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jerryking : self-destructive   14

Are book publishers blockbustering themselves into oblivion? - The Globe and Mail
RUSSELL SMITH
Special to The Globe and Mail
Published Friday, Nov. 28 2014

Whatever they mean, they certainly cannot mean a shrinking talent pool.

So they must mean that they are not, in fact, interested in the real talent pool, or in a wide variety of literature. What they are looking for are bestsellers, which tend to be particularly narrow kinds of books. Most of the gargantuan advances that have made headlines in the U.S. recently are for science-fiction and fantasy books. Every publisher is looking for exactly the same book – basically, they are looking for The Hunger Games again and again. When they say “quality,” they mean “mass appeal.”...But in concentrating on bestsellers to the detriment of other literature, the publishers are simply following the model of all the entertainment industries. Providing an eclectic variety of entertainments to please a diverse audience, as the free Internet can do, just hasn’t been lucrative for the conglomerates that own film studios and recording labels. They are in constant search of blockbusters.

As they grow larger and concentrate their efforts and investments on massive, sure-fire hits – the next Marvel movie, the next Taylor Swift album – the cultural landscape seems paradoxically smaller. It becomes even more difficult to get an indie film made – the huge projects suck the oxygen (financing, distribution, media coverage) out of the biosphere.

In following this larger trend, book publishers are shortsighted. By reducing their involvement in original and challenging art, they relinquish literary fiction to the tiny presses and online magazines, and so become artistically irrelevant and, in the long run, uninteresting even as suppliers of entertainment. Pursuing mainstream popularity with ever-larger sums of money is ultimately self-destructive....Yes, such high-mindedness is all very well for someone who doesn’t have to keep a money-losing, employment-providing company afloat. And Le Guin’s vague rejection of capitalism is not a solution to the immediate problems facing publishers. But her point about taking the long view – about concentrating on valuable literature for the sake of the industry’s general health – is surely a practical one as well.
books  publishing  Russell_Smith  literature  blockbusters  art  short-sightedness  conglomerates  indie  winner-take-all  Amazon  writers  long-term  self-destructive  talent_pools 
november 2014 by jerryking
The Self-Destruction of the 1 Percent -
October 13, 2012 | NYTimes.com | By CHRYSTIA FREELAND.

IN the early 14th century, Venice was one of the richest cities in Europe. At the heart of its economy was the colleganza, a basic form of joint-stock company created to finance a single trade expedition. The brilliance of the colleganza was that it opened the economy to new entrants, allowing risk-taking entrepreneurs to share in the financial upside with the established businessmen who financed their merchant voyages.

Venice’s elites were the chief beneficiaries. Like all open economies, theirs was turbulent. Today, we think of social mobility as a good thing. But if you are on top, mobility also means competition. In 1315, when the Venetian city-state was at the height of its economic powers, the upper class acted to lock in its privileges, putting a formal stop to social mobility with the publication of the Libro d’Oro, or Book of Gold, an official register of the nobility. If you weren’t on it, you couldn’t join the ruling oligarchy.

