18 April 2014

The Door

XKCD, 18 Apr 2014Or, to put it another way, "Those asserting First Amendment rights should RTFM."

  • RIP Gabriel García Márquez, the most-significant Spanish-language writer since Cervantes. That is not a slam at Llosa or Allende or anyone else, but a recognition that the increasingly dodgy Nobel Literature committee got it right.
  • Here's an alternate view on the (utter lack of) diversity in the publishing hierarchy that bears some careful consideration. The main difficulty with the article is that it presumes that commercial publishing is a uniform-density power monolith — that is, that the power within the monolith is equally distributed, and that therefore pockets of even less diversity (such as the ranks of senior buyers at bookstore chains, or of heads of sales and marketing) don't have disproportionate malign influence. Quite the contrary — if one looks at the junior editorial ranks, one finds the most-diverse aspects of commercial publishing... among those with the least power, and the least prospects for gaining power.

    It's a not-too-comfortable reminder of the way things were in the military officer corps in the 1970s through early 1990s: The paucity of women, of melaninically-enhanced men or women, of non-xtians not among the enlisted, nor even among the junior officers, but among the most-senior NCOs and the field- and flag-grade officers made dealing with discrimination issues rather futile. Those in a position to take action just couldn't see it (as a group). One of the reasons that a certain famous/infamous (and largely ineffective, but that's another story) element of the National Security Council went so far off the rails in the mid-1980s is that every single person with any influence was a white xtian (and all but one protestant) male from military families and/or upper-middle-class backgrounds, and just had no capability of seeing "true difference" as anything but "hostile." Publishing in particular, and the entertainment industry in general, is in serious danger of making the same errors. Hell, it already makes the same errors on a daily basis. It's not going to get an awful lot better if the only women (or blacks or Hispanics or gays or atheists) who manage to get promoted to positions of influence are those who "got along to get along."

  • One of my authors is a very dangerous man, at least according to someone who sees danger everywhere except in his own bigotry. (A couple of decades ago, I edited one of Professor Sunstein's pieces for the Law Review... a tenured white man then at the University of Chicago writing about, among other things, Malcolm X.)
  • One of my acquaintances has had her life saved by Obamacare. This points out one of the ironies of modern Heffalump ideology: Ms Hand has been a small-business owner for decades, as a writer. Remember, small businesses are supposedly the engines of the economy, where we grow jobs and innovation and ideas (and Mom and apple pie and Judeo-Christian values... although if one actually reads Ms Hand's works, perhaps not so much on that last one). However, the private-insurance system — with its peculiar, and unsupported by data, presumption of lower costs and greater efficiency for "groups" and for "large companies" that masks primarily "easier accounting for and collection of premiums" — has made it increasingly difficult for innovators and job-creators to strike out on their own without taking serious, unanticipated risks entirely unrelated to their innovation and job-creation... unless they come from privilege or get rich in parasitic industries like investment banking beforehand.
  • Link3dIn will never reach its goal, if only because I will remain a holdout against its history of ill will, hidden agendas, disdain for privacy and security, and general foolishness forever.
  • I hereby adopt Professor Levitin's arbitration clause rejection as my own, and functionally embed a reference to and incorporate that term in each and every signature of mine, whether digital or manual, for every purpose.

    The problem is rather simple: The arbitration system in the United States is corrupt. There are individual arbitrators who proceed in good faith, and do actually provide service to the disputants before them. The system, however, is biased; it proceeds upon untenable assumptions regarding recording of and availability of facts; its overall selection of arbitrators makes the Cook County (Illinois) judicial system look diverse, expert, evenhanded, and accessible; and its procedural quirks make it more, not less, necessary to have counsel in a contested proceeding. And that's for the least-dysfunctional of the major systems, the AAA.

  • There's a hint of a fascinating controversy on Professor Crouch's blawg concerning who has the "right" to be considered an expert on patent law. With due respect to Mr Wegner, he has a grievously flawed understanding of "authority" exposed by substituting "medicine" for "patent law." Under his rubric, only physicians who actually see individual patients as the bulk of their practice (and who went to a top medical school — based on their undergraduate records — and had a top-level residency) have any true expertise on healthcare. We can ignore non-physician clinical psychologists, social workers, and other licensed counsellors; we can ignore nurses and respiratory therapists and occupational/physical therapists and physician's assistants and midwives and hospital administrators; more to the point, we can ignore scientists (physicians and otherwise) who engage in substantial research... and teach everybody else. <SARCASM> Maybe we should prohibit mere consumers and distributors of copyrighted material from commenting on copyright matters, and we should definitely prohibit professors of literature who haven't published works of fiction/poetry/drama in their own fields (including periods!) of expertise from comment, too. </SARCASM>
  • As a bookend for the first sausage on the platter today, consider the problem of "genre" for fiction, especially for how it is marketed as opposed to its own content. Remember, too, that many of the decisions on what "genre" a work falls into are independent of the work itself... and that "magical realism" can easily be explained as a way of making something otherwise highly similar to "urban fantasy" seem respectable to the nondiverse executive ranks in publishing and the arts.