Another very interesting take can be found here (from a writer new to me, which is always cool) on the whole SapirWhorf linguistic relativism conversation, one that I almost missed in my growing dependance on trackback to keep me up to date on who’s been saying what…
One of the best things for me that came out of this ongoing discussion has been finding a whole constellation of new and interesting voices that had something to say on some facet of the topic, in addition to my friends in the virtual neighbourhood. It’s been a pretty good week in blogaria for me.
A while back I was asked if I would like to be a part of a group weblog written by expats from nations all over the bloody map, and I accepted, and promptly settled into a steady regimen of procrastination, as is my wont.
I broke my silence and posted a wee thing today. Hooray for me!
Hope you like it. Edit : I also recently received an email about a TV pilot being produced for a show about blogging (‘Wow, lookit ‘im type, Martha! That fella must be some kinda geeenyus!’), which invited me to produce a short bit of video that summed up my webwork here. The only thing I could think of was a blurry closeup of a dew-beaded beer bottle with me chanting a stream of obscenities in the background, followed by a few kaleidoscopic seconds of semi-nekkid belly-slappin’ dancing.
Maybe I’ll just keep the video to myself, huh?
I think last time I did something like this, some random Googlenaut accused me of self-indulgent wankery, to which, if memory serves, my reply was ‘And?’
Some interesting thoughts are swirling around my little romp through language theory the other day : Jonathon, Steve, Tom, Jeff, Stu, Dorothea (apologies as always if I missed anyone), and of course the folks who were kind enough to drop a comment or two inthread. Many things to think about, but I may well have exceeded my Deep Thought quota for the month already…
(*ducking to avoid flames*)
re : this.
I’ll be more interested after the fine people involved have read and digested the implications of the complete archives (skipping the ‘hoo hoo I’m a funny boy aren’t I’ stuff where appropriate) here.
That is all.
Jonathon is organizing a campaign to help Shelley – who’s got her back to the wall financially at the moment – keep weblogging. To lose her voice would diminish us all… if you offered to kick some money into a ‘save the wonderchicken’ fund, which I didn’t end up needing, you might consider dropping it into a ‘save the Burningbird’ fund instead. It would be a Good Thing To Do.
This morning, Korean television news reported that Bill Gates had been shot dead by an unknown assailant.
The ‘news’ grew out of rumour in Taiwan, apparently. How it made it to the national networks in Korea is anyone’s guess. But I was really upset, and surprised at myself for feeling so bad about it, at least until I heard an hour or so later that it was complete bollocks.
I don’t know why that would be.
Jonathon Delacour responds to a witless comment on his wbelog with an essay both thoughtful and forceful. I realized as I read it that I would quite probably would have replied to similar accusations with ‘oh, shut the f–k up,’ and I realized again that I have a lot to learn from people like Jonathon (and others, I know, many many others).
As I head off to bed, I have some things to turn over in my mind before I wake. (Of course, that said, I’ll probably dream about impregnating the Statue of Liberty or something equally goofy, but I’m a firm believer in metaphor, so it’s all good.)
Lesson #13,207 in my personal education, and another one that may teach me how to become a better man. Or at least one that doesn’t hit first and ask questions later.
A lengthy rumination from George Carlin, one of my favorite angry, funny people, brought to mind by Tom and The Happy Tutor.
“You can’t be afraid of words that speak the truth. I don’t like words that hide the truth. I don’t like words that conceal reality. I don’t like euphemisms or euphemistic language. And American english is loaded with euphemisms. Because Americans have a lot of trouble dealing with reality. Americans have trouble facing the truth, so they invent a kind of a soft language to protect themselves from it. And it gets worse with every generation. For some reason it just keeps getting worse.
I’ll give you an example of that. There’s a condition in combat. Most people know about it. It’s when a fighting person’s nervous system has been stressed to it’s absolute peak and maximum, can’t take any more input. The nervous system has either snapped or is about to snap. In the first world war that condition was called shell shock. Simple, honest, direct language. Two syllables. Shell shock. Almost sounds like the guns themselves. That was 70 years ago. Then a whole generation went by. And the second world war came along and the very same combat condition was called battle fatigue. Four syllables now. Takes a little longer to say. Doesn’t seem to be as hard to say. Fatigue is a nicer word than shock. Shell shock…battle fatigue.
