Tag Archives: fiction influencing reality

Law and Order: rape and culture

Salute to the well-argued piece about Law and Order: SVU from the perspective of a survivor of sexual assault.  From Stacey Mae Fowles:

Any rape survivor who has watched her rapist live out his life in relative bliss, while hers is a wreckage of fear and mistrust, will tell you that justice is a fiction we all consent to. While she struggles through the slow tedium of recovery others live in willful ignorance, believing that some sort of redemption is possible. The survivor lives a life redefined by the actions of another—every victory against him, every loss endured in his shadow.

via “The Truth Is Embarrassing”: Olivia Benson and the Timeline of Trauma.

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Filed under media, representation, sexual assault

Star Trek and the NSA and paywalls

picard finger

I think it is totally messed up that the NSA spy dude General Keith Alexander built a replica Start Trek: Enterprise bridge.  HEY REAL WORLD SURVEILLANCE WARMONGERS: leave my fiction alone.  Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing explains using a quote from a Foreign Affairs article:*

When he was running the Army’s Intelligence and Security Command, Alexander brought many of his future allies down to Fort Belvoir for a tour of his base of operations, a facility known as the Information Dominance Center. It had been designed by a Hollywood set designer to mimic the bridge of the starship Enterprise from Star Trek, complete with chrome panels, computer stations, a huge TV monitor on the forward wall, and doors that made a “whoosh” sound when they slid open and closed. Lawmakers and other important officials took turns sitting in a leather “captain’s chair” in the center of the room and watched as Alexander, a lover of science-fiction movies, showed off his data tools on the big screen.

via Replica Enterprise bridge used to sell surveillance to Congress – Boing Boing.

*I couldn’t read the actual article because Foreign Affairs paywall was so dominating.  I guess I’ll have to read it via the school library server.  You know, paywall-mass-media-publication people: most of the nerdy people would read FOREIGN AFFAIRS probably can get a copy through their library.

It is convenient that I can follow the link from the Boing Boing article to the essay in question.  But if I open another tab, log into my school account, finding the article is a matter of a few more links.  So be honest, paywall-media-people, what you are selling is convenience.

Charge me convenience prices.  I just want to read one story.  Let me  drop ten cents (or a quarter!) of hard-earned digital cash for a nice story.  I don’t want to sign up, I want to pay for something the way you used to be able to buy a newspaper and not have to give your vital information.  Please mass media sources, get with the 2000s and make portions of your insightful work available to the public at reasonable prices.

And kick some of that digital cash to support investigative journalism.

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Filed under human rights, media, propaganda, representation, Surveillance

Wrestling commentary is fake? Glen Beck vs. WWE

I enjoyed the story of a conservative (fictional) storyline in professional wrestling taken for reality by right wing schmuck Glen Beck.  We get an amazing opportunity for the actors who play wrestling characters to explain some of the differences between acting and reality.

Thanks to David Shoemaker who ran the whole scenario down for us at Grantland.

The most impactful response to Beck, however, came not from the WWE front office but from Swagger and Colter, who recorded a new wooden-fence oratory. But, this time, after the promo ended, the camera angle changed, and Colter and Swagger were revealed to be standing on a soundstage in front of a green screen. They introduced themselves by their real names and explained in plain, straightforward terms how the pro wrestling enterprise works. Those anti-immigration speeches? Those were just promos, said Zeb — “a scene we record to elicit a positive or negative reaction from our fans.” The substance was irrelevant. “We aren’t in the political business or the immigration business,” he continued, “we are in the entertainment business.” After shaming Beck with a litany of audience demographics, Zeb and Swagger launched back into their rant as if nothing had happened. And Monday on Raw, even when Zeb mentioned Beck, he didn’t have to break character to do it. That was probably the most revealing thing about the broadcast — of course WWE was going to keep talking about Beck if it meant more mainstream attention, but they didn’t need to address his wrestling illiteracy on the air. They didn’t need to explain why Zeb and Swagger act the way they do, because everybody knows wrestling is staged. Beck should understand this, too, because as much as anyone, Beck knows what it is to be a performer.

via Dissecting WWE’s feud with the tea party and Glenn Beck – Grantland.

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Filed under communication, media, propaganda, representation

Making up your own language: Ithkuil

Nice essay in the New Yorker by Joshua Foer about a guy who invented a language in his spare time while working for the DMV. John Quijada created the new language Ithkuil which attempts to maximize clarity in human communication.  A few favorite passages and a little commentary:

1. Quijada’s idea to create a language was inspired Magma, french progressive rock band.

Quijada’s entry into artificial languages was inspired by the utopian politics of Esperanto as well as by the import bin at his local record store, where as a teen-ager, in the nineteen-seventies, he discovered a concept album by the French prog-rock band Magma. All the songs were sung in Kobaïan, a melodic alien language made up by the group’s eccentric lead singer, Christian Vander.

via Joshua Foer: John Quijada and Ithkuil, the Language He Invented : The New Yorker.