The political shift, which had begun nearly two decades earlier, was so striking a change that the Venetians gave it a name: La Serrata, or the closure. It wasn’t long before the political Serrata became an economic one, too. Under the control of the oligarchs, Venice gradually cut off commercial opportunities for new entrants. Eventually, the colleganza was banned. The reigning elites were acting in their immediate self-interest, but in the longer term, La Serrata was the beginning of the end for them, and for Venetian prosperity more generally. By 1500, Venice’s population was smaller than it had been in 1330. In the 17th and 18th centuries, as the rest of Europe grew, the city continued to shrink....several recent studies have shown that in America today it is harder to escape the social class of your birth than it is in Europe. The Canadian economist Miles Corak has found that as income inequality increases, social mobility falls...Businessmen like to style themselves as the defenders of the free market economy, but as Luigi Zingales, an economist at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, argued, “Most lobbying is pro-business, in the sense that it promotes the interests of existing businesses, not pro-market in the sense of fostering truly free and open competition.”
business_interests  capitalism  Chrystia_Freeland  city-states  cronyism  crony_capitalism  depopulation  elitism  entrenched_interests  history  income_distribution  income_inequality  lobbying  locked_in  moguls  new_entrants  oligarchs  pro-business  pro-market  Renaissance  self-destructive  self-interest  social_classes  social_mobility  The_One_Percent  Venice  winner-take-all 
september 2013 by jerryking
12 Things You Must Know to Survive And Thrive in America
January 28, 2002 | Newsweek Magazine | Ellis Cose.
Adapted from "The Envy of the World" by Ellis Cose.
1. Play the race card carefully, and at your own peril.
2. Complain all you like about the raw deal you have gotten in life, but don't expect those complaints to get you anywhere.
3. Expect to do better than the world expects of you; expect to live in a bigger world than the one you see.
4. Don't expect support for your dreams from those who have not accomplished much in their lives.
5. If someone is bringing out your most self-destructive tendencies, acknowledge that that person is not a friend.
6. Don't be too proud to ask for help, particularly from those who are wiser and older.
7. Recognize that being true to yourself is not the same as being true to a stupid stereotype.
8. Don't let the glitter blind you.
9. Don't expect competence and hard work alone to get you the recognition or rewards you deserve.
10. You must seize the time, for it is already later than you think.
11. Even if you have to fake it, show some faith in yourself.
12. Don't force innocent others to bear the price of your pain.
rules_of_the_game  African-Americans  Carpe_diem  self-confidence  incarceration  race  mentoring  books  self-promotion  stereotypes  movingonup  ksfs  affirmations  race_card  asking_for_help  hard_work  self-destructive 
august 2012 by jerryking
Cometh the Hour . . . - WSJ.com
October 14, 2003| WSJ | By HAROLD BLOOM.

I have been rereading Edmund Gibbon's "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire," which I recommend to anyone in search of wisdom relevant at this moment. Gibbon attributes decline and fall to many varied factors, but the characters of specific Roman emperors -- good, bad and indifferent -- are viewed by him as crucial in the self-destructiveness of Rome. It is not at all clear whether we are already in decline: Bread is still available for most and circuses for all. Still, there are troubling omens, economic and diplomatic, and a hint or two from Gibbon may be of considerable use.
books  leadership  Wesley_Clark  Romans  Edmund_Gibbon  America_in_Decline?  self-destructive  decline  multiple_stressors 
may 2012 by jerryking
Free-Market Socialism - NYTimes.com
By DAVID BROOKS
January 23, 2012

Adam Davidson’s illuminating article in the current issue of The Atlantic is important because it shows the interplay between economic forces (globalization and technology) and social forces (single parenthood and the breakdown of community support). Globalization and technological change increase the demands on workers; social decay makes it harder for them to meet those demands.

Across America, millions of mothers can’t rise because they don’t have adequate support systems as they try to improve their skills. Tens of millions of children have poor life chances because they grow up in disorganized environments that make it hard to acquire the social, organizational and educational skills they will need to become productive workers.

Tens of millions of men have marred life chances because schools are bad at educating boys, because they are not enmeshed in the long-term relationships that instill good habits and because insecure men do stupid and self-destructive things.

Over the past 40 years, women’s wages have risen sharply but, as Michael Greenstone and Adam Looney of the Hamilton Project point out, median incomes of men have dropped 28 percent and male labor force participation rates are down 16 percent. Next time somebody talks to you about wage stagnation, have them break it down by sex. It’s not only globalization and technological change causing this stagnation. It’s the deterioration of the moral and social landscape, especially for men.
children  David_Brooks  disorganization  equality_of_opportunity  family  family_breakdown  gender_gap  globalization  habits  insecurity  joblessness  Obama  relationships  self-destructive  single_parents  social_decay  social_fabric  support_systems  technological_change  underclass  wage_stagnation 
january 2012 by jerryking
Breaking the Silence - New York Times
By HENRY LOUIS GATES JR
Published: August 01, 2004

