song – une langue seconde

song – une langue seconde

C#7
je dois ècrire une chant dans une

Ab7
langue seconde

C#7
je dois ècrire une chant dans une

Ab7
langue seconde

C#7
je dois ècrire une chant dans une

Ab7
langue seconde

Eb7
tu es le vert roy

Eb7
tu es le vert roy

Eb7
tu es le vert roy

F7
dans ma vie

(please forgive any mistakes. this was inspired by a challenge to write a song in a foreign language, issued by Leslie Taylor of the Manic Neon Wasteland)


Logan Bright

simulated psychopath: a song

E5        F5
simulated psycho

E5        G5b9
simulated psychopath

E5        F5
simulated psycho

E5        Bb5b9
path

E5        F5
simulated psycho

E5        G5b9
simulated psychopath

E5        F5
simulated psychopath

   G5b9            Bb5b9
is gonna catch you in the bath

C7           D-7
bubbles go a-poppin' as his

C7             D-7
cleaver goes a-choppin' and he's

C7
leavin' lots of evidence but

Edim
they're not gonna find him

E5         F5
stimulated psycho

E5         G5b9
stimulated psychopath

E5         F5
stimulated psycho

E5         Bb5b9
path

--
Logan Bright

David Foster Wallace: Fiction, TV, and Moral Subjectivity

David Foster Wallace: Fiction, TV, and Moral Subjectivity

David Foster Wallace, in his essay “9/11: The View From the Midwest,” draws upon his considerable tool-set as a fiction writer to deliver a fresh, dramatic, and evocative take on “the Horror” of 9/11. He uses diverse and poetic diction, employs structural literary formalisms, and highlights his own subjectivity in service of an underlying theme exploring notions of community in the fractured moral landscape of the United States.
Wallace uses evocative, sensory language to dramatize his scenes, inscribing them with vivid life, while his esoteric diction and tricks of usage set his fictionalized persona apart from others, who would not likely describe “the town’s salients” or corn “which grows steroidically.” These turns of phrase are rich but peculiar, suggesting a familiar yet alien world, in which even Wallace himself is not at home. Poetic language is used throughout the essay, honouring conventions of the literary form, and constructing a unique perspective on the everyday people of Bloomington at an unusual time. Likewise, Wallace’s syntax is distinctive. Sentences often wind and curve, repeat and double back, as when he describes Bloomington social time:
to have a home without a TV is to become a kind of constant and Kramer-like presence in others’ homes, a perpetual guest of folks who can’t understand why you would choose not to have a TV but are completely respectful of your need to watch TV and offer you access to their TV in the same instinctive way they’d bend to lend a hand if you tripped in the street.
Here, Wallace’s syntax demonstrates his mastery of the form, setting himself apart from the “folks who can’t understand.” His repetition of the word “TV,” as well as the allusion to Kramer, a TV character, situates the media landscape at the centre stage of Bloomington’s cultural life. The town watches “staggering amounts of TV,” which is their prime method of communicating with the outside world. The people of Bloomington know New York City, “but what it’s recognizable from is TV.” TV is the grand facilitator of knowledge, though Wallace comes to wonder whether it can be trusted.
Wallace employs the fiction writer’s control of narrative structure, too, to manipulate and heighten dramatic impact. His character follows a common narrative arc with ancient roots in storytelling. Wallace, himself a character, is an ordinary person faced with enormous conflict, who survives and earns a boon: in this case, an insight, a revelation about the innocence of his neighbours and their slice of American life, people who are not jaded by a vast and cynical media landscape. Echoing the structure described by Joseph Campbell as “the Monomyth,” Wallace’s character is tested by his experience, “traumatized by a video when the people in the video were dying,” but transcends it, when he does “pretty much the only good I do all day by explaining to Mrs. R- where midtown is.” Wallace’s status as an outsider comes to his aid, and the aid of his neighbours, leading to his recognition of “the vague but progressive feeling of alienation from these good people.” This alienation has a moral aspect, hinted by his use of the word “good,” which carries connotations of positive ethical values and upright behaviour, and contrasts powerfully with those who would “lodge the sick and obvious po-mo complaint.” These others, himself included, Wallace implicitly condemns, saying “whatever America the men in those planes hated so much was far more my own … then these ladies’”. He seems at once to laud, pity, and envy his neighbours. In constructing this arc of conflict and resolution, Wallace manipulates chronology itself, telling the story of Wednesday prior to Tuesday. This strengthens the rhetorical impact of his insight by delivering it as the climax at the close of the piece.
Wallace follows other stylistic conventions of fiction, as well, including sketching the setting prior to the action of a dramatized scene, from a wide view of “maybe ten days a year when it’s gorgeous here,” to the more intimate environment of Mrs. Thompson’s house. He quotes direct dialogue of his characters, including Mr. N- and the Pakistani attendant. None of this is objectively reported, and is instead inflected by Wallace’s subjective point of view. Subjectivity is a hallmark of contemporary fiction. Wallace’s frequent use of words like “seems” and “appears” foreground the perceptual reality of his character’s experience, rendered through the filter of his particular perspective. Throughout the piece, Wallace makes clear that the essay is a stilted take, where appearances may deceive and few facts are certain. Indeed, the piece itself is prefaced with a warning that it was “written very fast and in what probably qualifies as shock.” Even this “caveat” is unsure, hedging its assertions. This subjective and unreliable point of view makes true knowledge of the past, and therefore other people, imperfect:
I know at some point for a while there was the sound of somebody mowing his lawn, which seemed totally bizarre, but I don’t remember if anyone said anything. Sometimes it seems like nobody speaks and sometimes like everybody’s talking at once.
By subjecting experience to the distortion of memory and the senses, Wallace hints at an unbridgeable gap between himself and other people, such that they cannot truly know one another, at least in a time of “Crisis.” His neighbours’ “bizarre absence of cynicism” leaves Wallace unsettled and unable to reconcile his worldview with theirs. It is as though communication is impossible.
In his essay “9/11: The View From the Midwest,” David Foster Wallace richly evokes setting, narrative structure, and character to comment upon isolation in a moment of crisis, and explore ideas about moral and cultural alienation in a media-saturated landscape. Enduring the experience of “the Horror” alongside his neighbours leaves Wallace feeling alone, conflicted about the role of innocence in America, which is “mostly a good thing” and yet “hard to be around.” This moral ambivalence is made palpable throughout the piece by Wallace’s literary technique.

