Rafiki has crucially misunderstood what learning is… but that may be another story. Don’t get me wrong, I actually like Rafiki. The philosophical construct of “Asante sana, squash banana, wewe nugu, mimi hapana” is dazzling.

The following clip should exemplify some of the things I’ve been babbling about:

(My issue with Rafiki and learning is that he says, “It doesn’t matter, it’s in the past!” but then expects you to learn from something that doesn’t matter.)

Klingons and Kafka?

Once, long ago, I promised to do a bit on my forays into Klingon language. Here it is! In preparation for a presentation on Klingon that I will be doing next week, I figured I better brush up on the syntactical structures. And what better way than to translate a classic text into Klingon? I pondered the books readily available to me (i.e. the one’s sitting next to me at my desk) and I made a decision. Kafka — The Metamorphosis. The work is slow, so I only have one sentence done. But I picked a doozy! The opening line: “As Gregor Samsa awoke from unsettling dreams one morning, he found himself transformed in his bed into a monstrous vermin.”

In my best Klingon:

wa’ po Qongvo’ vempu’ ghe’ghor SamSa najmeymo’ SujmoHpu’, tu”eghpu’ QongDajDaqDaq DolHom’e’ choHlu’pu’.

A literal, non-grammatically corrected, reading of my Klingon approximates:

One morning from sleep awoke Gregor Samsa because dreams caused him to become disturbed, he discovered himself in his bed into a diminutive entity something indefinite had changed him.

When corrected:

One morning, when Gregor Samsa awoke from sleep because dreams caused him to become disturbed, he discovered himself in his bed, changed into a diminutive entity by something indefinite.

A few notes:

1) I picked the word DolHom’e’ (diminutive entity) as the equivalent of monstrous vermin. Klingon does have a word for cockroach (vetlh) and bug (ghew), but I felt that neither of these words could live up to the hype of Kafka’s “ungeheueren Ungeziefer.” I know ungeheueren is supposed to be more like “huge,” but in terms of Klingon mentality, diminutive seemed more appropriate. I use the word “entity” because I want Gregor’s Being to be shrouded. I’ve italicized the retranslated phrase because of a wonderful Klingon construct. The ‘e’ at the end of the word signifies an added importance; thus I make that word the most important in the sentence even though it cannot grammatically have the most prominent part.

2) Something indefinite: this phrase is added purely because Klingon must designate the subject of each verb.

3) Klingon has no adjectives, so many English constructs present huge difficulties! This is the reason “his dreams disturbed him.” “Unsettling dreams” is impossible to convey as such.

4) Bed: I’ve cheated a bit in my literal translation… QongDajDaqDaq actually translates to “In his place of sleep.”

5) The name: The letters of “Gregor Samsa” just don’t work in Klingon. Therefore, I’ve approximated the sounds with “ghe’ghor SamSa.”

Visit the Klingon Language Institute for pronunciation and other stuff!

Lord Vader visits Rochester

My recent visit to my beloved hometown, Rochester, MN, was wonderful. I took my bike for a phenomenological spin on some trails I had yet to explore. On one of them, a park bench had been attacked by graffiti. I apologize for the photo quality, I was using my cell phone. Nevertheless: Best graffiti ever!

Technology with Utility and Beauty

A recent silliness I have encountered is the insistence on SMART Boards as the tool with which education must happen. Obviously, my Heideggerian sympathies prevent me from accepting this. The problem with SMART Boards is not that they are some kind of technology. The problem is that we have no idea what kind of technology they make us. More and more we become ensnared by screens. If it is through these screens that the sum of education happens, then the only world in which humans will be educated is in that screen-world.

As far as usefulness goes, I’m sure SMART Boards are fine. There are two lingering problems. First, the use of SMART Boards chains teachers ever more tightly to what I shall call the Escalation of Methods. The Escalation of Methods states: Novelty and expense are necessary for children to learn. To begin to integrate SMART Boards into the classroom is to bind yourself to the ready-to-hand equipmental technologies associated that come along with it. The second problem arises in the form of The PowerPoint Delusion. This complex is the irrational belief that PowerPoint (or any comparable screen-based information) works. The use of SMART Boards may avoid this to some extent, but any information presentation technology that involves vanishing information is a part of The PowerPoint Delusion.

What of aesthetics? I won’t address this — I’m taking a class on Heidegger’s Origin of the Work of Art next fall. I will say that other technologies have a greater capacity for beauty than SMART Boards seem to offer:

Linguistic Analysis No. 5 — Learning

Time to write another post. Specifically, a post in which I gripe about edjumucation.

Allow me to share a quote from an edjumucator-in-training. This was his definition of intelligence:

“The ability to understand knowledge in a learning environment enhanced by internal and external factors.”

One might ask, why emphasize “in a learning environment?” A very simple reason. The speaker was talking about schools. Not “learning environments,” but schools. Humans are learning-creatures, we automatically learn. There is no reason environment needs to be factored in if we are approaching intelligence from such a broad perspective. Proximally and for the most part, all environments are learning environments. Yet the linguistic imperative of “learning environment” so often leans towards “school.”

So, I gave this guy’s definition more thought and decided to translate it into common parlance:

“The skill, based on being taught, to recall information in school.”

Notice how edjumucation does not address learning

Joy and Pain

Last week, “The Simpsons” had a very funny episode involving curling. But the best part was when the Swedes were consulted. In dismal tones, the blonde and skeletal captain of the Swedish curling team stated: “Joy is but the shadow pain casts.”
I love it!