it's kind of interesting: the "israel project," which i expect is a pr operation of the israeli state (they just did a news conference with the israeli ambassador to the us, broadcast on c-span), is the only non-junkable email list i've ever been on. i've been on for years, probably because i used to be a syndicated columnist. they must have an automated deal that generates a new email address from which they send each message, because i've thrown them into my spam filter dozens of times, and the next thing often arrives almost immediately. mossad, baby.
at any rate, i wish hamas would stop lobbing missiles, more or less recognize israel, and enter into negotiations. but more than that, i wish israel would negotiate with hamas and develop some strategy for peace. you know, they really seem to have some kind of equation: one israeli life is worth five hundred palestinian lives. and as johnny rotten would say: no future.
i think this idea of progressives vs. reactionaries is one sort of terrible mistake about the nature of time, identified by heidegger and others: it treats time as space. the progressive is an emissary from the future, like the terminator, a time traveler. and i propose to you that time travel is conceptually incoherent: it treats times as places. the progressive comes to us from the future, the reactionary from the past, and the former vaguely represents science, the latter religion or something. but the taliban, the fundamentalist, sarah palin: these folks are entirely saturated in now. and so is the obama brain trust. so are we all. the religious terrorist is conceived as blowing up the present on behalf of the past, while the rational welfare-state liberal is nurturing the present on behalf of the future. but you can't live in the past, as though it were europe. and you've got no insight into the shape of the future. people are still writing as though religion has been disintegrating since, i don't know, the sixteenth century, replaced by a rational scientific worldview. it has been, to whatever extent it has been. the future might belong entirely to the catholic church or to trance channelers. anyway, to the extent that you take yourself to know the future and to drag us there, and to the extent that you condemn people and belief systems that exist perfectly well here and now as already historically superseded, you're a dictator in your heart. and the same the other way round: if you conceive of the present as a degeneration and want to hold us to 1800 or 1300 or something, your hostility to the present is totalitarian. also either way round you are merely confused about wherewhen you are. the past is gone. the future has no shape. either of these is noplace, is no point of view. who speaks from or as now? everyone. but the self-conceived progressive or reactionary is confused about that.
i called the idea that a thinker doesn't want to miss the train to the future a "terrible" idea. and let me say that this is a characteristic delusion of the last couple of centuries; i guess we sometimes call it "modernism." that is, we've discovered the shape of history, can see where we're headed. no amount of disappointment seems fundamentally to alter this idea. every prediction marx or hegel ever made has been falsified, but still we wait. it's a religious impulse, and in the same way adorno was still waiting for the future, rick warren is still waiting for the second coming. that's what religions are for: to tell you the shape of the future, and anything that does is a religion, is only based on faith. this is true of, say, thomas friedman's technolatry, or american "progressivism": we're completely shocked by something as mildly "reactionary" as the bush administration, sticking out its foot to trip history. if you're thinking progressive vs. reactionary, i say you're engaged in a completely irrational religious structure. the idea that we can discern the shape of the future and help it along, be on its right side, be its avatar, is, um, false. you're going to get your ass kicked. again. but it's not going to register, is it? just do your work as best you can, try to love people here and now etc: our destiny - apotheosis or extinction, or just more chaotic muddling (my prediction) - is going to happen whatever you may think or want or declare. history has no shape. the terror of the progressive idea is that it is in its essence totalitarian. because the present is a mess, but the future has a shape, we must be pressed into this shape: friedman thinks so. so did lenin, pol pot, mussolini, john hagee. people: just let go. you don't know what the future is, and of course if you did it would be fate, not a program: you couldn't make it. trying to is just converting people into raw materials in your delusional technology of jive. even if it's all progress toward freedom and democracy, people have to be rendered comprehensible - simplified - and then driven.
