09 August 2010

Bread and Sausages

... because the masses need to be tamed, and it's too damned hot for the circus.

  • I'm a little bit late in noting this, but Professor Baron's fascinating blog Language Log has an interesting article that actually documents the history of the futile attempts to impose a gender-neutral singular pronoun on English. I would add that I'm aware of a few other attempts... several of which, due to the philological ignorance of their proponents, actually traced back to strongly gendered constructs in other European languages (such as "hir"), thereby undercutting their own points. Such as they were: If females can be genderless before marriage and gendered afterward in German (das Fräulein, die Frau) without preventing a woman from being prime minister, perhaps — just perhaps — there are other linguistic battles that would be worthier of attention... such as the distinction between accident (no fault) and mishap (fault not yet determined) that too much coverage of BP's recent adventures in the Gulf of Mexico seems to have missed.
  • Two contrasting items on art and culture from The Grauniad: There's an impending auction of Lehman Bros. art scheduled for the end of next month (one wonders just how many motions to enjoin are going to be filed...), while the paper also notes a festival of steampunk and steampunk art to take place in Lincoln.
  • The value of the Enlightenment remains somewhat uncertain. As Mr Mokyr notes, it didn't result in brotherhood or equality; it only set the stage for freedom; instead, it just made Western society rich. One could argue, though, that it was a legal and economic perception that led to that last point, not the Enlightenment itself: Prior to the mid-seventeenth century, individual wealth was measured almost entirely by the amount of land one's family owned, and it was virtually impossible to transfer land to anyone who did not already own substantial amounts thereof. A century later, however, wealth was measured as much in cash flow and bank accounts as in land, and land transfers to the previously unlanded were, while not precisely routine, largely unremarkable. Although land ownership remained a prerequisite to voting in much of Europe, that concept was crumbling in England and the Germanies, leading in turn to a politically active and powerful urban population to counterbalance the rural landowning families... and eventually to such family entertainment as the storming of the Bastille.
  • In sort of a converse to the previous sausage, the IP Finance Blog muses on university logos, low-wage (overseas) manufacture, and brand identification. I sort of doubt that purveyors of children's books will even read the piece... but they should.
  • Over at IPKat, intrepid correspondent Neil Wilkof ponders if BePress just might have a better subscription model for academic journals. I have to give that one a resounding "no", for a very simple reason: Not everyone who might benefit from material in academic journals — and, in particular, law journals and history journals — even has an "institutional affiliation," which is an essential prerequisite to using the BePress system... which, if anything, reinforces the ivory-tower problem.
  • Uh oh. Jim Hines is trying to make a nuanced appreciation of the e-book v. self-publishing v. commercial publishing quagmire. Break out the torches and pitchforks, everyone: There's heresy in there, no matter what your views might be! And on top of it, he's demanding some context for statistics! Get him!

    This sausage sponsored by the same people who proclaim that 12% of net will result in greater royalties for authors than 12% of list... for the same damned book.

  • All telemarketers must die. Or, perhaps, cold-call this guy. (HT: Professor Froomkin)