Scientology

You’ve by now, no doubt, seen several people post about the Scientology article in The New Yorker. I just wanted it noted for the record that I read the whole damn thing.

I just looked through Longreads, and this article is by far the longest of the 119 New Yorker articles, clocking in at 100 minutes and 24,922 words. Most of the articles listed are around 20 minutes or 45 minutes. If there’s a directory of really long New Yorker articles, I’d like to see it.

Scientology

Just like Apple

Daring Fireball recently linked to a New Yorker article about the interesting corporate structure of the Green Bay Packers. In it, this sentence:

Shareholders receive no dividend check and no free tickets to Lambeau Field. They don’t even get a foam cheesehead. All they get is a piece of paper that says they are part-owners of the Green Bay Packers.

“Huh”, I thought, “Just like Apple.” But then I found this:

People who own shares of of GBP stock cannot be sold to others–it can only be sold back to the team. The stock doesn’t appreciate in value, no dividends are paid, and there are no season ticket privileges. However, the stock certificate is really cool, and you can proudly say you own part of a professional football team!

Just like Apple

The Spotted Pig in The New Yorker

The New Yorker recently profiled The Spotted Pig chef April Bloomfield and among other things discussed what it takes to work for her:

If David Chang’s band of renegades are the Red Sox of the New York restaurant world, Bloomfield’s cooks are the Yankees, square and conscientious. When I asked her what kind of people she likes to hire, she replied, “Nobody weird. Nobody with dreadlocks.” She paused a minute, and added, “Well, no white guys with dreadlocks.” Her cooks wear black pants and black shoes. “People with chile peppers on their chef pants shouldn’t be allowed in the kitchen.”

I also thought this was interesting, about why a restaurant would want a farm. Status symbol.

They both want a farm, where they can grow vegetables and raise livestock for use in their restaurants. A farm is attractive for two reasons. The first is that Bloomfield can’t always procure the calibre of ingredients she wants, since many of the city’s top suppliers are beholden to more established chefs. “They get all funny,” Bloomfield said. “I’m not Daniel Boulud.” The second is that a farm, in the hyper-competitive New York restaurant world, is a sign of clout and longevity, the breadbasket of an empire. Bloomfield and Friedman have been looking at land in New Paltz and Wassaic.

The Spotted Pig in The New Yorker

Changes to Oscar Voting

Hendrik Hertzberg explains the Oscars’ new voting system. The change, while making it more likely that blockbusters will be nominated, makes it more likely that an underdog will actually win.

From 1946 until last year, the voting worked the way Americans are most familiar with. Five pictures were nominated. If you were a member of the Academy, you put an “X” next to the name of your favorite. The picture with the most votes won. Nice and simple, though it did mean that a movie could win even if a solid majority of the eligible voters—in theory, as many as seventy-nine per cent of them—didn’t like it. Those legendary PricewaterhouseCoopers accountants don’t release the totals, but this or something like it has to have happened in the past, probably many times.

This year, the Best Picture list was expanded, partly to make sure that at least a couple of blockbusters would be on it… To forestall a victory for some cinematic George Wallace or Ross Perot, the Academy switched to a different system. Members—there are around fifty-eight hundred of them—are being asked to rank their choices from one to ten. In the unlikely event that a picture gets an outright majority of first-choice votes, the counting’s over. If not, the last-place finisher is dropped and its voters’ second choices are distributed among the movies still in the running. If there’s still no majority, the second-to-last-place finisher gets eliminated, and its voters’ second (or third) choices are counted. And so on, until one of the nominees goes over fifty per cent.

This scheme, known as preference voting or instant-runoff voting, doesn’t necessarily get you the movie (or the candidate) with the most committed supporters, but it does get you a winner that a majority can at least countenance. It favors consensus.

Via Balloon Juice

Changes to Oscar Voting

Dave Eggers on JD Salinger

I’m posting this Dave Eggers remembrance of JD Salinger because it’s nice, but mostly because I wanted a place to memorialize the crazy ass 1st comment in case it’s deleted for some reason. The world needs to see stuff like this, and I guarantee that every one of you English majors out there has a sneaking suspicion that you had class with the person who wrote this.

First, Eggers on the possibility that Salinger continued to write:

Of course, the possibility most intriguing—and fictional-sounding—would have Salinger having continued to write for fifty years, finishing hundreds of stories and a handful of novels, all of which are polished and up to his standards and ready to go, and all of which he imagined would be found and published after his death. That, in fact, he intended all along for these works to be read, but that he just couldn’t bear to send them into the world while he lived.

And now the CRAZY! Excuse the length, I quoted the entire thing because I was terrified it would some day disappear. Maybe crazy isn’t the right word… No, it is.

