23 March 2009

Not Really Slam Dunks

After a weekend of watching really poor coverage of basketball — including, but not limited to, CBS's arrogance in deciding which game gets piped to which affiliate — the sausage selection is really quite, well, linked. Of course, the muscle relaxants probably worked into the equation somewhere...

  • I really have only one gripe with Jon Karp's prescription for the publishing industry: He misstates Grisham's Law, which I've been proclaiming for over a decade as "bad fiction drives good fiction out of the bookstore" — a much closer parallel to the canonical Gresham's Law of management-speak than his proposed "any hit book should be imitated as soon and as often as possible". Otherwise, the comments summarized at GalleyCat are eminently sensible.

    However, he doesn't go nearly far enough in one respect: Pointing out the parallels between contemporary publishing and the US auto industry. If we take a time warp back to, say, 1977, the parallels become frightening. We've got a steadily consolidating industry constrained by a Depression-era distribution system totally outside of its control, struggling to adapt to alternatives to its preferred, high-profit products by throwing out the equivalent of subcompacts, that is steadily being overrun by MBAs who don't understand what it takes to produce its products in the first place. If insanity, as most addiction counsellors would have one believe, is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result, the publishing industry is quite insane.

    Or, I suppose, we could just bail out the publishing industry, which would probably prove worse than doing nothing about it... for many of the same reasons that Soviet publishing produced virtually nothing worth saving.

  • Here's an interesting proposal on testing systems. If you read this blawg regularly, there's a high probability that you did quite well on multiple-choice "aptitude tests"; my audience — such as it is — isn't exactly drawn from the stoner and jock cliques. That said, one thing that the real world reveals is that none of those tests measures either short-term or long-term cross-subject application and assimilation. For example, I'd love to see this article used as a "reading passage," along with this question (among others):

    If the survey cited in the article had a 32% response rate, approximately how many people did the survey takers contact if they received 174 responses in favor of bailing out the automobile industry?
    (a)   544
    (b)   972
    (c) 3,021
    (d) 5,370
    (e) cannot be determined from the information stated

    and have the response counted for both "reading" (or "verbal" or whatever other pseudocategory the educators have agreed to call it) and "quantitative reasoning" scores. (The "best" answer is (c)... but you all knew that, didn't you?)

  • The real world of scholarship may be giving up on URLs, which indicates that the next edition of the Bluebook will include an even-more-convoluted rule, just so that legal scholarship can remain "different" (not to mention continue to be held hostage by a bunch of drunk/stoned/oblivious Ivy League law students). What effect this might have on term papers remains to be seen... especially since Kate Turabian and the even-more-arrogant-than-the-Bluebook University of Chicago Press haven't weighed in yet. If their decision is anything like the one they've made for legal citation, they'll decide that a URL is ok if it leaves off the TLD and file extension.