Tuesday, March 8, 2005

The dangers of language, or how all spaghetti is linguine

Perhaps concerned that I had become too serious in recent days, last night Jason made me read from the book he's been reading, Woody Allen and Philosophy.

In it I'm introduced to Woody Allen's Fabrizio's: Criticism and Response, an essay in which "Fabian Plotnik, our most high-minded restaurant critic, reviews Fabrizio's Villa Nova Restaurant, on Second Avenue" :

"Pasta as an expression of Italian Neo-Realistic starch is well understood by Mario Spinelli, the chef at Fabrizio's, Spinelli kneads his pasta slowly. He allows a buildup of tension by the customers as they sit salivating. His fettuccine, though wry and puckerish in an almost mischievious way, owes a lot to Barzino, whose use of fettucine as an instrument of social change is known to us all. The difference is that at Barzino's the patron is led to expect white fettucine and gets it. Here at Fabrizio's he gets green fetuccine. Why? It all seems so gratuitous. As customers, we are not prepared for the change. Hence, the green noodle does not amuse us. It's disconcerting in a way unintended by the chef. The linguine, on the other hand, is quite delicious and not at all didactic. True, there is a pervasive Marxist quality to it, but this is hidden by the sauce. Spinelli has been a devoted Italian Communist for years, and has had great success in espusing his Marxism by subtly including it in the tortellini.

I began my meal with an antipasto, which at first appeared aimless, but as I focussed more on the anchovies the point of it became clearer. Was Spinelli trying to say that all life was represented here in this antipasto, with the black olives an unbearable reminder of mortality? If so, where was the celery? Was the omission deliberate? ..."

After Plotnick's review, we learn that readers "aggressively challenge Plotnick's interpretation, arguing that Fabrizio's, rather than conforming "to the classic Italian nuclear-family structure," is "modeled on the homes of pre-Industrial Revolution middle-class Welsh miners": that Plotnick's "logic breaks down linguistically" since he has failed to consider the paradox that the odd-numbered noodles equal the combined total of the odd- and even-numbered noodles."

Plotnick replies:

"I'm grateful to Dove Rapkin for his comments on the nuclear family, and also to Professor Babcocke for his pentrating linguistic analysis, although I question his equation and suggest, rather, the following model:

(a) some pasta is linguine
(b) all linguine is not spaghetti
(c) no spaghetti is pasta, hence all spaghetti is linguine.

Wittgenstein used the above model to prove the existence of God, and later Bertrand Russel used it to prove that not only does God exist but He found Wittgenstein too short."

This makes me laugh until tears stream down my face. Parodies are good.


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