November 6th, 2024

Andalusian Dewey…

  • el
  • pt
  • Driving the seaminess out of semiotics since 1979

    * * *

    H/T Jeff Ward

    If one wishes to realize the distance which may lie between “facts” and the meaning of facts, let one go to the field of social discussion. Many persons seem to suppose that facts carry their meaning along with themselves on their face. Accumulate enough of them, and their interpretation stares out at you. The development of physical science is thought to confirm the idea. But the power of physical facts to coerce belief does not reside in the bare phenomena. It proceeds from method, from the technique of research and calculation. No one is ever forced by just collection of facts to accept a particular theory of their meaning, so long as one retains intact some other doctrine by which he can marshal them. Only when the facts are allowed free play for the suggestion of new points of view is any significant conversion of conviction as to meaning possible. Take away from physical science its laboratory apparatus and its mathematical technique, and the human imagination might run wild in its theories of interpretation even if we suppose the brute facts to remain the same. (5)

    John Dewey, The Public and Its Problems

    At dinner tonight Beth asked me to explain what it is about postmodernism that I find so troubling. I took her around and around Robin Hood’s barn before centering down on the issues that have troubled me. First, I am concerned that a Gresham’s law of academics may have narrowed research and devalued the currency of American scholarship over the last thirty years. Has the emergence of a claque applauding continental theorists to the exclusion of other inquiry had a negative impact on academic freedom? I sense that this is so, I fear it, but I haven’t the data or the models to substantiate it. Fortunately, in a postmodern context I really don’t need to derive the data. What I really need to do is draw other like-minded people together in an interpretive community and we can howl at the moon together.

    A second and perhaps more meaningful concern (in light of my continuing interest in popular culture and academia’s success at occupying the nerdy corner of pop) relates to my glimmer of understanding that postmodernism is over and what’s next might be very interesting indeed. But for the last five years in my corner of the blogosphere, the emergence of a “New New Criticism” has been hidden and postmodernists have arrogated the discussion without turning toward that interesting question, “What’s next?” So it remains for me to answer it myself.

    November 3rd, 2024

    Derv in Brandistan

    “Charismatic Shopgirl” takes us on a mini-tour in Japan. Dervala’s eye for detail and her appreciation of nuanced cultural differences even within the petri dish of globalized marketing make her the perfect guide to Japanese mall culture.

    She has been off-line working in Japan for a month, and I’m glad to see her back.

    October 28th, 2024

    T. Ruggles’ new book…

    Oh boy, oh boyAgainst the Day, coming soon to a bookstore near us.

    Spanning the period between the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 and the years just after World War I, this novel moves from the labor troubles in Colorado to turn-of-the-century New York, to London and Gottingen, Venice and Vienna, the Balkans, Central Asia, Siberia at the time of the mysterious Tunguska Event, Mexico during the Revolution, postwar Paris, silent-era Hollywood, and one or two places not strictly speaking on the map at all.

    With a worldwide disaster looming just a few years ahead, it is a time of unrestrained corporate greed, false religiosity, moronic fecklessness, and evil intent in high places. No reference to the present day is intended or should be inferred.

    The sizable cast of characters includes anarchists, balloonists, gamblers, corporate tycoons, drug enthusiasts, innocents and decadents, mathematicians, mad scientists, shamans, psychics, and stage magicians, spies, detectives, adventuresses, and hired guns. There are cameo appearances by Nikola Tesla, Bela Lugosi, and Groucho Marx.

    As an era of certainty comes crashing down around their ears and an unpredictable future commences, these folks are mostly just trying to pursue their lives. Sometimes they manage to catch up; sometimes it’s their lives that pursue them.

    Meanwhile, the author is up to his usual business. Characters stop what they’re doing to sing what are for the most part stupid songs. Strange sexual practices take place. Obscure languages are spoken, not always idiomatically. Contrary-to-the-fact occurrences occur. If it is not the world, it is what the world might be with a minor adjustment or two. According to some, this is one of the main purposes of fiction.

    Let the reader decide, let the reader beware. Good luck.

    –Thomas Pynchon

    [hat tip to woods lot]

    October 16th, 2024

    Ben covers the rodeo…

    October 15th, 2024

    Least tragic hip-hop deaths…

    I don’t want to be thought insensitive — especially I don’t want to be thought insensitive by a bunch of gang bangers who hold their guns sideways while they blow people away — but this post cracked me up!

