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Saturday: November 5, 2005

Up To A Point, Lord Copper

Filed under: — site admin @ 11:59 PM GMT-0500

On Halloween, Terry Teachout quoted an apophthegm of John Cage:

It is better to make a piece of music than to perform one, better to perform one than to listen to one, better to listen to one than to misuse it as a means of distraction, entertainment, or acquisition of ‘culture.’

This sentence would be much better — or at least truer — with mutatis mutandis inserted somewhere in it. I think it is better to listen to a piece of music by Bach or Mozart, or even Crusell or Arriaga (just to name two of my favorite smaller fish in the ocean of music), than to perform one by Cage, and much better to listen to almost any other composer’s work than to make a piece of music like the ones Cage made.

Interesting Ambiguity

Filed under: — site admin @ 11:47 PM GMT-0500

Ann Althouse titles a post “Blogger’s back”. She means that the software package known as Blogger has returned from temporary oblivion, but I thought at first that she was describing a medical condition: something that might incline someone to see a chiropractor after too many hours hunched over a keyboard. All three parts of the sentence are ambiguous: “Blogger” may be a copyrighted proper noun or a common agent noun, “‘s” may be an elided verb or the sign of a possessive noun, and “back” may be either an adverb or an anatomical noun. All in all, a very compact illustration of why computers will never be able to translate English reliably. My favorite sentences of this type are the newspaper headlines “Police help dog bite victim” and “British left waffles on Falkland Islands”. In the latter, the first three words may be either adjective-subject-verb or subject-verb-object.