Professor Ilari Kaila is a Finnish-born composer and pianist. He has worked at Columbia University and Stony Brook University (State University of New York), teaching harmony, counterpoint, musicianship, and post-tonal music analysis, and as a teaching artist in composition with the New York Philharmonic. His works have been performed in Australia by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra; in Japan by the Avanti Chamber Orchestra; in Finland by the Joensuu Symphony Orchestra and the Zagros Ensemble; at the Banff Centre Summer Arts Festival in Canada; and at the MATA Festival in New York City; among others. He was also one of six young Composer Fellows featured at HKUST’s Intimacy of Creativity programme in the spring of 2014.
Every now and then, you come across words strung together with such writerly virtuosity that they stick with you for a decade, verbatim, like a catchy tune. Back in 2009, in one of his excellent and scathing blog posts about the new administration’s healthcare reform efforts, Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone employed a characteristically hilarious description of President Obama’s “healthcare czar”:
“In Washington there are whores and there are whores, and then there is Tom Daschle. Tom Daschle would suck off a corpse for a cheeseburger.”
It’s a particularly vivid variation on an established metaphor: whores are evoked to illustrate the depravity of someone in the business of “selling that which should not be sold,” someone so corrupt that they have lost any semblance of shame.
In his famous essay Politics and the English Language, George Orwell advises that, in order to use metaphors effectively, a writer must see the mental image they are conjuring. Clumsy and incompatible metaphors are “a sure sign that the writer is not interested in what he is saying.” We’ve come close to using the epithet “whore” on this blog but decided against it. Here’s the thing: when I follow Orwell’s advice, when I picture someone reduced to performing oral sex on a stranger to get their next meal, I’m unable to see a multi-millionaire healthcare grifter. To call someone like Tom Daschle a whore is an insult to sex workers.