02 January 2007

Morning Edition

This is the morning edition. Later today, I'll have some comments on an event that too many in the publishing world seem to have ignored over the last few days — the bankruptcy filing last Friday by Advanced Marketing. (I've been too busy with health and family stuff to blawg for the last week; I'll be making up for it...) In any event, onward and sideways:

  • The NRA is scared of the new Congress. Or, at least, the NRA is reverting to form by engaging in scare tactics over the purported "threat" to gunowners from the Democrat-controlled Congress. "Democrat-controlled" my emaciated little toe! Leaving aside whether the political position stated by the NRA has any connection to reality, does anyone really think that the gun nut in the White House will sign any legislation that restricts gun ownership, or that anybody could come up with a veto-proof majority in this Congress for anything short of apple pie? (With the current anti-gay-marriage backlash, I'm no longer sure that motherhood would be safe... in any form.)
  • A fascinating item in the NYT yesterday on the relationship between brain function and music leads me off on my usual tangents. How does that relationship influence other, simultaneous brain activity, such as appreciation for visual art or prose? And does the apparent relationship between autism and Williams syndrome tell us anything about "math rock"?
  • There have been lots of information technology items over the last few days. Unlike most who follow ink-and-paper publishing, I follow IT closely, and I'm comfortable with it; I just don't comment on it that often, given the sheer quantity of bloviating on IT issues that overwhelms the 'net and the blogosphere. As an excellent relief from the bloviating, I recommend Denise Howell's not-updated-as-often-as-I'd-like — that is, not updated hourly! — Lawgarithms column at ZDNet. In any event, here are a few IT-related items of interest that have some interesting implications for publishing (etc.):
    • These days, we can't talk turkey about information technology without invoking Linux's potential as a dominant OS... at least twice. And this from a direct descendant of the operating system that epitomizes "user hostile." Compare to —
    • Randy Newman was right: it's money that matters. Even to the already superrich, like Steve Jobs. I've never been a big fan of Apple, particularly in the Macintosh era. It seems somewhat disingenuous to, on the one hand, claim to be the "people's champion" with all of those "ease of use" features, while simultaneously embracing closed-source software, DRM, and closed-architecture hardware. But then, I'm one of those old-school hackers who thinks that if the Flying Spaghetti Monster had meant us to use a GUI, He wouldn't have invented the command line, let alone punch cards. And yes, I still understand JCL; why do you ask?
    • There's been an interesting confluence of Google-related news items. Leaving aside the company's dubious grasp of copyright for the moment, we've got claims that Google is a probable victim of the IT-industry version of Moore's Law; questions about Gmail features and reliability; and Google's hiring of a new special counsel on copyright issues who can actually spell copyright, and understand the history of creators' rights at a visceral level.
    • Antitrust? What's that? Neither publishing nor IT thinks principles of antitrust law apply to them, because they're special. Riiiiiight. Of course, there's a difference between "antitrust" and "protection by patent" — at least, until we consider the nonsense of "business-method patents" (and even more nonsensical "innovations").
    • Of course, the whole point of IT is to enable sharing of information, and access to information by those who need it. Sort of like the ideal of the newspaper. This article on the WaPo's website — which seems oblivious to the irony of its own source — is an all-too-common bit of navel-gazing. And that gets us back toward the publishing industry...
  • Without further comment, here's the usual holiday-period story extolling POD technology everywhere without considering either consumables or operator training. I've never seen one of these stories sourced back to someone who understands either the returns, distribution, and sales-reporting system or blems; that should be a big hint that it's not just the technology. At this stage, POD is about up to the turn-the-removable-crank-to-start-the-engine level of the Model A. It's not ready to substitute for all other means of getting people from Point A to Point B (ignoring, for the moment, the potholes). Infrastructure ordinarily determines the commercial success or failure of any specific technology... and I see no attention being paid to the relationship between local-origin POD and infrastructure whatsoever. And the less said of the publishing industry's (and POD proponents') neglect of the relationship between product packaging/definition and commercial success, the better. Gee, I didn't do so well at "without further comment," did I?
  • Two emperors. No clothes. No rationality. And no concern for the wellbeing of their respective empires' citizens.

Finally, in "celebration" of Joanne Rowling's (requires flash) announcement of the last Harry Potter title, I offer the following poll (a dubious first for this blawg).

How many Weasleys will die in Harry Potter and the Deadly Hallows?
All of them
None of them
One, but neither Ron nor Ginny
Ron only
Ginny only
Two, but not Fred and George
Fred and George only
Does Hermione count if she keeps snogging Ron?

For a bonus, I'd ask in which chapter (number) the first Weasley death will occur... but that's fill-in-the-blank, and too annoying to code and track. Not to mention even less meaningful than the basic poll itself...