Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Whack-a-Male


[We continue with our analysis of the “Blindspot” pilot.]

An obstacle towards guys’ enjoying the show is the grating Twofer Boss.  Her role is to serve as the mallet in Whack-a-Mole -- the moles being the males.  As:

(1)
* Labcoated Science Guy quickly discovers what pharmaceutical is responsible for Jane Doe’s amnesia.  Briefing his boss and FBI Guy, he pronounces the long chemical name, and adds “commonly known as” (the acronym).   Impeccable. But she slaps him down:  It may be “common” in the hoity-toity circles you move in, “doctor”, but for the rest of us… Against all plausibility, the dramatic logic somehow has the male doctor wrong-footed.


(2)

FBI Guy tools off to the Statue of Liberty, which (as he has figured out) is about to be bombed by a terrorist.   In any approximation of reality, the Bureau along with the NYPD would deploy dozens of agents and officers for this op;  but the program sets it up so that FBI Guy is seemingly about to go in alone.  -- Now, that is the annoying scenario so frequently recycled by masscult so that the male hero can do some heroics heroically and not have to share the limelight with anyone;  it is the narcissistic/solipsistic Rambo motif, and it appeals to eight-year-old boys (and to the less intelligent among the nine-year-olds).  In recent years, the tired trope has been retooled with a sex-switch;  it is supposed to appeal to grown women.
But, interestingly, neither of these flavors of that motif are the goal here.

FBI Guy is not quite alone;  over his own objections, he brought along Jane Doe, at the insistence of his Twofer Boss.  Still, he tells Jane to wait back at the car (the patriarchal  beast!) while he singlehandedly Saves the Day(**); but again, Jane insists, and accompanies him into the Statue.   They meet up with the perp, and, in an extremely badly choreographed bit of sciamachy, the screenwriters maneuver FBI Guy, helpless and unarmed, into the grip of Perp, and only a head-shot by Jane saves his life and his bacon.

[**Footnote to laypersons and residents of Mars:  SWAT teams, Special Forces, and FBI on a takedown-attack  do not actually bring along tourists, bystanders, or embedded journalists along for the ride, regardless of the relative genders.]


Now, simply as an action sequence, that was incredibly inept, and likely to disappoint an average audience (let alone a more instructed one);  and yet a large well-funded team of producers and writers had plenty of time to craft the scene just-so, to help define the series in the pilot.  To make sense of it, we must proceed precisely as does a Freudian confronted with a Fehlhandlung:  as a symptom of something deeper, not as a random goof.
And the Trieb here finding expression is soon seen to be:  Feminine Revenge.  For:

* Back at headquarters, he reports to Twofer:  Jane saved his life, plus captured the perp.  Yet then, in an astoundingly implausible switch -- really, like a rift in the screenplay, as though someone had forgotten to delete his immediately previous remarks -- he shends his boss, saying Jane is our most valuable asset ever, and you almost wasted it by letting her go out into the field.   Why ever would he say that?  So as to set up the comeback: Twofer then acidly replies:  “She saved your life.”  As though Guy had been unaware of that, or had been churlishly ungrateful.
It reminds me of softball for the Pee-Wee League, where the kids are too young to hit a pitch.  You position the ball motionless atop a rubber pedestal, and let the kid take his time and swing.  Only, here the softball is FBI Guy’s head.

With this perspective, we revisit (1).  Here, it is beyond possibility to imagine this scene, the female boss’s putdown of the male boffin, with genders reversed, in modern Medialand.  (Just try to run such a scenario as an experiment in your head;  you will shrink back as from a hot stove.) Moreover, the putdown is truly gratuitous, and indeed off  (acronyms being in handy breezy use among laymen).  So what is the meaning of this exchange, absurd on the face of it?   An analyst refuses to accept things as merely, meaninglessly absurd. Again our Freudian:  It makes perfect sense on the underside of it.  It is revenge for an (imagined or remembered) scenario with genders reversed.
For exposition of a similar gender-squelch, cf. this:
http://worldofdrjustice.blogspot.com/2011/09/res-ipsa-loquitur.html


~

The commercials chosen to accompany this show online, bear out the analysis.
In one, a demure, appealing, somewhat mousy carrot-top sits in a droning business meeting.  Suddenly, a cowgirl-clad mini-persona of herself leaps out of the laptop and starts vociferously twerking:  Eve Black to the original’s Eve White, in the classic fantasy “The Three Faces of Eve”.  Her twerking booty then knocks over a coffee-cup into … a guy’s lap (take that, you nasty phallus);  then she hits another guy in the eye (one of a twinned pair of sensitive round organs; to the reader we leave the rest) with her lasso.  Neither, of course, remonstrates or even reacts:  they are there to be abused by one of Eve’s daughters;  to take it, and like it.