Works Cited:

Campbell, Joseph. The Hero With a Thousand Faces. Pantheon Books, 1949.
Wallace, David Foster. “9/11: The View From the Midwest.” Rolling Stone, 25 October, 2001.

Reflections on Recursion

Recursion is an important aspect of human language, and a core part of the notion of Universal Grammar (UG). Recursion is the ability to string together a potentially infinite regress of embedded sentences, which are functionally limited only by human memory and cognitive processing power. Evans and Levinson (E&L) cite Hauser et al. (2002) who say that recursion is “the only uniquely human component of the faculty of language.”

Recursion is typically defined with reference to constituent structure, wherein a certain type of constituent is embedded within another of the same type (Pinker & Jackendoff 2005), cited by E&L. For example, English may recursively embed prepositional phrases within other prepositional phrases: ‘the horse in the barn’ -> ‘the horse in the barn in the dark’ and so forth. However, more recent research by Levelt (2008), cited by E&L, suggests that because dependency structures, like constituent structures, are generated “by rule,” recursion can occur equally well with dependency structures as well.

Chomsky, using the language of formal mathematics, posited that recursion could only be generated by a phrase-structure grammar (PSG), wherein rules are constructed by individual constituents, each of which can be itself broken down into two other constituents, “as in ‘If A, then B,’ where A itself could be of the form ‘X and Y,’ and ‘X’ of the form ‘W or Z.'” (E&L).

Further study has shown non-human animals (in this case, tamarin monkeys) are capable of grasping at least some level of finite state grammar (FSG), which Chomsky holds would be insufficient to generate the potentially infinite recursion of human language, but those same animals are unable to “grasp the patterning in PSG-generated sequences” (E&L). Some suggest that PSG is the locus of unique human language.

E&L, however, disagree, and show evidence of human languages that allegedly do not possess recursivity at all. They cite data from the complex polysynthetic language Bininj Gun-wok (Evans 2003a, p. 633), showing a lack of embedding at the syntactic level. Instead, the evidence suggests that embedding, if it exists at all in Bininj Gun-wok, takes place at the morphological level. They assert that the maximum embedding permitted is only one level – a far cry from the theoretically limitless embedding postulated by Chomsky and others as a fundamental part of human language. They go on to offer counter-examples from Kayardild, which also seems to permit only a single layer of embedding.

