10 August 2008

Chorizo of Doom

They're of dubious origin, they're nonetheless quite tasty, and they come in links: That's why they're sausages.

  • Once upon a time — supposedly — literary criticism mattered in the grand scheme of Things. Yeah, I'm convinced. This really reflects a problem in historiography more than anything else: Due to social concerns as much as anything else, the only discourse that has survived in a semipermanent form has been that of the chattering classes. Then, too, there's the whole leisure-for-everyone and availability of artificial lighting issue, but that's precisely the kind of context that pseudointellectuals neglect, because they're too busy ranking art in a rather innumerate fashion that tries its best to be completely scalar and contextless... a rather obvious contradiction to the very concept of comparative rankings.
  • One of the common criticisms of "intellectuals" is that too few of them can count above ten without removing their shoes (Count Rugen being an obvious counterexample). This is not, by any means, a new criticism. It is also a criticism that gets far too little attention, primarily because sometimes numbers do matter to the intellectual worth of an argument. For example, in one essay Orwell — who remained a socialist to the end of his days — proposed that the median wealth of the highest quartile of society should not exceed the median wealth of the lowest quartile of society by more than ten to one... which vastly exceeded any historical equivalent. Since it had numbers attached to it, though, the underlying data simply was not available or comprehendable to even the well-educated intellectual of the 1940s. Even the old reading v. education argument pales next to this one.

    It's not just innumeracy, though; it's the concept of ranges and domains that seems to escape intellectuals, politicians, and virtually everyone else. The most obvious example is the distinction between aggregate behavior and individual behavior, whether one is concerned with culture, with politics, with economics, or with any other subset. This concept is at the core of the problem with purported correlations between democracy and international business and treating economics as a "science", particularly in any context in which cultural imperatives are at issue.

  • Cultural imperatives. Like the complicated relationship among creativity, music, personal economics and support of the arts/artists, and antitrust. (No, it's not nearly as simple as that sentence makes it sound.) Whether what DJs and mix artists do is fair use is an unanswerable question; it's fact-specific, not a bright line. To some extent, illegal downloading may be here regardless of how one attacks it, whether by securitizing music catalogs or by continued consolidation of distributors without adequate antitrust scrutiny, even when the cellphone service segment is reducing tying arrangements between hardware and service.
  • Meanwhile, litigation over abstruse issues concerning culture and intellectual property continues, with bad facts making worse law. (Not that good facts necessarily mean good law.) The trial judge has denied a defense motion for mistrial in the Bratz-conception matter that I mentioned a while back here, which isn't that surprising; had the trial judge thought the revelations of juror conduct justified a mistrial, he probably would have ordered that sua sponte, as judges tend to be quite protective of the deliberative process. Then, on the other hand, consider another ruling on internet transmission that tries to determine when a message is in "storage"... which matters largely because the cretins who wrote the statutes in question had no idea of how information gets processed in the paper world, let alone the electronic one. I suppose Judge Cooper this time was stuck with bad law making bad facts, rather than the other way around.
  • I suppose we could follow this up with an ethics test that seems just as predeterminative as any other, all protestations to the contrary. For one thing, it tried to get answers to questions without adequate context... and context is the real difference between "ethics" and "morals" anyway.
  • And in the horribly appropriate department (sausages, remember), we saw the product on the right at a Korean grocery store here yesterday. The elder remora asked if it was good marketing tactics to put the "manufactured on" date so prominently on the can.
  • Last, and least, there's a recent article on military advantage in history in a publication not well known for its balanced writing on military affairs. Of course, that's all too ironically appropriate given both the topic and the substance of the article... which, for once, is founded on actual scholarly work rather than pure ideology. But it's up to you to figure out why I put this item immediately after the preceding one.