I saw Spencer last night, and a miracle happened: my heart opened up and I had a little sympathy, a trickle of blood or some other humour, for Diana.
Friday, February 11, 2022
Thursday, February 10, 2022
If you look up the
literature on jokes – which ranges from Bergson to Freud to analyses of the
Gricean implicature of jokes, and so on – you will notice that the joke is
always connected to laughter. Without laughter, it would seem, there is no
joke. Even the feeblest joke is defined as such because it fails to provoke
Myself, I think jokes
are often about laughter. But jokes are sometimes not about laughter at all. This
seems to be a paradox from the mainstream point of view, but from ordinary
converse it is obvious – at least to me, and I believe to almost everybody –
that jokes are sometimes not meant to provoke laughter at all. There are many
intentions packed into a joke. Sometimes they are meant to bother. Sometimes
they are intentionally meant to waste time – to delay. Sometimes they are tics,
like cracking your knuckles or stripping the cuticle from the side of your
fingernails (a particularly bad habit in my opinion). You could say here that the
laughter function is perverted, or diverted. Or you could say that negation and
affirmation in the world of affects responds to a different logic than it does
in the world of syllogisms. That the negation of laughter could be the motive
of a joke is, from the world of affect, a logical result of the particularly
enunciative situation of the joke.
Freud recognizes that
there are different types of laughter – and that there is a pleasure in
laughter that is sadistic. Sadism, however, throws the stage lights on too
brightly to describe all kinds of jokes that are disattached from laughter. It
is, however, true that laughter is, at some point, related to biting. In fact,
satire is often described in terms of biting. Biting and sucking are, of
course, some of our earliest intentional actions. The mouth is centered as an
important organ for the newborn, who learns to use it to make sounds and then
words and then when he is all grown up and a Dad, Dad jokes.
Lately, when I make a
humoristic comment – something that is as related to a joke as an undershirt is
related to a shirt – Adam tends to say ha ha. It is the typography of a laugh,
or another way of not laughing at all. When he started doing this, it reminded
me of something. A couple of days ago I remembered it: oh brother.
When I was about Adam’s
age – nine – I started replying to jokes or things that were meant to be funny,
offered by classmates and adults, with the phrase: oh brother. I must have used
that phrase a lot, because at some point in the sixth grade I was dubbed “brother
Gathmann”, and I retained that nickname for a long time. I’m not sure what I
felt about it. When playing, it was shorted to Brother, so, say, in basketball
it would be, “pass it to me, brother”, etc. etc.
Hearing this, I wonder
if adults thought it had to do with religion (the Christian evangelical thing
of sisters or brothers) or with white kids pretending to be black (brother, in
the white mind, being what black men called each other – at least on tv). The
one thing that wouldn’t occur is that the name derived from a conditioned
refusal to laugh, or to enter the circuit of the joke.
I had not thought
about that nickname for a long long time, until Adam started with the ha ha.
And now I am curious how, unconsciously, I pass things down to my son. Or maybe
he makes them up for himself. And maybe that is a role in the schoolyard – the oh
Tuesday, February 08, 2022
Nobody likes political correctness. Which puts us in the position that it isn’t correct to defend political correctness. It is like picking your nose or flashing in a park – not the kind of thing you want to be associated with.
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