Friday, July 31, 2009

Why the Internet reminds me of Analytic Philosophy

This isn't really meant as a dig, but it's going to come across this way, for exactly the reasons I'm about to explain.

Why do I hate most blog comments? Why does so much e-mail come across the wrong way? Conversational Implicature, my friends! For all the great things that the Internet can do, like distribute free pornography and cures to erectile dysfunction to the huddled masses, one thing it appears to be lousy at, as a medium, is revealing a writer's intention. Beats me why, especially when the same words in a newspaper or a magazine seem to be more charitably taken than on the net.

And when I say I'm reminded of analytic philosophy, I simply mean that there is a kind of correlation here between what we focus on, like prepositions and what we leave out, like hand and facial gestures. The Internet seems to be a really horrible for the gesture.

Case in point is Russell Smith's column in the Globe and Mail yesterday, where he proposes a writing contest that parodies canlit. Now generally Smith gets slagged in the comments because he's too high-brow for the donut munching proletarians who troll the Globe site. Of course, this is because they miss the point of his writing, they miss his style.

So I find it especially amusing that when Smith asserts that he has a style, people are quick to point out that he really doesn't, because they completely miss his style, which is in full view in this very column - his sardonic wit tempered by a certain gentility, his aesthetic curiosity tempered by a strong sense of taste.

That everyone misses this isn't really Smith's fault, it's theirs, isn't it? I mean, do we really all have to write in such a way as the analytic philosophers believed language worked at the turn of the century, in declarative sentences which leave no content out for the reader to infer? Isn't this also what garbage like the plain language movement is about?

Could it be that the Internet effaces style? I have long wondered this myself, looking at my own prose on this site and often finding it wanting. Anyway, if you have an opinion on this matter, feel free to share it!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Apotheosis

Friends, I don't know why I write here anymore. Perhaps it's boredom, ennui, malaise, meloncholoy, or any of the other emotional by-products of Romanticism.

Anyway, I write now because I just attended a meeting so devoid of content, so empty of meaning, that I believe it important that its existence be preserved. So let this blog post be this meetings memorial fromaldahyde....

How do I justify this? As I watched my colleagues grope around trying to fill the hour's space with sufficient words, I detected the outline of every single meeting I have ever been to. Indeed, I believe now that virtually every meeting any of us attend takes this shape. This meeting, far from being a mere moment of my time, is a moment of every single one of our lives.

In this meeting's emptiness lay its sublimnity.

The meeting proceeded as follows:

1) Food and beverage between the main parties, supplemented by fawning courtesy from both sides.

2) The heads of each party explain their role, no, their telos, within the organization followed by an expression of shared interests and mutual solidarity, followed by examples of "that time we worked together and things went well".

3) This is followed by someone's (there is always someone) expression of existential despair by recounting the time something "didn't work". Although the reasons for something failing to work properly are usually the result of fate and not the actions of the agents involved, nevertheless, pointless questions have been raised and must be addressed.

4) Now to the heart of the matter - the reification of the individual's existential despair into a formal problem which must be solved by the introduction of a process. Usually some kind of collaboration is suggested, people are teamed up, partnered, accountability is affirmed and the meeting is adjourned.

5) Missives, both electronic and paper, are issued, thakning everyone for their mandatory participation and looking to the future, which is about three weeks, as the "formal" outcomes of the meeting are forgotten and the intial procedural gaits are recovered.

If this does not seem familiar to you, please feel free to let me know.

Also, there's a delightful article in today's New York Times about the hipster love of taxidermy. Had I been on top of things I could have beat this story to the punch with my own short film on taxidermy, but alas, I will have to be a trendsetter by stipulation'll have to take my word for it. All that being said, the blog of one of those featured in the article is very nice.