Friday, June 15, 2007

A World Spinning our of Control

A Lebanese MP is killed. A Lebanese broadcast journalist "gloats" about it not knowing that her microphone was "live" and she and the person she was talking to were sacked. Some Lebanese soldiers were killed in an attack on a refugee camp -- how can there still be a refugee camp holding those that left Palestine in fear of the Jewish people. Correction: how can there be a second and surely a third generation of people descended from those who left Palestine who are still in a refugee camp? That was 60 or so years ago. Is their presence there due to their belief that they will soon or someday get to return and don't want to put down roots elsewhere or because life is good in refugee camps in Lebanon (that is not a serious question) or what?

We move to Gaza where Hamas has driven out those Fatah military and political leaders they have not killed. And quickly on to the West Bank where Fatah is going after Hamas leaders. This will surely mean that Israel cannot possibly make peace with a Palestinian state since there will be two of them and Hamas is very unlikely to want to deal with Israel and conversely. Meanwhile, Israel, in what has to be an act of desperation has made the 283 year old Simon Peres President. I may be off on his age a bit. Israel still has clearly not recovered from their very costly "victory" over Hezbollah.

Moving over to Iraq we find that everyone is at war with everyone else. It is impossible to sort out what the dynamics are there. At least, from this chair I can't figure out how Islamic militants can bomb Mosques that have been in place for a very long time because they are being used by some other group of Muslims. The US did its best not to bomb a mosque when it won its great victory in Iraq by toppling Saddam. This is a paradigm case of a Pyrrhic victory. I do not know who we are fighting against, if anyone. Apparently it would be bad for an infidel state to bomb a Mosque but okay for a rival Muslim group to do so. So far, at least, the Syrians, Egyptians, Jordanians, and Saudis have not condemned this sort of thing (as far as I know). Occasionally I read about the US killing some insurgents but there are at least two sorts -- the pro-Al Queda group or set of groups and the non-pro-Al Queda group or set of groups. Are we trying to fight Shiites too? I did read that Sadr has suggested that Shiites loyal to him should cool it. Meanwhile, I have read that Turkey has invaded Iraq. They, of course, are terrified of a union of some sort between Turkish and Iraqi Kurds. I gather we did not rush northward and start shooting at Turks. They are our allies after all.

Meanwhile much of the West is condemning Iran for this, that, and the other thing. The most remarkable thing I have read about Iran is that "Fifty-seven Iranian economists have launched a scathing attack on President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad." I hope that they are not killed. If not, this would be the one good thing I have read about the Middle East this morning. I am grateful to learn that the US Secretary of State, Condy Rice, opened an Iranian art show or, rather, an art show featuring Iranian artists in the US. There have been interactions between American and Iranian wrestlers as well. This brings to mind the cultural exchanges between the Soviets and Americans during the Cold War. It took a long time for those exchanges to do any good, assuming, probably counterfactually, that they did any good at all. Condy made the fatuous and totally meaningless because hopelessly false claim that art is a language and that art can help two different peoples understand each other. The claim she made is that art is "the language of peoples who need to know each other and understand each other." Art is not a language. And having an art show in the US of Iranian artists will not help Americans and Iranians understand each other. How in hell can one understand a country that has a bunch of Ayatollahs who seem to run the country, a whacked out President who seems to run the country, a Revolutionary Guard that seems to act on its own, and an elected body that manifestly does not run the country (at least as far as I can tell). To be fair I ought to concede that I am not sure who runs the US -- it is some combination of George Bush, rich people, corporations, and the religious right. I think we would have to forgive the Iranians who find it difficult to understand us.

I am going in for surgery today to have my tongue surgically removed from my cheek. This post does have something to do with language, thanks to Condy's unbelievably ignorant statement so I have not totally violated your trust.

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Blogger concerned citizen said...

HI! L>T here,

I take offense to the idea that ART is not language. It is a pure form of language. It is the emotional form of language or even could be called an expression of language.

Personally, I believe ART is very important as a comunication.

7:21 PM

Blogger The Language Guy said...

How can you take "offense" at my claim? That says this is a personal ox of yours that I have gored. Go back and read "What is Linguistics" and then think about ART. There is almost no resemblance between say English and a Pollack painting or even a Van Gogh painting or Beethoven's 5th Symphony or any other instance of art. You end up with the more accurate but hard to pin down notion that art is a means of communication. That's fine though I am not sure it is real communication since it does not involve clear messages between sender and receiver.

9:08 AM

Blogger concerned citizen said...

L>T here
Oh i forgot everything here has to always be defined down to the nth degree. As it should be, *sigh*.

I can't argue with your definition, & you are right, communication is a better definition for what artists do.
Since you bring up bulls goring people it makes me think of Goya & that makes me think of Picasso & his very famous work of art "Guernica." a political statement that carries with it a clear message.
Hmmm, well now I've turned Art from a communication into a statement.
Even further away from (forgive me for using the word) language.

Do you ever get tired of always being right?

9:55 AM

Blogger Ripple said...

I know I do......NOT!

9:51 PM

Blogger The Language Guy said...

Its only when we make clear, precise distinctions that we can ever learn anything. The distinction between language and systems of communication is one of these. Languages always employ signs that have associated with them specific interpretations and the users of any specific language will normally share these interpretations. This can allow for quite precise communication, as occurs when the language is mathematical. No form of art I am familiar with has a set of specific signs of any type that have associated with them specific interpretations. I gave a paper once on the meaning of "meaning" in art (painting, specifically) and noted that different sorts of paintings vary from highly representational art where what you see is what is there (as the artist sees it or imagines it) to very abstract art such as the dribbles of Pollack. The latter has no meaning whatever since it employs nothing that even remotely resembles a sign. That doesn't mean that we can't enjoy his paintings. With representational art, say a painting of a meadow, we can ask whether it is a real or imagined one and if the former, whether the tree in the painting stands in relationship to the pond that it does in the real world. I don't know why anyone would care but it does show that elements of such paintings do represent things.

