Monday, August 6, 2018

On the conversational construction of cultural reality: Comments on Joe Rogan and Joey Diaz discussing Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris in Way of the Dragon

In my previous post in this Joe Rogan series I’d transcribed a conversation Rogan had with Joey Diaz about the final fight scene between Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris in Way of the Dragon. In this post I add extensive interstitial commentary to the transcription. But not enough. That’s one thing I learned in this process, that there’s more that can be done. And maybe I’ll do it one day; but feel free to do it yourself. At the moment my priority is simply to get this bit of work out there.

Keep in mind that this is about the construction of shared reality: How do Rogan and Diaz construct a shared sense of the world, what happens and what’s important? It happens in conversation, so it behooves us to pay attention to how such conversations unfold. That’s why I’ve taken the time to transcribe and comment on this conversation.

The conversation itself

The conversation this post is about took place in the podcast, Joe Rogan Experience #627, from March 2015. It features Joe Rogan talking with his buddy, Joey Diaz, along with Brian Redban. This segment starts at about 1:15:30 into the full podcast. They’d started talking about Bruce Lee at 1:03:35. They’d been talking about movie stunts. Rogan had mentioned how Brandon Lee (Bruce Lee’s son) had died in a freak accident on the set of a film. Diaz contradicts him: “You know what that was? The Triads got ‘im.” The conversation switches to Bruce Lee’s death and the rumors surrounding it. This goes on for eight minutes. Then, and then, they start talking about Bruce Lee’s films – while watching trailers – and the impact they had. It’s in this context that Rogan mentions the final fight scene from Way of the Dragon, thus initiating the conversation in this clip.

Rogan and Diaz play different roles in the conversation. Roughly speaking Diaz provides historical context whereas Rogan color commentary. They both comment on cinematic technique, Diaz perhaps a bit more than Rogan.

What’s interesting about this division of conversational labor is that Rogan, in effect, treats Diaz as the voice of cultural history, though he’s only a few years older than Rogan himself; Diaz was born in 1963 while Rogan was born in 1967. Moreover Rogan tells us nothing about his own personal history (though he touches on it in other podcasts), but he does the bulk of the commentary on the fight itself. Given that he is a commentator for the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) that makes sense.

Those form the two poles of this conversation, cultural history going back to the 1970s, and the moves in the fight before us. The conversation starts there and, as it unfolds, other topics are brought in, but always returning to those two. The overall frame of the conversation is that the fight we’re seeing, the imaginary, the fictional, fight we’re seeing IS NOT a street brawl. Rather, it’s conducted with unspoken rules that have the effect of making it a ritual action. Despite its ultimate brutality this is, if you will, a civilized encounter.

Here’s the conversation:

If you want to compare the transcription to the conversation itself – you really should, otherwise, how would you know what they're talking about? – you can open the conversation in a different browser window. Here’s the link:

I note that there are four people involved. Most of the conversation is between Joe Rogan and Joey Diaz. Every once in a while Brian Redban says something. Jamie Vernon is off screen running the equipment. He’s the one Rogan is talking to when asks to see something again.

What I’ve done

I’ve transcribed the conversation from beginning to end. The transcription is only approximate. I made no attempt to notate all the disfluencies that are normal to conversation, nor have I indicated laughter and other interjections, and so forth. I’ve only tried capture what they’ve said.

At various points in the conversation I’ve added commentary in italics. These comments are often keyed to numbers that I’ve inserted into the conversation itself using angle brackets [1], [2], etc. I’ve also inserted approximate timings here and there, again with angle brackets.