reading adorno and benjamin, or for that matter sartre, one cannot but be struck by their bizarre distortion by marxism. adorno is the most refined aesthete and snob. how are you going to throw marx into that? why would you? how could you? adorno despised the bourgeoisie. of course. but the idea that he was going to hang around with the proletariat or embody their values or interests is absurd. benjamin is a talmudic scholar of literature and life, gnomic. throw in a marxist demystification of all reality and all you've got is colossal incoherence. sartre is, come down to it, a kierkegaardian individualist, confronting you with your own infinite responsibility. and then...a marxist? bitch please. obviously these folks were swept up in the "progressive" intellectual culture of the era, and probably the alternative appeared to be heidegger's reconciliation with national socialism. fair enough, but of course there were other alternatives, and of course, like heidegger, these folks are implicated in a totalitarianism that is ultimately completely incoherent with their own intellectual practice. whatever the context, i hold them individually responsible for their choice. they owed more to their own thought than to keep nodding at some orthodoxy. and they had plenty of other ways to go; they could have hopped off at any time. consider orwell, or arendt. adorno and benjamin and sartre are geniuses or whatever, but they're marred all the way down by their self-enslavement. they wanted to be on the right side of history, not to miss the train to the future: a terrible idea, at once arrogant and slavish.
if anyone's asking, i do think that bush people - in particular cheney, rumsfeld, tenet - should be investigated for war crimes, illegal detentions, abductions, torture, operating secret internment facilities, violations of the geneva conventions and other treaties, and so on. now if you ask me it does not make sense to put the investigations into the hands of a democratic congress or even justice dept. i would somehow appoint a non-partisan commission/individual. too bad patrick fitzgerald's tied up. but maybe pull some people out of the military justice system who have never been politically active. at any rate these little piggies should pay, not only for what they've done to various individuals around the world, but for what they've done to ...us.
i think it's possible that the blagojevich scandal might be a bit worse for the obama admin than people are saying right now. it has to strike you that his every act as governor is the possible site of malfeasance. now not only has obama been in the middle of illinois politics through the blag admin, so has rahm and a bunch of other people close to b.o. there are liable to have been myriad connections throughout. everyone just keeps saying, obviously there's no problem, so why don't they just lay it all out there? no doubt they're thinking of every interaction of a whole bunch of people with the blag junta over a period of years, wondering if anyone ever did a bit of unsavory business with him. it would not surprise me if several had. even if none of these people - e.g. the superintendent of the chicago schools, now secretary of education-designate - ever played along to get something accomplished (which seems a bit unlikely), were they aware of any criminal or corrupt activity? everything that man has touched for six years is tainted, and all these folks were within arm's length.
down at my mom's doing xmas, we watched the wonderful film man on wire, about philippe petit's wire walk between the towers of the world trade center. crime as beauty. beauty as an act of revolution. one couldn't help thinking that this was a better use of the wtc than as targets for jetliners. also better than the uses for which it was intended.
I've been reading a bunch of Theodor Adorno lately: Minima Moralia and Aesthetic Theory. Early on in my education, I repudiated Adorno utterly: as soon as I read him condemning jazz music (for Christ's sake) as mere debased commodity and symptom of the emptiness of the era etc, I didn't figure there could be anything right after that. Well, I had a point, and the dude is unbelievably problematic. No one has ever made more elaborate use of the Marxist notion of false consciousness: anything any of us have thought in our whole lives is more or less a mechanical recapitulation of commodity capitalism. This leaves Adorno's own point of view as an achievement that is impossible on its own terms: only I, the great Adorno, am exempt from the conditions under which we all think. On the other hand, I've come to see why people read him. The extreme alienation and cynicism, the unbelievable negativity, yield a place from which you can see a lot; of course, I maybe have my own version, though it ain't "post-Marxist" etc. If Ambrose Bierce was a commie... And actually, there has never been a more interesting application of the dialectical method: the insights are constantly imploding; he's constantly reversing even his own ideology to produce incomparable insights. He's particularly excellent on art and the arts in modernity: their separation from the culture as a whole, their debt to it, the devotion of their makers to subjectivity and the perfection of the object, and their simultaneous implication in the circulation of commodities, media, mechanical reproduction. I'm so never going to be a follower of Adorno, but I'm also getting a lot out of the texts.
