18 September 2007

Slightly Delayed Sausages

You want to know even less about where these links came from than usual, as they've been delayed by unscheduled kidstuff. (No, not the "greasy kid stuff" — mostly the "sick kid stuff" transforming itself into "gee, thanks for sharing your germs, kid.")

  • Reagan's radical reactionaries reap what they've sown in both politics and political economy in general and among university presses. The latter item might be a bit harsh; I'd blame the 1970s quantitative MBA revolution, which demands that each distinct unit of an entity operates on a "smart business" basis (and ignores the "s" word — synergy — that got so many 1960s conglomerates in trouble when they trumpeted it without having any) more than "Reaganomics," but the attitude was certainly imported into academic publishing from Reaganites. Which, come to think of it, explains a lot about the dearth of public intellectuals (and the poor quality of most of those who remain).
  • Part of the problem with the "public intellectual" issue is that literary reviews seem to be about the only places they have left. Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, The Progressive, and so on have been taken over by [foul string of expletives deleted] lobbyists; radio and TV interviews ordinarily concern either celebrities or the celebrity-like aspects of public figures; and purported "news" outlets belong to ignoramuses like Rupert [longer, fouler string of expletives deleted] Murdoch, who in his own way is far, far worse than the Hearsts, McCormicks, and Pulitzers of a century ago. His own, very special way. All of which leads, in a roundabout way, to the latest blind, self-serving, egotistical NBCC proposal for "litbloggers' code of ethics" (don't forget to read the source article).

    What I find most offensive about the NBCC proposal is its blatant intellectual dishonesty. "Minimize harm"??? Sometimes — in fact, far more often than you'll get critics to admit in public, except perhaps over a few beers when they're sure nobody else is listening — one's duty to the public calls for maximizing harm to a book's reputation. Above all, intellectual honesty calls for an honest, considered opinion, backed up by reason and analysis — even if some, or most, of that reason and analysis doesn't make its way into the printed review. Perhaps the NBCC dorks should read Orwell's thoughts on book reviewing before they continue this kind of blather... unless, of course, what they're really angling for is jobs as marketing dorks.

  • As usual, there are several stories of interest in the last few days demonstrating just how disconnected the managers of conglomerate publishing are from readers' interests and needs. (I always thought that one is successful in business in the long term by meeting customers' needs, not by manipulating figures on a spreadsheet of dubious provenance.) Now we can find comics by cellphone once in a while, although that doesn't explain much about the editorial process it takes to get there. Of course, other means of distributing the publishing industry's wares have also gone unconsidered, such as downloadable and authorized audiobooks. Then there's the whole question of e-books available online, and whether the publishers even have the right to do so without separate authority from the author (hint: mostly, no).
  • Farther up the creative chain, there's an incipient writers' revolt brewing against the reorganization of a major UK literary agency. I've dealt with Those People, and a writers' revolt couldn't happen to a more-deserving crowd (I'm carefully not being specific as to which of Those People I'm referring to — I kept a low profile, so they might not even know I'm being mean to them!).
  • The meretricious meritocracy of music has, as usual, it's own (even more) extreme examples of misfeasance and malcontents. We just can't seem to let the ghost of Joyce Hatto (in several senses of "ghost") go; perhaps it will get a cameo in some crappy made-for-TV adaptation of A Christmas Carol by the end of next year. And then there are those dangerous scholars with real violins instead of guns in their violin cases, who are too dangerous to be admitted to the US — so dangerous, in fact, that we can't trust the people in charge of denying her admittance (after she had lived here for a decade) with knowledge of why. Which leads to the interesting question of what Das Geheimstaatssicherheitsbüro would do today to John Lennon...
  • Of course, no counter display of sausages of dubious origin (and freshness) would be complete without some snark concerning Hollyweeood. Whether worrying about the legacy of Philip K. Dick or the long-overdue demise of the TV season as Americans know it, there's plenty of snark to go around. And then there's the question of copyright in film, which isn't nearly as clear as one might wish. In the US, there's at least some statutory authority (however dubious it may be constitutionally) for the proposition that the "author" of a film is its producer(s). Take that, auteur theorists! In Japan, though, the "author" of a film is... someone else. And that matters to the Japanese copyright term for Kurosawa's films.
  • I can't let the European Court of First Instance's antitrust wedgie for Microsoft go unremarked. Or, for that matter, uncelebrated. At least the opinion was issued in the language of the relevant party! Of course, there will be an appeal. Or three.

And last, but not least, it's not just fundamentalist Abrahamites1 who are out of the closet about their faith... or the lack thereof. I won't go so far as to wear that particular scarlet letter in this town, primarily because I view "religion" and "faith" as two entirely different issues. Which, I suppose, makes me an atheist almost by definition.

  1. Jews, Christians, and Muslims, all of whom accept Abraham (or, anyway, some version thereof) as a prophet. In short, the Semite-based religions.