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14/10/2010 / Lynn Rabbitts

Chapter 2: The Struggle with Words

Instructor Wycliff passed along Gene Weingarten’s article in the Washington Post (WP Sep. 19, 2010). It is intended as a humorous article , but there are many who would agree with it–at least in principle.

From the second chapter in Communication and Culture it would be safe to assume Ferdinand de Saussure would completely ignore the article–it would not fit into his paradigm of thinking. This, however, would be in direct conflict with “Volosinov’s suggestion that meaning is always produced through conflict.” (pg 27)

Weingarten may complain the English language was slain by “the sudden and startling ubiquity of vomitous verbal construction” of jargony phrases (WP). But Volosinov would argue back: different cultures work to ensure their meanings are accepted, adaptable to different ways and different contexts–the production of the meaning is always open. (pg 26)

I agree with Volosinov. There is a jazz element to the English language, one allowing the evolution of language to fit a more modern construct. It conveys emotion, allows rules to be re-written and a modern lexicon to be formed. Words will always have meanings even if it is a struggle to keep those speaking on, quite literally, the same page. Without adaptation, for better or worse, we would not have moo-cows.

This said, there is nothing more beautiful than a well constructed sentence. As was said to Professor Wycliff, in a rebuttal to Weingarten’s article, Lynn Truss’s Eats, Shoots & Leaves should be required reading.

I do wonder how many times Weingarten went through the article to check punctuation mistakes and mispellings–I’ll leave that flub-up for you, dear reader, as I know my limits.

29/09/2010 / Lynn Rabbitts

Chapter 1 Media: Art Perceived

Opera is typically perceived as something in another language, a larger woman singing, something for the rich or those that wish to show themselves as refined.

To put this into context, I would ask you to first listen to the following song without watching the video. Then play it again while  watching.

The most recent time through is how the opera is intended to be received: a comedy. The translation of Lorenzo Da Ponte’s libretto has the Countess and her maid, Susanna, writing a letter to dupe the Countesses’ husband into sleeping with the Countess, rather than following his lusty urges after Susanna.

But to listen to it. To hear the two sopranos vie with one another. Their voices entwining toward the peak. That peak, seeming impossibly out of reach, unattainable. And then, at the same time, the note is found. To listen to the composition of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is to hear Orpheus playing a song so sweet it crumbled the Devil’s black heart, setting his wife free.

The context and culture of 244 years changes the opera. What might have been funny in the late 18th century now falls a bit flat, just as my own bias towards the music may not sway a listener.

Different environments may impede Mozart’s music to the modern ear. Art is ultimately a matter of opinion based on the social mores and culture a listener surrounds him or herself with.

As with all communication: Keep an open mind.

24/09/2010 / Lynn Rabbitts

Chapter 1: Jean Baudrillard and the Chicago Institute of Art

From Chapter 1 of Communication and Culture, Schirato and Yell.

Being an audio person who treasures words, history above all else, I have been ignorant of art for most of my life. I would look at a piece, consider it, yawn and drag myself to the next painting. “Art is boring” remained a tenant of my life until an art major dragged me to the Chicago Institute of Art one rainy Thursday–it was free.

Schirato and Yell state “… markers of communication … will be read and evaluated differently by different people, depending on the cultural contexts they bring to any communication practice, and on the specific contexts in which that practice takes place” (pg8).

Baudrillard was exactly the sort of communicator who put me off of art, or perhaps he and I would have agreed that art is dead though I would’ve been more of the opinion it had never lived.

My art major friend saved me. He explained Pablo Picasso’s Guernica in a way I was able to identify through George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia; Nighthawks by Edward Hooper (now my favorite painter) with the year 1942 and the changes, the war this country went through. We both spoke different dialects yet I was able to understand.

Context is a blessing and a curse. From one source it will be off putting, from another it will put into language exactly what we have been wanting to hear.

That said, thanks to Schirato and Yell, I have now added Baudrillard’s final book, America, to my Wish List.

24/09/2010 / Lynn Rabbitts

An Introduction (of sorts)

Dear Gentle Communicators,

Having recently acquired my copy of Communication and Culture, An Introduction (Sage, 2000) by the scribes Tony Schirato and Susan Yell, I immediately flip to the last page. This is a habit that has always annoyed me, needing to know how many pages I am getting myself into–a knee jerk reaction to the summer I spent reading Cervantes’ Don Quixote.

I am immediately horrified. Not including the  glossary, bib or glossary, Schirato and Yell’s “tome” comes in at a slim 186 pages (Minnesota Math puts this at 30 cents a page, but that is Minnesota Math). At 186 pages this is less a book and more like a pamphlet.

Still, credit where credit is due. Many fine novellas have been penned by writers who were able to conserve their words so eloquently their sentences dripped off the page like the fat from a plump Christmas goose. Also, Cervantes surely could’ve used an editor to trim down the 982 pages my Penguin Classics edition has… sigh. Still, a very fine book everyone should read. That written, I have no idea how I’m going to stick at 250 words for this either.

As a last note, in honour of our proud members of the Commonwealth, who penned this book, the “non-canon” writings here included and forward, for this blog, shall use the King’s Good English for spelling.

So now let us crack the first page and delve into the world of communication.

Excelsior, dear reader!

Your faithful narrator, and as always,