Scholars such as my Harvard colleague William Julius Wilson say that the causes of black poverty are both structural and behavioral. Think of structural causes as ''the devil made me do it,'' and behavioral causes as ''the devil is in me.'' Structural causes are faceless systemic forces, like the disappearance of jobs. Behavioral causes are self-destructive life choices and personal habits. To break the conspiracy of silence, we have to address both of these factors.
African-Americans  Henry_Louis_Gates  Obama  Bill_Cosby  anti-intellectualism  scholars  silence  self-destructive  William_Julius_Wilson 
november 2011 by jerryking
This email will self-destruct
August 31, 2006
By Andrew Lavallee, The Wall Street Journal
e-mail  encryption  privacy  Echoworx  Kablooey  self-destructive  ephemerality 
october 2011 by jerryking
THE BIGGEST GROUPS ARE ILL WITH INEFFICIENCY
April 06 2011 | FT | Luke Johnson
● Sunk cost fallacy:
● Groupthink:
● An obsession with governance:
● Institutional capture: the phenomenon whereby mgmt. end up running an
enterprise for their own benefit, rather than for the real owners. Also
known as the principal/agent problem.
● Office politics: self-destructive infighting for power within large
businesses is endemic, and perhaps the biggest value destroyer of all.
● Lack of proprietorship:
● Risk aversion: in large corporates, the punishment for management
failure is greater than the rewards for success. So, rational
individuals pursue cautious strategies to avoid damaging their career
prospects. (aka "playing it safe")
● The burden of history: many older companies have legacy issues such as
pension scheme deficits, union contracts, inefficient equipment and so
on.
● Anonymous mediocrities: there is nowhere to hide in a small company –
if you can’t deliver, you’re out.
● Commodity products: large companies need large markets,
playing_it_safe  start_ups  inefficiencies  size  groupthink  Luke_Johnson  large_markets  large_companies  bureaucracies  risk-aversion  mediocrity  owners  office_politics  commodities  self-destructive  brands  legacy_tech 
april 2011 by jerryking
What's The Big Idea?
Mar 12, 2011 | Financial Times. pg. 28 | by James Crabtree. Forward to R. Mayot re. IdeaCity

From Davos, to Long Beach, to north Wales, 'ideas conferences' are burgeoning. But, asks James Crabtree, are they really the new crucibles for creative thinking - or just exclusive talking shops?

Aficionados of cult television know Portmeirion simply as "the village". Here, in the 1960s show The Prisoner, Patrick McGoohan insists "I am not a number, I am a free man," and plots his escape from a mysterious captive community. But, last weekend, the town hosted a different sort of exclusive gathering - and one perhaps better known for those trying to get in, not out.

Against a backdrop of pastel-painted Italianate cliff-top villas, around 120 specially invited guests descended on the Welsh coastal village for what its organisers describe as a global "thought leadership symposium". Such self-selected elite groupings seem, at first glance, to be little more than a weekend break for an already-fortunate section of the chattering classes; what one Portmeirion participant dryly described as "a socially concerned Saga mini-break, dressed up as something more serious".

But such events are also part of a wider trend in the burgeoning market for "ideas conferences" - exclusive conflabs that bring together groups of leaders with the aim of sparking creative ideas, untethered from the niche subjects, academic specialisms or industry segments that have long dominated professional events.

Examples are not hard to find. The business summit in the secluded Swiss mountain resort of Davos is the most famous. But the first week of March also saw the latest TED conference, an exclusive annual USD7,500-a-ticket gathering in Long Beach, California, dedicated to "ideas worth spreading". Elsewhere Google runs an annual invite-only conference, known as Zeitgeist, while American internet evangelist Tim O'Reilly hosts excitable technology entrepreneurs at Foo Camp, which modestly stands for "Friends of O'Reilly".

Dozens of smaller meetings are popping up too, such as Portmeirion, now in its third year and with the FT as one of its sponsors. They represent a shift in the market for conferences, now forced to be more eye-catching to attract the attention of more demanding and distracted audiences. But their blossoming also illuminates a wider trend: the growing importance of unusual ideas and rich social networks, in an economy in which information is both increasingly valuable and confusingly abundant.

Those gathered at Portmeirion this year formed an eclectic group, ranging from polymathic finance expert Nassim Nicholas Taleb to actress Miriam Margolyes and rock concert promoter Harvey Goldsmith. Elsewhere the resort's narrow streets were thronged with a mixture of senior bankers, newspaper columnists, politicians, entrepreneurs, authors and think-tank boffins.