Say bye to Slingin Sammy Baugh. "In one season, 1943, he led the NFL in pass completions, in punting and in interceptions -- which he caught, not threw, with 11." My Dad used to tell me stories about Baugh, deprecating all quarterbacks (Jurgensen, Unitas, Namath (well my Dad died in 1981)) ever since in the comparison. His favorite moment was a desperately injured Baugh, unable to throw, coming in and winning the game with the "Statue of Liberty," revived a couple of years ago in a magnificent win by Boise State.
Awhile back, I was ragging on masterpieces and god-like genius. Now when I teach philosophy, for example, it goes in the usual sequence: you know, Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, Descartes, Spinoza, Hume, etc. I think in some ways, despite their excellence, these figures are arbitrarily promoted, and I think when you start trying to dig in their eras, you find roughly comparable and largely forgotten figures (of course, people get revived etc too). Consider just in relation to the ancients: if we had the full texts of Heraclitus, or Parmenides, or Zeno (the founder of stoicism), we'd have completely different sense of the origin of philosophy and people's place within it. Well, much later texts can be lost too: never translated, never reprinted, for one reason or another inaccessible. "Classic" is a self-fulfilling prophecy, and once you have centuries of interpretation, of work on the issues opened by a particular figure and the manner in which he opened it, you're just not in a position to re-think the whole thing; you're operating within a context of decades or centuries of determinate texts and figures. Freddy might have been as plausible a candidate for godhead as Gautama or Jesus, but now you're not going to be able to know that, or see relgion except through the lenses you have. Promotion to classic status is largely arbitrary, but after a century or twenty, it is no longer optional. Indeed, looking at the original text through the haze of centuries that unfold from it, depend on it, it's going to look utterly fundamental. Classic is of course not something is when it's made, but something that it becomes: not inevitable in any case, but inexorable by the time you arrive.
Below, the two-disc disco list. (Hey that has a certain ring.)
It goes without saying that at the time of disco, during which I was a teenager, I hated, reviled, despised the stuff. Punk was a good answer to disco, and I tried that on, but really roots was where I went in reaction: country and blues. These signified reality as opposed to disco's unprecedented musical artificiality. Indeed, the first entirely synthetic songs were disco songs of the seventies (see "I Feel Love"). We regarded the stuff as...unnatural: artificially-produced frankenstein music, a disgusting simulation of music as a sheer consumer object. The journey of John Travolta, in Saturday Night Fever, was emblematic: from tough neighborhood kid to made-up polyestered butt boy.
Now as that remark reflects, disco was unbelievably embroiled in issues of gender and sexual orientation. I was struggling into heterosexuality at the time through a miasma of chicken-hawking, and if you were listening to the Bee Gees you were, perhaps unconsciously in the provinces, gay in every sense of the term, even if you did it to pick up women. Hank Williams and Muddy Waters were my emblems of not-gayness. And disco, let's say, engages a lot of what I still might not particularly appreciate about "queer culture": the celebration of artifice for its own sake, decadence as an ethics, and so on. Of course, these are also, particularly in retrospect, interesting interventions in the whole gender system by which heterosexuality is subsumed to naturalness: a most extreme form of conceptual oppression.
At any rate, time has been kind to disco, the last thing I expected. These songs, I think, sound great. In retrospect, you can hear disco in relation to the history of African-American music (even if at a moment of decay), and people like Donna Summer and Gloria Gaynor were fine soul singers. Like funk it was fundamentally a party music - in this case, the best dance music ever made - but unlike funk it had messages coded throughout, some of them liberatory. (The Village People were hilarious and wonderful and in their own way important.) The basic artists were the producers, not the performers, which was part of what we condemned as artificial. But now that seems like a passe attitude: why shouldn't the producers be the artists? Even in Motown etc they were, and they certainly are now. Still, I must say the rather mechanical forms, artificial rhythm tracks, beeping touchtone phone effects, and lockstep BPM are annoying: kind of gross, tasteless, especially in large doses.
