From the monthly archives:

July 2008

Although the conversation here takes place under the banner of ‘creative capitalism’ there has been relatively little discussion of creativity in the ordinary sense of the term. Yet the relationship between creativity and capitalism has rarely been more complex and interesting than it is today.

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Who wants to be a millionaire?

by Maria on July 31, 2008

To the eternal question; what would you do if you won the lottery? Years ago when I worked in the film industry, a rather suave BBC producer asked the electricians one morning if they’d continue to work. (The conversation took place a couple of weeks after the sparks had broken ranks with the rest of the crew on working nights, insisted on getting their own pay off in cash, and marched around the set waving wads of it at everyone else. Nice guys.) But their answer was a good one: “Yeah, I’d keep on working, but I’d be very f..king cheeky.”

Of course the question really is ‘what is the good life?’. If money was no object, how would you spend yours? It’s complicated a bit by living in the US. First off, the lotteries here seem to impose a double dream tax; if you actually win one, you choose between an annuity or a lump sum. The annuity sums up to a greater amount but doesn’t seem that great a deal if you’re not already financially secure. But secondly, the moral value of money seems to have changed for me in the year I’ve lived here.

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Conference bingo

by Eszter Hargittai on July 31, 2008

Kieran and I (anyone else from around here?) are heading to the annual meetings of the American Sociological Association this weekend. While I think playing buzzword bingo at a presentation is a bit rude, the idea of having a bingo card for the whole conference seems more reasonable. Kieran’s put together a really fun one [pdf], check it out, it can likely be tweaked quite easily for endless amusement at your own upcoming convention.

Possible additions/substitutions?

  • Mac user surprised that cable won’t connect to projector
  • Use of PowerPoint in Normal View instead of Slide Show
  • Aimless lingerer at book exhibit
  • Loitering at book exhibit in hopes of finding editor
  • “But you didn’t write the paper I would have written” comment during Q&A
  • Never-ending comment posing as question during Q&A

Yet more on fiduciary obligation

by John Q on July 31, 2008

I’m planning a further post about the notion of ‘creative capitalism’, but before I get on to it, I thought it might be useful to clear up some of the confusion surrounding the alternative view, that managers have a ‘fiduciary obligation’ to act solely in the interests of shareholders, reflected in debate at my blog, at CT here (including this and here) and at the Creative Capitalism blog.

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Not Guilty

by Harry on July 30, 2008

An old schoolfriend told me on the phone the other day that she had just been thinking of me. She had gone with her sons to Stowe to see Roger Hodgson (an old boy) perform Supertramp numbers (Supertramp were big when we were at secondary school together, which ages us both, I guess), and her thought was “Harry would hate this”. What a coincidence – my 11-year-old is on a year-long (so far) 70’s rock jag, and plays a lot of Supertramp (and Led Zeppelin – I knew things were getting bad when she told me not to tune away from the local classics station playing Immigrant Song because it’s one of her favourites). I like Supertramp, enough that I’ve bought this anthology for my daughter on my friend’s recommendation, and I didn’t even dislike them at the time. Despite everything.

So Laura made a mistake when she tagged me for the “what five songs in my iTunes are my guiltiest pleasures” meme. Unlike Laura, I do have an ipod, because my wife insisted, believing it would break me of my habit of taping radio shows and listening on my walkman. It didn’t, but I do, now, listen to more music. I don’t, though, have any guilty musical pleasures: I just don’t feel guilty about what I like. I used to feel vaguely embarrassed about slightly liking Steely Dan, but eventually decided this was ridiculous, and have since discovered that they are pretty good. I am still embarrassed that I used to think I liked John more than Paul, even though in fact I liked Paul more than John, but that’s a matter of not having had adequate self-knowledge. I know its uncool to like Cliff – him being a Christian and everything – but I suspect that in my generation at least the disdain for him is substantially motivated by envy that he still looks younger than most of us. Deep Purple? My unlikely schoolfriend Jon Corcoran foisted them on me (along with Ian Gillan Band, and Jesus Christ Superstar), and I can’t hear them without thinking of him, which is a great, but not guilty, pleasure.

