14 January 2013

Public Health Warning

As interested as I am in food safety, I'll freely admit that — like any other sausage-maker — I'm probably less scrupulous than I should be with these internet link sausages. After my bout with something picked up elsewhere this weekend, out of an abundance of caution I'm going to start washing the sawdust in boiling water.

  • Learning from history so one does not repeat it (Santayana) is not about learning facts so much as it is about learning historical principles, like the law of unintended consequences.
  • Two bits of publishing "news" in the NYT — both of which qualify as history and not news — resonate with the struggle between publishers and authors for control over both publishing and money. A magazine publisher is now trying to cram a rights grab for film and TV rights down its term-contract authors' throats. I'll just note, as an aside, that most book publishers don't even ask for this in their boilerplate contracts any longer... and that the publishing house in question is far from the most reputable in its accounting (and that's saying a lot). I suppose it could be worse, though: It could concern jailbreaking of scholarly works that have been unethically treated as works made for hire — and not just by the evil that is R___ E____, but by academic presses on the Charles River (and you know who you are; you too; and the same goes for the NYT itself.).

    That almost seems like breaking news compared to this OMGish bit of naïveté on the relationship between social media and dead-author "survival" that rather blithely ignores that this is several years old even for social media; that we went through it with blogs, and with the web, and even with Usenet; and that one could see that the "punchline" would somehow relate to Virginia Woolf within a couple of paragraphs.

  • I'll start my annual "awards are too quick" rant now. The Golden Globs (typo intentional) were last night. They do their minimal credibility no good at all by being presented for last year when one of the "major candidates" (Zero-Dark Thirty) became available outside of New York and Los Angeles only two days previously, during this year. Not acceptable. Not intellectually honest. Not even intellectually dishonest... just "privileged," if "privileged" means being a member of an organization of that nature.

    The Oscars will be no better: Nominations for "best of 2012" closed barely into 2013, when people had no opportunity to actually think about anything. That way lies 1979, when the Academy not only got every recipient of the "big six" awards wrong, but had a 50% error rate in the nominations, too. Nobody should be even thinking of awards until at least three months after everything has been available in "wide" distribution... and nominations shouldn't close for at least a couple of months after that. Unless, that is, we're going to finally admit that these awards systems have not a goddamned thing to do with recognizing worthiness, but are instead about stroking egos and reigniting marketing campaigns.

  • Hats off to the Seachickens for making the "road disadvantage" seem meaningless. I have always smiled about the obsession with home advantage and playing for a draw on the road in real football (aka soccer)... because those guys don't understand "road trip." To put it in perspective, the Chickens put in 8000km of air travel across six total time zones in a week — a fairly routine event in American sport — and came within a whisker of winning both games instead of just one of them. I agree with the estimable Mr King (that nutcase member of the House of Reprehensibles from NY should be forced to change his name to avoid consumer confusion <vbeg>) that TV marketing memes (that often bear no relationship whatsoever to reality) should not be allowed to diminish the competitive nature of a game, which probably made things just enough more difficult.