17 February 2005

Yet More Miscellany Even Still

  • I apologize for the delay in continuing/finishing the fan fiction posts. However, "real" (and unexpectedly time-critical) work has delayed the drafting of the article from which I'm condensing those posts. (And trying to put them in real, instead of academic, English.) Trust me. They're coming. I always respect my (few) readers in the morning.
  • Bruce Forrest has been appointed Interim Chief Judge for the new royalty system administered by the Copyright Office. Congratulations. I think. That's the judicial position I want: Every single decision that I make is guaranteed to be appealed.
  • Once again, Frank Rich has demonstrated his "talent" for laying decent groundwork and refusing to analyze it. In an article in today's NYT on Gannongate (or should that be Guckertgate?), Rich notes that:

    The "real" news from CNN was no news at all, but it's not as if any of its competitors did much better. The "Jeff Gannon" story got less attention than another media frenzy — that set off by the veteran news executive Eason Jordan, who resigned from CNN after speaking recklessly at a panel discussion at Davos, where he apparently implied, at least in passing, that American troops deliberately targeted reporters. Is the banishment of a real newsman for behaving foolishly at a bloviation conference in Switzerland a more pressing story than that of a fake newsman gaining years of access to the White House (and network TV cameras) under mysterious circumstances? With real news this timid, the appointment of Jon Stewart to take over Dan Rather's chair at CBS News could be just the jolt television journalism needs. As Mr. Olbermann demonstrated when he borrowed a sharp Daily Show tool to puncture the "Jeff Gannon" case, the only road back to reality may be to fight fake with fake.

    "The White House Stages Its Daily Show" (16 Feb 05) (typography corrected). Of course, the real problem here is, "Who's Keith Olbermann?" He's a longtime sports anchor/commentator/host who spent time a couple of years back bouncing back and forth between Fox Sports and ESPN, and then ended up at MSNBC (which is hardly a paragon of liberal values). So what does it tell us that a sports reporter provided the best example Rich could find? A sports reporter who shares time with Brit Hume? And, most importantly, that none of this was important enough for Mr. Rich to discuss, despite the extensive discussion of the qualification and contexts of just about everyone else mentioned in the article?

  • Next, Penguin is apparently trying yet another tack in the effort to raise the average price of books. Don't kid yourselves: That's exactly what it's doing. As today's Guardian notes,

    The answer is obvious: publishers are to make books bigger, thereby making space for larger print on the page and solving in one swoop the malaise affecting literature. Maeve Binchey, Nora Roberts, Stuart Woods and Robin Cook (no, not that one) will be the first to benefit from the new supersized literature as Penguin launches its Premium range in the US this summer. "We think it will be a more comfortable reading experience, but still at an affordable price," said Leslie Gelbman, Penguin's president of mass-market paperbacks. The new format, which other publishers also plan to adopt in the US next year, will be half an inch taller than existing paperbacks. Moreover, the books will be printed on higher quality paper and they will sell for a figure between the price of an existing paperback and hardcover book.

    Dan Glaister, "The Large Print Giveth…" (16 Feb 05) (fake paragraphing removed for clarity). Other reports indicate that the cover price on the new editions will be around $10 (as opposed to the $7–$7.50 now common for mass-market paperbacks).

    Frankly, I don't think this is going to catch on until men's clothing has a few years to change. The outer pocket in most parkas, blazers, sport coats, and even windbreakers is usually just barely large enough for a mass-market paperback, if that large. That means that the "compact trade paperback" (or whatever phony marketing name will actually get attached to the format) will have to be shoved into briefcases and purses, which is a helluva lot less convenient for reading on public transportation or in airports. Further, there's little preventing use of larger fonts and brighter papers in the mass-market paperback format; all this does is add yet another size to the printing puzzle. I think Glaister has it right when he concludes that "Rather than being concerned about such old-fashioned literary gimmicks as plot, character and the careful choice of appropriate language, [authors] must now recognise[] that the key to successful writing is to change the font size setting on their computer and to invest in some heavyweight paper at the stationers." Or maybe that comment is pointed at editors and publishers; with the single-sentence-paragraph format common to news these days, it's darned hard to tell what the antecedent of the "they" in the original really is.

  • Finally, the Grumpy Old Book Man wonders whether writing MFAs are worth anything in the marketplace. He begins his ruminations wondering whether the MBA is a degree that "pays off" in higher earnings. It appears that Grumpy Old Book Man hasn't been to enough MFA sessions; they are the antithesis of writing for money at best, all too often taught by individuals who never have sold more than one or two items of the nature they are "teaching" to commercial publishers, if that many. It's even worse than law school: Even the wettest-behind-the-ears Yale graduate who jumps to academia has at least one year as a judicial clerk before being entrusted with callow first-year law students!