Culture notesPosted: October 27, 2021
- I didn’t think Dave Chappelle’s most recent special, The Closer, was his best, although there were some funny jokes in it (on JK Rowling: “this woman sold so many books The Bible got nervous”). The tone was off, or something. Dave Chappelle is a contender for GOAT standup comedian, and also man who’s made impressive choices with significant amounts of money on the line. But I like observing that myself; when he reminds me of these things multiple times in his own special, I find it diminishes the value, akin Matthew 6:2 or the kidney donation lady.
I was texting a friend who had not seen it about the special, and he wrote me something like “what is the obsession with trans people? Why doesn’t he just stop?” In a way the special is Chappelle’s answer to this question, with the conclusion “maybe I will just stop.” If you watch the special, you will see Dave himself describe the feeling of being attacked, harassed, and threatened, which is the same feeling his most extreme critics point to as a reason for being careful about material like this.
Language as spell, as magic, words as having power to cause real harm and violence, to even be violence in themselves, is a belief that is growing over my lifetime. Could that have something to do with a blending of what were once more isolated dialects into a great shared language that incorporates more people, with more divergent opinions and backgrounds? The way English was forming around Shakespeare’s time from like Kentish and Pictish and East Anglian and whatever, blended with Norman French and pieces of Gaelic and Latin all the rest? Such an expansion will not be without confusion.
In 2016 I remember going to the source of a news item that was inspiring controversy, a Department of Education memo on Transgender Students. Here is the Notice of Language Assistance that prefaces the letter:
We’re already in a language mess and we’re not even on page one. I’m not used to reading federal Department of Education documents, I assume this is kind of boilerplate, and well-intentioned. Page 1 of the letter is an attempt to clarify terminology:
An important part of the issue is getting the language right, which will not be easy, language being notoriously tricky and fluid. But if language has the violent power we imbue to it, getting it wrong is very dangerous, like miscasting a spell!
- Sun & Sea at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA was great! An immersive exhibit / opera? I visit Lithuanian Wikipedia to learn about the creators, Rugilė Barzdžiukaitė, Vaiva Graintė, Lina Lapelytė,
I was pleased with my burger from Burger She Wrote, although I don’t understand the pun. It’s not like the place is Jessica Fletcher themed or anything. Is it a play on how all burgers are murder?