18 December 2009

From Near the Crest of Mt. Crumpet

You won't find me stealing toys down in Whoville at this time of year.

I have minions to do that sort of thing for me when it's necessary. Or just plain fun.

  • Stanley Fish doesn't understand himself. This will come as no surprise to anyone who has actually read his theoretical writings with, well, a theoretical eye; but his defense of Sarah Palin's "autobiography", leading to a further defense of his defense, bears more than a little resemblance to the imprecations of Professor Harold Hill.

    This does not mean that I "endorse the idea that lying is acceptable in an autobiography" or that I am urging that we take what Sarah Palin "says at face value" or that I regard “deliberate factual inaccuracies” as “higher truths” or that I don't "think that facts matter at all." I am just observing that the truth or falsity of an autobiographer’s assertions is not the main focus of a reader's interest because the autobiographer’s claim on our attention resides elsewhere — in the vividness and energy with which a significant life is being recalled. (If it were discovered that St. Augustine never stole those pears, would we throw his Confessions away or downgrade the book?) The fact that others would recall the life differently and accuse the writer of "factual inaccuracies" is certainly to be noted, but we do not expect an autobiographer to respond by pleading guilty and confessing that her ex-husband or his opponent in the primary had it right.

    (citations omitted) Really? Let's apply that same reasoning to Fish's views of the First Amendment... or literary theory... or society...

  • In an unusual venue, Sarah Weinman notes that publishers aren't paying attention to the business they're actually in. I have no problem with publishers earning a profit; I have no problem with most businesses earning a profit. I do have a problem with businesses focussing exclusively on short-term measures of profitability, without regard to what they're doing to earn it... such as actually publishing books.
  • "People who haven't read [European fairy tales] since they were children themselves will scarcely believe that such shocking, gruesome stories are permitted in the hands of the young." The irony that this line appears in the LAT, given what's on the nightly news and/or elsewhere in the pages of that steadily declining newspaper, apparently escaped the reviewer...
  • ... but at least it wasn't tentacle porn. <SARCASM> I mean, violence is bad enough — but something to do with sex? We can't have kids exposed to that! <SARCASM>
  • Neither chaplains nor healthcare professionals belong in the military; it's not just disrespectful, but counterproductive, to put people whose "job" is to ensure proper care (biophysical and/or "spiritual") in the military chain of command. What part of "First, do no harm" is compatible with military service? I have no problem with a separate uniformed service for healthcare professionals... but there should never be an issue of a squadron commander trying to intimidate a physician (or, for that matter, vice versa). And chaplains are right out. Unlike most who argue on this issue, I have quite a bit of command experience myself.
  • Professor Madison remarks on the hidden costs of counterfeiting, but the underlying study neglects one important corollary: The distinction between ownership per se and display. I strongly suspect that the results of the "experiment" would be radically different if the counterfeiting involved nondisplayble items... like music downloads.
  • Free speech v. expectations of confidentiality. In Europe. Concerning cheap European beer (which beats the hell out of almost all American beer, but that's an argument for another time). The point of this item, though, is that it has some interesting implications for authors who want to write — even fictionally — about European movers and shakers (business, culture, politics, whatever)...
  • Just in time for the Random House resurrection of e-book rights problems, we can consider resale rights and thank our lucky stars that on this side of the pond, we've got the first sale doctrine.