I want to give you the ethical paradox at the heart of disco. Disco culture was, in my view, disgusting. Remember Studio 54? (Chic: "Just come on down to 54, find a spot out on the floor.") Meaningless snobbery at the rope line, and within, an inversion of all values: vice as virtue, promiscuity as love, decadence as redemption, cocaine as enlightenment. This shit ate people alive, and by the time it did, they richly deserved to be devoured. Disco was a mirror of a disillusioned or actually nihilistic consumerism, and like I said vis-a-vis the funk, hedonism hurts. On the other hand, the songs listed below are made with consummate, meticulous craft. You can't be a way-gone cokehead or sex fiend and make records like Giorgio Moroder's or Nile Rogers'. Someone spent weeks in the studio getting every tiny sound exactly right. The best disco songs positively shimmer with devoted making, which is actually the heart of their glamour. At the center of all this mindless sin, there is a Shaker ethic of devoted making.
How should we encompass the paradox between work ethic and meaningless or destructive pleasure? Dunno, but I might take a crack at some point.
If you burn this stuff, do it without gaps between the songs; that's how the club dj spun em!
(1) The Hughes Corporation, "Rock the Boat"
(2) Donna Summer, "Love to Love You Baby"
(3) Bee Gees, "Stayin Alive"
(4) Anita Ward, "Ring My Bell"
(5) Village People, "YMCA"
(6) Chic, "Good Times"
(7) Blondie, "Heart of Glass"
(8) George McCrae, "Rock Your Baby"
(9) Michael Jackson, "Don't Stop Til You Get Enough"
(10) Lipps, Inc, "Funkytown"
(11) Spinners, "Working My Way Back to You"
(12) Carl Douglas, "Kung Fu Fighting"
(13) Van McCoy, "The Hustle"
(14) Irene Cara, "Fame"
(1) Trammps, "Disco Inferno"
(2) Donna Summer, "Hot Stuff"
(3) Village People, "Macho Man"
(4) Barry White, "Love's Theme"
(5) KC and The Sunshine Band, "Keep it Comin Love"
back when they expelled a 6-year-old student from the york, pa school system for having nail-clippers in his backpack, i noted that though it would be difficult to kill someone with nail clippers, it would be a truly monstrous way to commit murder: you'd have to skin someone bit by infinitesimal bit, over a period of weeks. so all right-thinking people had to support the expulsion. and now i ask: if you were going to assassinate someone by throwing shoes at them, how would you proceed? what brand of shoes? what kind of range and velocity would you have to achieve? one good thing about shoes as weapons: they come in pairs. so the first shot can be used to stun and immobilize, the second to deliver the fatal blow. that also goes for socks, though pat benatar famously importuned: "stop using socks as a weapon."
If you're at all into fantasy lit, you've got to check out Steven Erikson's unbelievable "Malazan Book of the Fallen" series. I make it eight volumes at about 800 pages each. A whole world: dozens of major characters, continents, empires, tribes, cities, each with an incredibly rich history; species, forms of government, religions. And more than a world: dimensions, warrens, pantheons of gods (and people in the process of becoming gods), realms of the dead. It's a very dark vision: there are a lot lot of corpses and splattering bodily fluids, routine pain and degradation. But also true moments of nobility and small redemptions. The sheer scope takes some getting used to and a lot of paying attention to, but the writing is consistently outstanding, the thought deep. He must never do anything but write. I have yet to pick out a single inconsistency. And I can't think that there has ever been a comparable achievement. Because it's hard - on amazon, say - to keep them numbered, I'll do you a list of the eight volumes in order. There almost has to be more coming, though *Toll the Hounds* brings the thing around (almost) full circle, and could be interpreted as a place to end. Of course he could go back, to any moment over tens of thousands of years and any place in his own universe, for the next piece. I'd suggest more on the ascension of Shadowthrone and the Rope, or the Jaghut/T'lan Imass wars. But whatever it is, I'll read it.I should say I think the Malazan Book of the Fallen is at its most engaging when it's dealing with normal human beings - especially, the Bridgeburners, and the Darujistan crowd (including the world's best talker Kruppe! (of course there's the amazing, disgusting Iskaral Pust, who's incredibly self-serving interior monologue is always unconsciously spoken aloud), Cutter, Murillio, etc). It's a little bit harder to care about all the interactions of gods and ascendants.
