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And Brexit killed the suit, too

Tuesday, 26 March, 2019

One of the worst articles ever published by GQ appeared under the title, “The death of the suit? Thanks Brexit.” Who was responsible for this mess? Lou Stoppard. More precisely, readers were informed that “GQ’s Contributing Editor Lou Stoppard talks you through the jacket that is slowly replacing the suit”. Still, Stoppard got one thing right in the article and it was this: “You can link most current British phenomena on Brexit, or the lack of Brexit, depending on how you look at it.” Exactly.

The other interesting thing about the article is the publication date: Tuesday, 7 November 2017. The demise of the suit has been signalled for some time now and the Wall Street Journal, a former bastion of suit wearers, is finally on it. According to Suzanne Kapner today, “Men Ditch Suits, and Retailers Struggle to Adapt.” The reality of what’s going on here has got nothing to do with Brexit and everything to do with the state of the labour market. In the USA, where it’s very tight, business casual is on the rise and getting even more casual because management wants to keep workers and wants to keep them happy. If that means throwing the suit out the window, so be it.


IPA: the alphabet, not the ale

Monday, 25 March, 2019
  • For hipsters, the abbreviation IPA means India Pale Ale, a trendy beer flavour that oozes hops.
  • For linguists, the abbreviation IPA means International Phonetic Alphabet, a system of phonetic notation based on the Latin alphabet.

Back in June 2015, Halle Neyens explained how it works in a Language Base Camp post titled “Linguistics for Language Learners: What is the IPA?“, and the post was accompanied by an excellent infographic showing where the sounds English speakers use are produced in the mouth and throat.

IPA

Note: Language Base Camp is a community-based hub where language learners and language lovers “connect and help each other along the path of self-directed language learning.”


Russiagate is this generation’s WMD

Sunday, 24 March, 2019

In light of Mueller, Matt Taibbi says that while the Iraq war faceplant damaged the reputation of the press, Russiagate has just destroyed it. He goes so far as to declare: Russiagate is this generation’s WMD. Snippet:

“Either Trump is a compromised foreign agent, or he isn’t. If he isn’t, news outlets once again swallowed a massive disinformation campaign, only this error is many orders of magnitude more stupid than any in the recent past, WMD included. Honest reporters like ABC’s Terry Moran understand: Mueller coming back empty-handed on collusion means a ‘reckoning for the media.’

Of course, there won’t be such a reckoning. (There never is). But there should be. We broke every written and unwritten rule in pursuit of this story, starting with the prohibition on reporting things we can’t confirm.”

What a shabby, amoral, vile, dishonest trade the news industry has become.

Mueller


Down with Article 13, which is now Article 17!

Saturday, 23 March, 2019

The EU, despite its enormous bureaucracy and budgets, has singularly failed to produce an Apple, a Google, an Amazon, a Facebook, a Twitter, an Instagram, a Microsoft, an Adobe, a Whatsapp, a Reddit, a Procore, a Wikipedia…. The list goes on and on and on and on and on.

Despite its enormous budgets and bureaucracy, though, the EU is very good at one thing when it comes to technology: the shakedown. If it’s not European tech and it’s really popular, fine it. That’s the thinking in Brussels, and this has turned out to be a rather nice little earner over the past decade.

The latest scam is a proposed reform of EU of copyright law (PDF). Brussels claims this would force internet platforms to share revenues with artists by forcing the likes of Google and Facebook to pay publishers for displaying news snippets and removing copyright-protected content from YouTube or Instagram. The platforms would have to sign licensing agreements with rights holders such as musicians, performers, authors, publishers and journalists to use their work online. To do this, the platforms would have to install filters to prevent users uploading copyrighted material, but these algorithms might not see the joke in Hitler’s comments about Boris Johnson. And the filters are seen by many as the thin end of an EU wedge to throttle free speech and impose Brussels-like dreariness upon a creative continent.

The European Parliament is set to have its final vote on the proposals next Tuesday and protests against the legislation are scheduled across Europe today. The demonstrations are being organized by the Save Your Internet campaign, which has labelled the legislation “a massive threat to the free exchange of opinions and culture online.” So, sign up, hit the streets and sing along.


No feelings of overworth

Friday, 22 March, 2019

Almost two decades ago, the American-British journalist and bestselling travel-writer Bill Bryson had the notion of writing a a clear, concise and entertaining guide to the problems of English usage and spelling, so he proposed the idea to “a kindly editor at Penguin Books” by the name of Donald McFarlan and the response was positive. Or as Bryson puts it in the introduction to Bryson’s Dictionary of Troublesome Words, “To my astonishment and gratification, Mr. McFarlan sent me a contract and, by way of advance, a sum of money carefully gauged not to cause embarrassment or feelings of overworth.” That’s finely put, the “feelings of overworth” bit.

On page 218, Bryson arrives at the letter “Y” and “year’ time” is the second entry.

“In 1865 an influential book by Stanley Jevons argued… that Britain would run out of coal in a few years’ time” (Economist). The author is to be commended for putting an apostrophe on years, but the effort was unnecessary, as pairing time with years is inescapably repetitious. “In a few years” says as much and gets there quicker.

Finely put, that.