Finally, I’ve inserted markers consisting of capital letters enclosed in brackets, set in bold type and followed by a number, e.g. [A2]. The number indicates the ordinal occurrence the marker token, e.g. [A2] is the second occurrence of that marker. I added these at the very end of my descriptive and analytic work in order to give myself a better sense of the over all conversational flow. These are keyed to specific topics, as follows, and in the order in which the topics were introduced into the conversation:

[A] Diaz’s personal history and cultural context in which he first saw these films.
[B] Rogan on the fighter’s bodies.
[C] Enter the kitten, a motif in the film.
[D] Rogan, commentary on the fight action. Diaz as well.
[E] Rogan, “they agree to do it the right way”. This is not a street brawl. Diaz toward the end.
[F] Diaz & Rogan, history of martial arts in the USA.
[G] Roman Coliseum, a motif.
[H] Cinematography.
[I] Rogan: Did Lee ever compete?

Some of these topics, of course, recur throughout the conversation. After the transcript I list these topics in the order in which they entered the conversation along with some further commentary.

The conversation, with comments

JOE ROGAN: Do you remember Chuck Norris vs. Bruce Lee?

JOEY DIAZ: Yeah, let’s watch that real quick, that’s sensational.

ROGAN: See if you can find “Chuck Norris vs. Bruce Lee”.

That comment is directed off screen to Jamie Vernon.

[A1] DIAZ: That came on HBO and my head almost blew up. I made my mother get me HBO when the Groove Tube came on because the chicks ran through the jungle with tits. The Groove Tube is cousins with Kentucky Fried Movie.

Now Diaz is recalling his childhood. He’ll do so later on, too. He does this fairly frequently in his conversations with Rogan.

ROGAN: What is it?
I’ve never even heard of it.

BRIAN REDBAN: Kentucky Fried Movie?

ROGAN: No, the Groove Tube...

DIAZ: The Groove Tube is

ROGAN: The Groove Tube

DIAZ: The Groove Tube is Saturday Night Live before Saturday Night Live. They made two movies called “The Groove Tube” and “Kentucky Fried Chicken”

Diaz slips. “Kentucky Fried Chicken” seems to operate as a single linguistic unit (Sydney Lamb would call it a complex lexeme). So when Diaz starts to utter “Kentucky Fried” he’s in ‘autocomplete’ as it were and gets it wrong. Rogan will correct him.

ROGAN: “Kentucky Fried Movie”.

DIAZ: ... “Kentucky Fried Movie”.

ROGAN: I saw “Kentucky Fried Movie”.
Oh, shit, look at this.

And now Rogan draws Diaz’s attention to the onscreen action. And the online audience can see the video as an inset and continues after an interruption from Diaz.

DIAZ: Look at this. This is the game, though. That’s the game.

“This is the game”? What’s he mean? Though I suppose it’s obvious enough.

ROGAN: God damn! Look. Chuck Norris takin’ off his black belt. Look how young he is. –
Bruce Lee.
This is a gay porn.
Look how slowly they’re unrobing.

DIAZ: No, this is the game.

[B1] ROGAN: Look at Charles Nor Chuck Norris’s chest.
[different voice] Charles Norris [back to normal voice]
Look at his chest.
It’s all hairy and shit. Before dudes figured out shaving your chest.

Another slip, this time from Rogan. For some reason Rogan gets confused and starts to utter “Charles Norris”. Is there a Charles Norris we should know? Perhaps “Charles Atlas” slipped into his speech stream. But notice how Rogan switches into a different voice when he utters “Charles Norris” a second time, as though one part of himself is making a comment to a different part.

[c. 1:01]

REDBAN: When you see this and then you don’t like wrestling.
What do you think the big difference is, like you know

ROGAN: This is a movie mother-fucker. You’re not gonna’ see a play.

I’m not sure what’s going on in this little exchange between Redban and Rogan. Where’d Redban’s comment come from? He seems to be referencing something that’s on the conversational docket but isn’t present here. Perhaps it came up earlier in the show?

[A2] DIAZ: This was huge.
Brian, this was

Again, Diaz is referencing the past, establishing the cultural authority of this film.

[B2] ROGAN: Look how ripped Bruce Lee was

Rogan had remarked on Norris’s body, his chest. And now he remarks on Lee’s very different body.