Afternote:
There may have been adverse viewer comment on Twofer’s imperious personality, since by Episode Two the producers had popped in a new personality-module (into the P-drive that opens in the back of her head).  Now she is the wise, feeling counselor.  She tends to FBI Guy’s tormented soul.  At first, natch (typical for a guy), he doesn’t want to talk about it;  but under her gentle prodding, he opens up to, he emotes, and pours out childhood memories.  Pheromones are exchanged until the atmosphere becomes unbreathably estrogenic.
I first fast-forwarded over this glurge, but then was obliged to go back, as it quickly emerged that the traumatic memory in question is key to the whole plot.  He is traumatized with guilt at having inadvertently victimized a female playmate.  She was later kidnapped and has been presumed dead for a quarter of a century;  but naturally, to tie everything up into a neat bundle, she is hypothesized to be none other than … Jane Doe!
 

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Bonnet blanc, blanc bonnet


It is by now clear that, if the finalists were Trump and Fiorina, the voters have to choose between two confabulating narcissists.

Trump supporters are basically aware of these traits in their candidate, but excuse them, for reasons both well- and ill-advised.   Fiorina is less widely known (she didn’t even make the Grownups Table of the first debate), but is starkly limned here, fresh this morning:


The candor of that piece is noteworthy, given the source:  one might have expected the Post to offer qualified support for Fiorina, both as a woman and as the anti-Trump.

One footnote.
The article well details the fiasco of her Hewlett-Packard tenure, on which (paradoxically) she is principally running: her ace- is more like a deuce-in-the-hole.  She had only one notable role as a business executive prior to that, which the article barely touches on;  here, in full:

Fiorina had become one of [AT&T]'s most visible rock stars, spearheading the $3 billion spinoff of Lucent Technologies, then the biggest stock-market debut in U.S. history. The hyper-growth firm would crumple after her departure, but not before bolstering Fiorina’s reputation as an aggressive dealmaker with a golden touch. In 1998, Fortune trumpeted her tireless work ethic and sales tactics, and crowned her, at 44, “the most powerful woman in American business.”

Now, thus decontextualized, that “crumple after her departure” might be unfair:  perhaps that was just bad luck, or whatever.   So we checked the history in Wikipedia, and found something really sobering:

On the surface, Fiorina seemed to add 22,000 jobs & revenues grew from US$19 billion to US$38 billion. However, the real cause of Lucent spurring sales under Fiorina was by lending money to their own customers. According to Fortune magazine, "In a neat bit of accounting magic, money from the loans began to appear on Lucent’s income statement as new revenue while the dicey debt got stashed on its balance sheet as an allegedly solid asset". Lucent's stock price grew 10-fold.
At the start of 2000, Lucent's "private bubble burst", while other competitors like Nortel Networks and Alcatel were still going strong as it would be many months before the rest of the telecom industry bubble collapsed.

In other words, she wasn’t merely an inept business-leader, but a distinctly sketchy one.   That is the sort of scam that should interest the Securities and Exchange Commission, if not indeed the DoJ.

[Note:  The proverb that titles this post  means “Not a dime’s worth of difference between them”, as someone-or-other once said.]

[Update]   And now, a severe WaPo editorial re Fiorina's fact-challenged strategy of fuite en avant:
https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/fiorinas-falsehoods/2015/09/26/b6e4f424-63bf-11e5-9757-e49273f05f65_story.html



Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Tattooed Chinese linguist saves the day!


As a linguist ourself, it warms our heart when we hear real-life tales of the exploits of these mighty beings.   Some of them we have documented here:


I never thought I’d post one with the title “Tattoo’d Chinese linguist saves the day”, but hey,  this is America.  (As for what that’s supposed to mean:  it doesn’t mean anything.)

Our newest example is unfortunately fictional (indeed, as we shall see, lame even as fiction), but what with all the attention lavished on celebrities and sports-stars, we take such scraps as we can get.
In Monday’s pilot of the lustrous though ludicrous new series, “Blindspot”,  concerning a  shapely unclad tattooed Special-Forces polyglot female amnesiac with superpowers (go back and read that again slowly:  yes, that’s what it says) a situation arises in which, for reasons too complex or rather too contrived to go into, the FBI needs to decipher instanter some emails in Chinese,  or else Very Bad Things will happen to Gotham.  The agent in charge barks:  “Get me all the Chinese linguists!”
That conjures up a fairly comic image, in which several dozen Sinophiles  are clustered around the screen displaying the email,  translating in unison, in a sing-song chorus,  “Dear sir or madam:  I am an imprisoned Nigerian prince …” -- However, there’s a reason for the broad-sweep order.  On television, to show decisiveness and leadership, the floor-boss barks (or “snaps”):
“Check these prints against the files of every police department in the country!”
or
“Scan the footage from every security camera in the city for the past ten years!”
or
“Seek a match in the dental records of every adult male going back to the Neanderthals!”
Still, we forgive all that, since it poses the question which so many have asked and so few answered:  Where’s a linguist when you really need one??”

