Saturday, March 21, 2009

Acceptable: The New Good?

Bud Light has recently started advertising their beer's remarkable "Drinkability." These assert that the best selling point of Bud Light is that if one tries to drink it, they will likely succeed. It is a liquid with very low toxicity. It's drinkable.

Pizza Hut also has a new slogan: "Now you're eating." Pizza Hut is selling their wares as being distinctly food. When you are shoveling mediocre pizza and pasta into your gullet, what you are doing is indeed eating. It can't be denied and Pizza Hut's marketing department is daring you to try.

See also: Ian's thoughts on the matter.

Emphasis Placement in Greek-Root Words: A Brutal Example

It is a point of contention between me and most other metal listeners how to pronounce the name of German tech death super stars Necrophagist. The common pronunciation puts primary emphasis on the first syllable and uses a long /o/ in the second syllable and a long /a/ in the third ([nɛ´k-ɹow-fej-ʤIst]). I put primary emphasis on the second syllable, with a short /o/ and schwa-ed /a/ ([nɛk-ɹɔ´-fə-ʤIst]). I believe that standard English pronunciation of Greek-root words supports my pronunciation more than the popular one in this case.

Consider the following examples: psychologist, optometrist, demography, necropolis. All Greek rooted words, all four syllables with emphasis on the second. On the other hand, consider: biological, Necrophagia*. Five syllables, Greek roots, emphasis on the third syllable. The generalizable rule here seems to be in compound Greek-root words, primary emphasis is put on the syllable two before the end.

I think that the confusion here might come from the desire to separate the two root words by emphasis. Evidence in favor of this comes from (a) compound neologisms such as "biorhythm" where emphasis does separate the two roots and (b) the common English rendering of the Greek root for "study" as "-ology" rather than "-logy". That is, words with the root "logos" are conceived of as consisting of (X)+(ology) rather than (X)+(logy). Thus, it is assumed that the emphasis on the "ol" is a consequence of root separation rather than a matter of cadence.

So there, metalheads. That's why I pronounce it that way. Of course, Necrophagist are German, not English, so maybe none of this holds. I'll just leave you with a video of them totally kicking ass so everything is cool.

*Another metal band, though no one cares about these guys too much anymore

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

West to the East

Last fall, I applied to four graduate programs in linguistics. I was rejected by three, accepted by one. The one was at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. In July I am moving to Honolulu.

I have never been to Hawaii before. In fact, Hawaii is much further west than I have ever been before. The idea of moving to a place where I've never even visited before is slightly terrifying. I don't know where I'm going to live or how I'm going to afford living there. I will have to take out a student loan, and I've never been more than a few hundred dollars in debt. Reggae and Spam are really popular in Honolulu. And people have planted seeds of fear in my head that I will constantly be beaten senseless by angry Samoans and Guamaniacs.

That said, it is also obviously extremely exciting and good and wonderful and nice. I'll get to study linguistics in a place where the native language isn't English, at a university that studies language preservation and native Esperantists. I will be doing something with my life that I have real interest in, in a place like none I've ever been before.

Anyway, for at least two years you guys will have a place to crash in Honolulu. In the meantime, I guess let's hang out here in Seattle.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

JESUS: Just Easy Sounds for Universal Salvation

Once there was a prog rock keyboardist and vocalist named Neal Morse. He played with Spock's Beard and Transatlantic, and he had a solo career. He had a somewhat gratingly poppy voice, but the music he played was usually very cool. Then one day he met someone new: Jesus. He was, as the kid's say, Born Again. And then he decided writing interesting prog rock is not his scene. He'd rather play aggressively bland adult contemporary about how Jesus loves you come to Jesus Jesus is the one true way O Lord.

Actually, truth told, most of his Post-Jesus stuff is still pretty decent, if less interesting than his previous works, but he put out one song, "Children of the Chosen," that is so very bad, and so very typical of modern Jesusmusic (and played so very often on the prog rock station I listen to), as to prove my point entirely.

My point is: what the hell is it about modern American Protestantism that invites such very shitty music? It's not exactly as if religious devotion never yielded impressive musical works, just ask Bach or Mozart or Ravi Shankar (or King Diamond for that matter).

My belief on the matter is it is a change among religious thinkers as to what the function of music should be in religion. If one looks at a society like Europe in ages past, where membership in a Christian institution (Protestant or Catholic) was assumed, one sees music that was written for purely liturgical purposes; the sole goal was praising God in musical form. The music is a form of prayer, and one cannot glorify God with shitty music*. Thus, we got things like "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring."

Now, however, we live in 21st Century America, and there is a war on. The God Fearing Christians, in particular the Born Again variety, think of music in a different way. It is a recruitment tool in the culture war against the godless heathens.

Of course, this begs the question, if they are using music as a recruiting tool, then why aren't they writing good music? The most likely answer to this seems to me to be that rather than taking the tack of writing Top 40 style pop music, which grabs many ears but can still be very polarizing, they have preferred the strategy of writing bland music, so as to captivate few but offend even fewer. Christianity thus becomes a path of no resistance, so that those who think the least and are the easiest to offend will be the most likely candidates to drift in.

Still doesn't understand how a vibrant prog rocker got suckered in though.

*This is to say nothing of modern Catholic music, for which there can be no earthly explanation, and over which I would imagine God feels extremely smiteful.

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