[A3] DIAZ: Brian, this was something that you cannot imagine.
This was,
every nerd had a hero,
every immigrant had a hero,
everybody had a hero.
[C1] [1] Look at the kitten!
Look at the fuckin’ kitten!
[2] Everybody had
[3] That place has a million cats on there the Roman Coliseum though.

Notice how quickly Diaz changes topic in midstream [1]. He was getting quite animated talking about having heroes back in his past, but something he saw on screen became more salient. The kitten. Why? He’ll remark on the kittens later. Then he seems to go back to heroes [2] before coming back to the cats [3], this time with a comment about the cats specifically in the context of the Coliseum. His attention is split between a comment about his childhood and noticing what’s on screen.

[c. 1:30]

[D1] ROGAN: [1] Dude look at what he’s doing warming up.
They’re both warming up.
They’re doing kata to warm up for their fight.
They’re not even looking at each other.
[2] This is the craziest fuck in’ scene ever.

Rogan continues to comment on the film. First describing what he sees [1], then making an evaluative comment [2].

DIAZ: This is tremendous is fuckin’ tremendous shit, man

ROGAN: Look at it ‘is.

[A4] DIAZ: [1] America has to put these four movies on and realize why,
[2] stop the,
[3] Bruce Lee changed my life.
You only saw one fuckin’ movie.
You gotta see all four.
Forget the “The Game of Death” with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar,
that’s a horror show.
Just watch this one.
[4] Look at this.
[cat meows on video clip]
That’s what he does.
[C2] [5] When he meows, that’s when the fight starts.
[6] Look at him, dawg, he had like 6% body fat at this time.
This guy wasn’t gonna die, [7] Joe Rogan.
People like this don’t die; don’t fuckin’ insult me.
He didn’t die. They killed this poor little kid.

Now Diaz is jumping all over the place. He starts be remarking on about the importance, the cultural authority, of Bruce Lee films [1]. Something catches his attention on screen and he begins to ask that Vernon stop it [2]. And then he returns to cultural authority, this time specifically mentioning that Lee changed his life [3]. Back to the screen [4] and the cat, then to Bruce Lee, when the shot shifts from one to the other , noticing that the cat’s motion and Bruce Lee’s motion mirror one another. He’s remarking on film technique. And then to Lee’s body [6]. Notice how he addresses Rogan by name [7], for emphasis.

[E1] ROGAN: [1] This is really fascinating. I’ve never seen a movie that I recall where two guys warmed up like this before a fight. [2] But that’s fascinating how they don’t just even look at each other. They move away; they go into their own little fuckin’ world for awhile and they meet in the center. [3] Like these are, this is a different thing than a fight in a movie, you know? –
[4] Like this is two guys – agreeing – “we have to find out who’s the baddest mother-fucker alive”.
You know? –
They agree to do it the right way. [5] Everybody warms up. Bruce Lee catches a good sweat, so does Chuck. –
[6] This is crazy shit man. I forgot how crazy this is.

Rogan begins with a general comment [1] and the begins remarking on what happens on screen [2] back out to a general comment [3]. Now Rogan interprets the scene [4] in quasi-ritual terms, then back to commenting on the action [5] and ending with a general evaluative comment.

[c. 2:44]

[A5] DIAZ: This is the beginning guys. Joe and I talked about the movies of 1973.
You really wanna’ watch the shit today, go ahead.
But this is where it starts. This is where all these movies are stolen from, and they can’t even steal ‘em. They don’t know why they even did this.

Diaz comes back, again, with general evaluative commentary, and then Rogan once again calls our attention to the onscreen action.

ROGAN: Look at Bruce Lee is getting into his fighting stance.

[C3] DIAZ: [1] Look the cat.
[2] Bam! Bam! Bam!

Again with the cat [1], and then Diaz tracks Lee’s three kicks [2].

[D2] ROGAN: [1] They’re both throwing front leg roundhouse kicks to open up with. And front leg side kicks. –
No one’s hit anybody. They’re blocking everything.
Oh! Chuck Norris scores with a wheel kick to the face!
And smiles. –
[E2] He doesn’t even follow up [2] he’s a gentleman –
[3] No ground ‘n pound. –
[4] Oh, shit. Chuck is puttin’ a beating on him.
Oh my goodness!
Oh, Bruce Lee grabbed a goddam chest hair.
[5] That’s rude as fuck.