Then we had the war in Korea in 1950. Madison Avenue was riding high by that time. And the very same combat condition was called Operational Exhaustion. Hey we’re up to 8 syllables now! And the humanity has been squeezed completely out of the phrase now. It’s totally sterile now. Operational Exhaustion: sounds like something that might happen to your car. Then of course came the war in Vietnam, which has only been over for about 16 or 17 years. And thanks to the lies and deceit surrounding that war, I guess it’s no surprise that the very same condition was called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Still 8 syllables, but we’ve added a hyphen. And the pain is completely buried under jargon. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
I bet you, if we’d still been calling it shell shock, some of those Vietnam veterans might have gotten the attention they needed at the time. I bet you that.
But it didn’t happen. And one of the reasons is because we were using that soft language, that language that takes out the life out of life. And it is a function of time it does keep getting worse.
Give you another example. Sometime during my life toilet paper became bathroom tissue. I wasn’t notified of this. No one asked me if I agreed with it. It just happened. Toilet paper became bathroom tissue. Sneakers became running shoes. False teeth became dental appliances. Medicine became medication. Information became directory assistance. The dump became the land fill. Car crashes became automobile accidents. Partly cloudy became partly sunny. Motels became motor lodges. House trailers became mobile homes. Used cars became previously owned transportation. Room service became guest room dining. Constipation became occasional irregularity.
When I was a little kid if I got sick they wanted me to go to a hospital and see the doctor. Now they want me to go to a health maintenance organization. Or a wellness center to consult a health care delivery professional. Poor people used to live in slums. Now the economically disadvantaged occupy sub-standard housing in the inner cities. And they’re broke! They’re broke. They don’t have a negative cash flow position. They’re f–kin’ broke! Because a lot of them were fired. You know, fired. Management wanted to curtail redundancies in the human resources area. So many people are no longer viable members of the work force.
Smug, greedy well-fed white people have invented a language to conceal their sins. It’s as simple as that. The CIA doesn’t kill people anymore, they neutralize people, or they depopulate the area. The government doesn’t lie, it engages in disinformation. The pentagon actually measures radiation in something they call sunshine units. Israeli murderers are called commandos. Arab commandos are called terrorists. Contra killers are called freedom fighters. Well if crime fighters fight crime and fire fighters fight fire what do freedom fighters fight? They never mention that part of it to us, do they?
And some of this stuff is just silly. We know that. Like when the airlines tell us to pre-board. What the hell is pre-board? What does that mean? To get on before you get on?
They say they’re going to pre-board those passengers in need of special assistance …cripples! Simple honest direct language. There’s no shame attached to the word cripple I can find in any dictionary. In fact it’s a word used in Bible translations. “Jesus healed the cripples.” Doesn’t take seven words to describe that condition. But we don’t have cripples in this country anymore. We have the physically challenged. Is that a grotesque enough evasion for you? How about differently-abled? I’ve heard them called that. Differently-abled! You can’t even call these people handicapped anymore. They say: “We’re not handicapped, we’re handy capable!” These poor people have been bullsh-tted by the system into believing that if you change the name of the condition somehow you’ll change the condition. Well hey cousin … doesn’t happen!
We have no more deaf people in this country. Hearing impaired. No more blind people. Partially sighted or visually impaired. No more stupid people, everyone has a learning disorder. Or he’s minimally exceptional. How would you like to told that about your child? ‘He’s minimally exceptional.’ Psychologists have actually started calling ugly people those with severe appearance deficits. It’s getting so bad that any day now I expect to hear a rape victim referred to as an unwilling sperm recipient!
And we have no more old people in this country. No more old people. We shipped them all away and we brought in these senior citizens. Isn’t that a typically American twentieth century phrase? Bloodless. Lifeless. No pulse in one of them. A senior citizen. But I’ve accepted that one. I’ve come to terms with it. I know it’s here to stay. We’ll never get rid of it. But the one I do resist, the one I keep resisting, is when they look at an old guy and say, “Look at him Dan, he’s ninety years young.” Imagine the fear of aging that reveals. To not even be able to use the word old to describe someone. To have to use an antonym.