But now the screenwriting takes a turn for the absurd.  None of the Bureau’s chinoisisants are up to this task, for, as we are instantly informed (by a non-linguist), the dialect variety in question is, um, Wen Zu (how could she possibly know that?), commonly known to other Chinese speakers as “the Devil’s language”.  Omigosh, then Gotham is doomed!

Where did that come from? -- Simply to set matters up so that the mnemonically-challenged Wonder Woman (who can’t remember her own name, but who remembers every language she ever studied, to the last detail) can pipe up pertly and pluckily :

I know Wen Zu !”

At which point the program’s full agenda stands revealed, as clearly as had it stepped naked out of a hold-all in Times Square.   So far from being mere eye-candy for men, as P.C. critics were objecting before the show even aired (her déshabille is never more than partial, with the best bits left out), this show is the latest media sacrifice upon the ever-higher-towering altar of Feminarcissism.   This is the new paragon of womanhood:  the rocket-scientist-cum-brain-surgeon-cum-astronaut-cum-poetess-cum-Black-Belt, the woman who can Have It All, Do It All, as well as men or rather better, all without smudging her makeup.

Scenes from future episodes:

Hapless FBI guy:
“O noez, the only way to find out what these superintelligent but fusedly-confused brain-joined Siamese twins know before the bomb goes off, is to perform a neurosurgical separation, and here we are with them in a rowboat, without oars, and  far from any hospital.  Whatever shall we do?”
Wonder woman:
I can perform the operation!  I’ve done it many times under battlefield conditions, with no equipment but a tongue-depressor -- one of which I happen to have right here in my right breast pocket, just above my right breast!”

and

Hapless FBI guy:
“Curses, the only way to save humanity is to solve the Riemann Hypothesis, pronto!  And me without my pencil!”
Wonder woman:
I can provide the solution!  It follows as a direct corollary from a more general theorem which I have already proved!”

and

Hapless FBI guy:
“Oy veh!  Here we stand stranded with the doom-timer ticking, at the bottom of a sheer five-thousand-foot cliff, at the top of which lies the remedy, and I forgot my climbing shoes!  We’d have to fly!”
Wonder woman:
I can fly!”

Now, there is a wrinkle here, which will likely strike no-one but linguists.  The puzzle is an e-mail -- i.e., in written, not spoken Chinese.  And Chinese is ideographic, not alphabetical.  Which means that the various dialects, which vary from village to village and which are sometimes mutually unintelligible, still are written in basically the same way.  The email would thus be intelligible to all.

(And after all that, the episode never even made use of her marvellous skill, so far as I can tell.  Of course, I may have blinked, and missed the content of the email -- the pilot tried to pack a season’s worth of flim-flam into forty-five minutes, so as to cater to those with short attention-spans.  Instead, the key to it all turned out to be a cryptic phrase they’d heard earlier but now suddenly cryptolinguistically decrypted:  “mother of exiles”:   Aha, the Statue of Liberty! -- Cf. the crossword-puzzle motif in “Rubicon”.)

~

Anyhow, even though NBC may in this case have stretched the facts a bit (indeed, racked the fiction), we appreciate the shout-out.  Linguists really are rather godlike beings.  For starters, we’re taller than other people.
Here are some actual portraits from our archives:


Archie the Arabist

Gertie the Germanist



Rickie the Russian-maven

.

Arabic linguists save the day!




Unsere Araber sprechen fließend albanisch und swahili!
Da sieht man gleich, wie hochqualifiziert diese Menschen sind. 

.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Dream Joke (Joke Dream)


Die Beziehung des Witzes zum Traum:
Pataphysischer Teil

A Scotsman, a priest, and a rabbi,
walk into a bar.

(and somehow, in some sense, I am that rabbi -- so clothed on the instant, like Woody Allen in that Thanksgiving scene)

Only now, the priest is (at the same time) a polar bear.

The bartender, clearly concerned, leans forward and murmurs:
Why the long face?”

[χορός : What happened to the Scotsman?
 Dreamer:  I -- oh.  Was there a Scotsman?]


