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Silence, punctuation, and politics


Yes, it's another one of those entries. The sort that consist of a long bullet list of nigh-unrelated items.

  • A couple years ago, British composer Mike Batt "wrote" a silent piece of "music" called "A One Minute Silence," which his band the Planets included on an album. Batt listed the composer of the piece as "Batt/Cage." The John Cage Trust sued Batt for copyright infringement, claiming that he had copied the work from John Cage's 1952 silent piece "4'33"." (Eep! How does one correctly punctuate a number of seconds within quotation marks?) They ended up settling out of court for "an undisclosed six-figure sum," which Batt said he was paying out of respect for Cage. The publishers seemed to think that the idea of a silent work was copyrightable; I can't imagine that's true in the US, but maybe in the UK? Anyway, Batt noted: "Mine is a much better silent piece. I have been able to say in one minute what Cage could only say in four minutes and 33 seconds." (I'm told that part of the point of Cage's piece was that when it was performed live you could hear the audience sounds, that that was what made the "music.")
  • Speaking of punctuation, even the New York Times gets it wrong sometimes. From an article today about Dean: "He spent only $227,000 on television advertisements less than his two main rivals and kept as his state director a 24-year-old yet to complete the University of Wisconsin." I'm guessing that there should be commas or dashes around "less than his two main rivals"; at first I thought it was saying that $227,000 was the difference between the amount he spent and the amount his rivals spent.
  • Regarding the judge who refused to consider the stop-the-gay-marriages request due to a semicolon being used instead of the word "or": I'm still unclear on whether this was a political action (insisting on correctness despite clarity, for a political purpose) or a legal matter (an important difference in legal meaning). If the former, while I applaud the politics, I confess to being a bit bothered by the action itself; that kind of tactic can be used just as easily against anyone, and if it were used by a judge opposed to gay rights, everyone on my side of the issue would be appalled.
  • On the plus side: San Francisco performed over 2600 (!!!!!) same-sex marriages from Thursday through Tuesday. Way cool.
  • Amusing-to-me headline: Arnold to Mayor: Stop the Gay Weddings. I think I'm amused because I can totally imagine Arnold saying that phrase in his Terminator voice (though he apparently didn't actually say the phrase per se), and because of the photo of him looking resolute. (Btw, down at the bottom of that article it says that Kerry has said he supports amending the MA state constitution to ban same-sex marriage.)
  • Be sure to check out Donald Rumsfeld's fighting technique. His kung fu is better than mine!
  • Oh, back to the Times for a minute: they had an article the other day about how people listening to iPods block out the world. It's clear that most of the people in the article consider this a bad thing; the people listening to music are so caught up in their own isolated worlds that they become unaware of what's going on around them, like a clerk telling them they're next to be served. The weird part is that Apple pointed to this article in their ongoing list of cool-articles-praising-Apple-stuff.

That'll do for now.


Also on the silent track business is the Sonic Youth (iIrc) filler silent track, available for $0.99 from iTunes. It seems that iTunes first made it available, then, realizing how silly it was, restricted it to with-the-album purchases. Then the band complained, so now you can buy silence again, and for a buck.

Redintegro Iraq,

I think the law suit for copyright infringement for "4'33" was totally out of line because they were two completely different rest times. That's like one band filing a law suit on another band because they dared to play their song in the same key as them. What next? Is there going to be bidding wars for different musical notes, and if so, does the owner of B flat also get ownership of A sharp?

Well, he did give Cage a credit in the track listing, so I think it's a little less completely out of line.

But six figures? Don't they have compulsory licensing fees for covers?

That iPod article is complete nonsense. I listen to my iPod on the way to/from work, and when running errands, and I don't feel that it shuts me out from the rest of the city. I actually find that reading a book on the subway cuts me off much more, because nobody ever talks to strangers, so looking at people, and possibly establishing eye contact for a fleeting moment, is the most common interaction. If you read a book (which I often do these days), you lose that connection.

In particlar, this paragraph struck me as nonsense:

"They stand in line at Starbucks and at banks, unaware that the person at the counter is yelling "Next!" No matter how loudly you shuffle your feet on the sidewalk behind them — making the scrunchy sole-on-cement sound that New Yorkers instinctively understand as "Move!" — they won't step aside. And as the less fortunate among us know, forget asking these people if they can spare some change. They can't hear you!"

The people standing on line and not hearing the call have their music on too loud, and clearly aren't paying attention. You'll find that people don't pay attention when they're on lines, whether they have music or not. The proper solution is to either prod them or just go around them.

The people walking slowly on the sidewalk as just a nuisance of life in the City, since some people are faster walkers than others. This shuffling said he describes doesn't really exist. If people are walking slowly in front of you, the proper solution is to either prod them or just go around them.

Most New Yorkers have long since learned to ignore the beggars, and you don't need headphones to do that. They're just another form of background noise. The proper solution is to just go around them. (You don't prod them, because you don't want to touch them.)

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