E&L then go further still, with data drawn from Everett (2005) on the Amazonian language Piraha, showing a total absence of embedding at all – even local sign languages apparently show an absence of recursive embedding (Meir et al., in press), cited by E&L. Thus, E&L conclude that these distinct counter-examples suggest that recursive embedding cannot be a fundamental property of inherited grammar, and must instead be a product of other human cognitive processes that may or may not surface in language.

Margoliash and Nusbaum (M&N), in their reply to E&L, assert that linguistics, as a subset of “organismal biology,” must take into account results from evolutionary biology and animal sciences. They suggest that E&L have succeeded on the first count, but failed on the second, and thus M&N offer further perspective on recursion from studies of starlings.

First, M&N relate E&L’s discussion of recursive embedding to Fitch & Hauser’s (2004) study of tamarins, wherein the monkeys failed to distinguish PSG-generated structures (as above). However, they go further, discussing a Gentner et al. (2006) study of starlings, wherein the birds were able to learn not only FSG sequences, as tamarins could, but PSG sequences as well.

M&N suggest that the starlings performed better at “complex vocal processing behaviour” because they are songbirds, and “excellent mimics.” Thus, there is a functional correlation between vocal processing and vocal production behaviours in starlings, which may extend to humans and other animals. M&N critique E&L for failing to address this particular point in detail, instead opting to cite the single counterexample of the tamarins and leave it at that. M&N also point to a study by Marler & Tamura (1964) that showed “rapid changes in learned vocal patterns within non-human species,” which E&L also fail to mention.

Overall, M&N are supportive of E&L’s efforts, and cite evidence that it should be pushed further to include a greater range of experimental data “rooted in … evolutionary biology.” These studies and others will help point the way to the truly inherent mental structures for language, of the human species, and others.

Works Cited:

Evans, N. (2003a) Bininj Gun-wok: A pan-dialectal grammar of Mayali, Kunwinjku and
Kune. 2 vols. 2003a., Pacific Linguistics.

Evans, N. & Levinson, S. (2009) “The myth of language universals:
Language diversity and its importance for cognitive science.” Behavioral and Brain Science, vol. 32, pp. 429-492.
Everett, D. L. (2005) Cultural constraints on grammar and cognition in Piraha˜. Another look at the design features of human language. Current Anthropology 46:621–46.

Fitch, W. T. & Hauser, M. D. (2004) Computational constraints on syntactic processing in a nonhuman primate. Science 303(5656):377–80.

Gentner, T. Q., Fenn, K. M., Margoliash, D. & Nusbaum, H. C. (2006) Recursive syntactic pattern learning by songbirds. Nature 440(7088):1204–1207.

Hauser, M. D., Chomsky, N. & Fitch, W. T. (2002) The faculty of language: What is it, who has it and how did it evolve? Science 298(5598):1569–79.

Levelt, W. J. M. (2008) Formal grammars in linguistics and psycholinguistics, vol.1-3. Benjamins.

Margoliash, D., Nusbaum, H. (2009) Animal comparative studies shouldbe part of linguistics. Behavioral and Brain Science. pp. 458-459.

Marler, P. & Tamura, M. (1964) Culturally transmitted patterns of vocal behavior in sparrows. Science 146 (3650):1483–86.

Meir, I., Sandler, W., Padden, C. & Aronoff, M. (in press) Emerging sign languages. In: Oxford handbook of deaf studies, language, and education, vol. 2, ed. M. Marschark & P. Spencer. Oxford University Press.

Pinker, S. & Jackendoff, R. (2005) The faculty of language: What’s special about it? Cognition 95:201–36.

