05 December 2013


... of various ages and compositions, not necessarily including or excluding any particular beast. Really: If you knew all of the ingredients and weren't repulsed, they wouldn't be link sausages, would they?

  • As further proof that Marx was wrong — it's not concentrated ownership of the means of production that matters in defining and creating class conflict, it's concentrated ownership of the means of distribution — consider your cable TV bill, and note that even if you don't have one your behavior is strongly influenced by the default value of such a bill, including nebulous concepts like "premium channel."
  • Of more than trivial interest to authors, Bankruptcy Judge Rhodes seems skeptical that selling the Detroit Museum of Art's assets is a way for Detroit to have avoided (or get out of) bankruptcy. There's another obvious institution subject to the same sort of attack in some cities with extensive debt problems — including Detroit: The library system.

    Of course, the real problem with Detroit (and with other cities in the US in trouble) is the antitax movement's success in getting tax breaks over the years. Cities (and counties and states) have taken seriously threats from the business community to take their ball and go elsewhere, and offered lavish "tax incentive district" benefits that did nothing but increase profits of already profitable enterprises. If this sounds a great deal like pre-unionized economies during the Industrial Revolution, it should; it is. It's sort of ironic that everyone is blaming the labor unions for negotiating decent pensions with Detroit (a city epitomizing unions in private industry) while neglecting that the cities themselves needed their own "union"...

  • Country and western. Print and digital. More to the point, within digital: PDF and epub; wireless and expansion-card... with no "and" for "user-replaceable consumer-grade batteries with 16-hour-plus intensive-use life" or for "DRM stripped" (the notorious striping caused by Macromedia's "protection" system on my first set of VHS tapes of Brazil is still a sore point).
  • An interesting article describing the potential relationship between linguistic structure and savings rates silently makes one of the classic mistakes of all strong-Whorfian prescriptions ("language determines perceptions of reality"): Ms Zumbach ignores the chicken-and-egg problem. Professor Chen (in the draft version of his own article being discussed by Ms Zumbach) is perhaps a bit too glib with it, but he doesn't ignore it. And the less said about truly multilingual people — depending, of course, on their respective ages at the times they encountered their second (third, fourth...) languages — the better!

    The chicken-and-egg problem in Whorfianism is much simpler to describe than it is to tease out of actual circumstances: Which came first, the perception being placed into language, or the linguistic influence upon perception? Consider, for example, the classic (and based upon linguistic inaccuracies that have been thoroughly rebutted inside the linguistics community, despite their continuing vitality in insufficiently educated debate) "how many words for snow does an Eskimo have"? Umm, guys, the snow was there before any of the various Inuit peoples or languages. Somehow, I think the local bears and wolves and birds — none of whom share a native language with any Inuit — can perceive at least some differences among types of snow... especially since there aren't really forty-odd words for "snow."

    None of which sheds any light on policy.

  • But does — perhaps, and only perhaps — shed some additional light on the "discoverability" problem facing musicians, artists, and writers. I must gently disagree with one aspect of Ms. Rusch's list of five items at the end of her piece: She put them in the wrong order. Item 5 should be item 1, because it's the one thing that the musician/artist/writer actually can control — creating the best work that one can at that time. Everything else comes from the work, like this:
  • It's rare that a rock-and-roller claims to be smarter on copyright than 90% of the people writing about copyright (most of whom, one should add, are not lawyers either)... and is probably correct in that assessment. The ultimate problem with copyright discussions is that the interests of the actual creators are being ignored; as I've remarked before,

    The current debate over copyright, especially as it is on the 'net, uncomfortably resembles the partition of a colony by colonial powers without a voice at the table for the indigenous peoples (or at least not one drowned out by moneyed interests like the East India Company). It seems to me that we've made that mistake a few times before with unsatisfactory results. We really, really shouldn't be repeating it.

    None of the thirteen publishing industries is a creator. Neither is the film industry. More to the point, neither are the recorded-music industry or the advertising industry. At times, and in some aspects, these industrial interests are aligned with the interests of creators. The real problem is that they bring their smallpox blankets to every conversation about creating works and protecting those works, because by definition as industries their interest is not to advance the useful arts and sciences, but to exploit the existing useful arts and sciences for immediate profit. (We'll ignore how little of that profit actually goes to the actual creators for the moment.) There is a fundamental disjuncture between creation and the reproduction of creative works for wider audiences that inhibits communiction... and when the biggest soapboxes belong to the reproducers, that just widens the gap. This all has some interesting relationships to Professor Chen's assertions noted a couple of sausages above, but perhaps not those one might expect.