Ode to a United States of Europe?

An ambivalent anthem and a quasi-clone?
Zizek’s critique of ‘Ode to Joy’ as the European Union’s choice of anthem is on the mark.
The exchange in the comments between dmclaney and elver about the signing of the Lisbon Treaty, United States of Europe finally created, are a mirror (with a different cultural text) to some of the media critiques produced by students this month. In particular, Evan Grabelsky’s “The News Media: The War on Journalism” and “com375″‘s “The Non-Reality of Reality TV.” Most of the news coverage I encountered involved Gordon Brown’s avoidance of the ceremony to sign incognito. (Reminds me of Governor Howard Dean signing Vermont’s Civil Union Bill in a private, closed door ceremony.)
The question (as always) is what to do about our recognition of the problem? Bela presents an example of organized activism that is making a difference: “If the technology and the heart come together….” ElR6 follows the theme of cyberoptimism with ” Communication and Global Consciousness.”
Probably there are ways to counteract the shallow coverage of mainstream media, but we can’t isolate only the media as the enemy. The cumulative effects of consumerist socialization are dulled awareness and self-absorbed insensitivity. Not to mention the desperate weaknesses of institutionalized education. A radical notion proposed by a friend the other night included not teaching history until the eighth grade. Why? “It’s in third grade you learn that blacks used to be slaves. What are you supposed to do with that information?”
This is the central question. What are we ‘supposed to do’ with all the information we have?

Just like fingerspelling?!

fi yuo cna raed tihs, yuo hvae a sgtrane mnid too Cna yuo raed tihs? Olny 55 plepoe out of 100 can. i cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno’t mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whotuit a pboerlm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Azanmig huh? yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt! if you can raed tihs forwrad it.

Ok – so “new research” is apparently untrue, although there is something to be said for “the role of letter order on reading.” Matt Davis has compiled an impressive corpus of equivalents in at least thirty languages, along with references and commentary from original and follow-up research in this area of word-form research. The number of letters in the word has quite a lot to do with whether the mind can grasp it.

so what if its bwoken?

No Country for Old Men did distract me from the indoor soccer injury I sustained a few hours earlier last night.
bwoken toe.jpg
The Big Z declined to view the movie:

The review says this is “is bleak, scary and relentlessly violent.”
I think I’ll pass.

The film is spare.
I felt, as we walked out of the theater recovering from the abrupt non-ending, that I could have done without the nihilism, however….I woke up this morning in physical pain (drats) yet . . . actively optimistic.
“This country is hard on people”, as the sheriff’s brother says, because “we the people” have made – as in: allowed, enabled, fought, dreamed….choose your verb based on degree of passivity-intention – “it” (this country, our societies, “the world” ) this way. Rolling Stone, in their review, puts it this way:

No Country carries in its bones the virus of what we’ve become. The Coens squeeze us without mercy in a vise of tension and suspense, but only to force us to look into an abyss of our own making.”

We, “the people,” *could* re-make it differently, with effort, cooperation, vision.
We could.
DISCLAIMER: I was recently in Jerusalem.

“Jerusalem Syndrome. It affects completely sane tourists without any psychiatric or drug abuse history. They arrive with normal tour groups and suddenly they develop what Bar-El calls a “specific imperative psychotic reaction.” In all cases, the same clinical picture emerges. It begins with general anxiety and nervousness and then the tourist feels an imperative need to visit the holy places. First, he undertakes a series of purification rituals like shaving all his body hair, cutting his nails and washing himself over and over before he dons white clothes. Most often, he lifts the white sheets from his hotel room. Then he begins to cry or to sing Biblical or religious songs in a very loud voice.

“The next step is an actual visit to the holy places, most often from the life of Jesus. The afflicted tourist begins to deliver a sermon–which is frequently a confused oration–where he exhorts humanity to change their behavior by becoming calmer, purer, and less sophisticated or worldly.
“Dr. Freud–whoops, Dr. Bar-El, says that from the psychiatric point of view, the most interesting thing is that besides this curious psychotic reaction, the patient doesn’t see strange things or hear voices, and he recalls everything that happens. He knows he is John Smith or Will O’Casey, he doesn’t lose his own identity, and the illness passes completely in five to seven days. Sometimes, the afflicted visitor is on a package tour of the Mediterranean which includes Greece, Egypt and Israel. He may be completely sane in Greece, he develops Jerusalem Syndrome in Israel, it passes in five days, and then he continues on with the group to Egypt.
“From a religious point of view, the Syndrome seems to favor Protestants . . . . In an average year, about 40 tourists require hospitalization for psychiatric illness.”

