Lest anyone think I survive on a diet of Frank Zappa, I thought I might mention finally getting around to a lovely Christmas present from Cheryl and Jimmy. I’d been meaning to get around to buying this for a long time, since Warren Criswell mentioned it to me, years ago. It is, well, ecstatic! Or, maybe it’s just the moustache.

Oh, and I keep meaning to mention a rude discovery I made while web surfing at the Poteau, Oklahoma libraryReflections in d minor is considered a pornographic web site. Lynn’s site is on their block list. Evidently, conservatives with an interest in classical music are considered subversive. I had no difficulty surfing most of the other blogs on my blogroll—curious, no?



Going to the commencement ceremony on Saturday was an experience. I watched two friends (who need to get their theses finished) walk, while I sat out in the crowd. It was surreal listening to the endless parade of names. I’ve never gone in for this sort of thing. I felt like I was trapped in a bad French movie.

But then, it was fun looking at all the costumery. I got entirely too much satisfaction from watching everyone exit the big arena, exiting right into the path to the cattle barn. I did come to one major conclusion though—people from computer science and engineering should never be allowed to give thirty-minute speeches. Oh, the humanity!

Continue reading “Granulation”



“This should not be regarded as a form of communication: any state of affairs provides direct evidence for a variety of assumptions without necessarily communicating those assumptions in any interesting sense.”

Dan Sperber and Deirdre Wilson, Relevance 2nd ed.

“Such a hypothesis is very difficult, and I can see objections to it which at the moment I do not know how to answer.”

Bertrand Russell, Introduction, Tractatus Logico-Philosphicus by Wittgenstein

“Rather than ask simply what meanings are like, we divide the question into two parts: What is the information the language conveys? What is the information about?”

Ray Jackendoff, Semantics and Cognition



After a somewhat involved conversation, I returned to reading W.J.T . Michell’s “The Rhetoric of Iconoclasm” and found some things that seemed worth noting in the light of the recent article by Camille Paglia. Mitchell dissects Baudrillard’s characterization of mass media as channels of “non-communication,” and the museum as a “bank.”

The question is, how can these truths be brought into some coherent relationship with the fact that the museum is (sometimes) the site of authentic aesthetic experience, the media (sometimes) the vehicle of real communication and enlightenment? How can the rhetoric of iconoclasm serve as an instrument of cultural criticism without becoming a rhetoric of exaggerated alienation that imitates the cultural despotism it most despises? (204)

Good question. Baudrillard advocates a return to archaic methods (marches, graffiti) to overcome the problem of “non-communication,” and though Mitchell doesn’t explicitly say it, Baudrillard advocates exposing the fetishism implicit in Western art. The ritual magic of modern fetishism is a central concern to Baudrillard, a fact that Paglia has to be aware of, though she claims that “postmodernism do[es] not understand magic or mystique.” Mitchell suggests a completely different approach than that advocated by Paglia— one that I more completely agree with:

What we need to realize is that the concrete concepts of fetishism and photographic “ideolotry” are in themselves dialectical images—“social hieroglyphs,” ambiguous syntheses whose “authentic” and “inauthentic” aspects cannot be disentangled by a question-begging invocation of the “real social process” or our “essential nature.” The essence of the dialectical image is its polyvalence—as object in the world, as representation, as analytic tool, as rhetorical device, as figure—most of all as a Janus-faced emblem of our predicament, a mirror of history, and a window beyond it. (205)

Paglia’s key images might as well have been the golden arches of McDonalds, or the NBC peacock. It is the displacement in time that I feel is not essential to connect with modern students. Even Socrates used contemporary social examples to his interlocutors to establish his points. Why key images? Pick an image, any image, and there is similar work to be done. The skills are still the same—it is the hallmark of the examined life, the life that cannot be successfully extracted from its context. As Wordsworth remarked, must we “murder to dissect”?

A tip of the hat to hysteria. I haven’t had a good excuse to read Matthew Arnold again in a long time. Goes to show you why I don’t comment on other people’s blogs much. I get myself in trouble, though sometimes it is fun.

Continue reading “Hysteria”


Full Disclosure

Due to the occasional academic tone of this blog, I feel it necessary and important to join Euan in declaring my blog BLX 1.0 compliant. Having preached standards compliance to my web writing classes, I feel it is important to practice what I preach.

standards compliance matters

Details of the standard, along with the nifty button which I will add to my sidebar, are available from Gary Turner.

*But of course, AKMA is already being contentious.