19 November 2014

Pre-Thanksgiving Sausages for the Dressing

I used to be a hard-core stuff-the-turkey guy, but that's back when (a) I had a family with hungry boys to feed on Thanksgiving and (b) I had a worthwhile kitchen (one of the reasons that San Francisco has earned a reputation as a good restaurant town is that below-the-top-10% housing tends to have a kitchen useful primarily for reheating leftover takeaway and preparing salads and the occasional stove-top breakfast). I've now transitioned to cook-the-dressing-in-a-separate-dish... because I can do the dressing in a slow-cooker on high at the same time as the bird without overcrowding the pathetic oven.

  • A provocative piece on collaborative creativity ignores the fundamental problem with collaboration: That it's about doing something that cannot be done alone. Fiction is an excellent counterexample: Although there are a few — very few — examples of jointly written works that are substantially superior to the possibilities of any individual contribution by those authors at that time, they are extraordinarily rare (even more than just plain good fiction). There still needs to be someone truly in charge; the corporatist method of filmmaking that has taken over H'wood is a good example of why this is so, even when no one person actually has the skills to make a film alone.
  • A self-aggrandizing, self-justifying bit of bullshit from a UK publishing executive asserting that publishers don't take "too much" of the revenue from books seriously undermines itself at the very top. Really? Wearing a not-inexpensive business suit, pearls, etc. for what is fairly clearly a non-posed picture doesn't imply all by itself that there's a revenue-split problem? Buried farther down there's implicit reliance on "some books lose money, so we have to screw all of the authors" accounting.

    If publishers were really paying attention, they'd look at the model of spectator sport, and football (all varieties) in particular. Suppressing wages and preventing free agency didn't actually advance either football itself or the economic interests of the various clubs. Although there has certainly been excess at the top since the advent of free agency — Over Here, in the NFL, long before Over There, via the Bosman ruling — the overall quality of the competition and its presentation, of the individual players, and the financial returns to nonrapacious investors (which is to say those who don't overleverage and/or treat the cash flow like a personal piggy bank/lifestyle enhancer) is substantially more robust now than it was in the days of Jim Brown (here) and Stanley Matthews (there). That's a hint about how publishing should be thinking about itself... but because it's a hint that does not come with enough numbers (of dubious reliability) attached, it's not going to be given much consideration. If any.

  • Damned arrogant monolingual disciples of Miss Grundy and their unjustified horror of split infinitives be damned! In some prominent European languages, splitting infinitives is required... and the less said about that sort of structural imperative in non-European languages the better!

    That's just one example; Romanes eunt domus! Then, the flip side of that is that one needs to be perhaps more careful about grammar in languages other than one's native tongue.

  • And then there's the real downside of tenure: resistance to generational change. It's perhaps worse in law than virtually anywhere else in the modern university system... because one doesn't entirely lock senior research law faculty away from the students. There's substantial deadwood on every law faculty (except, perhaps, UC Irvine... but it's not even a decade old). Deadwood leads to deadfalls, which can take healthy trees down in collateral damage.
  • The nice English intellectual property kitty notes that although unanimity in European copyright is lacking (even more than it is across the circuits over here), that doesn't justify a nation ignoring directives from higher authority because it doesn't like them. There's a rather subtle purity-of-civil-code meme hiding in this particular dispute, but that's theoretical stuff for another time, another venue, and another few hundred footnotes; the short version is that Spain is objecting that its own civil code preferences cannot, and should not, be modified by durned furriners even when Spain has agreed in principle to allowing the durned furriners to have that influence as part of the bargain for getting access to the money from the durned furriners. This is parallel to, but by a different path from, the state's-rights/federal power argument over here. <SARCASM> Gee, you think the Old World might learn something from the way the New World has dealt with this sort of thing? I didn't think so, either. </SARCASM>