Favorite Joke by Linguists

“Roman Jakobson spoke Russian in seven languages.”

Every time I hear it, and I heard it a good dozen of times, it is less and less funny.

Speech Genres: Individual vs Social

I think Bakhtin [intentionally, for his own purposes] misreads Saussure when he says: “Therefore, the single utterance, with all its individuality and creativity, can in no way be regarded as a completely free combination of forms of language, as is supposed, for example, by Saussure (and by many other linguists after him), who juxtaposed the utterance (la parole), as a purely individual act, to the system of language as a phenomenon that is purely social and mandatory for the individual.” (Bakhtin, 1986, 81; cursive is author’s).



Bakhtin, Mikhail. (1986) “The Problem of Speech Genres.” In Speech Genres and Other Late Essays. Austin: University of Texas Press. 60-102.

Starbucks Durée

Starbucks is a cozy nook of a paradise for a citizen. It mimics home space yet is public. Since they are robots, citizens do not eat. They only have to show from time to time that there is nothing human from which they are completely estranged. This is where paper coffee cups and sugar substitutes come.

A surge of appetite—not hunger—accurate cones, rolls, candies, slices of cinnamon or chocolate bread, chalk on the blackboard: the menu. Starbucks is a culmination of the institutionalized eating of sweets.

The urban deity inhabits the mixer. Deity ex mixer.

Starbucks is not unique: it is ubiquitous, a specially organized shared space, like other corporations: McDonald’s, Wal Mart, Whole Foods. Starbucks is not unique and therefore Starbucks unifies. Globalization is written in the sheen of its surfaces with an invisible marker.

International corporations, such as malls, or Starbucks, produce spaces that never change, know no time of the day, nor season. Interiors are designed with intention to keep the customer unaware of floating of time. Starbucks creates durée around you, affect of sorts.


A figure of a philosopher that Žižek represents or rather recreates—sniffing, scratching, making erratic gestures—is dimly evocative. We suspected all along that a philosopher is a strange personage. Who could be satisfied with just an ordinary looking and normally behaving philosopher? Who needs such a philosopher? A philosopher should be an unkempt, publicly masturbating, smelly individual, by the very least. Free range, organic. This sort of thing. You got the idea.

Now, I am not saying Žižek is all of it, or anything at all, for that matter. In a way, he might well be the most celebrated popular, ideal capitalist philosopher, appealing to the sentiments of the crowd in the circus of solemn entertainments; a clown, a jester; a weird, eccentric professor of a number of disciplines; fascinated movie-watcher and mass-culture critical consumer. A wondrous individual, however you would stare.

Tourist Complications

The essential part of functioning as a tourist is the subject’s awareness of being a tourist. Kathleen Stewart calls this curious creature, knowledgeable of their being tourist, “post-tourist” (K. Stewart, Nostalgia: The Polemic), but I would suggest  that unless the tourist knows s/he is a tourist, s/he is not; s/he is a meanderer, a wanderer, a flâneur.

Tourism is a sweaty labor. One goes from a historic vista to another, eager to see as much as humanly possible, to delude oneself in the hot mess of momentarily entangled episodic experiences. The tourist does not retain the information for it is unneeded and unrequired. Was that statue of the eighteens century or of the sixteenth? Flemish or general Dutchmen? Madonna Litta or the Dame with ermine? Who cares. The tourist stores memories s/he would never revisit, in the boxes of their camera and phone. S/he incessantly photographs because pressing the masturbatory magic button (Cartier-Bresson) means the acclaimed by protestant ethics anti-idleness of constant work, even at rest (Sontag, On Photography), and justifies vain gazing. S/he collects souvenirs to recollect places (S. Stewart). The tourist is busy. S/he is not the native who by privilege of their constant access to landmarks is exempt from ever visiting them.


To be supplied.