Portmeirion itself used to be something of a salon for London's recuperating elite, hosting guests such as Noel Coward and Bertrand Russell. The idea of hosting a contemporary event there stems from this: it is the brainchild of British public relations guru Julia Hobsbawm, whose father (the Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm) brought their family to the town for summer holidays.

Top-level gatherings have long been a feature of politics and international affairs. Historian Simon Schama points to The Poker Club, a distinguished salon at the heart of the Scottish Enlightenment of the late 1700s, which counted David Hume and Adam Smith among its members.

Today's ideas conferences are less serious affairs than their antecedents, with agendas that go well beyond the straitjacketed worlds of politics, foreign affairs and business. Videos, jazzy graphics and blaring music between sessions all help keep participants engaged. Informal, unscripted agenda-less "unconferences", are also popular.

A defiantly cross-disciplinary ethic marks out this new class of events, whose programmes are seemingly incomplete without sculptors, comedians and bioethicists to balance out the economists and business gurus. Portmeirion's two most memorable sessions were its most eclectic: a plea to save the seas from oceanographer Sylvia Earle, and a moving film about Indian prostitution from filmmaker Beeban Kidron.

The flipside of this variety is a certain intellectual vagueness, as organisers try to hold together a programme full of clashing insights. The gnomic theme of the most recent TED, for instance, was "the rediscovery of wonder" - featuring a live talk from an astronaut in an orbiting space station, and a demonstration of a machine that "printed" human body parts. The theme of Portmeirion, meanwhile, was simply "community and values", into which one could read just about anything.

Certainly, it isn't always clear what these conferences are meant to be about. The ideal speaker, therefore, is someone able to cross many intellectual boundaries at once [jk: does this meet the definition of "transgressive"??] - as with Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of The Black Swan, who kicked off the Portmeirion gathering with a magisterial address on the topic of "anti-fragility" in complex social and economic systems. His remarks ranged from mathematics and economics to political theory and Greek history, leaving attendees at once stimulated and more than a little perplexed.

There is an underlying economic rationale too. Delegates often work in professions that place a premium on finding and exploiting the ideas central to processes of innovation in modern businesses. This makes the events business-friendly too - a fact compounded by their need to win extensive corporate sponsorship, which in turn pays for the meals and accommodation that non-paying guests and speakers enjoy.

Yet if the ideas are a little fuzzy, and the business jargon a little too prevalent, this is because, more than anything, these conferences are meant as a celebration, and a test, of the individuals picked to attend - those high-powered, busy, professionally successful types who make a living telling others what they should watch, read or buy.

RSA chief executive Matthew Taylor notes the importance of intellectual cross-dressing at such events: "They allow people to throw off their professional persona for 48 hours: journalists become social theorists, businesspeople become green warriors, and academics become showmen. But on Monday morning - perhaps to everyone's secret relief - it's back to work."

Although their easygoing participants would tend to deny this, these events are a new form of elitism: a novel way of marking out a social and professional hierarchy, in which sensibility and interestingness replaces class or creed. What follows is stimulating, but also reflects the similar outlooks of the media and intellectual elite in a post-ideological world: an ersatz form of intellectualism, which might have raised an eyebrow in Eric Hobsbawm's day.

Even so, such ideas events prosper because they solve a problem faced by many at the top of their professions. The much-discussed "death of distance" never happened; globalisation and the profusion of technology makes place more important. Similarly, a world of abundant, instantly accessible information seems to make personal connection more vital. This puts a premium on private events, which force their participants to spend time developing ideas without distraction. The ideas conference is here to stay.

The Polymath

Nassim Nicholas Taleb

As the guru credited with spotting the unexpected "black swan" events behind the global financial meltdown, Nassim Nicholas Taleb (illustration above) has a track record for spotting unusual ideas. He worries that we have still not learnt the lessons of the crisis, identifying ongoing major threats arising from "expert problems". The risk, he notes, is that "a pseudo-expert astrologist doesn't have many damaging side- effects, but a pseudo-expert economist certainly does".

Taleb is sceptical of some ideas gatherings. Davos is a particular bugbear; he turns down the annual invitation on the grounds that it is "too big, on the wrong topics, and with the wrong people". Other events have their problems too - in particular their tendency to turn "scientists into entertainers and circus performers".