Rogan is doing color commentary, describing the action [1]. Notice the interpretive comment, “he’s a gentleman” [2], followed by an elaboration, “No ‘ground ‘n pound” [3]. Then the action heats up and he goes back to commenting on it [4], adding an evaluative comment [5].

Note that at this point Redban is trying to get a comment in, but can’t. Diaz initiates a different line of commentary. When that is finished, Redban will make his comment.

[c. 3:33]

[F1] DIAZ: This is also the beginning of Tang Soo Do, when Chuck Norris split from Taekwondo and he created this shit.

Now Diaz offers a remark about Norris fighting style, more history. This begins a short exchange with Rogan. They’re relating what they’re seeing on the screen to the recent history of martial arts.

ROGAN: Really?

DIAZ: Yeah, he’s a Tang Soo Do guy.

ROGAN: Yeah, but, I don’t think he created it.

DIAZ: Well, supposedly, yeah it’s his style.

ROGAN: I mean it was definitely his style but it existed beforehand.

DIAZ: So they did two different Tang Soo Dos.
There’s Tang Soo Do Subak Do and I think he went the other way. There’s a Subak Do that they all they all started together but he went the other way.

ROGAN: Yeah, Tang Soo Do had a little bit of grappling in it.

DIAZ: Yes.

ROGAN: They had more grappling in it than Taekwondo did. They had like some wrist locks and joint locks and stuff.

[c. 4:03 Hear music on the sound track.]

[D3] DIAZ: [1] Here we go.
See he gets his timing; he starts fuckin’ jumpin’ up and down, and it’s all – fuckin’ –lights – out [2] mother fucker.
[3] But the beauty of this
[4] this is gonna’ remind you of sumpin’, Joe, just keep watchin’.
[5] Watch it. –
[6] Oh shit!

Now Diaz is commenting about the on-screen action [1], and then he interjects a comment to an onscreen character, Norris [2]. Back to a general comment [3], interrupted by an aside to Rogan [4], and then back to the screen [5]. Something happens on screen; the camera zooms in on Lee as though something is about to happen [6].

And then Redban makes the comment he was unable to make back when Rogan had remarked about Lee grabbing Norris’s chest hairs:

REDBAN: Isn’t it dishonorable to grab somebody’s chest hairs and rip it off and though like when you’re?

And that prompts Diaz to invoke the setting, the Roman Coliseum:

[G1] DIAZ: [1] Not when you’re in the Roman Coliseum.
[2] Whatever happens, happens.
[3] You understand me?
As long as you don’t eye
[4] But watch all these, watch all
This is still slow mo’, nobody knows nothin’.
Watch Bruce.

Notice that Rogan is making little quasi-comments – nothing really completes – while Diaz is talking. So, Diaz moves from invoking the Coliseum [1], to a comment about the nature of this fight, as though the setting and purpose justifies the unsportsmanlike hair grabbing. He address Redban [3] and then returns our attention to the action.

ROGAN: Hold up hold up. [1]
[2] How fake is this Roman Coliseum they’re fighting in? Look how fake that brick wall is behind them.
They keep showin’ like a picture of the coliseum.

Rogan asks Diaz to stop the commentary [1] while he remarks on the scenery [2].

REDBAN: And then a brick wall

Redban joins the conversational flow.

[c. 4:38]

ROGAN: This is crazy shit. ¬–
Chuck Norris and Bruce Lee. –
They slow everything down. –
This is hilarious. –
The sound that it makes every time they throw a kick is hilarious too. –

DIAZ: [1] Hey dawg.
[H1] [2] It’s forty years ago, lookit the camera work.
The guy’s tryin’ man. He’s like kick the fuckin’ camera. He’s tryin’.