(1) Gardens of the Moon
(2) Deadhouse Gates
(3) Memories of Ice
(4) House of Chains
(5) Midnight Tides
(6) The Bonehunters
(7) Reapers Gale
(8) Toll the Hounds
The Blagojevich scandal, despite the fact that Blag himself comes from a modest background, displays a very basic fact about government: it's absurd to assert that it generally, or even ever, has the effect of equalizing income or power. In Chicago politics, as is the case to some degree everywhere, money leads to political power which leads to money which leads to political power, and so on infinitely. You can't make power/money out of liquor licenses if the state doesn't purport to control the flow of liquor. Or appointments, etc etc. The mere existence of political power is a condition of an extremely unjust distribution of all resources. This is a massive fact on which every redistribution downward - e.g. by a graduated income tax - is a patina. It's true in communist regimes, true in fascist regimes, true in democratic regimes. That's why if your argument for state power is made in terms of egalitarianism or distributive justice, you're just wrong. That said, what a disgusting stupid slob that Blagojevich is.
now that american politics is the source of infinite $$$, things are really going to get interesting. but they can square the deficit by selling - i don't know - senate seats. i wonder how much caroline is going to pony up.
Below is a two-disc funk collection. Funk was of course a mere, but complete party music, originating in James Brown's band and aesthetic: structures rather than songs, incredibly repetitive dance music: music to snort coke by. After James Brown, there is not a single defensible or even non-silly lyric in the history of funk. This is intentional: profundity or even message would have disrupted the purity of the form: it is pointedly trivial. (EU: "Irene's got a big old butt! God bless you and goodnight." P-Funk: "We shall overcome. Wheredjoo get that rump from?" Cameo: "Bushwhack me with your love." Well that last one's pretty good. ) If you think hedonism doesn't hurt, sample some of the later careers, like Rick James's, perhaps. The most famous practitioners, of course, were Parliament-Funkadelic, with a million variations and spin-offs. The stage show was one of the signal seventies experiences, but my enthusiasm on record is limited: unbelievable self-indulgence: ten-minute utterly static discursive parades of incomprehensible gobbledygook, vocalists on helium, aliens and dogs. By the time "Dr. Funkenstein" finally fades, you're liable to be glad it did. Still I give you a couple of chestnuts, notably "Flashlight" and "Bop Gun." And I want to remind you: the bigger the headache the bigger the pill, baby.
The best for my money was the more focused, poppy stuff: here, the Gap Band, Cameo, Zapp etc. My favorite band of them all is probably Kool and the Gang, circa 1973-1983 (the funk era, more or less, though by the late seventies various functions had been assumed by disco and hip hop). For one thing, the tightest band I ever saw on stage. Even the later poppy stuff is excellent, but, you know it's hard to beat "Jungle Boogie" or "Funky Stuff." I also give you three examples of the DC spinoff style GoGo (Trouble Funk, EU, and Chuck Brown), which added layers of propulsive rhythmic complexity, featuring multiple drummers etc. (I'd do "drop the Bomb" for Trouble Funk; not available in itunes.) Also one hip hop tune: "California Love": Dre and Tupac with funk icon Roger (see Zapp) on talk box. (Roger Troutman was murdered by his brother in a fratricide...of funk!) It's hardly a new point that the rhythms of funk powered hip hop, especially Cali-style. "Super Freak" and "Brick House" should probably be on the list, but Christ. Actually, re-listening, if I had to pick three it might be "Rollercoaster of Love," "Holy Ghost," and "Funky Stuff."