Taleb is currently developing his thinking for a forthcoming book, which he describes as a deeper "volume two" of the themes he explored in The Black Swan. His new big idea is "anti-fragility", or the stability that comes from decentralised, complex systems - such as those found in nature (i.e. biomimicry), or artisan industries - which allow regular small acts of self-destruction, but adapt to keep the system as a whole stable. He contrasts this with fragile, centralised systems - such as the post-crisis banking industry - which prop up their failing parts.

The Agent

Caroline Michel

It is the books with the "big themes" that sell well nowadays, explains Caroline Michel (below), one of London's leading literary agents. Her job, she says, is one in which "amazing people come to me with brilliant ideas, and it is my job to work out what to do with them". In this role she styles herself as part of a new class of "professional mediators", a cadre of ideas professionals whose role it is to weed out "Pot-Noodle knowledge", and give the public new ways to find the valuable information they need.

Consequently, she is a confirmed ideas conference fan, citing book gatherings such as the annual Hay Festival as a source of inspiration. But when facing "an extraordinary spaghetti of knowledge and information", she says, even knowledge professionals find themselves struggling to "to pull through strands" they can understand. A world in which "we have access to this huge mass of information, and in which we are all instant doctors and instant reporters" therefore only increases the importance of those few "people you trust to show you the way through it" - and makes doubly important the chance to listen to them, and to interact with them, in person.

The Entrepreneur

Will … [more]
antifragility  conferences  cross-disciplinary  cross-pollination  David_Hume  Davos  fragility  hierarchies  ideas  ideaCity  invitation-only  Nassim_Taleb  self-destructive  TED  Tim_O'Reilly  thinking_big  trend_spotting  Zeitgeist 
march 2011 by jerryking
We are stone heads on medicare
Feb 28, 2005 | G &M Page A13 | By WILLIAM THORSELL. In
his bestseller, Collapse, Jared Diamond asks: "Why do societies make
disastrous decisions?" He is referring primarily to the environment, but
the answers apply to other things as well. Societies make disastrous
decisions because: We fail to anticipate big problems. It's hard to see
them in advance. But you can't say that about Canada's debt crisis, or
the rising crush of medicare. They were predicted for yrs., and yet we
barged on into them. We fail to perceive problems when they do arrive
because they are too small to see, or because they arrive slowly and we
get used to them....But the most potent of Mr. Diamond's reasons is "core values" -- the insistence on holding to certain defining values in the face of even mortal threats.

He cites the cult on Easter Island (cutting down trees to erect giant stone heads) as an example of bovine loyalty to core values in the face of compelling problems (deforestation).

Isn't that the case with medicare in Canada? We have raised the monopoly-pay/provider model to the status of a defining icon -- a core value of Canada itself. No matter how self-destructive and ineffective this approach may be, we are too invested in its symbolism to change it. It's a classic case of dumb loyalty to dysfunction, with deserved consequences.
William_Thorsell  Medicare  Jared_Diamond  incrementalism  anticipating  Canada  healthcare  creeping_normality  complacency  selfishness  values  self-destructive  slowly_moving  core_values  imperceptible_threats  societal_collapse 
october 2010 by jerryking
Breaking the Silence - Op-Ed - NYTimes.com
Aug. 1, 2004 | New York Times | By HENRY LOUIS GATES JR. Why
has it been so difficult for black leaders to say such things in
public, without being pilloried for ''blaming the victim''? Why the huge
flap over Bill Cosby's insistence that black teenagers do their
homework, stay in school, master standard English and stop having
babies?...Yet in too many black neighborhoods today, academic
achievement has actually come to be stigmatized. ...Making it, as Mr.
Obama told me, ''requires diligent effort and deferred gratification.
Everybody sitting around their kitchen table knows that.''...the causes
of black poverty are both structural and behavioral. Think of structural
causes as ''the devil made me do it,'' and behavioral causes as ''the
devil is in me.'' Structural causes are faceless systemic forces, like
the disappearance of jobs. Behavioral causes are self-destructive life
choices and personal habits. To break the conspiracy of silence, we have
to address both of these factors.
African-Americans  Henry_Louis_Gates  silence  Obama  self-destructive  anti-intellectualism  poverty  values  Bill_Cosby  delayed_gratification  structural_change  academic_achievement 
september 2010 by jerryking

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