    Does anybody know if this guy was an actual rapper, or if the cops just assumed he was a rapper because he got shot?

    I know that’s a serious question, and the other citations and comments on this post are serious too, but my style is to smile at that shit. Take 2Pac, number ten on the list of least tragic… there’s gotta be a weed carrier out there who should replace 2Pac. Yet I always think of 2Pac as the only Marin County rapper I know, and there’s a disconnect there, until you understand more about the projects at Marin City.

    Cobb (Michael David Cobb Bowen) cites the “least tragic” post while writing of his equivocal love for Hiphop. He says, “You know something mysteriously wrong is going on when you have a category like ‘Least Tragic Hip Hop Deaths’.” He brings a lot of other threads together, including Lonnae Parker’s Washington Post article today:

    Last spring, I got together with some other moms from the first generation of hip-hop. We decided to distribute free T-shirts with words that counter some of the most violent, anti-intellectual and degrading cultural messages: You look better without the bullet holes. Put the guns down. Or my favorite: You want this? Graduate! We called it the Hip-Hop Love Project.

    Others are trying their own versions of taking back the music. In Baltimore, spoken-word poet Tonya Maria Matthews, aka JaHipster, is launching her own “Groove Squad.” The idea is to get together a couple dozen women to go to clubs prepared to walk off the dance floor en masse if the music is openly offensive or derogatory. “There’s no party without sisters on the dance floor,” she told me. In New York, hip-hop DJ and former model Beverly Bond formed Black Girls Rock! to try to change the portrayal of black women in the music and influence the women who are complicit in it. “We don’t want to be hypersexualized,” said Joan Morgan, a hip-hop writer and part of the group, but we don’t want to be erased, either.
    Lonnae O’Neal Parker

    Final analysis for me is to read the comments thread at bol’s “least tragic” post. For me, Hiphop is about the language. The commenters’ back and forth on 2Pac, the “hateration” and the slams on one artist or another, the ethical asides, the serious intent of some commenters and the dry humor of others makes the post entirely worthwhile. I’m grateful to Cobb for surfacing it. Cobb says this and I can say no more:

    As usual at Cobb, I think of taxonomies. And because it was my generation that was responsible for investing so much into hiphop, these taxonomies are deeply intertwined with black identity. So I must speak of these in terms of black people and all of black music. Black music is Hiphop, Gospel, Blues, Funk, Reggae, Jazz and R&B. Seven nice round categories. Each of those expresses a different set of values best. The tragedy of hiphop is that while it has the potential to sample expressions of all because of its open structure, that it has been reduced to the narrow emotional spectrum of lust, greed, anger and frustration. Now one can split hairs and say that is really the fault of rap lyrics; that hiphop music can express a broad range of emotion instrumentally. My response is that jazz musicians and R&B artists have appropriated all that. I would allow one other exception to the completeness of this taxonomy and it is an important one, and that is the emotions of dance music. When Missy Elliot cranks out one of her jams, she has got the groove nailed and the infectious beat. I’m going to call that Funk, not Hiphop. And in that realm, I’ll gladly admit things get complicated for me.

    October 12th, 2024

    Pride and Shame

    How can a country that victimises its greatest living writer also join the EU?

    TIMES ONLINE (October 14, 2024)

    By Salman Rushdie

    THE WORK ROOM of the writer Orhan Pamuk looks out over the Bosphorus, that fabled strip of water which, depending on how you see these things, separates or unites — or, perhaps, separates and unites — the worlds of Europe and Asia. There could be no more appropriate setting for a novelist whose work does much the same thing.

    In many books, most recently the acclaimed novel Snow and the haunting memoir-portrait of his home town, Istanbul: Memories and the City, Pamuk has laid claim to the title, formerly held by Yashar Kemal, of Greatest Turkish Writer. He is also an outspoken man. Explaining his reasons for refusing the title of “state artist”, he said, in 1999: “For years I have been criticising the State for putting authors in jail, for only trying to solve the Kurdish problem by force, and for its narrow-minded nationalism . . . I don’t know why they tried to give me the prize.” He has described Turkey as having “two souls” and has criticised its human rights abuses. “Geographically we are part of Europe . . . but politically?” He is not sure.