Monday, September 21, 2015

Blindspot (and "Memento")


NBC has announced a new series, “Blindspot”, about an amnesiac whose body is covered with recent tattoos, each of which is a cryptic clue.   Those of us who do not ourselves suffer from amnesia, will immediately recognize a ripoff and recycling of the movie “Memento”.  However, it’s none the worse for that:  the movie was intriguing, and well worth recycling.  Moreover, the concern with original plots is quite modern;  no-one from  Euripedes to Shakespeare ever gave it a thought;  rather the contrary.

"Look into my eyes ... *Eyes*, I said, dammit!"


The trailer is promising, though not without TV-typical doofusness, like the yokel horror of a cop in Times Square quavering “It’s …. alive …. !”  NYPD officers are actually considerably cooler than that, and more composed.  The series does add a very promising premise -- that one of the tattoos names a specific FBI agent;  who, however, has never met her.  “Complications ensue.”


A note on genre:
A movie  has to be tight.  A TV series  can roll on, and on.
To be trapped in the mindset of an amnesiac  is potentially suffocating.  “Memento” (as a movie) pulled it off;  but “Blindspot” wisely offers us  a second center of deixis (namely, FBI-guy.  Cf. Jack Bauer and Chloe.)


Anyhow, for our essay on that ...  memorable (!) movie, click here:
http://worldofdrjustice.blogspot.com/2011/01/redismembering-memento.html ]


~


The girl, as the viewer will not be surprised to learn (this being, largely unlike “Memento”, straightforward mainstream entertainment), turns out to be a superspooky kickass-ninja special ops chick, who retains all her special superpowers, but who does not consciously remember her training, or who she is.  In this motif, “Blind Spot” is ripping off, not “Memento”, but “The Bourne Identity”.  In each case, when the hero is suddenly confronted with mortal danger, (s)he reacts instinctively, and with deadly force.
More trivially, the motif Older-male-counterterrorist-has-special-bond-to-younger-apparent-neophyte-female-coworker-who-bears-a-mysterious-scar-from-her-murky-past-and-who-oh-yes-BTW-is-amnesiac (Stith-Thompson tale type #13482b) is boldly borrowed from NBC’s own “Blacklist” (hey, all in the family;  plus the resonance of the shows’ names).



~

The visual/mnemonic premise of “Blindspot”, which is, superficially (epidermally, as it were), similar to that of “Memento”, clearly has the field wide open, in which to go;  whereas “Memento” was monomaniac -- gaining, however, thereby, in depth and intensity.

“Blindspot” begins in the middle of a crowded Times Square;  “Memento”, in a bare, spare, windowless hotel-room, vacant except for the protagonist -- and he himself is a kind of vacancy at this point.   All he has to go by -- to direct his life -- are the cryptic messages on his skin.  Ditto for the girl, only, she is not confronted with that baffling, existential task -- “I have people who do that for me.”   That makes life much easier for the screenwriter (at that point, he can recycle pretty much whatever conspiracy/thriller material he likes), but at a cost of relative triviality.

In “Memento”, the messages concern a mysterious crime.  And they accumulate with time.  Each new hot impression pains his integument, but leads him (hopefully) closer to finally catching on.
This scenario has its classic embodiment in Kafka’s profound allegory, “In the Penal Colony”.

It is the contention of Kafka, and of psychoanalysis, that we do, in our innermost depths, have a picture of the nature of our sin, of what is making us ill, but that, we have a blindspot for it.




The canvas of shame:
the guilty skin.
~


There is a further subtlety, or underlayer, unexplored in the “Strafkolonie”, nor explicitly hinted-at, but implicit:  namely, the strangely endogenous nature of the cryptic messages.
In “Memento”, this is explicit:  the protagonist (somehow) knows  that he himself has written these uncanny, these otherworldly messages. 
[Actually, there is a potential aporia here, though the movie does not exploit it.  Namely:  logically speaking, the tattoo’d man cannot know, which of the messages he himself wrote (and then forgot), and which might have been impressed upon his skin (himself held down, screaming, but soon forgetting everything) by his enemies, or by some prankster. -- Nay further, that prankster may have been himself:  He could write a message known to be false, deliberately to manipulate his future self into some behavior.  (Cf. Ulysses and the Sirens, although there it is a matter of manipulating himself into a future of not doing what he otherwise would do.)]
Furthermore, there is uncertainty as to who committed that nebulous murder of the wife -- quite possibly it is the protagonist himself, a case of uxoricide.   (The revers de la médaille of Oedipal incest.)
 

~

Once again we reach, or at least approach, the bedrock (or the nebulosity) of the Unconscious:  our spade is turned, or seems to strike into empty space.  We are up against Ananke, and unconscious self-punishment -- the mystery of masochism, where the inner bourreau is outsourced to the dominatrix, projected from some depths within the self: into-whence, however, the figure was presumably, originally, somehow introjected.  Oder doch inborn?