2. Quijada’s research drew on the multiple ways human’s language suggests dramatically different ways of being.

“I had this realization that every individual language does at least one thing better than every other language,” he said. For example, the Australian Aboriginal language Guugu Yimithirr doesn’t use egocentric coördinates like “left,” “right,” “in front of,” or “behind.” Instead, speakers use only the cardinal directions. They don’t have left and right legs but north and south legs, which become east and west legs upon turning ninety degrees. Among the Wakashan Indians of the Pacific Northwest, a grammatically correct sentence can’t be formed without providing what linguists refer to as “evidentiality,” inflecting the verb to indicate whether you are speaking from direct experience, inference, conjecture, or hearsay.

Inspired by all the unorthodox grammars he had been studying, Quijada began wondering, “What if there were one single language that combined the coolest features from all the world’s languages?” Back in his room in his parents’ house, he started scribbling notes on an entirely new grammar that would eventually incorporate not only Wakashan evidentiality and Guugu Yimithirr coördinates but also Niger-Kordofanian aspectual systems, the nominal cases of Basque, the fourth-person referent found in several nearly extinct Native American languages, and a dozen other wild ways of forming sentences.

via Joshua Foer: John Quijada and Ithkuil, the Language He Invented : The New Yorker.

3.  Joshua Foer, the author of the article, seems as intrigued by the potential of “constructed languages” (conlanging) to point toward innovative approaches to existence.

Many conlanging projects begin with a simple premise that violates the inherited conventions of linguistics in some new way. Aeo uses only vowels. Kēlen has no verbs. Toki Pona, a language inspired by Taoist ideals, was designed to test how simple a language could be. It has just a hundred and twenty-three words and fourteen basic sound units. Brithenig is an answer to the question of what English might have sounded like as a Romance language, if vulgar Latin had taken root on the British Isles. Láadan, a feminist language developed in the early nineteen-eighties, includes words like radíidin, defined as a “non-holiday, a time allegedly a holiday but actually so much a burden because of work and preparations that it is a dreaded occasion; especially when there are too many guests and none of them help.”

via Joshua Foer: John Quijada and Ithkuil, the Language He Invented : The New Yorker.

I have to wonder what my life would be like if I spoke only the one hundred twenty three word language!  I bet those little zen kids don’t even need grammar classes!

4. John Quijada’s representation of the clarity suggests a certain dislike in linguistic ambiguity.  What an interesting desire — to desire to write verbal play out of existence.  I suspect that Quijada would respond that the debate about the meaning would come down to difference in pronunciation of words!

“I wanted to use Ithkuil to show how you would discuss philosophy and emotional states transparently,” Quijada said. To attempt to translate a thought into Ithkuil requires investigating a spectrum of subtle variations in meaning that are not recorded in any natural language. You cannot express a thought without first considering all the neighboring thoughts that it is not. Though words in Ithkuil may sound like a hacking cough, they have an inherent and unavoidable depth. “It’s the ideal language for political and philosophical debate—any forum where people hide their intent or obfuscate behind language,” Quijada continued. “Ithkuil makes you say what you mean and mean what you say.”

via Joshua Foer: John Quijada and Ithkuil, the Language He Invented : The New Yorker.

5.  Foer’s story of the trip to Kiev where he and Quijada meet some of the most fervent fans of Ithkuil is pretty intense.

6.  Quijada meets George Lakoff, the thinker whose analysis of the power of metaphors propelled Quijada to create Ithkuil, in essence, to destroy the metaphoric by grounding every concept in a written/spoken concrete expression.

“There are a whole lot of questions I have about this,” he told Quijada, and then explained how he felt Quijada had misread his work on metaphor. “Metaphors don’t just show up in language,” he said. “The metaphor isn’t in the word, it’s in the idea,” and it can’t be wished away with grammar.

“For me, as a linguist looking at this, I have to say, ‘O.K., this isn’t going to be used.’ It has an assumption of efficiency that really isn’t efficient, given how the brain works. It misses the metaphor stuff. But the parts that are successful are really nontrivial. This may be an impossible language,” he said. “But if you think of it as a conceptual-art project I think it’s fascinating.”

via Joshua Foer: John Quijada and Ithkuil, the Language He Invented : The New Yorker.


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Filed under academics, communication, cultural appropriation, learning, music, representation