Diaz addresses the generic dawg [1] with comments about camera technique [2]. Catch the allusion to the time when the film was done. That’s important, reminding us that this film IS history. Back to cinematic technique:

[G2] ROGAN: Meanwhile there’s a poster of the Roman Coliseum behind them.
Lookit that poster.

DIAZ: Probably shot this in Laurel Canyon. That’s Laurel Canyon.

[D4] ROGAN: Chuck Norris is watchin’ his feet and [Lee] kicks him [Norris] in the face. Oh, Chuck. –
Oh – hands up

Now we’re back to color commentary [1]. Notice Rogan’s remark to the onscreen Chuck [2]. Things heat up:

DIAZ: Damn! Damn! What?

Norris goes down.

[c. 5:57]

ROGAN: [1] Wow, Chuck just shook it off. –
[2] Beautiful hair back then. –
[3] Oh, the oblique kick. –
[4] Jon Jones style, son. –
[5] Bruce Lee was [th]a first.
[6] Oh, front leg round kick to the face. –
Chuck Norris goes down.
[7] Nobody’d ever seen anything like this before back then. This didn’t exist. You never saw a fight in a movie like this.

Rogan comments on Norris’s action [1], followed by an aside [2], back to commenting on the action [3], with a reference to a current fighter [4]. At [5] Rogan begins a historical comment about martial arts cinema, interrupts the comment to note the on-screen action [6], and then he finishes the historical comment [7].

Now that Rogan has focused our attention on the past, Diaz takes us back to his childhood. Notice how he address Rogan at the end of this comment.

[A6] DIAZ: When we were eleven and your almost blew off. You left there looking for somebody to say something to you. You fucked ‘em up including your dad. You didn’t give a fuck when you left these movie theaters. –
Lookit this, Joe Rogan.

[c. 6:17]

[I] ROGAN: You know, whether or not Bruce Lee ever competed. That was like the big thing about him was he never fought. Like Chuck Norris was like world middle weight kick boxing champion at one point in time. Bruce Lee definitely did a lot of sparring.
For sure.
There’s no way he could be this good. The way his timing is, his movement, his understanding of what would and wouldn’t work. Like, this, in a lot of ways even though some of it is ridiculous, some of his movements are more realistic than shit you see in the movies today. The way he checks with that oblique kick, the way he counters when you’re movin’ in, it’s very realistic.
Like these scenes, like the way he’s fuckin’ this dude up is a lot like the way someone who’s at a really high level is fuckin’ somebody up in the UFC [Ultimate Fighting Championship]. It’s really kind of ironic. Like the way he, the shit that he’s doing

This is something that’s important to Rogan and that comes up in other martial arts discussions. A lot of the fights in movies are not realistic. Both Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris are important in the history of martial arts in the United States and in the history of martial arts cinema. But Bruce Lee is arguably more important. Film was an important medium for spreading the word about martial arts. That’s what makes Lee’s ability as a fighter a matter of some importance. Norris fought in competition, but Lee did not. Hence the question: did Lee have real ability as a fighter or was he just an assemblage of flashy moves? Is Bruce Lee authentic?

[c. 7:00]

And now Diaz returns us to martial arts history by way of commenting on what we’ve just seen:

[F2] DIAZ: [1] Nobody does this!
Nobo. [a reduction of “nobody”?]
That’s a move and a half.
I told you.
[2] In the seventies everybody swept, Joe Rogan. Everybody.
You had to watch that front leg you were gettin’ swept. Once you got into range and you [3] threw two punches and they felt it, you were gettin’ swept, dawg.
Everybody swept. –
The sweep has disappeared from out society.
[4] He broke his fuckin’ arm!

At [1] Diaz is referring to the move that Lee used to land Norris on his back. Now we go back to history [2]. While Diaz is making this comment Norris is slowly getting up. Lee and Norris begin fighting again at about [3]. Diaz has to comment on the fight [4], starting an exchange with Rogan in which they assess the damage:

[c. 7:23]

[D5] ROGAN: Oh, he broke his leg.

