12 May 2010

Grouchy Link Sausages

As it's no longer 11 May, I'll emerge from my grouchiness... not that you'll be able to tell from this platter of link sausages.

  • The lovely and talented Sarah Weinman implicates some of the problems with the "publishing press" in her usual polite style. I would not be so polite: I would, instead, argue that at least half of the "reporters" on her list (by name, no less) are victims/willing participants/perpetrators of "private-sector agency capture" no different in effect from securities-rating agencies, if admittedly with less catastrophic consequences for the economy as a whole. Of course, this is far from new in entertainment reporting: There are some reviewer-whores willing to give positive blurbs for imaginary works, just to ensure continued access to the shrimp appetizers at prerelease parties. (You know who you are... if you have any shame, that is, which now that I think about it seems quite unlikely.)
  • If you really want to save money in school systems, I guess you need to cut the heart out of the one aspect of elementary-school academics that benefits all students. No, they're not going to get rid of organized sports in high schools (or cheerleading), or do anything to improve the competence of teachers, or get rid of administrative bloat; they're going to do everything in their power to reinforce the possibility of graduating (if the Chicago schools can ordinarily be said to "graduate" anyone) classes full of Ugly Americans. Epic Education Fail.
  • The US isn't the only nation with manufacturing-clause problems in publishing (or, for that matter, in TV). It seems to me that an aggressive reading of NAFTA should already have solved this problem, and reflects rather unfavorably on the preceding item. But then, I worked pretty extensively with (and commanded) Canadian NORAD personnel in the 1980s, so I know more than a bit about reserved-for-Francophone promotions and the resentment they cause...
  • In a fascinating example of what happens when you ask the question of the wrong person while ignoring the elephant in the room, a litigation conference at Duke demonstrates that the conference organizers didn't invite a necessary speaker. A plaintiff's counsel indicated that a lot of discovery and other litigation costs were the result of corporate-defendant intransigience, and actually cost less than the corporate defense bar claims. Conversely, a representative of corporate general counsel denied those claims. A federal judge said that both sides are sometimes right and sometimes wrong.

    The insurance bar was, apparently, not represented. And, bluntly, it's not in-house corporate counsel who are the problem with discovery requests (well, at least not all that often, outside of employment discrimination suits); it's outside counsel paid for and directed by insurers who cause the discovery problems at least 90% of the time. There's a very simple reason for that: Insurance defense counsel's interest is in prolonging and driving up the costs of litigation, because (due to the accounting rules surrounding insurance) delays and costs are fully deductible costs of doing business... and the loss reserve previously established is so seldom exceeded that the interest and investment income earned through delay often equals or exceeds the costs to the insurer. If you really want to see what effect that has on major litigation, just compare the pathways of asbestos litigation for post-bankruptcy firms (who could not obtain insurance covering many pre-bankruptcy events) and firms that did not go through bankruptcy (who were covered by insurance).

    Insurance — that is, the risk-spreading function of insurance — is necessary, both economically and ethically. The insurance industry as it has developed, however, is another issue entirely.

  • There has been a wide range of critical reactions to Iron Man 2 that largely reflects critical ignorance. Almost all of them are treating Iron Man 2 as if it is a natural "sequel" to Iron Man... and that's true only insofar as there are quite a few characters in common between the films. Structurally, though, Iron Man is an origin story; Iron Man 2 is the first in a sequence that occurs after the origin story, and not a "sequel" to the origin story. That is, Iron Man is The Hobbit (or Silmarilion) to Iron Man 2's The Fellowship of the Ring; and so one needs to look at Iron Man 2 as the first in a series/trilogy, not the second. Were critics willing (and able!) to do so, I think the reviews of Iron Man 2 would have been more popular. That, however, would require some actual education in literary and artistic criticism that does not view film as the be-all and end-all of film.

    Perhaps the biggest mistake was the title. In this age, putting a numeral behind a title brings along not baggage, but a bloody rented trailer.

  • Neil Gaiman tries to do right by libraries and gets pilloried for it by people who don't understand how government budgets work. Hell, I went through this all the time in August and September in the 1980s and 1990s: Conversion of O&M funds (which disappeared at the end of the fiscal year on 30 September) to capital improvement funds (which didn't) for things like painting the barracks, adding a barbecue pit out back of the barracks to discourage the teenagers from trying to grill in their rooms, and so on. And, of course, Mr Gaiman is too modest to discuss in detail all of the things he's done for no fee (and, often, no expense reimbursement, either) for libraries over the years: This particular "speaking fee" isn't even particularly large for a single event, let alone for his years of support.