23 July 2021


This isn't precisely a politics-free platter; it's certainly politics-adjacent. But only adjacent, sort of side-eyeing more overtly political things…

  • Lab leaks aren't just for Wuhan any more, if they ever were. Dangerous, even viral, contaminations can escape from (what passes for) political science laboratories. This has been a problem since, oh, not later than nine centuries ago or so; probably as far back as Roman slave revolts that had no clue what to do next. And that's for simple ideas like getting a new boss; complex ideas don't need "think tank" escapes to fail.
  • In a piece that is simultaneously insightful and profoundly ignorant, Jordan Weissmann asserts that master's degrees are a scam. Examining the kinds of master's degrees he cites, though, reveals that his horizons are just a bit limited. Leaving aside fields in which a master's degree is a fundamental qualification to proceed above the entry level (education, social work, public health, and so on), and the truly mixed history of the MBA, Weissmann's attack is on terminal master's degrees in the humanities. Not the MSc in ChemE used to focus on a specialty area, but the MFA; not the stepping-stone to a PhD awarded for those who must interrupt that journey for Reasons, but the online, "low-residency" degree usually focused on extraordinarily narrow areas with lots of "experiential learning" and very little core curriculum; not coordinate study to enrich another field (an MA in history to enrich a PhD in comparative literature, an MA in economics to enrich a JD for teaching purposes), but a "pure credential" to get one's foot in the door in a field that has, umm, indistinct entry criteria.
  • I'm a crotchety old grouch. I don't rely upon streaming services (in fact, I actively avoid them because they don't pay the artists or composers outside the top five or ten in each category, and as you've no doubt figured out by now that's seldom an accurate description of what I like in the first place). My collection isn't always on physical media, but it is all offline… so I'm not dependent upon a high-bandwidth internet connection (and device power-drain), either. I thus sneered a bit at Joe Pinsker's very-late-to-the-party sudden awareness that future access to streaming "collections" is far from guaranteed. And we don't even need the specter of "what if the business goes under?" — although that's a far from trivial possibility (three letters: MCA) — but a change in copyright law that requires fair payment to musicians and composers would probably turn the streaming system into a much more expensive one… which will work really, really well as Generation X and later approaches retirement on fixed incomes.
  • Which is sort of the precise opposite of the problem cinemas have with Black Widow's release strategy. Looking at the difference in "experience," though, helps distinguish this link sausage from the preceding one. The compressed files on streaming services are discernably inferior to even mass-market CDs, let alone audiophile-quality CDs. Conversely, the complete range of experiences in cinemas is not necessarily superior to even a lower-end home-theater viewing… especially without the crappy seating, badly-tuned audio, and kids running up and down the aisles. The financial issues are a smokescreen.
  • Those financial issues for cinemas distract from other problems. Let's leave aside for a moment the demographics of cinema ownership, shall we? Let's look instead at the demographics of those who make films, which is a serious problem. When even the Governor of the Bank of England (the equivalent of the Chair of the Federal Reserve) recognizes that diversity all the way up and down the "ranks" makes for a better organization, it exposes the failure of imagination in H'wood.

    The less said about publishing (and book distribution), the less reason you'll have to replace your screen after the acid eats through it from the inside.

  • Which, I suppose, beats "required preclearance". This is especially problematic when the potential clearance issues arise as much to prevent embarassment to the high and mighty as to protect dangerous information (and avoid those idea-escapes from the first sausage on the platter).