23 March 2009


A half-baked musing on that old chestnut, the linguistic sign.

In preparation for my Orals Exam, I'm going back and reading a small portion of de Saussure's Course in General Linguistics (for the part about meaning being created by difference/negation). Funnily enough, there are still notes in my theory reader from four years ago when I was reading it on lunch breaks while (not)working at Brown McCarroll (NB: I do not recommend reading Jaobson's "Two Aspects of Language" and then returning to the world of asbestos litigation...talk about aphasia...). Looking back on those notes (and diagrams), I didn't get Saussure's ideas. At all.

Sure, I understood that the signifier and signified have an arbitrary relationship, but I guess I had read too much Lacan by that point to see that the whole play of signifiers idea flows naturally out of Saussure's ideas.
"On the one hand the concept [aka, the signified] seems to be the counterpart of the sound-image [aka, the signifier], and on the other hand the sign itself is in turn the counterpart of the other signs of language."
Saussure here seems to be doing the legwork for what Lacan thinks he discovered--disconnecting the function of the linguistic sign from the ontology of it.* It seems to me that a Saussurian linguistic sign is like the Wizard of Oz. There is the concept/signified (the actual Kansan huckster, Professor Marvel) and then there is the sound-image/signifier (the All-Powerful Oz). One is a disappointment once the curtain has been pulled away; the other is a lot of hype, hot air, and tricks. The one hides and is (mis)represented by the sound-image/signifier, which interacts with others and (re)creates the concept/signified as it does so. Remember, there'd be nothing sad or disappointing about Professor Marvel if it hadn't been for the representation of The Wizard of Oz, but it's also true that The Wizard began to function independently of its concept/signifier the longer it interacted with those in the land of Oz.

*Yeah, I know Lacan references Saussure often enough, but I haven't seen anything that gives him the sort of finder's-fee credit he probably deserves. It could be out there, but I just haven't seen it.

19 March 2009

Your Bonus? I'll Take That (Back).

From Raw Story today, David Edwards and Rachel Oswald bring us news that Ron Paul has called HR 1598, the bill that proposes a 90% tax on the AIG bonuses "an 'outrage' and unconstitutional."

I understand his point, which is that this is all posturing on the part of the Congress--sort of polishing the brass on the Titanic. No doubt what the Congress is doing is the politically safe move, and in the sort of hyper-campaigning climate that we see, I don't begrudge them the safe move.

While I don't agree with Paul's reasons, I do agree with his overall claim that this is a bad idea. To my mind, it sets a dangerous precedent for the government to create a tax to recoup money that--unwisely or not--it gave away.

I don't want those jerks to keep their money, either, but I feel even less comfortable with a government that can take what it wants in some backdoor manner like inventing new taxes. I say let the execs have their money, but since we own a goodly portion of AIG, we should just can them and make sure they never work for us again.

06 March 2009

Exercise in Frustrated Self Expression, Vol 2 (Formative Albums)

This is another meme from Facebook, and I promised not to do this on Fb anymore, but I am a sucker for music things so I'm doing it here. The idea behind this one was to list 25 albums (I'm at about 60, I think) that changed your life or the way you looked at music and the world. I'm not proud of all of these, but they are the formative albums of my youth and adulthood. "How can So-and-so's Album X not be listed?" you may ask (and please do in the comments); my answer is that it was obviously formative for you, but not me.

I've provided album dates, but the albums are ordered chronologically in my experience with them, divided into the large chapters of my life (mostly based on school...surprise, surprise). Even within those divisions, I've tried to order them in the chronology of their impact on me.


Purple Rain, Prince and the Revolution (1984)
Metal Health, Quiet Riot (1983)
"The Show/La Di Da Di" Single, Doug E. Fresh & The Get Fresh Crew (1985)
Raising Hell, Run-DMC (1986)
Licensed to Ill, Beastie Boys (1986)
The Real Thing
, Faith No More (1989)
Appetite for Destruction, Guns n' Roses (1987)

1989-1994 (HS):
Garth Brooks, Garth Brooks (1989)
Nevermind, Nirvana (1991)
Alice's Restaurant, Arlo Guthrie (1967)
Metallica, Metallica (1991)
The Hank Williams Story, Hank Williams, Sr. (1965)
Concert in Central Park, Simon and Garfunkel (1982)

1994-1998 (Undergrad):
Smash, Offspring (1994)
Freebird: The Very Best, Lynyrd Skynyrd (1994)
Jesus Freak, dc Talk (1995)
Skeletons from the Closet, The Grateful Dead (1974)
Throwing Copper, Live (1994)
Monster, R.E.M. (1994)
Happy Nowhere, Dog's Eye View (1995)
(What's the Story) Morning Glory?, Oasis (1995)
American Standard, Seven Mary 3 (1995)
Doolittle, Pixies (1989)
LA Woman, The Doors (1971)
The Velvet Underground and Nico, The Velvet Underground (1967)
Between the 1 and the 9, Patti Rothberg (1996)
File Under: Easy Listening, Sugar (1994)
Alien Lanes, Guided By Voices (1995)
Greatest Hits, James Taylor (1976)
Desire, Bob Dylan (1976)

1998-2000 (Intercollegia #1):
Greatest Hits, Donovan (1999)
Here We Go, Pat Green (1998)
No. 2 Live Dinner, Robert Earl Keen (1996)
The Man That I've Been, Cory Morrow (1998)
Ballads, The John Coltrane Quartet (1962)
Mermaid Avenue, Billy Bragg and Wilco (1998)
Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin (1969)

2000-2003 (Masters):
Keep it Like a Secret, Built to Spill (1999)
PleaseObservetheComma, Quiet, Lovely (2001)
We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes, Death Cab for Cutie (2000)
O Brother, Where Art Thou? Soundtrack, Various Artists (2000)
Songs for a Blue Guitar
, Red House Painters (1996)
The Creek Drank the Cradle, Iron & Wine (2002)
( ), Sigur Rós (2002)

2003-2005 (Intercollegia #2):
At Folsom Prison, Johnny Cash (1968)
You Can Play These Songs with Chords, Death Cab for Cutie (2002)
Danse Macabre, The Faint (2001)
Getz/Gilberto, Stan Getz and João Gilberto (1963)
The Sea & The Rhythm EP, Iron & Wine (2003)
Ghosts of the Great Highway, Sun Kil Moon (2003)
General Store, Owen Temple (2002)
The Next Voice You Hear, Jackson Browne (1997)
20 Greatest Hits, Don Williams (1987)

2005-2009 (Doctorate):
Unknown Pleasures, Joy Division (1979)
Reflection Eternal, Talib Kweli & Hi Tek (2000)
Mingus Ah Um
, Charles Mingus (1959)
Marquee Moon, Television (1977)
Sun Giant EP, Fleet Foxes (2008)
Sunday at the Village Vanguard, Bill Evans Trio (1961)
It's Not Big It's Large, Lyle Lovett and His Large Band (2007)
Alone Together, Jim Hall and the Ron Carto Duo (1972)

05 March 2009

In Like Flint

My Orals proposal was accepted. Thanks to all for the feedback!