27 August 2008

Back to School Edition

And here's a Back to School Edition of tasty internet sausages. They're links; they're tasty; and you really, really don't want to see them being made.

  • Let's start off with a true back-to-school item: the fiftieth anniversary of instant ramen, that dietary staple of university students everywhere (probably even in other galaxies).
  • Here's an interesting piece on America's world objectives, presented here in the spirit of think for yourself rather than an endorsement. Of course, we'd all be better off if we'd imagine no religion while doing so. I have little problem with individual faith (and that problem usually comes from extremists) — to only slightly restate the dogma of every religion, [insert name of deity here] made ignorance possible, too, and not in its Rawlsian sense — but I have considerable problem with both dogma per se and with politics masquerading as organizations whose purpose is to advance individual faith.
  • Speaking of ignorance, let's consider the music industry. That bastion of utter ignorance, American Idol, is adding another "judge" to its panel of tasteless ignorant cretins. At least this time the addition is purportedly a creative person. This leads, however, into the question of how creative persons and performers (not necessarily either the same thing or distinct, as shown by systemic problems with downloadable classical music) are supposed to get paid. There is yet another variant on Bowie Bonds raising its ugly head; I predict that, as usual, the most profitable part of this model will be the distributors. I suppose that beats blaming everything on some iconic event, such as asserting that the death of Vaughan Williams is the watershed of classical music's public popularity.
  • Money. Ignorance. It must be time for a rant about the publishing industry, right? Well, right you are if you say you are. There's news from Tom Clancy's divorce. And it matters to the publishing industry, because it tries to determine whether "Tom Clancy's Op Center" dropped the "Tom Clancy" in bad faith in an attempt to reduce his ex-wife's income. Unfortunately, the lawsuit begs the question of whether putting his name on the books in the first place was in bad faith, which in turn questions — sideways — the business model (let alone creative model) for media tie-in novels.

    Which, if one accepts the wide-eyed credulousness of a reporter for the Japan Times, implicates another publishing industry in "crisis" — this time Japan's. I'm afraid that the timing of this story is not coincidental, and returns us to the Back to School issue: Writers everywhere are about to get schooled on the perfidy of publishing-industry accounting. Semiannual royalty statements are either now in the mail or will be in the next three weeks or so, virtually all of which will show lower sales (or, at least, lower sales credited to the author's royalty account) than authors will have reasonably expected. If one does a search on various publishing news sources over the last decade, one will find similarly alarmist stories at the end of February and the end of August. Draw your own conclusion... and this time, include malice in your thinking, because mere incompetence and ignorance is not sufficient to explain the combination of the content of the stories and the timing.