Saturday, September 26, 2015

Watching the Watchers: The Wall Street Journal Invokes the Specter of Marx

"[Lack of influence by shareholders] is perhaps most evident in the preposterous salaries paid, particularly in the U.S. and Britain, to top executives of public companies. If the owners of these companies truly exercised authority over what is theirs, this wouldn’t happen. If these enterprises had grown over the last 20 years at the same rate as pay for the men who run them (it usually still is men), no one would be talking of a crisis of capitalism." 
"But Marx did have an insight about the disproportionate power of the ownership of capital. The owner of capital decides where money goes, whereas the people who sell only their labor lack that power. This makes it hard for society to be shaped in their interests. In recent years, that disproportion has reached destructive levels, so if we don’t want to be a Marxist society, we need to put it right."
–Charles Moore, "The Middle-Class Squeeze", The Wall Street Journal, September 25, 2015

At this point, I really should have had something prepared to look into some of the do-your-own-thing movements going around. Say something about the rise of podcasting in comedy, Kickstarter/Patreon, the pros and cons of Silicon Valley-style startup culture, etc. And then contrast that with restrictive health care situations and other holes in the fabric of U.S. business. But I didn't do that. Maybe some other time.

Meanwhile, go listen to the Planet Money episode about Netflix's hiring and firing practices. Whether you think their approach is brilliant or horrifying may tell you something about which side you will be on should the specter of Marx rear its head in our "modern" times.

If this post was a youtube video, I would end it by asking: Capitalism, are we doing it wrong? If so how do we fix it?

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Watching the Watchers: From Above

The U.S. Air Force is in its 24th year of continual combat. Consider for a moment all of the implications of that little fact.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Bookworming: In the Dust of This Planet

In the Dust of This Planet, Eugene Thacker, *
I came to this book via the Radio Lab episode and the True Detective season 1 influence. As such, it may have been built up a bit too much. It is, in my reading, basically a series of similarly themed essays on the subject of a nihilist perspective of horror that goes beyond the human-centered viewpoint. I say "in my reading", because there will undoubtedly be other readings. This is an academic work couched in overly academic styles and verbiage that might make H. P. Lovecraft ask Thacker to dial it back some. It is a good one to read on an e-reader or tablet with word look up available. While the topic may be an interesting one, this is not a book for general audiences. Even horror fans may not find what they are looking here. Scholars of horror or philosophy, perhaps. In his RadioLab interview Thacker jokes about writing books for no one. I'm afraid that in spite of the book's appearance in pop culture, that joke is fairly accurate for most potential readers.

Bookworming: The Well of Ascension

The Well of Ascension, Brandon Sanderson, ****
This is the second book in the Mistborn trilogy. If you liked the first one, I suspect you will like the second one.

Quote of the Moment

"Every aspect of life is a rigorous engagement with the banal. –J. Morgan Puett, The Art Assignment "Scramble Scrabble Dinner"

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Watching the Watchers: Coached vs. Practiced

I will say this about Donald Trump: he makes well coached politicians look like amateurs when re-framing questions. And for those who don't think it is deliberate, here is a relevant quote from his 2009 book The Art of the Deal.
The final key to the way I promote is bravado. I play to people's fantasies. People may not always think big themselves, but they can still get very excited by those who do. That's why a little hyperbole never hurts. People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular.

I call it truthful hyperbole. It's an innocent form of exaggeration—and a very effective form of promotion.
Hat tip to Evan Osnos for noting the quote in "The New Yorker" article "The Fearful and the Frustrated", August 31, 2015.

Another side note, the The Simpsons episode "Bart to the Future" from back in 2000 had a bit Trump as president.

And of course Trump was a potential presidential candidate for a time in 2012 before bowing out to remain on The Apprentice.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Electronics in a Contact Lens

One of the most fun parts of living in the twenty-first century is having some of the wild science fiction visions of the twentieth century become subjects of real research. Sometimes they even become reality, often in unexpected ways. Today's link from Sergey Brin shows off electronics in a contact lens. I realize the post is basically an informal press release, but it's just a very cool picture.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Because Reasons

It's Friday. This is awesome. #dubsmashwar2015 #TeamCarter. Yes, I used hashtags in a blog post.