DIAZ: There you go, there you go. –
Who the fuck you think you’re dealin’ with? [I presume he’s addressing Norris.]

ROGAN: Broke his arm or his leg?

DIAZ: Both!
Look at his arm and his [1] that’s how my hand when I was outa’ eight balls. That’s how it shakes when

Diaz comments with a bit of comic relief [1]. But notice the nature of the comment. He’s had drug problems in the past – an eight ball is an eighth of an ounce of cocaine. Diaz is thus emphasizing the desperate state of Norris’s situation with a comment about desperate moments in his own past.

ROGAN: He did, he broke his arm and his leg.

DIAZ: [1] And his leg.

ROGAN: His leg’s fucked up too.

DIAZ: He fucked him up.

ROGAN: [2] He’s tryin’ to get back up.

DIAZ: [3] But listen, but listen.
This is a tremendous movie. This is tremendous, guys.
[4] Next time you see Chuck Norris lookin’ dumb with the wig. [5] Think about this, think about this move. –
Look, dawg, he gets up.
Even though it’s a movie, Bruce was very smart. He {goes} let this fucking guy up. This is a great scene, dawg.

Norris is down again [1] and trying to get back up [2]. Diaz calls our attention to what’s happening [3]. Notice how he emphasizes the gravity of the on-screen action (a man is dying) by contrast with a remark about Norris wearing a wig [4]. Back to the screen [5]. Rogan and Diaz now trade comments about Norris’s last moments:

[c. 8:03]

ROGAN: He can’t stand.

DIAZ: But he gets up.

ROGAN: This is a good – fucking – scene.

DIAZ: He gets up.
This is tremendous, guys. –
Look at ‘im, look at ‘im.

ROGAN: Tryin’ to throw kicks.
Can’t get up. –
[1] I forget how it ends.
Doesn’t he kill him? –
[2] Spoiler alert.

Rogan’s forgotten the ending [1] and makes a humorous/satiric aside [2]. Diaz is anticipating the end:

DIAZ: Beautiful, beautiful. It’s a beautiful ending.

ROGAN: He even got up correctly with a fuckin’ damaged leg.

Rogan comments on acting technique.

REDBAN: [1] The cat.

[H2] DIAZ: Oh yeah, mother fuckers.
This is cinematography 101.

With Reban’s remark we’re back to film technique. Redban remarks on a recurring motif [1], while Diaz remarks on camera action [2]. The camera zooms in and out on Norris, the cat, and Lee, in that order.

And now Rogan gets technical about the move Lee uses that finally kills Norris. Notice that the move is a very intimate one where Lee hugs Norris to his body. He doesn’t kill him with a kick or a punch.

[c. 8:44]

In the following scene Rogan is trying to figure just how Lee killed Norris. Notice how he moves back for forth between different registers, including directions to Jamie Vernon (off screen) to ‘rewind’ the video.

[D6] ROGAN: [1] Look, he [Lee] got him [Norris] in a guillotine.
[2] Oh my god he killed him with a guillotine!
[3] First time ever. –
[4] He’s upset that he hadda kill him. –
[5] That might’ve been the first guillotine ever in a movie. I believe.
[6] Back it up a second.
[7] I believe it was an arm-in guillotine, which is particularly difficult to pull off. I don’t think uh, don’t agree with his technique here.
Let me see.
[8] Back it up just a hair.
[9] That a arm-in? –
[10] Let’s see here. Can’t see his other arm.
I feel like that’s a arm-in guillotine which [11] I call bullshit. –
No, it’s not arm-in.
Is it?
It looks like it is. –
It’s hard to finish that one, man. You gotta’ get up high on the neck. –
Or you gotta’ have an unbelievable squeeze.
Let’s see, what you get, nope, I don’t know man. Tough to tell where his arm was.
If Chuck Norris has an underhook there, it’s very hard to

Let’s go through it by the numbers. [1] Rogan observes that Lee used a certain hold. [2] That observation elicits an exclamation. Why? Because [3]. Is that why? Now Rogan comments on Lee’s reaction to the killing [4]. And then makes a comment about film history [5]. Now Rogan is asking to see those few seconds again [6] and comments on the particular nature of the hold [7]. Another request for a replay [8]. Rogan’s talking to himself, asking what he’s seeing [9]. The deliberation continues, [10] to the end, with Rogan offering an evaluative judgment at [11].

