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Post Mikhail Bakhtin and Carnival Culture
Created by John Eipper on 04/25/19 4:06 AM

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Mikhail Bakhtin and Carnival Culture (John Heelan, UK, 04/25/19 4:06 am)

JE commented on 24 April: "Such displays [burnings in effigy] act as a 'safety valve' for public rage, rather like the Medieval carnival, which actually reinforced social order by allowing the people to misbehave once each year. (This is a point made by the famous Soviet literary theoretician Mikhail Bakhtin.)"

At risk of disappearing once more into the trackless paths of literary theory (again!), I have written on this social anomaly several times. The counterpoint is that the short-term freedom is balanced by a return to the imposition of strict control and perhaps subsequent punishment for carnivalesque transgressions as imposed by the Spanish Roman Catholic Church in the days following Ash Wednesday, symbolic in its own right (rite?) via confession and penance.

Bakhtin actually points out in Rabelais and His World that the official feasts of the Middle Ages, whether feudal, ecclesiastic or sponsored by the state, did not lead people out of the existing world order and created no second life. On the contrary. they sanctioned the existing pattern of things and reinforced it.  The official feast looked back at the past and used the past to consecrate the present. (from Literary Theory--An Anthology (by Rivkin and Ryan).

JE comments:  The WAIS library has two copies of Bakhtin's Rabelais.  Has this ever happened to other WAISers--you discover you own a second copy of the same book and don't know why?  Ball-point pens also excel at spontaneous reproduction.

Bakhtin's "safety valve" hypothesis has myriad applications.  People need to blow off steam, so if you want them to behave during most of the year, you have to give them a controlled place, well, to vent.  Organized sports work in the same way.


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  • The Ballpoint Paradox (David Duggan, USA 04/27/19 4:48 AM)
    I'd love to find where those ballpoint pens engage in spontaneous reproduction. (See John E's response to John Heelan, April 25th.)

    From my experience, they get sucked into a black hole of nothingness, worthy of Sartre or at least a picture on Facebook.


    JE comments:  I never go to class without a ballpoint in my pants pocket, and I often arrive home with two or three.  Have we found yet another articulation of the unheimlich?  Beats me, but this one from David Duggan gets filed under "philosophy."

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    • Explaining the Ballpoint Paradox (John Heelan, UK 04/28/19 7:27 AM)

      JE commented on 27 April: "I never go to class without a
      ballpoint in my pants pocket, and I often arrive home with two or three.
      Have we found yet another articulation of the unheimlich?


      Mmmm! Some
      might think that theft has a part to play!  On the other hand, perhaps
      Baron Bic discovered a method of virginal reproduction that might challenge
      monotheist religions?


      Another hypothesis:  Ballpoints always seem to share the shirt pocket (bed?) of many US citizens, so perhaps there is some unseen hanky-panky happening, caused by the body heat?


      JE comments:  Or the Ghost of Laszlo Biro?  How many of you knew that Argentina celebrates Inventors' Day on September 29th, Biro's birthday?  (Hungary, the nation of Biro's birth, can also make a claim to be the home of the ballpoint pen.)



      https://www.coronelpringles.gov.ar/index.php/cultura/1360-se-celebra-el-dia-del-inventor-en-argentina-en-honor-al-nacimiento-de-ladislao-biro


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    • More on Ballpoints, the Uncanny, and Odd Socks (Enrique Torner, USA 04/29/19 3:05 AM)

      John E's repeated uncanny experience of leaving home for school with one ballpoint pen and coming home with two or three finally explained my reverse experience: I keep losing my ballpoint pens!  Now I know where all of them ended up.  John, send them back to me!


      Now, seriously speaking, at our home, there are several items that keep mysteriously disappearing: ballpoint pens, pencils, paper clips, rulers, rubber bands, coins, and a non-office item called socks. The solution to this baffling mystery came out some years ago, when we had to move our beloved living-room couch: underneath it, a massive, filthy treasure of pencils, pens, and every item I previously mentioned, except for the socks. All of those items had fallen through the seams of the sofa, between the cushions.


      Regarding the socks, only one of each pair disappears, never two of them. Those widowed socks accumulate on a table reserved for folding laundry. Every time we wash laundry, and one sock of a kind appears, we play the matching game, and search for its twin. Sometimes, a happy reunion will happen, but many other times, a new solitary sock will join the other widowed socks. You wouldn't believe the amount of solitary socks that have accumulated over the years. However, they never lose hope, and continue waiting for a miraculous reunion with their lost sibling, or mate.


      Every once in a while, one of us becomes desperate, frustrated by the continuous sock disappearance, and will start a furious community sock hunt, and recruit the whole family to look for lost socks. We search under beds, inside closets, behind and under furniture, in bedrooms, bathrooms, the basement, and every other possible nook. The search might last for half an hour, maybe one hour, depending on the initial successes. Usually, a few socks will reappear from the most unusual places, reducing the huge pile of solitary, sad socks. However, many of them will remain widowed, or without its twin, surrounded by a multitude of strangers, though never losing hope of, one day, getting reunited with their lost twin, or mate.


      If anybody has any idea of how to put together these broken families, please let me know. One of those long enduring world mysteries might be finally solved.


      JE comments:  WAIS HQ has the corner of one drawer for widowed socks.  The present count is five; I just checked.  Enrique, one way I've found to reduce the carnage is to buy three or four pairs of the same color/style.  Then you never have more than one left without a mate.  (This does sound promiscuous, like spouse-swapping, but you can't hurt the feelings of a sock.)

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