The dreadful discovery:  The hand, or paw, that plies the tattooer’s needle, and pens its excruciating message, is nonetheless part of our own mind.   “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”
A punitive superego  is like an auto-immune disease.

~

Ah well.  Here I have gone and written a whole post without so much as seeing the pilot of “Blindspot”.   Plus I no longer even own a television.

Likely, alas, being network TV, it will not live up  to the possibilities of its premise -- like the gross misuse of “Jack Bauer” in “Touch”, or the wasted opportunity of an IDA-style SCIF in "Rubicon".   (That was back when I owned a TV.)

Yet already, before the pilot has even officially aired, there are useful reviews and quite entertainingly observant and snarky readers’ comments, e.g. here:



[Update 23 September 2015]  OK, watched it.  NBC lets you do it online for free, a day after broadcast.
It’s moderately watchable if you’re not overparticular and have enough wine inside.  But it’s depressingly evident how the thing was patched-together by committee from earlier shows, under the watchful eye of lawyers and diversity-consultants.

More anon.  For now, check out this one aspect:



~

The commonest criticism of the pilot, on the fan-site linked-to above, was that all the baffled mystery about the woman’s identity was silly if in fact she’d been a Navy SEAL.  There aren’t a lot of them;  a simple phone-call could have cleared things up.   Plus, there aren’t any female SEALs.

True; but unfair, since that point did not escape the screenwriters. The FBI folks themselves  mention the (thitherto) presumed non-existence of female SEALs, and wonder aloud why, if she’d been one, her fingerprints aren’t on file.  Answer (completely acceptable in televisionland, and not implausible in any case):  these would not be available if she had been in a “black” program under the umbrella of the SEALs.

And no sooner does that episode air, then fiction becomes prospective fact.   Nor is this development evolving out of internal military necessity, but rather is in response to social pressures such as (precisely) the sort of gynocentric fantasies catered-to by “Blindspot”:

Navy SEALs ready to open doors to women


Losey states upfront that putting women in the commando jobs is not expected to increase the units' ability to fight in combat. In fact, he said, the effort to integrate the units and change the culture "will channel focus and energy away from core combat readiness and effectiveness efforts."

He said that while there may be "external" pressure to adjust the standards so that women can successfully pass, it's not likely that would succeed. The standards, he said, have been honed over the past 50 years, and that 70 percent of men fail.

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/nation-world/ct-navy-seals-women-20150925-story.html#


~

Whack-a-Male

[We continue with our analysis of the “Blindspot” pilot.]

An obstacle towards guys’ enjoying the show is the grating Twofer Boss.  Her role is to serve as the mallet in Whack-a-Mole -- the moles being the males.  As:

(1)
* Labcoated Science Guy quickly discovers what pharmaceutical is responsible for Jane Doe’s amnesia.  Briefing his boss and FBI Guy, he pronounces the long chemical name, and adds “commonly known as” (the acronym).   Impeccable. But she slaps him down:  It may be “common” in the hoity-toity circles you move in, “doctor”, but for the rest of us… Against all plausibility, the dramatic logic somehow has the male doctor wrong-footed.


(2)

FBI Guy tools off to the Statue of Liberty, which (as he has figured out) is about to be bombed by a terrorist.   In any approximation of reality, the Bureau along with the NYPD would deploy dozens of agents and officers for this op;  but the program sets it up so that FBI Guy is seemingly about to go in alone.  -- Now, that is the annoying scenario so frequently recycled by masscult so that the male hero can do some heroics heroically and not have to share the limelight with anyone;  it is the narcissistic/solipsistic Rambo motif, and it appeals to eight-year-old boys (and to the less intelligent among the nine-year-olds).  In recent years, the tired trope has been retooled with a sex-switch;  it is supposed to appeal to grown women.
But, interestingly, neither of these flavors of that motif are the goal here.

FBI Guy is not quite alone;  over his own objections, he brought along Jane Doe, at the insistence of his Twofer Boss.  Still, he tells Jane to wait back at the car (the patriarchal  beast!) while he singlehandedly Saves the Day(**); but again, Jane insists, and accompanies him into the Statue.   They meet up with the perp, and, in an extremely badly choreographed bit of sciamachy, the screenwriters maneuver FBI Guy, helpless and unarmed, into the grip of Perp, and only a head-shot by Jane saves his life and his bacon.

[**Footnote to laypersons and residents of Mars:  SWAT teams, Special Forces, and FBI on a takedown-attack  do not actually bring along tourists, bystanders, or embedded journalists along for the ride, regardless of the relative genders.]


