July 10th, 2009


From Twitter 07-09-2009

  • 06:51:36: In my dream, I stayed at some place for a week to work, and I'd somehow gotten both my new and old cars there.
  • 12:32:40: @EugeneMirman If that's the best the future could come up with, I don't have much hope for it.
  • 17:24:01: The Governor of TX is considering appointing a woman who calls public education a "subtly deceptive tool of perversion" as head of the BOE.
  • 17:24:57: Why is it that politicians seem to forget that you shouldn't put someone who hates an institution in charge of it?
  • 17:48:42: A proposed Smurfs movie? Is no cartoon from my childhood sacred? http://bit.ly/o1006
  • 19:02:51: Spider-Man's Greatest Bible Stories http://i40.tinypic.com/6sgu9k.jpg
  • 20:10:59: Gordon Ramsey is right. You can't cook with no gas! Well, unless you use a different heat source.
  • 21:10:04: @themall The gecko?
  • 21:25:25: If you want to run a negative campaign, you should come up with something better than "he said he wouldn't raise taxes, but he totally DID."
  • 21:25:53: I mean, what politician COULDN'T you say that about?
  • 23:12:14: Bill O'Reilly seems to think people have been mocking Palin too much. You know, because he's a nice guy who cares about people's feelings.
  • 23:21:04: O'Reilly also doesn't think the God and Country Festival is about religion, or something like that. How does he still have viewers?
  • 23:21:18: Well, maybe they all watch him ironically, like I do sometimes.
  • 23:43:23: It looks like the best sponsor Bill-O can get is Lee Majors selling a hearing aid.
  • 23:46:48: In other news, I got the first issue of "The Oz-Wonderland Chronicles" today. I definitely give it a thumbs up.
  • 23:47:40: Orks, the Shaggy Man, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, and Alice singing a song from "Sylvie & Bruno." What more could a fan ask for?
  • 23:48:19: The comic's Jabberwock reminds me of a praying mantis.
  • 23:50:52: Oh, and I forgot to mention Ruggedo!

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See You Later, Allegory

As I mentioned to rockinlibrarian a little while ago, one thing I like about fantasy is that it can deal with real-world issues without quite addressing them directly. I suppose there are occasions where this could be a cop-out, but in many cases it works quite well. Fantasy can, for instance, make comments on politics or religion without actually mentioning any specific people. This differs from allegory, in which everything stands for something else, and any criticisms or compliments offered really ARE to specific real-world people or things. While some stories are specifically written as allegories, it seems to be popular among literary interpreters to want to give allegorical meaning to others as well. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is a prime example. In 1964, Henry Littlefield came up with the idea that the book could be read as sort of an allegory on the 1896 presidential election and the battle between gold and silver standards. Even though Littlefield admitted that he didn't think L. Frank Baum actually intended this meaning, variations on the Parable on Populism theme appear quite frequently, often without even crediting Littlefield, and it's pretty common for people to think that's what the story is actually about. I guess that, in the world of supposedly scholarly literary interpretation, a popular turn-of-the-twentieth-century children's book isn't worth discussing in and of itself, but a popular turn-of-the-twentieth-century children's book that's secretly about politics (even though critics somehow missed this for upwards of sixty years) is worthwhile. I've seen more or less allegorical interpretations of other such books as well, but I notice that annotators like Martin Gardner and Michael Patrick Hearn tend to disregard them. In a way, allegorical interpretation is kind of lazy, because it simply requires a critic to come up with one overarching idea for the whole story, rather than examining its parts separately.

Also pretty much inevitable for any popular literary work is the Freudian interpretation, which is basically that everything is actually about parent issues and sex. (Yeah, I know there's actually more to it than that, but that's the common view on Freudian takes.) While this kind of interpretation definitely holds water in some cases (traditional fairy tales were big on having step-parents who want to kill or humiliate their new step-children, for instance), I have to say that it's probably a bit overextended (heh heh, I said "extended") in many situations. For instance, I can't quite buy the popular argument that beheading represents castration anxiety, if only because I think the idea of decapitation is scary enough without working crotches into it. (You know, if seemingly innocuous images in dreams and writing are symbolic of sex, does that mean dreams and writings that are flat-out about sex are actually symbolic of something else? I'm sure I'm not the first person to have asked this question.)

I guess I've never been too much of a fan of symbolic interpretation of literature. Sure, I'll look for themes and allusions, but I think the idea that everything is actually representative of something else ruins a lot of the fun. When I do scholarly takes on fictional works, I prefer to think of the fiction as if it's describing actual events, as is probably obvious from my Oz posts. And that's one reason why, despite my bibliophilia, I probably never would have made it as an English major.

What can green do for you?

One thing that's been annoying me recently is how often people, especially on the television box, mention "green" products and policies. I don't think there's anything particularly wrong with the term, even though there are a lot of things of a green color that are actually harmful to the environment, from radioactive waste (it's always green in cartoons, anyway) to the Incredible Hulk (I don't think those shirts he's always ripping off are biodegradable). I mean, I never had a problem with the name of the Green Party; and while I don't like all of Greenpeace's tactics, their NAME never bothered me. No, I think it's mostly just over-saturation, and how the term has become another advertising buzzword. Remember when everyone was yakking about carbs, or twenty years ago when every other commercial said something about fiber and/or oat bran? The additional concern here is that, when something becomes a buzzword like that, consumers tend to forget the original REASON why they're looking for things that are high-fiber, low-carb, or green. It turns into more of a feel-good thing, with people buying organically grown products not because they actually taste better or have known health benefits, but simply because it helps them feel better about themselves. Which I guess is fine, as long as they don't bother other people about it. It's just kind of irritating to keep hearing the same practically empty terms over and over again.

That said, I'm ALSO sick of people insisting that recycling involves sorting through garbage (granted, I haven't heard that one much recently, but it used to come up pretty often), or that global warming isn't real because it's still cold sometimes (yeah, Hannity, I'm looking in your direction). It's not that I'm not in favor of the environment, just that I don't think buying things with "green" written on the package is the best way to accomplish environmental change.

EDIT: Also, happy birthday to aliste, and happy dating anniversary to bethje!