Who reads music writing? There’s obviously a core of readers invested in what reviews and think pieces have to say — they debate on Twitter and in specialist havens like I Love Music, on their Facebook feeds and even sometimes in the comment sections. The economics of the web, which are both more directly tied to traffic numbers and lower-margin than those of print, make that audience too small to make any economic sense as a core demographic; readers outside the Best Music Writing-obsessed have to be reached as well.
Maura Johnson, NPR Music. What Happened To Music Writing This Year?
Johnson is on to something, and it’s not just about music writing — it’s about journalism as an increasingly porous activity. Lists and lightweight news bites regularly become the day’s most shared content. And many people who would be receptive to more in-depth, thoughtful content are likely banging out article-worthy ideas in online conversations.
She continues, asking a question all up-and-comers should ask themselves:
And this is where the larger quandary comes in. If the idea is to “serve the reader,” does that mean exposing them to new things they haven’t heard and ideas that might not have been aired yet, or does it mean pivoting off the conventional wisdom in some way?
H/T: Jay Rosen.
We were on the brink of changing the world before we got stuck in this legal muck.
Michael Phillips, founder of a voice recognition software company called Vlingo, on being sued in 2008 for patent infringement.
At the time, Vlingo was in partnership discussions with Apple and Google but both stopped negotiations because of the suit.
While Vlingo was eventually exonerated, it cost the company $3 million in legal fees and they eventually agreed to be bought by the company that sued them.
The New York Times, The Patent, Used as a Sword.
In the smartphone industry, according to the article, ”as much as $20 billion was spent on patent litigation and patent purchases in the last two years — an amount equal to eight Mars rover missions.”
My foray into fart science is a bit timid. The mere inclusion of the topic threatens to lower my intellectual tone. A confluence of circumstances forced the subject on me. While recording laughter for an earlier study, one of my subjects laughed so hard that he farted. Since I already had it on tape and was in a sound lab, why not check out the acoustics of farting? This was a defining moment. Would I lose resolve, as did Galileo when he was “shown the instruments” by his inquisitors? With tenure safely in hand, I forged ahead. What started as a playful acoustic analysis led to the quite serious consideration of why we speak through the mouth instead of the rectum. Along the way, I discovered a quirky and amusing literature that may elevate the status of the lowly fart as a topic in scientific discourse.
Throughout the ages, farting (flatulation) has generated jokes, folklore, etiquette, and a few legal sanctions, but little research. The legendary Hippocrates (460–377 BCE) considered the medical affliction of too much gas in The Winds, advising, “It is better to let it pass with noise than to be intercepted and accumulated internally” (1.24–25). The topic has been treated more often in popular fare, including the humorous writings of Geoffrey Chaucer, Benjamin Franklin, and Mark Twain. Fart jokes earn a place in the opening scene of Aristophanes’ The Clouds and the memorable closing scene of “The Miller’s Tale” in Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales. Although passing gas is usually considered ill-mannered, it’s usually laughed off as a minor offense. But this has not always been the case. The Roman Empire once had laws against farting in public places, a sanction that must have caused a lot of fanning and finger-pointing in the Forum. The law was lifted during the reign of Claudius, one of the most flatulent of emperors.
Consider the sad fate of Pu Sao of the Tikopia in Polynesia, who was so overcome with shame after farting in the presence of the chief that he committed suicide by climbing a palm tree and impaling himself through the rectum with a sharply pointed branch. Sanctions are less severe among the Chagga of Tanzania, but feminists have a lot of work to do there. If a husband breaks wind, the wife must pretend that it was really she who discharged, and she must submit to scolding about it. Failure to accept responsibility can cost the negligent wife three barrels of beer.
Robert R. Provine, Author, Curious Behavior. Via Salon, Passing gas is an art and science
FJP: I don’t post just because I’m puerile, but because this is actually a fascinating read about farts throughout the ages, from a famed French performer who dominated the stage with gassy butt tricks, to the thoughts of St. Augustine, Hippocrates, Aristophanes, Mark Twain and Chaucer, to the science of flatulence, human and otherwise. Well worth the read. — Michael