And fear of aging is natural. It’s universal, isn’t it? We all have that. No one wants to get old. No one wants to die. But we do. So we con ourselves. I started conning myself when I got in my forties. I’d look in the mirror and say, “Well…I guess I’m getting …older.” Older sounds a little better than old, doesn’t it? Sounds like it might even last a little longer. I’m getting old. And it’s okay. Because thanks to our fear of death in this country I won’t have to die. I’ll pass away. Or I’ll expire, like a magazine subscription. If it happens in the hospital they’ll call it a terminal episode. The insurance company will refer to it as negative patient care outcome. And if it’s the result of malpractice they’ll say it was a therapeutic misadventure.
I’m telling ya, some of this language makes me want to vomit. Well, maybe not vomit …makes me want to engage in an involuntary personal protein spill.”
Who’s organizing pro-war (and what an idiot word that is – ‘pro-war.’ Yeah, ah’m pro-war. I kinda like all that killin’ and burnin’ and shootin’ – makes me feel like f–kin’!) rallies in America? The Bush-friendly ClearChannel crapradio near-monopoly, apparently. Neat!
There’s something happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear, but a good guess is that we’re now seeing the next stage in the evolution of a new American oligarchy.
For me, it’s always been Alphagetti, which is pretty much the same darn thing as Spaghetti-o’s, I guess, except without the mystery meat. But only if eaten with a large stack of lightly-toasted white bread that has been ‘buttered’ not with butter but with Parkay margarine.
I haven’t had this particular childhood-conjuring treat in years, living as I have been in the blessedly canned-noodle-and-tomato-sauce-free wastelands of Asia. But just thinking about it makes me feel all gooshy inside. And slightly constipated.
This by way of saying that Skot is a dangerously amusing young man, and deserves your undivided attention for at least a couple of minutes (which are, it must be admitted, veritable eons in these days of waking-life REMs).
HEDGES: “During a lull I dashed across an empty square and found shelter behind a house. My heart was racing. Adrenaline coursed through my bloodstream. I was safe. I made it back to the capital. And like most war correspondents, I soon considered the experience a great cosmic joke. I drank away the fear and excitement in a seedy bar in downtown San Salvador. Most people, after such an experience, would learn to stay away. I was hooked. ”
MOYERS: You were hooked on?
HEDGES: War. On the most powerful narcotic invented by humankind is war.
MOYERS: What is the narcotic? What is it that’s the poisonous allure?
HEDGES: Well the Bible calls it, “The lust of the eye.” And warns believers against it. It’s that great landscape of the grotesque. It’s that power to destroy.
I mean one of the most chilling things you learn in war is that human beings like to destroy. Not only other things but other human beings. And when unit discipline would break down or there was no unit discipline to begin with, you would go into a town and people’s eyes were glazed over. They sputtered gibberish.
Houses were burning. They had that power to revoke the charter. That divine-like power, to revoke the charter of another human being’s place on this planet. And they used it.
MOYERS: I would have thought that being captured and held by the Iraqis as you were, would have cured you of your addiction. But yet it didn’t.
MOYERS: So I still don’t understand it. I have to be honest. I mean I just don’t understand why you keep putting yourself back into that which you hate.
This article and its associated Metafilter thread make interesting reading, and are germane to the roots of my rant yesterday, perhaps. Really, though, I was just havin’ a bit of fun.
You know that feeling you get when a telemarketer interrupts your dinner? I get that feeling sometime when my Pentecostal/Charismatic friends are trying to persuade me into their camp. It’s not that I don’t know they are good, decent, law-abiding people who like me. I just want them to quit treating me as a target or a project and start treating me as a person who is free to be myself and different from them.
Say what you will about his recent fictional output (or his older fictional output, for that matter), I still have a soft spot for Kurt Vonnegut. At the age of 80, he’s still saying things worth listening to.
And he’s not an asshole, which still counts for something, I hope.
I myself feel that our country, for whose Constitution I fought in a just war, might as well have been invaded by Martians and body snatchers. Sometimes I wish it had been. What has happened, though, is that it has been taken over by means of the sleaziest, low-comedy, Keystone Cops-style coup d’etat imaginable. And those now in charge of the federal government are upper-crust C-students who know no history or geography, plus not-so-closeted white supremacists, aka ‘Christians,’ and plus, most frighteningly, psychopathic personalities, or ‘PPs.’