Waiting for Mueller

Thursday, 21 March, 2019

If the rumours are to be believed, the anticipated report of the Mueller Investigation will “drop”, as they say in the jargon of the #MSM, sometime tomorrow. If Mueller finds that Donald Trump, or any members of his family or any of his advisors had colluded with alleged efforts by the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, the White House will be gravely damaged and the remaining days of the Trump presidency will involve trying to get through a humiliating and damaging obstacle course designed by the Democrats and the media to reduce the incumbent to zero.

If, on the other hand, Mueller does not finds that Donald Trump, or any members of his family or any of his advisors colluded with alleged efforts by the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, the Democrats and the media will be exposed as frauds of the highest order and their credibility well be reduced to zero.

This is a high-stakes game. All in!


Seen on the street in NYC

Tuesday, 19 March, 2019

By the Rainy Day sister. A sign of our insomniac times, definitely.

New York City


A perfect magazine cover

Monday, 18 March, 2019

“Facebook could afford to pay its moderators more money, or hire more of them, or place much more stringent rules on what users can post—but any of those things would hurt the company’s profits and revenue. Instead, it’s adopted a reactive posture, attempting to make rules after problems have appeared.” So writes Sarah Frier in a Bloomberg Businessweek cover story about The Apology Machine.

Bloomberg Businessweek


Patrick O’Brian for St. Patrick’s Day

Sunday, 17 March, 2019

Top o’ the morning to all Rainy Day readers on this St. Patrick’s Day. We’re celebrating with a tribute to one of the many Patricks who have brought honour and glory to the saint’s chosen name: Patrick O’Brian, the author of the popular Aubrey-Maturin historical novels.

The language Patrick O’Brian uses in his Aubrey-Maturin series impresses not just because of the breadth and depth of the terminology, but because of how it’s used. In O’Brian’s hands, language paints a vivid canvas filled with nature, machines, humour, humanity and horror. O’Brian invents language and makes words do his bidding in a way that few writers have achieved. In this snippet from The Far Side of the World, Jack Aubrey, in a hurry to continue his voyage, constructs a device to raise the anchor because the usual mechanism — the capstan — has jammed:

“With scarcely a pause Jack called the midshipmen. ‘I will show you how we weigh with a voyol,’ he said. ‘Take notice. You don’t often see it done, but it may save you a tide of the first consequence.’ They followed him below to the mangerboard, where he observed, ‘This is a voyol with a difference.’ “Bonden, a fellow officer, brings the heavy sheaved block.” ‘Watch now. He makes it fast to the cable — he reeves the jeer-fall through it — the jeer-fall is brought to the capstan, with the standing part belayed to the bitts. So you get a direct runner-purchase instead of a dead nip, do you understand?'”

The Far Side of the World Do you understand? Most readers don’t, especially since “mangerboard” and “jeer-fall’ do not appear in the 12-volume Oxford English Dictionary or its several supplements. Still, most readers can see for themselves what O’Brian has left unsaid: Aubrey bent under a hanging lantern in the dappled half-light below decks surrounded by his midshipmen in their top hats, showing them an alternative way to raise an anchor.

Writing in The New York Times, Jason Epstein noted: “There is something immensely satisfying about the power of such passages to create within the reader’s own imagination the scene in question, whether the subject is nautical technology or Maturin’s rare species or Admiralty politics — advancement is always on Aubrey’s mind — or in hushed tones Maturin’s main profession, spycraft.”

Many years ago, Mark Liberman delved deeper into the etymological aspects of O’Brian’s vocabulary in a post at Language Log. Jack says that he may “perish of mere want” when his dinner is delayed and this leads Liberman to observe: “The modern accretion on mere, which typically seems to be missing in the earlier usage, is the implication that the referent of the modified noun is somehow paltry: a mere trickle, a mere drop in the ocean, a mere gesture.”

See, regardless of whether one is an escapist or a linguist, Patrick O’Brian offers endless entertainment and enlightenment.

“We will wet the swab and when it is handsomely awash, why then perhaps we might try a little music, if that would not be disagreeable to you,” says Jack to Maturin early in the first chapter of Master and Commander. What’s a swab? And why wet it? Well, when Captain Jack Aubrey returns to his Gibraltar hotel room after having spent a pleasant evening listening to a performance of Locatelli’s C major quartet, he’s presented with a letter confirming his command of His Majesty’s Sloop Sophie. Elated, he immediately orders “cold roast pollo” and “two bottles of vino.” When he wakes up the following morning the first thing he does is go to a naval outfitter’s and have a “heavy, massive epaulette” fixed on his left shoulder. That’s the “swab” and wetting it means drinking a toast to his good fortune.

Today, let us toast to St. Patrick and all the great Patricks named after him.


It’s satire. Or is it?

Saturday, 16 March, 2019

The Onion


That Lofoten football field from above

Friday, 15 March, 2019

If you’ve got a PC, you might know that Windows Spotlight is a default feature included in Windows 10 that downloads background images automatically from Microsoft’s Bing search engine and displays them on the lock screen. One of the most popular of those images is the football field on the Lofoten Archipelago in Norway, and that famous football field appears here in the first 20 seconds of “Lofoten from Above” by the excellent Polish photographer and video maker Maciej Ławniczak.