Now, simply as an action sequence, that was incredibly inept, and likely to disappoint an average audience (let alone a more instructed one);  and yet a large well-funded team of producers and writers had plenty of time to craft the scene just-so, to help define the series in the pilot.  To make sense of it, we must proceed precisely as does a Freudian confronted with a Fehlhandlung:  as a symptom of something deeper, not as a random goof.
And the Trieb here finding expression is soon seen to be:  Feminine Revenge.  For:

* Back at headquarters, he reports to Twofer:  Jane saved his life, plus captured the perp.  Yet then, in an astoundingly implausible switch -- really, like a rift in the screenplay, as though someone had forgotten to delete his immediately previous remarks -- he shends his boss, saying Jane is our most valuable asset ever, and you almost wasted it by letting her go out into the field.   Why ever would he say that?  So as to set up the comeback: Twofer then acidly replies:  “She saved your life.”  As though Guy had been unaware of that, or had been churlishly ungrateful.
It reminds me of softball for the Pee-Wee League, where the kids are too young to hit a pitch.  You position the ball motionless atop a rubber pedestal, and let the kid take his time and swing.  Only, here the softball is FBI Guy’s head.

With this perspective, we revisit (1).  Here, it is beyond possibility to imagine this scene, the female boss’s putdown of the male boffin, with genders reversed, in modern Medialand.  (Just try to run such a scenario as an experiment in your head;  you will shrink back as from a hot stove.) Moreover, the putdown is truly gratuitous, and indeed off  (acronyms being in handy breezy use among laymen).  So what is the meaning of this exchange, absurd on the face of it?   An analyst refuses to accept things as merely, meaninglessly absurd. Again our Freudian:  It makes perfect sense on the underside of it.  It is revenge for an (imagined or remembered) scenario with genders reversed.
For exposition of a similar gender-squelch, cf. this:


~

The commercials chosen to accompany this show online, bear out the analysis.
In one, a demure, appealing, somewhat mousy carrot-top sits in a droning business meeting.  Suddenly, a cowgirl-clad mini-persona of herself leaps out of the laptop and starts vociferously twerking:  Eve Black to the original’s Eve White, in the classic fantasy “The Three Faces of Eve”.  Her twerking booty then knocks over a coffee-cup into … a guy’s lap (take that, you nasty phallus);  then she hits another guy in the eye (one of a twinned pair of sensitive round organs; to the reader we leave the rest) with her lasso.  Neither, of course, remonstrates or even reacts:  they are there to be abused by one of Eve’s daughters;  to take it, and like it.

~


In ads and trailers, prior to the series debut, NBC heavily marketed the opening scene, in which “Jane Doe” appears naked out of nowhere in the middle of Times Square;  and wisely so.  For it contains a veritable mythologem.

In literature, the best-known birth-from-a-handbag is that of the titular character of Wilde’s “The Importance of Being E(a)rnest”;  he was discovered therein, at a railway station, provenience unknown.
The next-most-famous Railway Station birth, is that of Paddington Bear.
For “Paddington Station”, the American update is “Times Square”.  (Note, by the way, the universal appropriateness of that name.)

Now, if Sigmund Freud and Otto Rank had put their heads together, they would doubtless have deemed this motif  a wish-fulfillment reworking  of the Birth Trauma.  The Newcomer appears suddenly in a bruising world of blooming-buzzing confusion (as each we must);  but as compensation, this rude Awakening is Immaculate, ex nihilo, with none of the dreadful ickiness of having been whelped by one’s parents, Mom and Dad, via some penis-and-vagina action too terrible to contemplate.

It is a satisfying fantasy;  thus Minerva, born from the brow of Zeus.

~

But now there is a twist;  and it deepens things.  Born from a bag, as though from empty space, she nonetheless comes “with baggage”, in the form of intricate enigmatic tattoos.  Like Leonard, alone in his hotel room, having his (latest) very-first moment of conscious self-awareness. Born with a mission.

He awakens each day  to a world new-made; he spots the writing  with the same surprise  that Crusoe spotted footprints in the sand.  He cannot really recognize it as his own: even those he wrote himself, he stippled into the skin – it won’t resemble his normal cursive – and others he left to the tattoo-artist.   The writing must therefore confront him like that at Belshazzar’s feast.  It is otherwordly.  He is wreathed in cryptic admonitions, some penned in a Gothic script like that of Scripture.  He might almost be forgiven for fancying himself a prophet.  And yet – for here the story is bleakly modern.  He pays no mind to the source of these writings, just takes them for granted.  He simply takes the next step forward, in his appointed task.  That Mene, Mene, Tekel Upharsin  has no resonance, divine or diabolocal.
http://worldofdrjustice.blogspot.com/2011/01/moreismenitto.html

Born with a mission.