What has allowed so many PPs to rise so high in corporations, and now in government, is that they are so decisive. Unlike normal people, they are never filled with doubts, for the simple reason that they cannot care what happens next. Simply can’t. Do this! Do that! Mobilize the reserves! Privatize the public schools! Attack Iraq! Cut health care! Tap everybody’s telephone! Cut taxes on the rich! Build a trillion-dollar missile shield! f–k habeas corpus and the Sierra Club and In These Times, and kiss my ass!
While we’re talking authors here, another writer whose work I’ve always enjoyed reading, Gunter Grass, is also speaking out against those murderous C students and psychopaths in Washington. Edit : This is as good a time as any to share some statistics about Korea with you. I ran across these numbers a few days ago, and they would seem to explain much on first glance. Whether that is actually the case or not is up for debate.
There are a total of 450 public libraries in Korea. In the whole country.
These facilities serve a population of approximately 47 million people : it works out to about 110,000 people for each library, the lowest in the OECD. The ratio is actually worse here in Seoul – which is home to the equivalent of about a third of the population of Canada, a fact that never ceases to boggle me a bit – there’s one library for every 330,000 people.
The comparable figure in Europe is about 1:10,000 and in America it’s 1:20,000 or so.
Some ad-hocratic systems have arisen to compensate, as is always the case here. There are privately run shops, even in the nasty little suburb where I live, that rent a few books (mostly home-grown manga for the schoolkids) alongside the standard racks of action movies. There’s a bookmobile that comes around the human beehives once a week, too, with a couple of hundred Korean novels onboard. Small compensation for the few who have the time or energy to read anything.
As for me, even if any of these few libraries were near enough for me to visit, I’d be out of luck. None carry books in English, of course.
If any webblogger should have an Amazon wishlist and wheedle and beg for books, it’s me, by crikey. Maybe I should get a webcam, start peddling my wonderchicken pulchritude, and demand payments (“Put it on! Put it all back on! Please!”) in literature….
“At Imaginative Pastures, we’re trained to think outside the commons.”
I’m not sure what that means, but it sounds good to me! Strong, and good, and right! Make no mistake. Our mission is to stop the bad people, and protect the good American public and their strong copyright freedoms. We are strong, and good. Really really good. Strong, too.
“Some very rough notes on a potential future blog entry […] what follows is nothing more than the usual rubbish and bird dirt on the sidewalk…” Or : essentialtalk and think and link. Kent hides his light away, as usual. Dig it, cats.
There are some very smart things being said by some very smart bloggers around the neighbourhood, apparently spurred at least in part by one of my occasional, typically-crude brainfarts. This pleases me, even if I’m not too interested at the moment in going meta and joining the conversation. What my bloggerly friends have to say is a pleasure to read, and although I find myself agreeing for the most part with them, I ought to make it clear that I had nothing so erudite in mind when writing the post. Just singing my song, you know?
Anyway, some Deep Thoughts and Worthwhile from the completely unsh-tweasellike Tom, Steve, Jonathon, and AKMA. I love these guys – they make me look like I’m clever, when really I’m just voluble and profane and tediously honest.
[Edit : Add The Happy Tutor to the discussion…]
I discovered the wonderchicken 6 months or so ago […] He has one of the truly distinctive voices writing on the web today, sort of a cross between Hunter S Thompson when he still had brain cells and Arianna Huffington in her current left phase. Highly recommended for a daily read.
Now, this guy, I like. I dunno who the hell Arianna Huffington is, and I’m too drunk to bother googling her at the moment, but the oldstylee HST reference is high praise indeed, and if you cast your eyes to the left, you’ll see that this is just the sort of thing that I thrive on. Most Blogstars, they won’t admit their neediness and self-absorption, but me? Me, I’ll tell ya the truth.
A tender and slightly melancholy Metafilter reminiscence in response to a completely puerile threadstarter from a new member, courtesy of tamim. The occasional astonishing comment like this, and the occasional great thread (of which there have been a few lately) always keep me coming back for more.
Today’s Required Reading
Absolutely fascinating post from Alex (which is in itself not unusual, but) : The Warre of All Against All. Go, read. Bruce Sterling gives us some new metaphors to work with, better ones, I’d say : A Contrarian View of Open Source. Go, read.