01 February 2023

QWERTY-Spiced Link Sausage Platter

Hopefully, a working keyboard means fewer typos… But why don't I rely on spellcheck? Because it's wrong more often than I make typos!

  • Yet another meaningless survey on trustworthiness of "professions" is both disturbingly revealing-but-predictable and utterly worthless. It's revealing-but-predictable in that (a) many of the job categories listed are not "professions" (no minimum education, no licensure/regulation, no self-governance, no ability to exclude nonmembers from performing those functions) and (b) the categories are so broad that some of their very names ("telemarketer"?????) predict results. And it's utterly worthless because it implies that "trustworthiness within the confines of that job" has a high correlation with "trustworthiness on other topics." Consider, for the moment, a certain recent candidate for Senate "from" the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania… a medical professional.
  • Along with that distrust of telemarketers come — rather chicken-and-eggish — questions about their competence. And this being The Economist, one must wonder about the definition of "the young" given generally-expanding lifespans in industrialized nations; consider that the so-called "18–34 demographic" has maintained those numeric boundaries since the early 1970s, and that as far as marketers and advertisers are concerned anyone over 54 should be offered prune juice and not concert tickets. (Really, now: Has anyone in the last 20 years actually looked at the audience at a concert given by That Joisey Boy? TicketBastard wouldn't dare mess up ticketing for one of his tours…)
  • Speaking of musical amateurs — as in "not credentialled," as distinct from "not worthy of being paid for their efforts" — consider the rise of purported "professionalism" in classical music ($wall). Rather, consider the implications in suppression of savants, part-timers, and others who earn their living doing something other than repetitive playing of music for paying audiences. Consider, too, the implications in the rise of the MFA as a "prerequisite" to "serious literature."

    And perhaps worst of all, consider the relevance of the actual credentials to actual talent and actual performance… but not too hard, the ghost of Miles Davis might have something to say about it. Or you could just consider how the politics involved in the credentialling process — especially in "classical music" during the last half of the twentieth century — actively suppressed both creativity and talent, and established a dependency-and-enforced-scarcity environment that didn't just tolerate, but actively encouraged, what we now call "grooming" (and didn't so label it in the 70s). Perhaps not, though; that might lead to questions about MFA and similar programs, and we can't have that because it would implicate denizens, beneficiaries, and such of Wall Street. And, perhaps, to doing the math (intentional foreshadowing for the end of this platter).

  • Those denizens — especially after they retire — are definitely a problem. We'll leave aside any questions of exactly who, in exactly what demographic, is benefiting from the lakes and golf courses… and whose voices are being diminished. "Dead hand control" via over-a-century-old water allocations indeed…
  • Speaking of dead-hand-favoring law, consider how the Ukraine conflict further exposes problems with UK libel law. For all of the other problems it causes, guys, the Yankee1 innovation of the First Amendment, and its influence on libel law (encouraged by the eighteenth-century upper-class-twit idiocy of His Majesty's jurists in the Colonies), is a better paradigm. Get over your not-invented-here-itis and adopt it. It's okay to admit that you've learned something valuable from the upstart former colonists who revolted against your utterly corrupt ruling class two and a half centuries ago.
  • Then there are the joys and problems of polymaths who don't recognize the limits of their capabilities and basic assumptions. (n.b. I had more than one matter before The Poz, both acknowledged/with a filed appearance and otherwise; I'm separating this sausage from that rather different "dining experience" — and menu.) On one hand, Judge Posner recognized the fundamental duplicity, even overt dishonesty, of the Doyle estate and legalized loan sharks, and wrote directly and entertainingly about it — one of those times that "the majesty of the law" needs to be a little less majestic. On the other hand, Judge/Professor Posner's greatest weakness was not in attempting to apply his own rather narrow academic expertise outside his field, but with his failure to accept that sometimes others in the other fields had either already considered and rejected those viewpoints or that those viewpoints were self-defeating. It's one thing entirely to focus on a literary estate's business model, and its implications in a general sense for "creativity"; it's another entirely to impose a particular perspective on what literary product reveals (or doesn't) about creative process on other aspects of "law and creativity." Much as I admire the entirely-deserved smackdown of the Doyle estate, the various obiter dicta statements in which Posner tries to establish a "literary theory of copyright originality"… fail… and have been misused elsewhere ever since. He was perhaps led astray by rather desperate lawyering, but that's no excuse for ignoring Bleistein's all-too-prescient imprecation well over a century past:

    It would be a dangerous undertaking for persons trained only to the law to constitute themselves final judges of the worth of pictorial illustrations, outside of the narrowest and most obvious limits. At the one extreme some works of genius would be sure to miss appreciation. Their very novelty would make them repulsive until the public had learned the new language in which their author spoke. It may be more than doubted, for instance, whether the etchings of Goya or the paintings of Manet would have been sure of protection when seen for the first time. At the other end, copyright would be denied to pictures which appealed to a public less educated than the judge. Yet if they command the interest of any public, they have a commercial value — it would be bold to say that they have not an aesthetic and educational value — and the taste of any public is not to be treated with contempt. It is an ultimate fact for the moment, whatever may be our hopes for a change. That these pictures had their worth and their success is sufficiently shown by the desire to reproduce them without regard to the plaintiffs' rights.

    But limits to competence do not fit with an ambition to be a modern-day Renaissance man. In this, Posner was/is far from the worst (or even most prominent)… problem child. This is not to say (see the sausage above!) that formal credentials are either necessary or sufficient. I may not be able to fully define "unconvincing literary analysis of originality and derivative works" — but I know it when I see it, as distinct from "knowing" a fully-convincing such analysis; my ego isn't that big, especially for art forms avowedly outside my competence and appreciation.

  1. My examination of the Founders' records was incomplete when I moved away from a good research library, and I've been unable to resume those efforts. When I was working on this about 15 years ago, though, it was notable — but not statistically validated, not a complete study — how much of the well-known pro-First-Amendment commentary prior to its adoption originated north of the Mason-Dixon line.