Blog Update

Well. This blog has been around for one full year! Here are a few things you should expect for the next few months:

1) Postcolonial analyses — probably of Ngugi wa Thiong’o and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

2) More Heidegger — I’m busy planning a big paper on Heidegger (on “Space”)

3) Star Trek — specifically Klingon Language

4) Continued linguistic analyses

Advertisements

Linguistic Analysis No. 3 — Metalinguistic Guns

Imagine the scene: “A large conference room, filled with pudgy military men. A new rifle has been designed, and these men are just responsible for final, aesthetic touches. One stands up and says, ‘Jesus is a bullet!’ There is much applause.”

It might as well be a true story — see reports here, here, and here. To quickly summarize, a weapons producer was printing New Testament verses on the scopes of their rifles. The rifles are being used in Iraq, so people are upset.

My interest in this is from a different arena. These articles have no metalinguistic self-conciousness; they don’t understand the words they are using. For simplicity, I will use the WP article — which is remarkably similar to that of FoxNews… I will keep this analysis to three points.

1) Theological awareness:

“Trijicon’s rifle sights use tritium, a radioactive form of hydrogen, to create light and help shooters hit what they’re aiming for.

Markings on the Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight, which is standard issue to U.S. special operations forces, include “JN8:12,” a reference to John 8:12: “Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life,'” according to the King James version of the Bible.

The Trijicon Reflex sight is stamped with 2COR4:6, a reference to part of the second letter of Paul to the Corinthians: “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ,” the King James version reads.”

So… You tell us that tritium is used to light a path for bullets to kill people. And the quoted verses offer references to Jesus being light. Now, one thing is the disturbed mind that decided that combination made coherent sense (Okay, so my facetious example at the beginning was misleading, the man actually said “Jesus is tritium!”). Another thing, one I consider more important in the moment, is to consider the placement of these bits of information by the WP (and Fox). Neither news source shows any awareness of the disturbing connection between  tritium, murder, and Jesus. I’m sure it’s nice having a Christ who tells you that killing people is okay. It’s probably better when he radioactively points out where the bad-guys are.

2) Clause order — its impacts on semantics

“The company’s practice of putting Bible references on the sites [sic] began nearly 30 years ago by Trijicon’s founder, Glyn Bindon, who was killed in a plane crash in 2003. His son Stephen, Trijicon’s president, has continued the practice.”

Seriously? Glyn’s son has continued the practice of being killed in a plane crash in 2003? Yes, I understand this is an overly critical. But how hard would it be to write: “Trijicon’s founder, Glyn Bindon — killed in a plane crash in 2003 — began putting Bible references on the sights nearly 30 years ago. His son Stephen, Trijicon’s president, has continued the practice.” My version is 5 words shorter. It took me longer to count the words than it did to make the damn thing more concise. And sensible. It should also be noted that the WP wrote “sites” when referring to the “sights” of rifles. Homophones!

3) Weird Specificity

This is not too huge of a complaint. But I do find the specificity somewhat red-flag raising.

“The references to Bible passages raised concerns that the citations break a government rule that bars proselytizing by American troops in Afghanistan and Iraq…”

Um… is it okay to proselytize in other places? Like Haiti?

Come on news sources! You wonder why we don’t really trust you!

A Glorious Autotune

Please, watch the following music video:

I really cannot offer any critique, save for one thing. This is what autotune was designed for. Autotune has received huge amounts of bashing, much of it probably well-deserved. I would argue that it is through music like this that autotune has remarkable potential. Granting song  to non-singing types, particularly innerlekshul types, is something beautiful indeed.

But, for a moment, let us consider a Heideggerian analysis of autotune. In “The Question Concerning Technology,” Heidegger shows that the supreme danger of all technology is that humans presume their mastery. The danger he sees is that we ignore the effects technology has on us, that we merely see technology as something we have created. Heidegger’s analysis applies to the discussion of autotune in two ways. For one, autotune is a technological innovation. Secondly, the Arts are technology. This second point is where it is helpful to have a literary perspective: one of the greatest achievements in literary theory is the consideration of ideology. Although I do become suspicious when so many aspects of literary theory are dependant upon Freud, Marx, Derrida, and Foucault…

So what of Heidegger? My favorite line in the song is, “The sky calls to us. If we do not destroy ourselves, we will, one day, venture to the stars.” Heidegger, I believe, would particularly enjoy the first sentence. The sky calls to us — we do not call to the sky. This is classic Heidegger. He uses the word “poiesis” (“bringing forth”)to describe all change, all action, all creation. Specifically, he uses the word “phusis” (related to “physics”) to describe the poiesis of nature. Nature is indeed poetic (N.B. the common root!); the sky does call to us. Heidegger would also like the second quoted sentence. It puts the responsibility on us. We must answer the call of the sky. Human poiesis (i.e. techne) is thereby the response to that call — and it is absolutely a response for which we are responsible.

Heidegger, I would argue, treads the treacherous division between existentialism and essentialism. Given his Nazi involvement, his philosophy is likely to be quite dangerous. But, as he writes, the supreme danger contains the saving power; it is important to tread carefully through Heidegger’s thoughts. Technology (as science or art) as huge potential for disaster (for instance, Twilight), but a still more glorious dawn awaits.

I almost blogged on this article instead. Silly Canadians…

Post-Lussinatt Blog Post

I hope the world had a lovely Lussinatt!

Currently, I am busy writing an essay about how elements of Nietzsche’s philosophy hide a deeper narrative of Marxist though in Joseph Heller’s Catch-22. In other words, I’m writing this post to slack off. Rather than detail my paper, I think I’ll stick to something more amusing, if that’s possible. My subject shall be: Stuff White People Like.

