Politics, Technology, and Language

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

Archive for December 8th, 2006

Smugness, Thy Name is Bennett

Posted by metaphorical on 8 December 2006


In all my time in Washington I’ve never seen such smugness, arrogance, or such insufferable moral superiority.

— William Bennett, National Review Online

This, from a man Joshua Green once dubbed “The Bookie of Virtue”? Bennett asks, “Who are these commissioners and what is their expertise in Iraq — or even foreign policy?” Um, Bill, did you not notice that James Baker, a few chairs down when you both sat at the Reagan Cabinet table, subsequently served as Secretary of State, while the closest you ever came to foreign policy was as drug czar?

But after a shaky start, Bennett stands tall and high on his hobby horse:

James Baker opened his thoughts today by saying Iraqis “have been liberated from the nightmare of a tyrannical order only to face the nightmare of brutal violence.” So much for any moral distinction between a terrorist sponsoring dictatorship and an embattled, weak, effort toward self-government. The distinction between permanent darkness and days of light and darkness both, and a hope for dawn was lost.

It’s clear that Bennett, never the master of his prose, has completely lost the morning’s battle with it. So let’s go to to Dr. Orwell, and see if we can’t get a diagnosis.

(From Politics and the English Language, of course:)

The writer either has a meaning and cannot express it, or he inadvertently says something else, or he is almost indifferent as to whether his words mean anything or not. This mixture of vagueness and sheer incompetence is the most marked characteristic of modern English prose, and especially of any kind of political writing. As soon as certain topics are raised, the concrete melts into the abstract and no one seems able to think of turns of speech that are not hackneyed: prose consists less and less of WORDS chosen for the sake of their meaning, and more and more of PHRASES tacked together like the sections of a prefabricated hen-house.

Or, to put it more simply, Bill, you’re breaking Rule #1:

(i) Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

I can’t say that on first blush that the Iraq Study Group looked like it went all the way when it came to telling truth to power, but watching the neocons flail like a prickle of porcupines thrown into the deep end of the pool (Rush Limbaugh, apparently, is calling it “The Iraq Surrender Group”) makes me wonder if maybe they did a decent job after all.

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It don’t mean a thing

Posted by metaphorical on 8 December 2006

Does understanding the inner workings of art enhance our enjoyment or detract from it? For me, it’s a big plus. Hence this note, via Newswise, about some music tech.

Ray Charles Really Did Have That Swing, According to New Analysis

From the news release:

Ray Charles was really good at snapping, says musical acoustician Kenneth Lindsay of Southern Oregon University in Ashland. According to a new computer analysis, Charles’s snaps that open his famous song “Fever” with Natalie Cole are timed so well that he is never more than 5 milliseconds off the tight beat, a new study shows.

Lindsay presented his study at an acoustics conference Honolulu last week.

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Buggywhips and copyrights

Posted by metaphorical on 8 December 2006

Coincidentally, Francis McInerney of North River Ventures commented on a matter of music & copyright in his blog yesterday. Specifically, he takes one of the major record labels to task.

Universal Music is suing MySpace for allowing MySpace users to post videos from its artists on their spaces. Doing this, Universal has made one of the most elementary mistakes anyone can make: it is penalizing its customers for using its products.

McInerney is maybe the smartest guy I know at the intersection of finance and technology, and he gets it right here, as usual. NVR doesn’t have a great blogging system, so the link will likely become somewhat inaccurate soon, but the blog entry should stay on the left-hand menu for a while. Anyway, McInerney has this to say in general.

Trying to force copyright laws on people today is like telling them where to water their horses in Manhattan. We drive cars and the horse watering laws are moot. This is just common sense.

Posted in politics, technology, the arts | 1 Comment »