Corrections and country music
Greetings, all eleven of you kind people who read this infrequently updated blog! The first month of the academic year has seen a dramatic increase in the amount of work that I have had to do – including many meetings, which are just oh so much fun – which means that the blog has been a fairly low priority lately. And since I don’t want to make insubstantial blog entries, I decided it was better to wait. Still, I do hope to post more frequently in the near future.
The purpose of this long-overdue post is actually to do some updatin’ and clarifyin’ of a few of the points that I made in a couple of my earlier posts.
In this post, I discuss the difficulty of quantifying the features of cinema; my main example is shot scale, the basis for which is “the human figure,” an object that comes in lots of different shapes and sizes. I see now, as I did in writing that post, that I have an opportunity to post that extremely excellent photo of Muggsy Bogues and Manute Bol (RIP), and so I will do just that.
In that essay on the unquantifiability of film style, I make an offhand reference to what I called “the one true kilogram”: the one that’s under a bell jar in a lead-lined basement in a French research lab. (Its actual nickname is “Le Grand K,” which is far better than my lame coinage.) It turns out – and this article has been making the rounds lately – that even that Mother of All Kilograms is itself not entirely quantifiable! It’s been “losing weight” over time – to the tune of several atoms every few years! – an occurrence that actually has some fairly serious ramifications not just for people who like to measure things (known as metrologists, no kidding) but for science in general. An excellent article by Jonathon Keats in Wired addresses this very subject.
And here’s a good, interesting MetaFilter discussion/thread about the article, which I read before I got to Keats’s piece in my actual hard copy of Wired, one of the two magazines I still subscribe to. (The other is Mojo, still the best rock music magazine in the world.)
More substantively, a lawyer friend of mine (who asked not to be identified) wrote to me to point out a few errors with some of the information in my post on the mild verbal ambiguities in the old jingle for Shasta cola. His points really are accurate, and I felt that, in the spirit of, you know, scholarship, I should include them here.
My friend – whom I’ll call Philbin, for ease of verbiage, and because I like the sound of it – takes issue with my point that “companies turn their products’ names into verbs all the time,” remarking that this “is something they avoid like the plague, since the result is genericization, which results in a loss of trademark rights for the name involved.” Of course, Philbin is correct. I composed that entry too hastily, and should have noted that it is not the companies that turn their products’ names into verbs, but, rather, us regular folk, when we use “scotch tape” to refer generically to any adhesive tape, or when we use “googling” as a verb, for instance.
Philbin himself notes the irony that occurs when companies respond indignantly (in letters to the editor, e.g.) to such usages, which, after all, are the result of the fact that language is a living, changing entity: “Of course, the very fact that a company finds itself compelled to send letters like this, or even to file lawsuits, constitutes a tacit admission on their part that the term is, in popular parlance, being used as a verb, and has lost its capacity to distinguish the source of the goods or services involved.” Indeed.
Philbin further points out that my example of Dr. Scholl’s gel insoles was a poor one, “because ‘gel’ was never a Dr. Scholl’s trademark or product brand in the first place. ‘Gellin’’ is no more an example of the phenomenon than ‘I’m lovin’ it’ would be an example of genericization of a McDonald’s mark, because McDonald’s has never asserted that ‘love’ (as a noun) is a McDonald’s trademark. In order to serve as valid examples of the phenomenon you’re hoping to demonstrate the existence of, someone in the ad would have to say, ‘I’m Schollin’ as I’m strollin’,’ or ‘I’m pounding down a Quarter Pounder® … I’m quarter poundering!’ or something along those lines.”
My point should have been that brand names are diluted by the public, not by the companies who come up with them. Hopefully, this does not weaken the post too thoroughly. It certainly doesn’t weaken that Shasta ad with Barry Williams, I’ll tell you what.
Speaking of weakening, Philbin the lawyer also notes that my use of the phrase “weaken the copyright” is not accurate, either, since I’m really talking about weakening trademarks. Contritely, I admit to conflation of those two terms. Good thing I’m not a patent attorney. Like I was saying, film studies is an excellent field of study for those of us who are not very good at quantifying things. And it all comes full circle.
Speaking of trademarks, here’s the late, great Porter Wagoner performing “That’s My Trademark,” a song of his own composition, on television (anyone know the name of the show?) in 1953.
I had never heard his own (truncated) version of that song before – I know it from Carl Smith’s version, which is also excellent.
No video per se, alas – just a nice picture of Carl Smith, who, like Porter Wagoner, died only recently.
Even though it really has nothing to do with the actual contents of this post, let me here declare that old time country music is the best. You can find a treasure trove of it here, and on lots of other fine sites.