This death, of course, is the climax of the scene; the most important action in it. And this is the most complex bit of commentary in this clip. Is that conjunction merely contingent, or is there some causal resonance, as though Rogan is marking Norris’s death with this extended commentary? Keep this in mind with the final bit of commentary.

[c. 9:36]

DIAZ: [1] Don’t cut it off.
[2] Watch what he does.
[3] This is this is tremendous, guys. –
[4] Bruce Lee was a fuckin’ soldier. And he wrote all these. You know, he wrote all these, [5] dawg.
[6] Look, watch, watch.

Diaz addresses Vernon [1], and now us [2], telling us how important this bit is [3]. Now he offers praise for Bruce Lee [4]. Notice the address to generic dawg [5], followed by simple commands [6].

ROGAN: [1] Oh the music plays.
[2] Got a soft kung-fu jacket.
[3] By the way, how many black guys dressed like that – in the 1970s and 80s?

Now Rogan attends to the music on the sound track [1]. This isn’t the first time he’s mentioned the sound track. On at least one occasion he remarked about the sound effects accompanying blows. Now he comments on Lee’s jacket as he puts it on [2]. And he passes the conversational baton back to Diaz with a reference to the impact this film had in the past [3]. That’s where Diaz began his commentary: “That came on HBO and my head almost blew up.” And then about a minute into the clip Diaz talks about how “every nerd ... immigrant ... everybody had a hero.” Diaz will of course take the pass:

[A7] DIAZ: [1] I dressed like that. I had the full outfit. My mom was going to send me back to Cuba. [2] They sent me to the Santeria priest; didn’t know what was wrong with me.
[3] Here we go guys.
This is tremendous.
[4] No! No! No no no no.

Yes, Diaz dressed like Bruce Lee [1]. And his mother sent him to the Santaria priest [2]. Santaria, of course, is a syncretic religion in which West African spirits are fused with Roman Catholic saints. Such syncretism was common in the New World, with various versions going by different names: Voodoo in New Orleans, Vodun in Haiti, and Candomblé in Brazil. Diaz is preparing us for the very end [3]. Alas, this film clip stops short of the end [4]. So Diaz has to explain what happened [5] (below).

ROGAN: What happened?

REDBAN: That’s just the YouTube. That’s not the whole movie.

[E3] DIAZ: [5] He goes and gets his gi and puts it back on top of him.

ROGAN: Oh, did he?

DIAZ: He puts his gi back on top.


Respect, Lee for Norris, Rogan for the film.

[E4] DIAZ: And his belt, and makes it look nice for him. Very nice Bruce Lee.

ROGAN: Look where he’s fuckin’ seen. [?]

DIAZ: Guys, come on.

* * * * *

As you can tell from the conversation, or, for that matter, from direct observation, the clip ends abruptly.

The Flow of the conversation

Recall that this conversation is taken from a longer conversation. Immediately preceding this Rogan and Diaz had been talking about the impact of Bruce Films. It’s in that context that they decide to watch the clip.

A1: Diaz on his childhood at the time he first saw a Bruce Lee film. This topic will recur throughout the conversation.

B1: The clip has started and Rogan comments on the bodies of the two fighters.

A2: Diaz on the importance of these films.

B2: Back to the body. Rogan is commenting on the film clip itself while Diaz is giving us cultural context. Remember, they’re weaving the fabric of social reality.

A3: Again, context, this time about having kids having heroes.

C1: Diaz notices a cat onscreen, and then returns to the importance of heroes.

D1: Rogan is commenting on their actions. He’s done this before, but in the context of noticing their bodies. Now his attention shifts.