The show so far is stupid;  but I am probably going to watch another episode, simply from the power of this underlying motif -- this motivating motif.   For it applies very broadly:  These amnesiacs, with their strange “Thou must” inscribed scrolls, are like each one of us, adrift in the randomness of this sublunary life, yet with a sense, that somehow, all of it somehow means something.



[Update 6 Oct 2015]  Literary triviabit
Viewers have remarked how odd it is, that FBI Guy ends every other sentence addressed to Jane Doe with “… , Jane.”   Odd especially since that isn’t even her real name.
Concurrently, by chance, I have been listening to an audiobook of Jane Eyre;  and there, Mr Rochester exhibits the same the same vocative quirk, towards his coworker/love-interest.
In both cases,  the phenomenon is striking, owing to the utter asymmetry in vocatives:  the senior man regularly recurs to this first-name address;  the woman protege, never.

There is a slight syntactic distinction: FBI-Guy postpends the vocative ("I'm so sorry, Jane");  Rochester  prepends it.

[Update 9 Nov 15]


Pellicular Wikipedia

To fans of “Blindspot”, it has by now become apparent, that those tattoos (like some Inca inscriptions)  purport to explain absolutely everything,  Present Past or (especially) Future:  like Wiki -- or rather, like Borges’s  Universal Library.  All that is known, or might ever be known,  imprinted upon her skin.

To the cold, hard core of “Memento” fans, that is disappointing.  But to the rest of Walmartamerica, that is good news.  So -- Here is how YOU can employ those iconographic indicators  to your own benefit.  Take it from me, my smiling wife Veronica and our faithful dog Spot!  Just in the past three days, we brought in  this:

* Puzzled husband:  “Someone’s been swiping tomatoes from our garden again!”
Loyal wife: “ A steganographic exploitation of the inkblot blocking the singed skin hidden beneath the bandaid on Jane’s left buttock reveals:  The perpetrator is none other than the neighborhood raccoon!”
P. H:  “Ha-ha!  That furry rascal!”

* Puzzled husband:  “Omigosh, what shall we do?  Tomorrow’s our big picnic, and the weatherman is predicting thunderstorms !!”
Loyal wife: “A previously overlooked inscription  on the inside  of Jane’s eyelid  contains a cipher which, run through our Tordella supercomputers, breaks out to “21 Oct 2015”; which, according to the Old Style (Julian) calendar, breaks out to tomorrow!  And the graphic equates to an ideogram for the Egyptian sun-god Ra!  So:  It’s gonna be a bright, bright, sunshiney day !!”
P.H.:  “Woo-hoo!  Packing the mayo !!!”

* Puzzled husband:  “Gosh, honey, I’ve looked everywhere!  Wherever can I have left my carkeys ???”
Loyal wife: “A p-adic attack on the recursively-enciphered left-armpit image from Jane reveals … (long technical discussion deleted) …. in the right pocket of your grey overcoat!”

Verb of the Day: auftrumpfen


German has a word for it:

 auftrumpfen (intransitive verb) to be full of oneself


“Ich trumpfe auf.”

.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Homo sapientissimus


A leading philologian wrote:

Am meisten stimme ich mit Vossler (1919) überein;  nur stehen wir auf etwas verschiedenem Boden: 
ich kümmere mich um den homo sapiens, der sich mit dem homo alalus berührt, Vossler um den homo sapientissimus.
-- Hugo Schuchardt, “Sprachursprung”  (1920), in Leo Spitzer, ed., Hugo Schuchardt-Brevier (1921; 2nd edn. 1928), p. 277


Here I must concur with Vossler, for reasons illustrated here:


To fetter yourself to the alalus and his latter-day analogues, is to try to run a three-legged race.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Die Deutsche Sprache schafft sich ab


[This is a sidenote to the essay “Deutschland schafft sich ab”, in which I recalled a ca. 1990 conversation with a couple of Langenscheidt lexicographers, who predicted the extinction of the German language, and foresaw this with chilling indifference.]

(1)  Hier spricht man deutsch nicht.

Using my wife’s tablet, I attempted to bring up DeutscheWelle.  It brought up only the English-language site.  I specifically added “.de”; stubbornly, it changed that to “.com” and re-presented the English site.  So I went to the German Wikipedia and clicked on the link labeled “Offizielle Webpräsenz”:  it too brought me to the English site!