7:52 AM

Blogger concerned citizen said...

Its only when we make clear, precise distinctions that we can ever learn anything.

With the concerned citizens group, I'm having the hardest time getting some people to think beyond their assumptions & emotions to get to the constructive thinking where we can have a meaningful dialoge. My goal & my passion is to understand the real problems & get the real information out there, not the myths or the assumptions, so people can educate themselves about their rights & feel empowered within themselves so they are not hopelessly tossed around by the system.

I don't think a person has to exceptionally intellegent to be able to effectively use their brain. At least I hope not. It must be more of a matter of having the right skills. & the beauty of that is the solution to our problems are in our own heads.

7:12 PM

Blogger concerned citizen said...

this has been bugging me for awhile:
I'm taking issue with your deciding that abstract painting is NOT a form of art with a set of specific signs of any type associated with specific interpretations. Bull! Using Jackson Pollack paintings is not a good illustration of abstract art, anyway.
Most Pollock paintings IMO, are used in conjuction with other elements to create an atmosphere. That is the essence & extent of their statement.

But, not all abstract art is the status quo interpretation of a Jackson Pollock painting . Colors DO communicate emotion. Geometrical forms DO communicate a state of being.

2:20 PM

Blogger The Language Guy said...

Okay, what is the conventional meaning in a painting of a square or a triangle? What is the ocnventional meaning of "violet" (the color). Etc. There are no conventions of meaning associated with painting such that if you collect them all together you get, say, the equivalent of a short story or even a poem.

2:39 PM

Blogger concerned citizen said...

Okay, what is the conventional meaning in a painting of a square or a triangle?
In abstract art, the golden section configuration (a certain rectangle) is useful to communicate the concept of an opening, since it is roughly the dimensioms of a door or window & as De Vinci showed it is also illustrates the dimension of a human body. It is one of the most pleasing shapes to the eye, if you put the golden section configuration or something very close to it in a painting the eye is always drawn there. The triangle on the other hand, with it's broad base communicates solidness or settledness(?) but can also communicate balance, because it comes perfectly up to a point. A square or a block is solid & unmoving or even cumbersome. A circle often communicates a hole, something to pass through, or as a ball, motion. Wavey lines communicate motion. These are conventional meanings, in paintings.Picassos Acrobat on a ball

Cool or cold colors, the blue & geen that we see everyday in nature are background colors in our minds. They speak to us of meloncoly things, vagueness, ambiguity, space...I understand this as a conventional meaning.

Violet is one of those ambiguios colors...Picasso

This is what i mean.

There are no associated conventional meanings with painting such that if you collect them all together you get, say, the equivalent of a short story or even a poem.
I'm not sure about this, because I think of some gallery exibitions where the impressions of the artists work, as a whole, as you are surrounded by it, is poetry.

I know i keep using Picasso as an example, but even that makes a point, because Picasso explored & exploited conventional meaning in art.

6:52 AM

Blogger The Language Guy said...

You are being extraordinarily vague. Give me a painting and the poem that you say it expresses and why the elements of that painting come together to express the meanings of the "sentences" or "phrases" of the poetry. I am uninterested in uses of "poetry as in expressions like "The way Brazil plays soccer is sheer poetry in motion." That is, of course, taken literally total nonsense. I suspect any effort to say what the conventional meaning of a painting is will be similarly vague and nonsensical. Why is it so important to associate art with language? Does it give it more sex appeal or more substance? I don't think so. They are utterly different ways of communicating things. I wish I hadn't lost track of my paper on the meaning of "meaning" in art. The key is that art has meaning in the sense of having significance rather than as having a literal interpretation. Language does both -- communicates a literal meaning but usually also a contextual significance that can vary from the literal meaning quite dramatically.

11:38 AM

Blogger concerned citizen said...

I wish you hadn't lost that paper, either. i'd like to see it.
Why is it so important to associate art with language?
Because dammit! Art is a real communication as valid as language. I'd even venture to say it is a fundimental form of communicating & I'd even venture to say it was(is) communication before language came along.

Language does both -- communicates a literal meaning but usually also a contextual significance that can vary from the literal meaning quite dramatically. yeah well, maybe drawing your words is not as sofisticated(?) as language but it is more complex then you seem to give it credit for.

2:02 PM

Blogger The Language Guy said...

Art is a way for people to communicate with others and it is valuable but that doesn't make it linguistic communication. It isn't as important as language since cooperative behavior -- that required for farming, hunting, etc. -- by "primitive people" requires language and cannot be achieved via art.

The fact that art is harder to understand than language does not make it more complex. It makes it more vague.

Though perhaps a way of communicating, the various arts are not communications SYSTEMS -- there is nothing systematic about it at all. That is the point of being original.

8:29 AM

Blogger concerned citizen said...

"vagueness" I get your point there.
Trying to explain to someone what a peice of abstract art is about is really difficult sometimes. Because some of the concepts of abstract art are hard to pin down, even though they are there.

& you are right that although art is important It does not compare to linguistic communication.

I am learning that seeing language as you (so pedantically) define it, IS a very valuable way to look at things & for me to focus on my language skills is to hone my communication skills.

Thanks for sticking with me on this.

I'm still going to try to bridge that communication gap with abstract art, though.

2:47 PM

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10:41 AM


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