Friday, December 23, 2011


Sig on Mars reports that certain passages quoted from a NY Times book review discussed in my last post here have been deleted from the newspaper's site.

I have on various occasions noticed that happening at newspaper sites, not just that of the NY Times. In the present case, I assume it was because a number of people wrote to the editors complaining that the passages made them "uncomfortable". So these were removed, allowing everyone to settle down in their couches and pull the blanket back up over their knees.

Intelligent life-forms are always torn between comfort and curiosity - it's part of the definition. Techniques have been found to meet these conflicting demands, but they are not equally fine-tunable. Since text as a medium is technically more primitive than film, it is not easy to prick a text into a teasing shape, concealing offensive passages in a way that still allows a prurient glimpse. You pretty much have to castrate it.

Of course the old practice of replacing letters by "*" is still available. However, due to the deterioration of reading skills in many of the formerly industrialized countries of the West, America in particular, to use "*" would make it difficult for readers to get that prurient glimpse. To reconstruct an outrageous original text from asterisks, you must know how to spell.

The film medium is more flexible - software can blur parts of the image, or overlay them with rectangular black areas just that little bit too small. The basic approach is that of the pastie, that 100% American juridical invention: it is legal to show female breasts in all their gory, on condition that form-fitting, light-reflecting pieces of paper have been pasted over the nipples.

The same peek-a-boo techniques are used in films, for body parts as well as for advertising. In a sequel of the American TV series "Jackass", which is currently being re-run here in Germany on one of the prole channels, I noticed that even naked male butts are overlaid with see-through blur boxes. So now buttilation is on the Index, in addition to titillation.

In MTV reports on famous whatevers, advertising slogans on the t-shirts worn by the whatevers are so blurred that you can't guess what is being flogged. I assume MTV would restore the focus if they could get the advertising revenue. Unfortunately there is no money to be made flogging male butts on TV, so you never get to see much. Male nipples may be shown without any restrictions, because the monitors of morals apparently do not know the naughty things that can be done with them.

Today's lesson was: cringe-making puns are more injurious to comfort than is curiosity.

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