December 9, 2008

"A boffin provides a video demonstration of how the gadget mixes real-life ambient sounds with music."

A boffin? I learn a new word from Clive Davis, who noticed this post of mine promoting the iPhone app RjDj. Clive is not ready to abandon the natural ambient sound of the real world.

Yesterday, I made a video clip -- intending to overlay the video with the soundtrack I was hearing as I spoke. But I forgot to record the sound, and anyway, I think it's interesting to see how utterly foolish I look trying to speak while hearing my voice processed through this program. The old post highlights the boffin's line "That is something very similar to the effect of drugs." He's describing the subjective effect on the person listening to the sound produced by the app. But this video clip shows that it makes the listener look mentally disabled in a manner very similar to the effect of drugs. [The loss of synch at the first edit is unintentional and not meant to demonstrate anything. Sorry for the additional disorientation!]



Notice the addition I put on the old post earlier this morning:
I realized that running this app into your own ears is like imposing a "Harrison Bergeron" program on yourself. Are some children smarter than others? Let them listen to the teacher through "Echolon."
You know what I mean by "Harrison Bergeron"? It's a Kurt Vonnegut story, and that Wikipedia link above, has this link to the full text of the story. It's pretty short, and I think it's pretty important to upload it into your brain for future reference. Yesterday, we were talking about "book groups" and Ron -- "Please, mum, can I be frontpaged for no reason at all? Or would that be ef-frontery?" -- said:
Maybe we could do this here on Althouse. Ann picks a book, we read it, and live-blog our agreed-upon discussion...

... and, hell, we could still get drunk and live blog our bitching about our spouses!
Well, far be it from me to impose a big old book on everyone when this blog is all about disorienting shuttling from one thing to another, but I will call an instant story club on "Henry Bergeron." It begins like this:
THE YEAR WAS 2081, and everybody was finally equal. They weren’t only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else. All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General.

Some things about living still weren’t quite right, though. April, for instance, still drove people crazy by not being springtime. And it was in that clammy month that the H-G men took George and Hazel Bergeron’s fourteen-year-old son, Harrison, away.

It was tragic, all right, but George and Hazel couldn’t think about it very hard. Hazel had a perfectly average intelligence, which meant she couldn’t think about anything except in short bursts. And George, while his intelligence was way above normal, had a little mental handicap radio in his ear. He was required by law to wear it at all times. It was tuned to a government transmitter. Every twenty seconds or so, the transmitter would send out some sharp noise to keep people like George from taking unfair advantage of their brains.

George and Hazel were watching television. There were tears on Hazel’s cheeks, but she’d forgotten for the moment what they were about.

On the television screen were ballerinas.

A buzzer sounded in George’s head. His thoughts fled in panic, like bandits from a burglar alarm.

“That was a real pretty dance, that dance they just did,” said Hazel.

“Huh?” said George.

“That dance – it was nice,” said Hazel.

“Yup,” said George. He tried to think a little about the ballerinas. They weren’t really very good – no better than anybody else would have been, anyway. They were burdened with sashweights and bags of birdshot, and their faces were masked, so that no one, seeing a free and graceful gesture or a pretty face, would feel like something the cat drug in. George was toying with the vague notion that maybe dancers shouldn’t be handicapped. But he didn’t get very far with it before another noise in his ear radio scattered his thoughts.

George winced. So did two out of the eight ballerinas.

Hazel saw him wince. Having no mental handicap herself she had to ask George what the latest sound had been.

“Sounded like somebody hitting a milk bottle with a ball peen hammer,” said George.

“I’d think it would be real interesting, hearing all the different sounds,” said Hazel, a little envious. “All the things they think up.”
Don't worry, Hazel. You can download RjDj into your iPhone. It's really interesting, hearing all the different sounds....

ADDED: Clive Davis emails:
Very funny video, Ann.

Maybe the nearest equivalent to the B-word is "rocket scientist", a term which is causing some dissension at the Daily Dish today. The only time you see "boffin" in print nowadays is in newspaper headlines - much like "fillip".
In England, periods and commas refuse to be caged in by quotation marks.

25 comments:

Simon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Simon said...

I can't remember when I first heard or read it, but I've long thought that "the year was 2081, and everybody was finally equal" is one of the most chilling lines in fiction. Even without knowing what follows, your immediate instinct is that something is horribly wrong.

Meade said...

"Like something the cat drug in."

Like just a simple president, I love a well-used cliché.

Original George said...