First off, the Stuff White People Like blog is brilliant. Apparently it has been around for quite a while, but I only recently discovered it. Kudos to he who suggested I go there! The brilliance of the blog is that it is not about white people at all. What is it about? I think here we should consider one of Slavoj Zizek’s favourite sayings. Stuff White People Like is about “postmodern, multi-cultural, liberal capitalism.” Not only is it about this group, the dominating force of (post)modern culture, it makes fun of this group.

Keeping in the mode of Zizek, it is fair to say that the blog exposes many of the ideological idiosyncracies of po-mo, mu-cu, lib cappies. One of the best posts on the blog is #62 Knowing what’s best for poor people. The statement is, in itself, entirely true. The (post)modern left loves to know what’s best for poor people. Especially without asking them. But there is a more subtle horribleness here. Actually, there are two.

1) The first horribleness is the leftist obsession with sameness. It is a failure to realize that populism is a necessary condition of capitalism. At least right-wingers tend to be honest about their fascist desires. The left hides them, because that’s not civilized. It is a failure to realize that this need to be “civilized” or “open-minded” or “tolerant” actually means to be “civilized,” “open-minded,” or “tolerant” of ideas sympathetic to capitalist ideals. Just as the charity of the right cannot work, the so-called-socialist left cannot work; the right is honest that they don’t give a damn about the poor, but the left pretends. Which is more offensive?

2) The passage from Stuff White People Like also reveals a horribleness about blame. The po-mo, mu-cu, lib cappies also hide a hatred for the poor. This hatred is based on an inner belief that the poor have chosen to be poor. “Oh if only the poor had an education” is really, “Oh if the poor weren’t so stupid.” The real lament should be “Oh if only the poor weren’t poor.” The poor wouldn’t be poor if the blasted hippie mentality wasn’t so pervasive!

Here, I would launch into a diatribe on hippies. The ideology of capitalism crouches beneath the rank veil of hippie ideology. I don’t like it. But this diatribe can be saved for another time…

Linguistic Analysis No.2 — Star Trek

Astute readers of this blog will note I have some form of affinity for Star Trek. To me, Star Trek is like a particularly stupid animal. Cute, but incompetent. My attitude towards the show ultimately stems from the gorgeous mythos of sci-fi and political/philosophical exploration. It is these qualities that render Star Trek lopsided. The sheer wonder of the universe is remarkable, and I love that. But the elements of political and philosophical exploration that the show meddles with are stupid. Or in any case the show does so in a manner that is stupid.

This leads us to a discussion of linguistics. Specifically, we must look at phonology, the production of sound. Indeed, we must literally look at phonology. We must pay attention to the way we shape our mouths as we speak. From this we gain the art of lip-synching and lip-reading. Combining these two, in a simply brilliant, comedic manner, is the following video (with some naughty language).

In my thinking, the creators of this video have hit nonsense language right on the head. Nonsense at its best forms a kind of quasi-narrative. This, however, is merely the effect of our brains trying to make a narrative where there isn’t one. Perhaps one of the best used techniques in the video is the repetition of one key phrase: apple juice. No explanation of “apple juice” is provided. It is merely there and we must try to fit it into our interior narrative for the scene. “Apple juice” is the call of the Other.

I am currently engaged in reading Emmanuel Levinas’ Totality and Infinity. It is painful. However, Levinas describes the scenario the Other puts us into in exactly the same terms I have described “apple juice.” It is a “signification without context.” There is content, but nothing to tell us what it means. The Other simply calls out to us. We must re-evaluate the way we see things to fit the call of the Other. Or we can ignore it.

And in the case of the “Happy in Paraguay” video, ignore it and laugh.

Education and Expectation

Rather than launch into a lengthy diatribe about education, I’ll stick to one thing. Skills must be taught. The purpose of education is not to stuff our heads with everything from the first 40 lines of the Caunterbury Tales in Middle English to the reproductive cycle of an apple tree. We can look those things up, calling them when they are needed. This is the purpose of Wikipedia. Education must provide context for the content of the material.

In thinking about why I look something up on Wikipedia, I decided on three reasons. 1) To waste time with quick barrages of facts. 2) To satisfy the desire for knowledge of pop culture items. 3) To gain a broad overview of a thing. These cases illustrate the relation of content and context — No. 1 would not exist without boredom, distraction, etc. No. 2 would not exist without a reference to some pop culture item to lead me to desire further clarification. No. 3 would not exist without the need/desire to have information about a thing.

An important point emerges here. It would seem that context is more important that content, but I argue a different point. I argue that the challenge for students must be to fit content within context. Such is the challenge of an essay — read a book, take facts from it, write an essay about x. The possibilities go far beyond that of a simple essay, certainly. The important matter, I feel, is that skills are learned that facilitate adaptation. Here I do not say that students must be changed, but that they must have the capability to change.

But sometimes there is a right and a wrong way of doing things. Example A (of the wrong way!) is the following Onion article. I think we could replace “Montessori” with “John Dewey’s Progressive Model,” but that gets a bit prolix.

It’s fun to mock Reagan.

Apparently, the Berlin Wall came tumbling down. 20 years ago today! So I get to take a stab at the Gipper. With a comic from a number of years ago. A comic that took me quite some effort to track down. Luckily, it’s a god-awful pun. We need more puns like this!

*Unfortunately, I couldn’t embed the dang thing — Sunday comics are too wide for the format of a blog, apparently. You can find it here.