Skype (setting chat features)

Smith: Does Big Brother exist?

O’Brian: Of course he exists. The Party exists. Big Brother is the embodiment of the Party
Smith: Does he exist in the same way as I exist?
O’Brian: You do not exist
Smith: I think I exist

I am conscious of my own identity. I was born and I shall die. I have arms and legs
I occupy a particular point in space. No other solid object can occupy the same point simultaneously
In that sense, does Big Brother exist?

O’Brian: It is of no importance. He exists
Smith: Will Big Brother ever die?
O’Brian: Of course not. How could he die? Next question (11/12/84 7:19 PM)

Catalan, not French

I made a faux paux the other day, responding to Martí Cabré. S/he (as I plunge headlong into another one!) copied a photo I took of an art installation in Istanbul last summer. I was curious. The photo is evocative and in fact reminded me of the struggle some of my juniors are having letting go of being told in order to risk reaching out on their own terms. When I clicked through to see Martí’s post, I discovered text in a foreign language and – for some reason – assumed the language was French. I am not sure why, as I do have a passing familiarity with Spanish; had I looked I would probably have made that (just as egregious an) error. At least, my good friend the Wanokip tells me, French and Catalan are both Latin languages.
What I realized, heart-in-mouth, was that I did not “look.” My eyes glanced over the unfamiliar script and bounced off, catching no friction. What would have held me was not (in this instance) any quality inherent to the language or the medium (internet computer screen). I was in a hurry. My mind was multitasking, not inattentive but distracted, cast in multiple directions.
Martí kindly provided a synopsis in English:

I was frustrated because my server could not access the blogs area. Everything was fine but the blogs. And I had things to say. I had a need.
So this made me thought about the fragility of communication (the title). We are used to communication in one way (like in TV) where the bond with the viewer is based on the constant stimuli. This is similar to some Internet contents and specifically blogs, where the voidness of the contents is concealed by the amounts of smalltalk.
I try to write things with some sense so some feedback is needed with the readers, to keep learning myself about what I write. It is too complex to be one-way. I need the other side. And if I write sporadically this bond is weak. And if my server does not allow me access to writing, a frustration arises.
This is the content of the text. And, of course, it relates as a metaphor of human communication and your image was perfect.

When I first clicked through to Martí ‘s site, I was guilty of my own dependence upon “communication in one way”: I needed English. (Is this similar to my students expressing the need for oral – not written – instruction?) Certainly I appreciate the desire for feedback, for interaction, for engagement with the complexity of learning ourselves and learning more about subjects of interest. Just this morning, Jose and I discussed leadership as feedback that helps a person adapt…good teachers invest in giving feedback that enables students to adapt.
Martí included links to information about Catalan. Another commenter just provided some sources concerning Esperanto in response to a recent post: No Mother Tongue? Is this an example of (quantum level) relative synchronicity?!
Catalan, language: wikipedia entry
Catalan, people of: wikipedia entry
famous Catalans: wikipedia list
Esperanto, university program website: Esperanto

radical Chinese film director

I finally watched a movie (my only downtime this past weekend amid a grading spree!) by Wang Xiaoshuai, So Close to Paradise. The “Director’s Interview” at the end of the film explains that the film had to go through three cuts before it passed government censors. Wang’s career is well-established now, but in the 1990s he was as cutting-edge as they come, creating movies about life in China completely outside official channels. This film, which has been around for at least eight years, illustrates how grim life can be for many rural folk and immigrants who make their ways to large Chinese cities, seeking good jobs and better lives.
A biographical analysis of Wang describes his position within the “Sixth Generation” of Chinese filmmakers (a term I’ve at least heard before!) These directors are characterized by the feature of being young enough not to have had first-hand knowledge of the brutal Cultural Revolution (a label which always struck me as “sounding” like “a good thing” but was actually an intensive gutting of what we might retrospectively label as China’s then-contemporary creative class). Referring again to the Director’s Interview, Wang foregrounds the viewpoint of individuals instead of presenting storylines emphasizing the official doctrines of collectivity. I suppose that subjectivity is why the film’s storyline did not challenge my perception as much as some foreign films. Instead, I found the poverty and exploitation familiar as another example of the depressing patterns of capitalism. Reminds me of Burke’s critique of the “disorder of overproduction” in CounterStatement:

