19 December 2013

Untitled Overdue Link Sausage Platter

R.I.P. Peter O'Toole.

  • If you care at all about privacy, security, the 'net, or the shape of American culture, go read the review committee recommendations for "reforming" the NSA (link to PDF, may require reload). At least read the executive summary and the list of forty-odd recommendations.

    Rather predictably, there are already accusations that the report will be ignored and evidence of internal pushback... which would occur regardless of which administration was in power. A large part of the problem is that intelligence-gathering and -analysis is simply outside the imagination (let alone actual knowledge) of about 90% of the government and 99% of the public, and gets attention only when it is most obviously broken. The second part of the problem is more subtle: Whom does one select to fix things? My greatest concern is not that it will be another military officer; it is that it will be a military academy graduate who is not fluent in the language and culture of at least one of our major targets and/or allies, but instead went through his or her formative years under the malign influence of the Cold Warriors and was taught/indoctrinated simultaneously that the advantage of American military forces over Soviet forces is that decisionmaking is at a much lower level in the American forces... but that due to the tight controls on nukes, all of the truly important decisions would be made at the very, very top anyway. The source of commission will make a great deal more difference than will the fact of commission.

  • As it turns out, the internet harbors piracy of more than just music, movies, and books; it's also an essential tool for counterfeit fashion. Color me surprised, in a subtle silk-microfiber polyester plaid. This, however, is largely (or at least primarily) trademark infringement and not copyright infringement, but there's more overlap than one might think — it's just harder to see due to the different timescales. Fashion piracy is (or at least historically) has been a matter of immediacy. This is not just because fashion trends change so rapidly, but because of the nature of fashion sales. Consider, for example, the whole "next season's colors" nonsense, which is founded as much on (and influences even more) how stores will be laid out, lit, and decorated as it is on the garments. The corresponding trends in copyrighted "goods" take much longer to play out — to name one, consider "supernatural teen romance," now heading into its second decade (even if not formally recognized before) and still as subject to as many strictures that look like fashion trends as ever.
  • In truly shocking news, the UK tax authorities appear to have ignored the biggest targets to "make examples" of others. This is founded on the idea that deterrence somehow matters to white-collar criminals; it doesn't. Deterrence doesn't matter to those who think they're too smart (let alone too privileged) to get caught in the first place. Like politicians... and monopolists.
  • Authors should consider whether this view of the future of the music industry presages any changes for them. In industrial terms, ever since the rise of recorded popular music as an identifiable "industry" a century ago, industrial trends in recorded music have become industrial trends in trade publishing in a little less than a decade. Of course, nobody actually recognizes trends until they're firmly in place, so that means authors have perhaps four or five years before this particular "trend" (and the scare quotes are there on purpose) reaches the same point in print publishing...
  • In a bit of sublime ridiculousness, Rebecca Schuman proclaims that essay-writing in required courses should be ended with an essay that makes nearly every one of the mistakes that she says infects student essays in those courses. Had she "done the work," for example, she'd be questioning not the essays, but the mandate to assign them grades... instead of honest feedback and the editorial process to make them better.
  • Lee Goldberg questions whether the Author's [sic] Guild wanting authors to join is a good thing. Personally, I question an authors' organization that has bad grammar in its name, but that's for another time. The deeper question, though, is this: It's all well and good for the Authors' Guild to want to expand its membership. Once it does so, will it expand its ideas and conception of the universe of authors' interests? So long as it is based in New York City, I have my doubts.
  • A writer takes down Harold Bloom far too gently, because she hasn't had the dubious pleasure of catching him misrepresenting the content (etc.) of works he's not read when dismissing them. He'll never notice — not just because she's a woman, either.