    Press Release

    12 October 2024

    The Nobel Prize in Literature 2024

    Orhan Pamuk

    The Nobel Prize in Literature for 2024 is awarded to the Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk
    “who in the quest for the melancholic soul of his native city has discovered new symbols for the clash and interlacing of cultures”.

    Whatever the country, freedom of thought and expression are universal human rights. These freedoms, which modern people long for as much as bread and water, should never be limited by using nationalist sentiment, moral sensitivities, or— worst of all—business or military interests. If many nations outside the West suffer poverty in shame, it is not because they have freedom of expression but because they don’t. As for those who emigrate from these poor countries to the West or the North to escape economic hardship and brutal repression—as we know, they sometimes find themselves further brutalized by the racism they encounter in rich countries. Yes, we must also be alert to those who denigrate immigrants and minorities for their religion, their ethnic roots, or the oppression that the governments of the countries they’ve left behind have visited on their own people.

    But to respect the humanity and religious beliefs of minorities is not to suggest that we should limit freedom of thought on their behalf. Respect for the rights of religious or ethnic minorities should never be an excuse to violate freedom of speech. We writers should never hesitate on this matter, no matter how “provocative” the pretext.
    Orhan Pamuk, “Freedom to Write,” New York Review of Books, May 25, 2024

    October 12, 2024, Associated Press — The European Commission said Thursday that a French bill that would make it a crime to deny that the World War I-era killings of Armenians in Turkey was genocide will hamper reconciliation between Turkey and Armenia.

    “Turkey has been called on many times by the European Union to achieve reconciliation on that matter, and to conduct an open dialogue with its neighbor Armenia, and also with the Armenian Diaspora in France,” said EU spokeswoman Krisztina Nagy.

    October 12, 2024 Associated Press — “No one should harbor the conviction that Turkey will take this lightly,” Turkey’s foreign minister, Abdullah Gul, said. “The parliament will meet on Tuesday with a special agenda and no doubt we have measures to take in every field.”

    Gul did not elaborate but his comments were interpreted by many as also being a reference to proposals currently being debated by Turkish lawmakers to recognize an “Algerian genocide” by France.

    October 9th, 2024 Sales Rank: #49,880 in Books

    Cross-X arrived late last week and it’s at the top of my reading pile, right under The God Delusion. Confession: I took some time out to read the new Stephanie Plum silliness, Janet Evanovich’s Twelve Sharp.

    Truth be told, I’m enjoying Dawkins as much as I enjoyed Evanovich. My atheism is ad hoc, a by-product perhaps of a stoned reading of Being and Nothingness combined with a common sense understanding of my consciousness bookended by the darkness before my life and the darkness after my death. Dawkins hasn’t gotten that deep or maudlin, rather he’s giving me a good humored ride through the territory where ever so many earnest people wrestle with this stuff as if it matters in a larger sense than raw international institutional power struggles, Vatican turf battles and the occasional pogrom, genocide or crusade.

    If my mockery of the blighted ignorance of those whose god is more than metaphoric sparks a simple conversation or two, I’ll be pleased. The whole “leap of faith” thing has been an arrow in my quiver since Norman Mailer bandied the phrase about as explanation for his need to explore other forms. I never thought a generation later would be mired in christian evangelical nonsense giving that commonplace phrase more weight than, say, “spirited venture.” I love Mailer in all his mawkish adolescent hostility and aggressiveness. Every mirror is flawed, but few writers are unafraid to live, to grasp the authenticity of their own experience and reflect it back to the world.

    I’m looking forward to getting into Joe Miller’s book soon. And maybe Dickey’s Chasing Destiny while I’m at it.

    October 8th, 2024

    Recently from Ray Sweatman

    the world plays jazz when you’re quiet
    October 3rd, 2024

    Ancient Chinese symbols fog up the mirror.
    Freud not yet born or else still musing
    across the bathtub at his lovely mother.
    Black lace drapes the white window.
    The crickets slow down like they’re
    running out of batteries. The I Ching
    rolls in the corner pocket. One last
    fly backflips from the ceiling.
    The machines clink and halt
    and come to a rest. If you listen
    you can hear the sighs of the dead.
    Lose yourself in the season’s first breath.

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