…instead of having all workers employed on half time, we have working full time and the other half idle, so that whereas overproduction could be the greatest reward of applied science, it has been, up to now, the most menacing condition our modern civilization has had to face. (p. 31)

Burke wrote in 1931. Nearly eighty years later the situation is worse.
fyi: a critique of Burke’s dramatism by Frederic Jameson, linking/correcting him with Yvor Winters.

maybe I’m a Finn? :-)

Saila gets more kudos: her dissertation research is Research News of the Week in Helsinki!
One aspect of her research into mobile phone use discovered a “paradox between reachability and disturbance” in which,

“Being in peace seems to be connected to the Finnish concept of humanity and social relationships. Text messages are particularly handy for Finns, as you don’t have to reply right away even though you are reachable,” she says.

Do you want to see what Finnish looks like?

“…a hint of menace”

Reunions with old friends and meeting new ones abound.

Last night, I had tears streaming down my cheeks during a good portion of Talk To Me, particularly through the civil rights movement portion of this film depicting Petey Greene‘s life as an entertainer. Not only does Don Cheadle bring Greene’s uncompromising assertiveness to life, Director Kasi Lemmons does a great job with the tension of differential ambitions between Greene and his Manager, Dewey Hughes (outstandingly acted by Chiwetel Ejiofor).
After a quick debrief, Natalia split the scene. Jose, Sinead and I were joined by John at Amherst Coffee. What a talk we had! Movie culture, memories of the sixties in the US, life in Malawi and Mozambique, and interpreting. Sinead had seen me working at the Graduate Commencement last spring – which included a protest against Andrew Card.
Prior to the movie, Jose and I ate while Jin (the Muscle-Bound-Tough-Guy) exercised his qi.


Our conversation covered Tae Kwon Do, Ta’i Chi, and the cultural politics of marriage.
I was reminded of my role as “community redneck,” because the previous evening a crew of Ever-Smiling Evil Indians regaled me with various responses to the typical American questions about arranged marriages. “He had two camels” is one answer to the decision-making process of the women/parents involved. We were eating at The Crazy Noodle, perhaps that inspired the round of sheer silliness? Next thing I knew there was a reprise of “we ride our elephants to school, they have their own parking lot,” compete at “camel polo,” and enjoy torturing valets with parking their mounts. You know they were getting to me because I became the “community ratkiller” in my notes (they give contracts to cats to kill the rats infesting every apartment) – perhaps a Freudian slip of my tendency to shine light into dark places? 😉 Is there really a sacred bull called Shambo? Maybe it was the Shiraz. Then Ambarish slipped, mentioning tunneling.

Quantum particles can penetrate into regions that are forbidden classically, leading to the phenomenon of tunneling.

We lost Ameya at this point – or did he lose us, kindof like the ball in soccer?! – and Supriya took off to find carryout containers. 🙂 by now, it’s been ages since the Ever-Smiling Evil Indian admired my tennis shoes: “they’re cool, with a hint of menace.”

Life follows language!

Ambarish added a cultural element while explaining arranged vs love marriages to a new friend a week or so ago, using me as his example: “We know there will be compromises. If I want to be friends with Steph, for instance, I know I’m going to have to make some compromises.”
Laughter all around. 🙂

Gearing up for the fall semester…

A few results of interest on the survey Association of Internet Researchers listserv members: definitions of lurker and troll, influence of the searchability (i.e., findability) of member postings on the Internet, assessment of a community sensibility and norms for communication (topics, style of discussion).
I need to review their Ethical decision-making and Internet research closely for a project I want to propose for this upcoming academic year. I should also spend some time checking out The Center for Internet Research more closely, too.

Nexcess wins!

Of the five blog hosting companies I contacted, only Greg read my initial email carefully enough to respond with a specific question that was responsive to exactly what I needed to know. Two of the others sent mass-produced (automated?) responses, and the remaining two did respond individually but with just trust us answers: “Yes, we can do that, go ahead.”
The transfer is already complete! Hopefully there will be no more “bandwidth exceeded” messages that shut down the site for days at a time, occasionally at inopportune moments (like during Critical Link V last spring, sigh).
What remains now, is clean-up and more learning so I can do more sophisticated things. As in, find more ways to write myself into the world. 🙂