David Foster Wallace: Aerial and Ground Views on Cross-cultural Transmissions

David Foster Wallace, in his personal essay “9/11: The View from the Midwest,” conceptualizes two “basic classes” in American culture, situating them in his adopted home of Bloomington, Illinois. These classes are symbolized by “the SUV and the pickup truck,” modes of conveyance well-suited both to the “extremely flat” countryside and to their respective demographics, be they corporate State Farm employees or local blue collar workers. Wallace, an outsider, constructs an authorial identity for himself that is both a part of, but distinct from, the community at large, and explores the connections between himself and his neighbours in a televisual world increasingly dominated by corporate interests.
Wallace’s use of complex syntax is one of his stylistic hallmarks. He employs long, meandering clauses, heavily studded with modifiers, writing, for example, “Bloomington’s east side is all smoked-glass complexes and Build-To-Suit developments and a six-lane beltway of malls and franchises that’s killing the old downtown.” By loading his syntax, Wallace creates a sense of an America swollen to capacity, jammed full with consumer appeals. Here, he uses asyndeton to great effect, allowing the phrasing to unwind at a breathless pace.
Arcane diction, too, appears throughout the text. Corn “grows steroidically,” a biochemical term that calls to mind agricultural giants like Monsanto, while the green lawns “[sit] in the heat and [seethe]” with repressed frustration. Wallace uses the word “salients” to collectively describe the town’s central features, a five-dollar coinage which is not likely used in Bloomington’s general circulation, but which Wallace, as a seasoned fiction writer, wields effortlessly.
On the other hand, these constructions are offset throughout the piece by simpler, informal diction that connects directly to the middle American heartland. Wallace writes, “both towns together are like 110,000,” using the filter word “like,” so common in everyday conversation, to situate himself within the community. When he writes “B-N is lousy with churches,” he collapses together the post-modern technique of name-shortening, which he has used to great effect in previous work, and a colourful, informal term for ‘plentiful’. He uses hedging phrases, like “pretty much,” or “a little like,” which highlight his subjective take on life in Bloomington. Though he maintains some critical distance, he can also be withering in his assessments, deeming winter “a pitiless bitch.” Wallace’s status as a literary icon, and small-town guy, are negotiated through his churning prose.
When Wallace refers to State Farm as “the great dark god of consumer insurance,” which “owns the town,” he equates American corporate culture with religious myth. He makes explicit the role of business in defining the American socio-cultural landscape, charging the company, and by implication, its peers, with causing “a large and ever-wider split” between white and blue collar citizens. Throughout the essay, Wallace creates a sense that corporate culture is growing more dominant in the civil sphere. Corn, so crucial to the livelihoods of the blue collar locals that it “stretches to the earth’s curve in all directions,” is represented as an “ocean”, a vast and feckless sea that both sustains and threatens, growing on land “so expensive you can’t even find out how much it costs.” This suggests that corporate control is alive even in rural agriculture; the staple crop is priced out of the range of inquiry. The implication is that only powerful agribusiness is capable of producing Bloomington’s endless yields.
In contrast, despite the town’s many churches, there “isn’t much public community” in Bloomington. Connections between people are “basically televisual,” Wallace writes, contrasting with people he has known on the east coast, who are “constantly leaving home to go meet other people face-to-face in public places.” Social networks in Bloomington are mediated through gathering in one another’s homes and watching television. Wallace uses the word “TV” five times in a single paragraph, highlighting its prominence. The centrality of the term suggests that TV cuts across the social classes, and may be the only means of transcending them. “To have a home without a TV,” he writes, “is to become a kind of constant and Kramer-like presence in others’ homes.” This reference to Kramer, a character from a popular TV show, is invoked as an indicator of spontaneous ubiquity, and is doubtless recognizable across the town’s rural and urban sub-cultures. The TV, Wallace suggests, is the primary way of knowing in small town Bloomington.
On the topic of television, Wallace goes further, juxtaposing its consumption with public citizenship. For the people of Bloomington, who “offer you access to their TV in the same instinctive way they’d bend to lend you a hand if you’d tripped in the street,” an instinctive, fraternal loyalty is constructed during TV time, and strengthened in moments of “some kind of must-see, Crisis-type situation.” Here, Wallace again uses the language of television. “Must-see TV,” a common marketing term heard throughout the 1990s, is invoked to comment upon the grand scale of the “Horror”, and the way it is consumed, and reified, by a community of spectators.
Television is also the medium through which isolated Bloomington constructs and communicates its identity with regard to the wider world. New York’s skyline is “recognizable from TV,” though Wallace makes clear elsewhere in the essay that most residents have little sense of the city as a distinct place with its own discrete geography. TV’s dominance in cultural exchange is highlighted in the first end-note of this section, when Wallace quotes a local: “State Farm people ‘sound like folks on TV.’” The power of corporate culture, defused and transmitted through the country’s biggest, loudest soapbox, redefines reference points of local and national identity.
Together these phrases, rhythms, and observations construct Wallace’s persona as an adopted outsider, at once at home in the community and alien to it, connected to his neighbours, but apart from them. One of the most powerful links is corporate culture, manifested through TV, and the sorts of mega-spectacles that “the Horror” provides. TV transcends the urban/rural divide the same way Wallace himself does, as a famous writer in a small town. Wallace brings his description of the region to life in a few short paragraphs, and embeds within it the conflicting, contrasting social lives of its residents.

re: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/9-11-the-view-from-the-midwest-20110819