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The twist

“Now … every story ever told can be broken down into three distinct parts: the beginning, the middle … and the twist.” That’s a line spoken by the actor Jack Black in the kid-friendly horror film Goosebumps (2015). He’s actually playing R.L. Stine, the author of the popular book series on which the film is … Continue reading

Everything is code

“He doesn’t give you questions. He doesn’t give you orders. He speaks in a code. I understand the code because I’ve been around him for a decade” said convicted ex-lawyer Michael Cohen about his ex-boss (Trump) before the US House Oversight Committee on Wednesday. As any student of semiotics knows, speaking in code is what … Continue reading

Executive secrets

Who doesn’t want some unstructured time, especially at work! The gaps in the US President’s daily schedule surfaced again this week. 60% of his time is labelled “Executive Time.” Like many others, I’m content to attribute his work patterns to sloth, contrarianism, disorganisation, and tv addiction. (See Axios article.) The main defence from his PR … Continue reading

No interpreter required

If only people speaking different languages could communicate without the need of an interpreter. I’m thinking of the Trump-Putin encounters with translators present. Only unscrupulous leaders would bar their translators from disclosing to other trusted officials what was said. But I’m also thinking of Leon Battista Alberti’s justification of his cipher technique, which was to … Continue reading

Organic cyberwars

The respectable sounding Internet Research Agency (IRA) is a media organisation that was started by the Russian government in 2013, initially to exert influence over Ukrainian and Russian citizens. Some time before the 2016 US election the Russian IRA directed these operations to influence online political discussions in the US, with further influence in other … Continue reading

Stupid postmodernism

According to a search on Google Ngram, the term “postmodernism” reached its apogee in the 1990s. Then there was a sharp decline, at least in books up to 2008, which is the extent of the current Ngram database. But what was once a term debated, disputed and exhausted in academic circles in the 1980s and … Continue reading

Deviant play

I just watched a team of gamers play Fortnite Battle Royal. You don’t need to play a video game to get the gist. You can watch others play it on Youtube. Fortnite is a war game where you form teams and hide out in photo-real buildings while you shoot enemies. One of the gamers remarked … Continue reading

Hustle, twitter, bells and banter

Free beer! C.S. Peirce and semioticians make much of the meaningful call out of someone like a street vendor. A cry or call out from someone giving away, selling or hustling goods at a market fits one of Peirce’s sign categories. To be precise, it is a kind of dicent indexical legisign. The sign is complete … Continue reading

Elect a clown; expect a circus

… says the meme. I’ve been reading Julia Kristeva (1941-) lately, not least as she championed a revised understanding of semiotics in the turbulent 1960s, and is a major figure in the history of semiotics. She mentions C.S. Peirce favourably in a few places, though her philosophy emerges from the structuralism of de Saussure. Roland Barthes … Continue reading

Speak truth to power

“It sounds a dreadful thing to say, but these are things that don’t necessarily need to be true as long as they’re believed.” These are the words of Cambridge Analytica chief executive, according to a recent Guardian article. See the fascinating undercover recording of a sting within a sting. Is truth really under siege? Speak … Continue reading

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