I’m sure this is an inappropriate venue to air these grievances, but after wading through a few ‘vexing’ remembrances, it looks like I’m going to set my thoughts down in writing, and the foot of this graveyard seems as safe as place as any to plant a sword – no one to kill: everyone’s dead. I may get long-winded, so I’ll offer up the point from the get go: the moral of this probably-never-to-be-posted internet comment is do not let middling twits near the obituaries of great men. It is fashionable to dislike Salinger and acceptable to regard him as a demigod. Those who dislike him seem to take offense at his Sincerity (properly capitalized, framed by generous margins), or claim acumen that sees through his characters’ adolescent whining and precious fragility. Those people, I find (and I mean this strictly as an insult), generally have not read Proust and do not like Shakespeare. And then there are his hopeless devotees, not of the assassinating sort, but of the I Am Holden Caulfield, lead eastward by the promise of his brilliant figure type (you can provide the hyphens yourself). These people, I find, generally have not read anything – maybe Lolita, which they mispronounce [Loll- as in lollipop, see: Strong Opinions] and never finished. All of this is to say that like select canons before his, Salinger’s work frequently attracts readers ill-equipped to understand it, which, as both Proust and common sense tell us, is symptomatic of genius. Not of talent, mind you, not even of tremendous talent, but of that most rare and dazzling gift afforded only a handful since creation – the ability to render black and white in color, to settle the darkness without reference to history or constellation, to provide not only essential information about the nature of existence but also a reason to exist. Salinger was a genius. That’s not something to be said lightly or proudly, because it is a terrible and humbling thing to behold: genius is the perpetual state of the terrifying sublime, to behold the mountain and feel small, to register the universe and feel unreal, to witness the passing of the mountain and universe, (I told you I’d get long-winded, but I didn’t say I’d get kooky, clerical oversight, apologies) to, in short, understand that you will die, to know that the conditions of this world are hilariously insignificant and to, therefore, reorient yourself to what is nameless and highest and most frighteningly joyous. Man is not the mountain. I don’t care why he retreated into seclusion; I know there’s no convincing the self-righteously blind that the stars are real and furious and gorgeous. No one should hold out for insight: all I expect is some courtesy. You like his dialogue? I like your shoes. What of the soul?

Posted 1/29/2010, 8:57:48pm by willowfog

Dave Eggers on JD Salinger

25 Media Maxims from Ken Auletta

Ken Auletta from the New Yorker wrote a book about Google, “Googled: The End of the World as We Know It” and before he published it, he cut the last chapter of 25 media maxims. Click the link above to read the chapter, or see below to see them in cribbed form. You might recognize the first maxim from Steve Jobs’ Stanford graduation address (video below via AllThingsD)

1. “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.”
2. Passion Wins
3. Focus is Required
4. Vision is Required
5. A Team Culture is Vital
6. Treat Engineers as Kings
7. Treat Customers Like a King
8. Brand Often Means Trust
9. Every Company is a Frenemy
10. The Speed Of Change Accelerates
11. Adapt or Die
12. “Life is long but time is short.”
13. A “Free” Web Is Not Always Free
14. Digital is Different
15. Don’t Think of The Web as Another Distribution Platform
16. Technology Provides Potent New Targeting Tools
17. The Web Forges Communities, and Threatens Privacy
18. Beware The Government Bear
19. Paradox:The Web Forges Both Niche and Large Communities
20. More Media Concentration, Yet More Choice
21. Luck Matters
22. No More Old Media Magic
23. No More New Media Magic, Either
24. Don’t Ignore the Human Factor
25. There are no Certitudes

25 Media Maxims from Ken Auletta

Gladwell’s for Dummies

I would have never started reading Maureen Tkacik’s Gladwell for Dummies in The Nation if I had known that it was over 8K words, so, you know, be warned. And yet it has an “irritating, unrelenting readability” that kept bringing me back to it over several hours. While Anti-Gladwellian screed might be too strong of a descriptor, I’d be comfortable throwing around phrases like petty and jealously thorough. Profiles like this don’t get written without there being some sort of personal vendetta involved. And yet, while it’s a devastating look at Gladwell’s work, it also functions as a takedown of those who enjoy his books. The title of the article should not have been “Gladwell for Dummies” (that would have been better lampooned as “Pseudoscience for Airplanes”), but “Gladwell is for Dummies”. Maureen, you make me feel dumb for having read Gladwell’s articles, what SHOULD I read?