Talkin' funny and lookin' funny

You make yourself look bad.

Help Me Somebody

'Found music' became 'samples' and possibly in a white tutu.

Paul Zrimsek said...

THE YEAR WAS 2081, and everybody was finally Doyle.

Fixed.

Meade said...

Good one, PZ!

Sofa King said...

I know it's not fiction, but can we do Politics and the English Language next?

Chip Ahoy said...

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. This is the funniest post in the history of ever.

Gavin said...

In British-tabloid speak a "boffin" is a "nerd." In other words anyone smarter than someone who works for a tabloid.

PatCA said...

A right-leaning company is making a short film based on the story, BTW.

http://www.thempi.org/pov/2008/05/profiling_harrison_bergeron.shtml

cardeblu said...

I thought they were just missing the " ' " at the end of "boffin" as in "boffing," or to boff.

Oops! No wonder it didn't make sense--well, it did, but...

Ron said...

Well, well, well...Thanx for the frontpagery! A hug and a kiss for you for Xmas (my "neutral" term for the holiday!) Ann!

Any (originally mistyped as "Anny", hmmm...) post that includes references to Me, boffins, drugs, ballpeen hammers+ballerinas, and any woman named Hazel is a Post That I Can Believe In.

I've decided my "Q" value will go up if I just go all Mystic 8-Ball with the ObamaPhrases. Too general to be falsifiable, uplifting without too much trumpting, liberal-flavored without the cloying aftertaste, it's really how all future verbal disgourgements (heretofore known as "discussions" or "conversations") should be!

Ron said...

That line, THE YEAR WAS 2081 reminds of that song by Zager and Evans: In the Year 2525 (Exordium and Terminus).

A subtle, unassuming title, no?

knox said...

I was cracking up watching this. Althouse with advanced ADD.

William said...

Vonnegut has legs. His books remain part of you long after other more esteemed works have vanished down the memory hole....Of the trillions of books written about WWII, the two that have gone forward are Catch 22 and Slaughterhouse 5.

knox said...

Vonnegut has legs.

and moustache

Hazy Dave said...

I still don't know what RjDj sounds like, but I imagine the delay effect could be entertaining.

I remember hearing Emmylou Harris sing the National Anthem before a baseball game (!), and she had to restart the first line with a finger in her ear, after the quarter second "echo" from the speaker tower in center field made it to home plate. In-ear monitors have become quite popular in that sort of application. Continuing to talk or sing while ignoring what your ears are picking up can be learned, but, as we see, the learning curve is very amusing to watch.

Ron said...

...and if this is your first time at story club? You have to tell a story!


this blog is all about disorienting shuttling from one thing to another

let's call it Gedankengrazing!
We'll generate thesis topics up and down The Seven Sisters like kudzu in Texas!

Ed Bush said...

I can't believe you don't know what a boffin is.

Traditionally, an English man in search of wealth and stature and who was not of noble lineage had precious few occupations to enter: banking, shipping, and law (wow, you win!), for example. Men who occupied themselves with obscure stuff, such as physics or chemistry, were called boffins.

It was not a derogatory term, except to the aristocracy for whom everyone else was somewhat less. Boffin was more a designation of an eccentric, spouting stuff no one else could understand. A boffin was somewhat of an odd duck, no doubt smart but not quite the sort of person Bertie Wooster would commune with. You know the type: Newton, Rayleigh, Cavendish.

These days boffin has become more like hacker. A hack was originally committed by an MIT student who would pull off an engineering stunt, such as greasing the tracks of the subway into Cambridge, causing it to slide through the station. The stunt was called a hack, hence the name.

Words have histories, as you know.

Lawgiver said...

Harrison Bergeron would be quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys.

blake said...

Harrison Bergeron was already done in video format, with Sean Astin, I believe, as the title character.

Ann Althouse said...

Yeah, you can see clips on YouTube of it. I don't really want to see it. I like the written form for this.

Not too many decent movies based on Kurt Vonnegut writings.

No "Cat's Cradle" movie. Why not?

blake said...

I liked the video version but, as pointed out, I saw that first. There were aspects of the original writing that put me off when I did read it finally.

Probably my favorite Vonnegut thing was his appearance in Back To School.

dbp said...

From watching this vlog I can tell one thing for sure: Althouse has not taken very many mind-altering drugs.

And she, a former art student!

Ron said...


No "Cat's Cradle" movie. Why not?


Maybe we're all still stunned by the performance of Valerine Perine in S-5?