Politics, Technology, and Language

If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought — George Orwell

Archive for December 3rd, 2006

How many phone calls does it take to write a BusinessWeek article?

Posted by metaphorical on 3 December 2006

BusinessWeek has an interesting article on Microsoft Vista. What’s interesting isn’t BW’s take on Vista (BW’s take on anything is unlikely to be interesting), rather it’s that the 1400-word piece, by Catherine Holahan is based entirely, it seems, on a couple or three blog entries.

The first was by Joel Spolsky, who, in his Joel on Software blog, back on 23 November, had an article about the large number of different ways there are to shut down your computer or put it to sleep.

The next day, Moishe Lettvin, in his MOBLOG, commented on it, saying that he, a former Microsoft programmer, worked on that very piece of functionality. He then described the rather baroque and somewhat disfunctional way things worked at Microsoft, without which there probably wouldn’t be nine different ways to leave your digital lover. Spolsky posted to his blog again, on the 24th, and that was the entry that swept the blogverse. It’s the one that I saw, and I imagine it’s the one that Holahan saw.

Holahan has, in her spacious word allotment, pretty much nothing to say beyond what Spolsky and Lettvin say, and she hews so closely to their blog entries that her dek (“How many geeks does it take to shut down a computer?”) uses the same meme as the title to Spolsky’s second blog entry (“How many Microsofties does it take to implement the Off menu?”).

She certainly doesn’t sincerely question the premise that an overabundance of mechanisms to do one thing is a terrible failing in a piece of software, though she does have a grudging alternative-opinion pair of paragraphs down at the very bottom. And she doesn’t hide the two blogs, mentioning both in ways that make them easy to find. (She doesn’t even hide her nearly-copying of Spolsky’s title.) Still, what’s Business Week’s going rate for a 1400-word article? As a journalist I gotta envy any any zero-source gig.

Posted in journalism, technology | Leave a Comment »

My peace I give unto you

Posted by metaphorical on 3 December 2006

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. John 14:27

Apparently this sentiment comes not from Jesus, but from Satan himself.

The Denver Post, 27 November: It all started last week in the upscale Loma Linda subdivision outside sleepy Pagosa Springs when Lisa Jensen and her husband, Bill Trimarco, hung a homemade wreath in the shape of a peace symbol on the side of their house. The president of the Loma Linda Homeowners Association went nuts.

The Progressive (descendant of Wisconsin senator Bob La Follette’s weekly magazine going back to 1909) notes: Bob Kearns, who was president of the association at the time, said, “Some people have kids in Iraq, and they are sensitive,” the Post reported, adding that he also said some viewed it as a sign of Satan.

And the Durango Herald adds: The peace sign has a lot of negativity associated with it,” he said. “It’s also an anti-Christ sign. That’s how it started.”

Posted in language, politics | 3 Comments »

And how is that different from civil war?

Posted by metaphorical on 3 December 2006

Iraqi violence “self-sustaining”: U.S. intel chief

The level of violence in Iraq has escalated in recent months. Data from that country’s Interior Ministry showed 1,850 civilian casualties in Iraq last month, a 44 percent leap from October. The data were boosted by the deaths of 202 in last week’s multiple car bombing in the Shi’ite stronghold of Sadr City, the worst attack since the U.S. invasion.

Little has changed since Orwell wrote “Politics and the English Language.” Could we dehumanize the loss of human life any better than by cloaking it in a three-piece business suit? (You would think you were reviewing the latest housing stats, compare: Pozsar also said the contraction will hit employment. He estimated 30,000 jobs were lost in housing-related industries in November and another 300,000 will be lost in the coming year, on top of 100,000 housing jobs lost since March.)

From “Politics”:

The keynote is the elimination of simple verbs. Instead of being a single word, such as break, stop, spoil, mend, kill, a verb becomes a phrase, made up of a noun or adjective tacked on to some general-purposes verb as
prove, serve, form, play, render. In addition, the passive voice is wherever possible used in preference to the active, and noun constructions are used instead of gerunds (by examination of instead of by examining).

Posted in journalism, language, Orwell, politics | Leave a Comment »