What itune pleasures would I feel guilty about if I felt guilty? All but one of the following are on my itunes; the missing one will go on as soon as I get round to it, I just hadn’t thought of it till now:

1. Cliff Richard, Carrie (and just about everything else Cliff has done, apart from that Millennium Prayer)
2. Status Quo, Living on an Island
3. Dr. Feelgood, Milk and Alcohol
4. Pilot, Magic (beat that!)
5. Thin Lizzy, Waiting for an Alibi

Tagging: Lindsey, Chris Brooke, and Dina.

Creative uncommons?

by Chris Bertram on July 30, 2008

The latest issue of the _Modern Law Review_ has an “article”: (by Phillip Johnson) about copyright law in the UK and US [access may depend on whether you or you firm or institution has a subscription] that suggests that it is harder for someone to give up a copyright than you might think. It would appear to have the implication that even where the creator of a work explicitly dedicates that work to the public domain, their estate might later revoke the license and seek to restrict use, demand payments etc. Alarming (but interesting) stuff. The conclusion:

bq. This article has shown that copyright owners cannot cause their copyright to cease to exist by dedicating it to the public. It is true that US authors may dedicate their US copyright to the public and in so doing cause it to cease to exist, but such a dedication will not have the same effect in relation to the equivalent UK copyright. In contrast, UK authors cannot take any steps which will cause their copyright to cease to exist. Instead, these dedications create licences, which can be withdrawn at any time. Such a withdrawal will bar new users from having access the work. But of more concern is that in England and the United States (and in Scotland, where the formalities for contract or promise are not satisfied) this will also terminate any rights existing users have by reason of the dedication. In which case, only where the conduct of copyright owners is so unconscionable that they are estopped (or barred) would the dedication have any continuing effect. This means that despite the desire of authors to dedicate their works to the public domain, the boundaries of that domain, uncertain as they already are, remain outside their control.

The Phoenix project

by Henry Farrell on July 30, 2008

I have a “bloggingheads”: with Jacob Heilbrunn of _The National Interest_ here on various foreign policy issues; one of the most interesting of which we never got around to debating. A bunch of Democratic foreign policy types, which once included Susan Rice of the Obama campaign, have come out with a new document, the so-called “Phoenix Initiative”: Now in one sense, manifestoes like this are ten a penny at this stage of the election cycle – they’re the calling cards that foreign policy elites use to try to sell themselves to a potential incoming administration. But what’s unusual about this one is the near total lack of self-congratulation about the US as the one essential nation, leader of the free world etc. Instead, the document’s main message is that the US’s military predominance doesn’t count for as much as it used to, and in a globally connected world, not only are other forms of power becoming more important, but other countries are going to take the lead on many key issues, and the US should get used to this. I’m a little surprised to see so little of the usual bombast in a document like this – even liberal internationalists used to talk a few years ago about how the US needed to create the institutions for a global system that would ensure US soft hegemony. Now, this group at least, isn’t talking in these terms, but implicitly suggesting that the US is just one large power among several. It’s an interesting change in rhetoric.

Chick Flick

by Maria on July 29, 2008

One of the best things about respite care in my family seat – apart from being surrounded by friends and family, and the parents doing their proper duty and tending to my every need and whim – is the hen house. Or, more precisely, the fresh eggs every day from happy hens who spend their time milling around the garden eating worms and bits of old clothes.

Our four hens get a regular servicing from the cock (or ‘rooster’ for Americans who are a bit shocked by its prosaic name), and they all lay regularly, apart from Ginger (pronounced with two hard g’s) who was acquired purely for her beauty. Recently, after one or two literally abortive attempts, Mum managed to keep two eggs warm enough for a month. They’ve now hatched in their home above the Aga, and have begun to eat. So they’re over the worst. At least until their teenage months when their cuteness and fur are gone but they don’t yet have feathers.

