12 April 2017

Link Sausages Old Enough to Vote

Sometimes Life forces one to age the link sausages a bit more than optimally. This is one of those times (but I've already put the spoiled ones on the compost heap… which is, admittedly, bad composting practice, but what the hell…). Of course, you may think that some of these are spoiled nonetheless.

  • PW yet again displays its own ignorance (and center-right biases, thanks to its various owners over the past couple of decades) by questioning whether book publishing is too "liberal" for today's 'Murika. The only way one can even reach this inquiry, though is by defining "liberal" to mean "everything that is inconsistent with the precepts of the John Birch Society:" Not just left/liberal/progressive, but even "centrist" on whatever axis one wants. Indeed, there's an excellent argument if one considers a truly broad-spectrum set of sales data (that is, more than the self-serving, self-selecting BookScan, which now accounts for somewhat less than 60% of all book sales), the social-conservative and economic-conservative segments outsell their true opposites. Too, this inquiry also mistakes the content's "leanings" (whatever they are, and have you looked at military adventure fiction lately?) with the industry's "leanings" in its practices (whatever they are, and have you actually read a boilerplate first-offer publishing contract lately?).

    There's a really obvious reason for this, and it's one that PW explicitly denies: Used book sales are not accounted for by BookScan, even in locations that report new book sales to BookScan. And that's before remembering that college bookstores, CostCo/Mallwort/nonbookstores, airport bookstores other than WH Smith, and that tiny little online segment don't report their new book sales to BookScan (or at least not on the same basis), either.

    And then there's the Manhattan-centric bias. But you're probably bored with hearing that.

  • This sausage is highly abstract. Warning: May Be Inappropriate for the Ideologically Rigid.

    A Norman Rockwell original painting has been recovered and returned. That's all well and good. However, some of the unstated assumptions in the article expose a serious problem with both the world of art and the Visual Artists' Rights Act (17 U.S.C. § 106A). The real problem is that price tag… which doesn't support artists at all. It's there for gallery owners and auction houses and self-aggrandizement of museum staff (and boards of directors) and fleecing getting donations from taste-and-criticism-challenged 1%ers who just want a tax deduction. And even worse for anything "Rockwell," his art is the epitome of reproducible/reproduced art that falls outside of VARA, but is nonetheless used as part of the rationale for both VARA and art pricing.

  • And the preceding sausage didn't even have to go into the unsubtle biases forming the context of Rockwell's art… or the forgery problem and what it implies about the "unique" value of works of visual art (and in this context, works of visual art whose value is based essentially on fame-through-reproduction). Hoaxes and forgeries remain problems for non-visual-art pieces, too, ranging from the Voynich Manuscript to Clifford Irving and Stephen Glass.
  • Yet another instance of a wannahavetheprestigeofscience nonscientist — this time a sociologist — self-justifying himself and his cramped, ignorant worldview manifests in this load of bollocks. It's almost always a marker for ideological arrogance and a bruised academic ego when an academic starts proclaiming things like "People aren't rejecting truth — they're rejecting the values of the elites" (and burying the definition of "elites," which on the basis of that article means "everyone who doesn't agree with me, and especially my foes in academia"). Asserting that struggles over truthfulness in public discourse are nothing more than "a question of who possesses moral and intellectual authority" implies that someone necessarily does and that it is universal (which more than slightly undermines what passes for a thesis of the article). Perhaps the worst error, though, is reflected in the unsupported assertion that "Science can certainly provide facts, but not truths. It is only through the public interpretation of facts that people arrive at truths." reflects such abject ignorance of what both "facts" and "truths" mean — and, for that matter, what science can and cannot do — that it shouldn't surprise one that the author's primary reference on what "science" is appears to be Socrates, jumping over two millenia of changes in reasoning and the ability to distinguish "evidence" from "ideology". Which remains imperfect, but is not nearly so tenuous as the article proclaims.

    Of course, the citation-with-approval of Socrates for the foundations of what constitutes an "elite" is, itself, more than a bit revealing of the elitism inherent in mid-to-late-twentieth-century English universities. But that's for another time, and hopefully another few counterfootnotes.