Sunday, September 02, 2001

A New Statesman competition plays off some radio program in which someone defined an intellectual as "Someone who, alone in a room with a tea cosy, doesn't try it on."

Other definitions: He speaks several European languages, often in the same sentence. An intellectual looks upon football songs and mobile phones as interesting social phenomena. An intellectual knows exactly how things work, but is unable to work them.

One competitor chose the decalogue format, including: Thou shalt have a bad haircut. Thou shalt not take Foucault's name in vain. Thou shalt watch no television, except Bugs Bunny. Matching socks are mere vanity. Alone in a room with a tea cosy, thou mayst try it on, but then thou shalt leave the room still wearing it.

After coming across that competition, I found an example from the real world: An intellectual is someone who, reviewing (trashing) a made-for-tv movie on Catherine the Great for the American Historical Review, fails to mention that she is played by Catherine Zeta-Jones.

Also reviewed in the AHR is a British documentary about the electric chair. Evidently it was part of the rivalry between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse, which was also a rivalry over whether DC or AC would dominate. Edison promoted the use of AC and Westinghouse generators for executions to make the point that AC was more dangerous. Westinghouse therefore funded the appeal of the guy who would become the first to be executed by electricity in 1890 in New York, arguing that it constituted cruel and unusual punishment.

No comments:

Post a Comment