Naming conventions for family animals have gone downhill since all six Farrell siblings left home, because the rentals now get a free run at it. These days we have sturdy dogs called Wolf or Sky. Time was when puppies or kittens were called after particularly nasty Roman emperors or generals (Trajan) or appealing characteristics (an initially unloved cat of indeterminate gender named Psycho). Some names were just a bit odd (a black minah bird called d’Arc, and two sweet lovely bunnies called Stalin and Jemima who were eaten by our cousin’s dog, leaving only a fluffy little ear behind), a pair of cockatoos named Chuck and Charlie (Chuck was beheaded through his cage by a cat. Charlie died instantly of shock.). An imposing terrapin named Ming the Merciless.

There was Terry the Pig – a publicity stunt birthday gift from Mum to a politician uncle who’d just had a gossip column written about him by the then-Taoiseach’s mistress, Terry Keane. Some names were just obscure: a foal called Masri and a Siamese cat called Kula. One very loved cat who went by Elvis/Felix by two opposing camps for his entire 15 years. A recent favourite was an ancient female who’d delivered many kittens and came to live with us in her retirement. She was nicknamed Prolapsia.

Anyway, what should we call our new chicks? I’m not allowed to name anything because for years I’ve harbored a desire for a King Charles spaniel who will love me dearly and eat off my plate and sleep in my bed and be named Sweetie. He/she is so real to me that I hardly need to acquire him/her, but my sisters say it’s just not right or natural.

These chicks need names and, left to her own devices, Mum will probably call them Bill and Hillary. The chicks already face a scrawny and awkward adolescence, in about 3 weeks’ time. So let’s not burden them with dreadful names.

Reading Comics and Watching Metropolis

by John Holbo on July 29, 2008

My friend Doug Wolk just won an Eisner for best comics-related book for Reading Comics. And, I might add, we’ve been hosting a little book event in his honor over at the Valve the last couple weeks. Kip Manley just write a very nice little essay, for example.

In other news, somehow I missed the news a few weeks ago that long-lost footage from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis had turned up in Buenos Aires. That’s almost as good as when they found a nice print of Dreier’s The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) in a Norwegian insane asylum, eh?

Although the new material is in a terrible condition, according to the first appraisals by the German film historians, including Rainer Rother, the director of the Deutsche Kinemathek Museum in Berlin, the newly discovered scenes give a surprising insight into the characters’ motivation. They finally give “Metropolis” a coherent story-telling rhythm, whose absence was often criticized. For example, characters who were practically extras in the shorter version, such as the spy Schmale or Josaphat, Freder’s friend, actually had significant supporting roles and the original dramaturgical concept, which before could only be reconstructed using textual sources and photographs, is now apparent on film for the first time since 1927.

I don’t think we even knew the spy Schmale’s name. He’s always just been ‘the thin man’, right? And he’s onscreen for all of 3 seconds, looking very tall and sinister. I’m looking forward to seeing a bit more. Here’s a YouTube video that includes tidbits of the new stuff, starting with Schmale, I presume, peeking over a Metropolis newspaper:

And, in other German typeface-related news, we are finally going to get to see the lost Yoshiwara district scene.

Painfully true

by Eszter Hargittai on July 29, 2008

I keep referring to this cartoon in conversations and people keep telling me they have no idea what I’m talking about so I’m just going to put it here with the hope that it spreads to more and more folks. (I know some of you have already seen it, Vivian linked to it in her comment here. Nonetheless, it deserves its own post.)

It’s amazing how well it tells so much. It reminds me of specific experiences throughout my life from high school through graduate school (although the latter not in my department, to be fair). Plus one encounters this type of attitude online all the time.

Thanks to xkcd. I’d buy this one on a T-shirt, but it’s not in the store. The college-style XKCD is tempting.

We are ZCTU

by John Q on July 28, 2008

Lovemore Matombo and Wellington Chibebe, the President and General Secretary of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) are facing trial on 30 July on charges trumped up by the Mugabe regime. You can help the struggle to free them by making a statement at We are ZCTU and joining a letter writing campaign.

Check out the photomosaic of these two brave men, made up of 2000 individual photos.

At the forefront of IP issues in GPL software

by Kieran Healy on July 28, 2008

Or so I was back in 1999, at least according to this Groklaw thread. If only I had known.

