Here are a few things I’ve long meant to post but haven’t for some reason or another. I still have a lot of drafts, but some of them are far too untimely to post now (the entry about Ronaldo probably falls under this category, actually). These posts are headed with their original intended titles and are in chronological order.
On genre (5/2008)
Consider this: Grand Theft Auto IV ends with a wedding, but it is not a comedy.
A minor usability note (7/2008)
“Status updates” — as made ubiquitous by web applications like Twitter and Facebook — demand brevity and thus encourage a writing style heavy on sentence fragments. Here’s a problem: the type of fragment most appropriate depends on the medium, because any “update” will be displayed in some context.
Facebook assumes that you are the subject of a sentence, and even goes so far as to supply the copula for you if you are entering an update through the web. Although the interface asks you a question (“What are you doing?”), Twitter users generally provide self-contained sentences that do not address what one is doing. Since I typically avoid the Facebook web interface, I relay my Twitter updates to Facebook, which probably makes them slightly less comprehensible than they are already. It would be better, I guess, if the Twitter-to-Facebook gateway provided some other clue that my twitter updates were not intended to complete a sentence starting with “William” or “William is.”
Ronaldo, slavery, and abuses of language (7/2008)
23-year old Cristiano Ronaldo is good enough at soccer that he makes £125,000 a week (ca. $542.8 trillion US) and is incapable of appearing in public without an Iberian swimsuit model at his side. (It’s not an entirely rosy picture — he does have to play for Man United.) Unfortunately for him, he is so doing as part of a long contract, which, like most contracts, restricts his ability to move to another team at will.
Sepp Blatter, head of FIFA, likens Ronaldo’s apparently onerously-long contract to the lot of a “modern-day slave.” Ronaldo, displaying all of the perspective that one might expect from a young man who is paid absurdly to kick a ball around and lives in a world that doesn’t regularly encounter forced slavery, agrees.
I guess if commentators in the US can apply “fascist” or “Stalinist” appellations to American politicians who have never organized mass genocides or purged their staff from history, then it’s difficult to get particularly exercised about someone who could pay cash for a new primary residence every week comparing himself to a child sold to a brothel for a pack of cigarettes.
Difficulty and worthiness (12/2008)
Longtime readers of this site are probably aware of the most popular — in terms of comments — thing I’ve ever written. (If you aren’t, perhaps you should take a break to see how one might finance a college education, and then come back when you’re done.) I have previously lamented the lack of reading comprehension exhibited by nearly all of my benighted correspondents on this matter, but would like to focus now on a theme that has appeared ever more aggressively in recent comments. I am referring to the idea that something is worth doing — and, moreover, worth demanding spectators for — merely because it is difficult or expensive, or is likely to result in injuries, or whatever. This seems to me to be plainly false, but since it is such a popular claim, I would like to debunk it here by way of several analogies:
Downhill shopping cart racing certainly can result in bruises and lacerations and probably requires a grueling practice schedule. However, most of the practitioners are hoboes and most of the spectators are misanthropes and the audience of MTV’s Jackass. But I repeat myself.
Consider the early serial music of Karlheinz Stockhausen, which extended the serial tone row idea to all aspects of performance, so that each note had a different dynamic level, articulation, or whatever. This music is probably hard to write (especially, as Stockhausen was at the time, without a computer) and it is definitely hard to perform. However, I have a very hard time recommending that anyone invest the time in learning how to perform these works (or in attending a performance). Furthermore, I suspect that efforts to reproduce this idiom would be ultimately unsatisfying, as with any musical language that hurts listeners or otherwise sounds like yelling.
Other example pursuits also come to mind, but they hit rather closer to home.