Continued random observations: An interesting comparison is roots reggae, with which funk coincides temporally and racially. Both are extremely heavy on the bass, which might be conceived to be the lead instrument. This possibility is partly opened up by recording and playback technologies. Also, funk and reggae are both based on the idea of extreme repetition: pulse or heartbeat. Essentially all reggae is a single rhythm, while funk has two or three (pretty basic 4/4 though). But where roots reggae is a religious and political form, funk is definitely not, unless the butt is a deity. The civil-rights style revolution that had happened in the US in the sixties continued in the seventies in Jamaica, but not really here. Funk is also a relic of the era when race and gender existed. Women were definitely the objects, not the artists, of funk music (ah, for the good old days). Reggae and funk are the two basic origins of hip hop, reggae providing the performance style (turntables and toasters/rappers) and funk the basic rhythms.
The acts were often committees rather than bands, and performers and their entourages would often wander round onstage, contributing a snatch of vocals or a rhythm instrument or a general party-on-the-stage atmosphere. This comported well with the post-song: the performances were shambolic but also with a certain precision.
(1) Ohio Players, "Rollercoaster of Love"
(2) James Brown, "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag"
(3) Cameo, "Word Up"
(4) P-Funk, "Bop Gun"
(5) Lakeside, "Fantastic Journey"
(6) Gap Band, "You Dropped a Bomb on Me"
(7) Kool and the Gang, "Get Down on It"
(8) P-funk, "Flashlight"
(9) Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers, "We Need Some Money"
(10) Bar-Kays, "Holy Ghost"
(11) Cameo "Attack Me With Your Love"
(12) James Brown, "Cold Sweat"
(13) George Clinton, "Atomic Dog"
(14) P-funk, "One Nation Under a Groove"
(15) Kool and the Gang, "Jungle Boogie"
(16) Trouble Funk, "Hey Fellas"
(17) Dazz Band, "Let it Whip"
(18) Zapp, "Dance Floor"
(19) Gap Band, "Early in the Morning"
(20) Ohio Players, "Fire"
(21) Dr. Dre, Tupac Shakur, and Roger, "California Love"
(22) EU (Experience Unlimited), "Da Butt"
(23) Kool and the Gang, "Funky Stuff"
(24) Ohio Players, "Double Dutch Bus"
(25) Gap Band, "Oops Upside Your Head"
(26) Mtume, "Juicy"
(27) Bar-Kays, "Shake Your Rump to the Funk"
(28) B.T. Express, "Do it ('Til You're Satisfoied)"
Though i have, in the past, quibbled with the Kennedy Center Honors, I won't this year too badly. If nothing else, they're redeemed by the choice of George Jones, one of the great figures of twentieth-century American popular music, and, astonishingly, still recording great albums. I could do without Barbra Streisand, of course. I still remember working at a record store in the late seventies: for a few weeks all anyone wanted was the amazing collaboration between Barbra and Barry Gibb - the LP "Guilty." (The title track won the Grammy for best song, which tells you all you need to know about the Grammys.) The record is now completely forgotten, which is an inspiring example of the human capacity to repress the memory of soul-devouring pain and unspeakable evil and somehow, beyond hope or reason, to go on. Indeed, there's not a single Streisand song I wouldn't delete from my head, supposing they ever got there. I'd rather be a charred monkey in somebody's luggage than hear "The Way We Were" or "You Don't Bring Me Flowers" again. I'm not that big on the Who either, who as I'm sure was said in the various fulsome tributes, were the inventors of the rock opera, a mistake if ever there was one. But you know, they got George, so what the hell.