That success is in the eye of the unsuccessful would seem to be the great unspoken dilemma dogging critics asked to consider the work of the rich and famous author and inspirational speaker Malcolm Gladwell. No matter how well intentioned or intellectually honest their attempts to assess his ideas, the subtext of Gladwell’s perceived success, and its implications for their own aspirations in the competitive thought-generation business, obscures their judgment and sinks their morale. Nearly a decade has passed since the New York Times dryly summarized Gladwell’s first book, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference (2000), as “a study of social epidemics, otherwise known as fads,” and yet, each Sunday, it still taunts perusers of the paperback nonfiction rankings, where it currently sits in sixth place. Gladwell may be merely “a slickster trickster” who “markets marketing” (as James Wolcott put it), or a “clever idea packager” who “cannot conceal the fatuousness of his core conclusions” (science writer John Horgan); he might even be an “idiot” (Leon Wieseltier). But one thing is clear: Gladwell is no fad. He is a brand, a guru, a fixture at New York publishing parties and in the spiels of literary agents hoping to steer writers toward concepts that will strike publishers as “Gladwellian.”

Via Fimoculous

Gladwell’s for Dummies

A Month’s Worth of Links About Newspapers

I Read The News Today Exhibition, The British Library [120709]
Photo by Flickr user danielweir.esq

It’s important to note when discussing the problems at newspapers that spending on advertising is down almost EVERYWHERE, not just in newspapers. Industries that are dependent on ad dollars, of which Big Newspaper is just one, are all hurting. Yes, circulation is down, but there aren’t less people reading the news necessarily, there are just less people subscribing to newspapers. If newspapers were able to charge higher fees for online advertising, they’d be in much better shape, obviously.

On that note, I noticed I had about a zillion tabs open related to the newspaper industry and I thought I’d collect them all here.

Via Daring Fireball, The Awl, demanding context from how bi-annual newspaper circulation numbers are typically reported, put together a chart showing newspaper circulation over the last 2 decades. It’s pretty if you like looking at line graphs with dramatically plummeting line graphs. The LA Times’ fall is breathtaking in its suddenness, and circulation is down 10% across the board.

In supporting Steve Coll’s idea that newspapers should be nonprofits and in attempting to determine the value of local newspapers, Clay Shirky decides to do a “news biopsy” on his hometown newspaper, the Columbia Daily Tribune. From his biopsy, he finds that only 1/6 of the newspaper is “created news” or content created by the newspaper’s 6 reporters and those 6 reporters work for a newspaper with 59 employees.

The city desk editors and the copy chief make the work…more valuable than it would otherwise be. But you can pick any multiplier you like for necessary editorial and support staff and that number, times six reporters, won’t be a big number. In particular, it won’t be 59, or anywhere near it.

His conclusion? “There are dozen or so reporters and editors in Columbia, Missouri, whose daily and public work is critical to the orderly functioning of that town, and those people are trapped inside a burning business model.”

Also commenting on the “the power and necessity of local reporting” Esquire.com uses the recent Samoan earthquake/tsunami as an example of the big guys besting the little guys.

Newsosaur looked into pay walls and found that paywalls might never come because publishers are realizing they can’t afford to lose the traffic a paywall would cost. Which is good news, because some columnists are quitting over paywalls. At the end of the Newsosaur’s piece, there is bleating from Stephen Brill that, “You are misinformed about folks being less inclined” to add paywalls. Stephen Brill, by the way, founded Journalism Online, a company dedicated to helping publishers charge consumers for content, so, you know, he might be biased. (Journalism Online has a funny section of their site called Why Readers Will Pay For Online News, which features several different newspapers talking about why people SHOULD pay for news, but not why they WILL. That’s a distinction worth making.)

Finally, via Kottke, Daniel Gross has a piece in Slate that says despite the falling circulations numbers, it’s not as bad as you think. Several publishers were able to raise subscription revenue by raising subscription costs enough to make up for canceled subscriptions. “This is the new emerging model—cutting costs, raising prices.”

I debated whether to include this last one because I kind of hate Megan McArdle’s writing. I figured since I had already read her post and linked it, I’d leave it there for you to decide if you want to read it or not. Here’s Megan McArdle doing what she does best, spewing confusing nonsense. She doesn’t add anything to the conversation, but wants you to know she’s very concerned about the future of journalism.

A Month’s Worth of Links About Newspapers

What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell All on the Web

Hell yeah! This is the kind of web documentation I can get behind. Malcolm Gladwell has a new book coming out called What the Dog Saw made up of articles he’s written for the New Yorker over the last several years. Kottke took it upon himself to grab links for all the articles, so it’s up to you if you want to read the articles for free or buy them in a pleasing collection.

Two of my favorites: Troublemakers and Late Bloomers.

What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell All on the Web