Well, maybe that’s just the tablet.  It has recently introduced a dumbed-down version of news.google.[…];  I was able to revert to the original presentation on the English version, with a few clicks,  but these didn’t work for the French and German.
So I tried it on the MacIntosh:  same deal.

Ultimately I found the real site by having bookmarked an article, back when you could still get to it easily, and from this clicked through to: http://www.dw.com/de/themen/s-9077.  [That is just today’s;  I never was able to pull up a permanent German homepage.

I then went back to the tablet and put in www.dw.com/de.
The answer came from Verizon, and said that no such site exists.
Along with a screenful of utterly unrelated (English-language) ads.



(2)  Yes, we have no bananas

Check out this archive:


Notice anything strange?  An 18-minute-gap, so to speak?
All the covers for 1997 are fondly recalled (the magazine Der Spiegel is known for its striking covers) -- with one exception:  “16, “Gefährlich fremd”.
It has been flushed down the memory-hole.  Why?

The answer was supplied by a keen-eyed reader (Wilko Fokken), in a comment (to a mediocre article):


So there’s the link;  normally I’d leave it at that.  Only … since this post concerns information previously available that later gets wiped from the Web, I’ll quote it in full -- lest it already have been zeroed by the time you click.

9. September 2015 06:55
Im Online-Archiv fehlt das SPIEGEL-Titelbild 16/1997. Thema: "Gefährlich fremd"
Wilko Fokken, Wilko Fokken (mehr als 1000 Beiträge seit 25.03.00)
Ein Grund für die Entfernung des SPIEGEL-Covers aus dem Netz könnte
sein, daß man in der gegenwärtigen Situation nicht so gern an eigene,
fast zwanzig Jahre alte und zutreffende Analysen erinnert werden
möchte, wie etwa die:

"Zeitbomben in den Vorstädten: Die Ausländer-Integration ist
gescheitert. Überall im Land entsteht eine explosive Spannung. Bei
jungen Türken und Aussiedlern, Randgruppen ohne Perspektive, wächst
die Bereitschaft, sich mit Gewalt zu holen, was die Gesellschaft
ihnen verweigert."
...
Vor allem die beiden größten Gruppen schätzen Wissenschaftler,
Polizisten und Sozialarbeiter als Zeitbomben in den Vorstädten ein:
die etwa 600 000 jugendlichen Türken der zweiten und dritten
Gastarbeitergeneration sowie die halbe Million junger Aussiedler, die
seit 1990 aus dem zerfallenen Sowjetreich nach Deutschland gekommen
sind.

(Die erste Generation der Gastarbeiter war bekanntlich noch friedlich
gewesen.)

SPIEGEL-Titelbilder, Übersicht 1997:

Texte:

In other words:  Der Spiegel in 1997  clearly foresaw what we currently see unfolding before our eyes;  but since that no longer fits their current narrative, they would rather self-censor than take credit.

 
Thus, it is only the happy accident of a photo archive ordered by date, that reveals the escamoterie.



(3)  Now you see it … now you don’t

Another, even stranger example, of disappearing (or rather ‘disappeared’) content; fortunately, an alert commenter was able to retrieve it from the memory-hole:

9. September 2015 20:40
In München kann die Sicherheit nicht mehr garantiert werden - gelöschtes yt-vid.
Germane (mehr als 1000 Beiträge seit 21.11.02)
Die Münchner SPD-Sozialdezernentin Brigitte Meier bricht in Tränen
aus wie übelasten München mit den 55.000 auf den HBF ist, die nicht
weitergeleitet werden. youtube hat das Orgingnal gelöscht, deshalb
verlinke ich ( auch wenn es auf yt von anderen wieder hochgeladen
wurden ) die Vimeo-Version:

https://vimeo.com/139770418

What is odd about this example, is that
(1) YouTube itself is not particularly political -- it couldn’t if it tried to be;  it’s one big foire d’empoigne.  So how were they pressured to delete?
(2)  The speaker is not inherently such as to offend the PC Speech Police -- she is female, and a member of the SPD -- a mainstream German party, “Socialist” but relatively moderate.   Plus, she breaks down crying, which the bisounours generally like.
(3)  The content of what she says -- speaking, after all, to a left-wing Parteitag -- is quite moderate and inoffensive.   The only thing that renders it the least noteworthy is that it is someone from the SPD saying it, admitting semi-privately what the party so far does not admit publically.

Curiouser and curiouser.



[Update 23 September 2015] German-Americans schafften sich ab:



[Update 8 Oct 2015] A video about just how bad it's got -- censored, then restored by samizdat:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9yN_hn933B0
Dieses Interview wurde anschliessend bei N24 in der Mediathek wieder gelöscht. Vielleicht war es einfach zu ehrlich?