I do hope the Obama administration takes some action on Darfur, and takes a more active role in combating genocide. The Albright commission writes: "Genocide is not the inevitable result of 'ancient hatreds' or irrational leaders. It requires planning and is carried out systematically. There are ways to recognize its signs and symptoms, and viable options to prevent it at every turn if we are committed and prepared." And, we might add, in the modern era it is always perpetrated by states. The Post piece points out that "Most modern U.S. presidents have had to confront some mass violence against civilians, from the killing fields in Cambodia during the administrations of Gerald R. Ford and Jimmy Carter to the ethnic cleansing in the Balkans and Rwanda during the Bill Clinton years to the Janjaweed militia attacks on villages in Darfur during the Bush tenure." I would add Chechnya, actually as clear a case as Rwanda or Cambodia.
One of the most devastating results of terrorism is that it appears to demand uncritical approval of the values of the terrorized culture. 'They hate our freedom' was the classic example. So if you don't whole-heartedly embrace the incredibly crass money-grubbing and conspicuous consumption, the mindless hedonism, the vice-soaked culture of crap, you must be on the side of the killers. The problem for us with terrorism is that it makes it impossible for us to criticize ourselves.
deconstruction: the strategy of textual interpretation advocated by Jacques Derrida and followed by Paul de Man, Jonathan Culler and countless others. It focuses on showing what the text omits or represses: how it collapses in on itself or displays its own contingency etc. It was far more popular in literature than in philosophy departments in the English-speaking academy.
differance: Derrida's mysterious misspelling of 'difference.' The notion derives from Saussure's insight that language is a system of differences. "Now, how am I to speak of the a of differance? It is clear that it cannot be exposed. . . . if differance is (I also cross out the is) what makes the presentation of being-present possible, it never presents itself as such. . . Any exposition would expose it to disappearing as a disappearance." You can say that again! Only, don't.
genealogy: a history of concepts or truths, coined by Nietzsche in his book Genealogy of Morals, which showed how Western moral notions emerged from resentment toward the healthy and powerful. The greatest practitioner of genealogy was Foucault, who developed genealogies of madness, sexuality, and crime, among others
hermeneutics: the study of textual interpretation. 'Hermeneutics' at one time was used mainly with regard to Biblical interpretation (especially the 19th-century work of Schleiermacher). It has also come to indicate a kind of mellow pomo or post-Heidegger philosophy associated with Hans-Georg Gadamer that took textual interpretation as a model for how we experience the world as a whole.
meta-narrative: a narrative is a story, more or less. In Lyotard's influential treatment of post-modernism, a meta-narrative is a big story used to organize history or culture as a whole, as in the inevitable march of freedom or the story of class struggle ending in utopia etc. That's bad and over, in case you're wondering.
Other: the apparently empty category that defines the positive category by exclusion: woman, the primitive, etc. You suck. But your other is cool! 'Other' is also a verb.
semiotics or semiology: the study of signs, especially linguistic signs. Probably coined by C.S. Peirce, but associated by post-modernism with the linguistics of Saussure.
simulacrum: an item that is a simulation or model of another, as a picture, for example. The plural is simulacra. In the thought of Baudrillard, the post-modern era is the era of the "precession of simulacra" in which all originals have disappeared and we live in an infinite circulation of signs without originals.
structuralism: an approach to the human sciences that focuses on intra-cultural conceptual systems rather than on, say, sheer adaptation of organism to environment etc. The approach is especially associated with the anthropology of Levi-Strauss, and focuses on such things as the structure of kinship and linguistic systems. The philosophy especially of Derrida and Foucault came to be called post-structuralism: it was influenced by structuralism, but took its insights in radical directions, often exposing the contradictions or tensions in these systems, or "deconstructing" them.
sub-altern: oppressed or subordinated, in virtue of one's membership in or assignment to a group.