Institutions and Politics syllabus

by Henry on August 18, 2011

I’m teaching my Ph.D. level course on institutions and politics this fall. The idea behind the course is to provide Ph.D. students with (a) an understanding of core debates in institutional theory in political science (distinguishing between rational choice, historical institutionalist and ideational accounts), (b) some sense that these accounts go across the subfields of political science, and (c ) an intuition that there are Other Social Sciences with debates about institutions, and that they often have fun and important things to say. Below the fold is my draft reading list: suggested amendments, additions, revisions etc are gratefully received (and if anyone finds the syllabus useful, they should feel free to take it and adapt it for their own requirements &c&c). I also have a class without assigned readings yet – which I hope to fill in with some fun new topic.

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Tentpoled

by John Holbo on August 18, 2011

Here’s a contrarian take from a studio exec:

“A tentpole film is one where you can seed the desire to see the film to everyone in every distribution channel. It’s the only kind of film you can spend $100 million marketing,” he said.

Hendrickson’s talk was mainly focused on solving problems in digital production on tentpoles, but he began with an “Econ 101” presentation on the movie business.

“People say ‘It’s all about the story,'” Hendrickson said. “When you’re making tentpole films, bullshit.” Hendrickson showed a chart of the top 12 all-time domestic grossers, and noted every one is a spectacle film. Of his own studio’s “Alice in Wonderland,” which is on the list, he said: “The story isn’t very good, but visual spectacle brought people in droves. And Johnny Depp didn’t hurt.”

Visual spectacle, he said, drives attendance in a film’s first few weekends. And unlike years past when a movie like “The Lion King” might stay in theaters as long as a year, almost all movies are out of theaters quickly now. “Once you’re out of theaters your maximum profit potential is over,” he said.

I went to see “Cowboys and Aliens” last weekend, so I’m feeling fairly tentpoled myself, and I don’t really like it. Terrible story (as all the critics said. I know, I know. I don’t know why I wanted to see it.) [click to continue…]

Reader, I married him

by Maria on August 18, 2011

Sometime in Spring, two years ago, my brother Henry received a hand-written letter from a woman in Ireland he’d neither met nor heard of. It was a letter of introduction. The person being introduced was Edward, “a decent, entertaining fellow. We have known him all our lives.”

A month or two later, I phoned to say I’d be arriving that evening from L.A. for a couple of weeks in the DC office. Henry pressed the letter into my hands as I arrived on the doorstep. He was rushing to the airport and thought I might have more time to take an interest.

The letter came via a circuitous route from a tenuous connection; Meg, Edward’s godfather’s wife who was also my mother’s friend Mary’s book club companion. It was prompted by a misunderstanding between a son who was monosyllabic about his social life and a mother who thus assumed he had none. It came from the peculiarly Anglo-Irish practice of proper letter-writing, and directly from that rare person who said ‘I must write them a letter’, and actually did. [click to continue…]

Writing in the National Interest

by John Quiggin on August 18, 2011

The National Interest has just run a piece I’ve written on the S&P downgrade. I had understood this was a conservative publication, but I tend to got lost in the varieties of US conservatism (and, for that matter, liberalism). Anyway, they seemed happy to run this as well as an earlier piece on Europe. A quick look at the website didn’t suggest I was in bad company – most of the foreign policy stuff was anti-war, and the other economic pieces were eclectic.

Is there an up-to-date guide for overseas visitors to the US scene? It’s nice to be called up from the Australian farm team, but I don’t want to end up in some glossy publication that turns out to be funded by LaRouche.