A4: And back to context, this time about Lee’s four films.

C2: The cat.

E1: Now Rogan is commenting on how the fight was staged in the film and notices, “They agree to do it the right way.” The right way. What’s that. This is civilized. They’re fighting according to rules. This is about honor.

A5: And again, “This is the beginning guys.” Notice that we’re up to number 5. It’s as though this topic is the conversation’s home base.

C3: The cat.

D2: Rogan comments on the fight, but also notices...

E2: ...that Lee doesn’t go after Norris when he’s got him down, “he’s a gentleman, no ground ‘n pound.” This is an important theme.

F1: And now Diaz introduces a new topic, Tang Soo Do and the history of martial arts. This isn’t about the impact of the martial arts on him, or the nation. It’s just history.

D3: Diaz notices Bruce Lee stepping up the action.

G1: Another topic, the Roman Coliseum. So, from Joey Diaz growing up in Northern New Jersey to the Roman Coliseum, with all the history that it represents. And they’re aware of that history even if they don’t comment on it explicitly.

H1: Diaz introduces another topic: cinematography.

G2: And the Coliseum, but also about film technique, how the scene was staged.

D4: Back to commenting on the fight.

A6: Back to Diaz’s childhood.

I1: Rogan introduces one last topic, the question of whether or not Lee ever fought in competition. This relates to the authenticity of the fight we’re watching, to its realness.

F2: Again, history of martial arts, the sweep.

D5: The fight, Norris’s leg is broken. Continuing commentary on the action.

H2: Cinematography 101

D6: This is Rogan’s longest and most detailed commentary on the action, one where he asks Jamie Vernon to replay the segment several times. This, Norris’s death, is of course the most important part of the scene.

A7: Once again we’re in Diaz’s childhood

E3 E4: Diaz tells Rogan what happens in the scene after the clip is cut short. Lee places Norris’s gi on top of him as a final mark of respect.

And that’s where the conversation ends.

The construction of socio-cultural reality

This figure visualizes the conversational flow in a rough but I think useful way:
Along the bottom I have listed all the thematic markers in order from left to right. I’ve connected remarks about history with a red line: Diaz’s remarks about his childhood (A) and remarks by Rogan and Diaz on the history of the martial art (F). Remarks both have made about fighter’s bodies and fighting technique (B) are connected by a green line; this includes Rogan’s discussion about the guillotine hold Lee used to kill Norris (I). Those comments form the matrix of the conversation: Diaz speaks for the street, for immigrants, and kids; Rogan carries most of the burden of fight commentary.

The blue line connects remarks about doing the fight “the right way”, according to (implicit rules of) proper conduct. Rogan brings this topic into the conversation while Diaz makes the final remarks. The black line connects various remarks about how the film was made: the cat motif (C), the setting in the Roman Coliseum (G), and cinematography (H).

The segment marked with a light orange box is the segment where Rogan is talking about whether or not Lee used a guillotine hold to kill Norris. (Q. Was Lee thinking “guillotine” when he choreographed this scene? It is, after all the moment of death, and the guillotine is an instrument of death.) The segment marked with the light green box is the one where Rogan remarks on the apparent authenticity of the fight despite Lee’s lack of competition experience.

What remains to be done

The thematic analysis needs to be done in greater detail, not so much in terms of the introduction of more topic categories, but in following the flow of topics more carefully. I skipped over some of the back an forth in assigning alphabetic topic markers to the conversation, though some of that detail gets picked up in the interstitial commentary. And, something–I don’t quite know what¬–needs to be done to pick up the larger movements of the conversation.

And all of that needs to be keyed to the timing.

It would also be useful to take note of the kinds of speech each man uses. I’m thinking in terms of Roman Jakobson’s six functions of language: referential, poetic, emotive, conative, phatic, metalingual. What function or functions is being performed by each comment? My sense is that there’s lots of referential, emotive, conative and phatic speech, but little if any poetic or metalingual.

Finally, make sense of it all.

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