Political philosophy podcast symposium

by Ingrid Robeyns on July 27, 2008

Just back from holidays in the Walloon woods of Belgium – with no access to the internet for two weeks (which feels like a health treatment). While I was there, the Belgian government almost collapsed, the ethno-linguistic battles intensified once more, and the Regime Crisis (now truly with capitals) reached a new height – but I will tell you more about the latest episode of that Drama after I’ve caught up with e-mails.
I only quickly want to flag something with a deadline soon coming up — “Public Reason”: is organising an online podcast symposium for political philosophers next semester. Sounds like a laudable initiative, especially for those of us who are not physically close to the centres of academic debate and/or limited in their ability (or willingness) to travel to seminars, conferences and workshops. Abstract “submissions”: are due by July 31st.

The Riordans

by Henry Farrell on July 26, 2008

“Tyler Cowen”: evidently doesn’t realize that he’s touched upon a significant cultural phenomenon when he praises Biddy White Lennon’s “Irish Food and Cooking,” co-written with Georgina Campbell, and remarks that BWL has “a great name to write a book like this, no?” Biddy White Lennon was one of the mainstays of Irish rural soap opera, _The Riordans_, which did as much as anything to help shepherd Ireland into modernity. The “Wikipedia entry”: on _The Riordans_ is a gem, providing a really nice encapsulated history of the show and its relationship to social debates in Ireland.

The Riordans tackled many ‘conservative versus liberal’ issues from its very start. Its start coincided with the coming into force of the Succession Act which for the first time granted to the wife of a farmer an automatic right of succession to the family farm, so removing the danger that after her husband’s death she could be left with nothing, with the property being willed to a total stranger. The issue was at the time controversial; banks until the 1970s would not allow a wife to open a bank account except with the approval of her husband. Conservatives suggested that the new Act, which had been pushed through in the face of opposition by then Minister for Justice Charles Haughey, would undermine the traditional family and lead to the sale of a farm owned by a family, were a farmer’s marriage to break up. Liberals argued that the reform was one of social justice and a long-overdue recognition of the rights of farmers’ wives. …

The show also focused on a range of farming issues, from the promotion of new farm technology to safety on farms. (In the 1970s Tom and Benjy featured in a television advertisement urging farmers to have metal framed cabs put onto their tractors to protect themselves from serious injury should the vehicle overturn.)

Other issues were also raised, such as illegitimacy, poverty, the problems of old age, marriage break-up, sexual activity, the dramatic changes in the post-Vatican II Catholic Church, and most famously contraception, when it was revealed that Benjy’s wife, Maggie, for medical reasons could not risk having a second pregnancy. The decision of the couple to use contraception (the Pill) caused considerable controversy and criticism from “family values” organisations and some in the Catholic Church. The show was on many issues both praised and criticised in the national media and even in Dáil Éireann while civil servants in the mid 1960s criticised the image portrayed of a ‘farm advisor’ sent out to advise farmers on new advances in farming but who in the series was seen drinking in the pub and gossiping.

Of course, as was the usual course with good Irish shows which touched on social and political controversies (see e.g. _Scrap Saturday_, _Nighthawks_), the show was axed without warning.

I’ve a particular fondness for Biddy White Lennon’s cooking books (although I haven’t seen this one, which Tyler describes as a ‘revelation’), being a graduate of _Biddy White Lennon’s Leaving Home Cookbook_, a volume which I received when I first went to college and couldn’t fry a rasher to save my life, and which contained recipes for such then-exotic foodstuffs as pita bread.

Back to the Futura

by John Holbo on July 26, 2008

So, about that Obama-in-Berlin poster.

No, I’m not going to make fun of the small handful of right-wing blogs that got fake-alarmist about it, hinting that it kinda sorta looked Fascist. My question is related, however. Being a sensible and knowledgeable sort of person, as opposed to some sort of crazed wingnut, when I look at the poster I see not Fascist art but an homage to German modernist styles of the 1910’s and 20’s. Being the sort of person who futzes with fonts, I also see an example of art that would have been actually illegal under the Nazis. Quoting from German Modern, by Steven Heller and Louise Fili [amazon]: [click to continue…]