Posts from 21st April 2006

Apr 06

Johnny Foreigner, Branes, and the Limits of Fun

Proven By SciencePost a comment • 336 views

I’m just about to finish “The Way We Think” by Fauconnier/Turner and i can’t avoid the feeling that it feels like a composite of books by continental philosophers that i have read but this time CORRECTLY TRANSLATED. In common with many from the scientific/british/analytic culture I find the writing of Foucault and pals a little wordy and frustrating. It seems like they are getting at things i can agree with, but go round the houses to “say what they mean”. The fun of writing – they even have a word for it for heavens sake! – gets in the way of getting to the point, and the gut feeling is that this “inefficiency” is intended to piss you off. (I’m specifically thinking of a section in one of Foucault’s books where he’s making some obscure point by talking about Velasquez’s painting of that princess which seems to go on for pages for little reward.)

Anyway this book is a popular account of a fundamental principle to influential programmes of cognitive science – that of “conceptual blending”. I can’t do it much justice right now (I’m going to finish AND re-read) but it outlines the format of these blendings, and then explores/surveys increasingly complex types, including both predicate-logic style relations and metaphors along the way. It’s very interesting stuff, relating to creativity, causal thinking, language, “meaning” and belief in general – putting metaphor, and metaphor-like processes at the core – and suggesting an ignition-point at which human language becomes possible. smashing.

Strangely, though i can understand what they are trying to explain, cos they do so clearly, they also go into so many odd/funny/obscure examples (and then model those examples) that it does pick up that elliptical “get on with it” feel from time to time. But this time I GET IT. I particularly liked the (near stand up comedy material) bit where they point out that a double edged sword is actually better for fighting than a single-edged sword, and in fact had someone invented a double-edged sword where one edge consistently hurt the user, it would be discarded in favour of the single-edged sword. (Presumably used facing the right way)

Right, well I don’t know where I’m going with this. But when I finally DO get this, I can go back and finish Ricoeur’s “Rule of Metaphor” and maybe this time I can see what he’s trying to say but without getting dragged down so much.

I know the problem is really with me, not those johnny-foreigner writers, (apols to the likes of byebyepride obv) but a book you can’t get through cos it’s like reading treacle, is intellectually humiliating.

FOOTBALL (will that do?)

BA In Lack Of Nutrition And Tightfistedness

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 284 views

It isn’t easy being a student these days, with fees and financial pressures from all angles. Therefore the mind boggles at the story from Wetherspoon’s News: Students Prove Square Meal Value: in which two students eat out three times a day in one week for under £45. Clearly this is quite cheap and it therefore follows that the food quality would be absolutely top notch. However further examination of the piece showed much to be concerned about. Not least the following:
“The pair dreamed the idea up for a course project.”

What course??* And more interestingly, the item does not say what mark they got for it…

*Actually it does say the course. They were postgraduate advertising students. Or as we call them in the know, tossers!

Here’s A Proposition For You

Do You SeePost a comment • 362 views

“If you don’t go kill your (nasty rapist, murdering though cooly philosophical) elder brother I will kill your (dimwitted, good hearted, if also potentially a rapist and murdering) younger brother”. The Proposition is not a film which deals in Manichean morality. Let’s be fair, if the film contains moral shades of grey, they are very dark indeed. The that two characters in the film who could be said to me the most moral themselves are pretty purgitous. Guy Pearce’s middle brother, happy to shoot and murder who only seems to come to a revelation at how bad this might be late in life. And Emily Watson’s stab at a pure lady in this dark land is still sullied by her begging for a young chap to be flogged to death. So violence and nastiness sis the order of the day.

In such a cost dark film there has to be some light, and as is usually the case in outback set films, the scenery does most of the talking. It may be a cliche that all outback set films seem to have a dreamlike/dreaming quality but The Proposition does not seem to able to sidestep it. Shockingly pretty, shockingly violent, perhaps a bit boring in places, with music and a script by Nick Cave which compliment each other with their sparsity. (For the first half of the film Cave seems to have earned his fee for writing about 100 words). Put it like this: imagine a film written by Nick Cave. You’ve just imagined the bloody, murderous, cynical The Proposition.