Sunday, April 28, 2013

What I’m reading #97

Courtesy costs nothing: Schumpeter, the Economist’s US columnist, recently renewed his driving licence at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in Washington DC. Quote unquote:
The queue moved at a glacial pace. The staff alternated between hostile and indifferent. There were lengthy forms to fill in, six documents to produce, confusing instructions and, hanging over everything, the warning that any false answer is a crime. One man said he had sent his paperwork by fax only to be told that the DMV does not accept faxed documents. Then why do you provide a fax number, he asked? “We do it as a courtesy.”
Also in the Economist, AD Miller on the Navalny show trial. Quote unquote:
There is another possible reading of these antics. It is that, at least in part, they are knowingly ridiculous and sloppy. 
In other words, they may be designed to show that the regime is powerful and unaccountable enough to be as sloppy and ridiculous as it likes. The extravagance of the amateurism unmistakably conveys to the accused, and their supporters, that everyone is vulnerable, and that the state doesn’t much care how outlandish its pseudo-judicial repressions may appear. In a way, the more outlandish, the better to send a message of unrestrained power. As in much of Russia’s foreign policy, the regime here behaves like a man in a pub who picks a fight by accusing you of spilling his pint. You know you haven’t spilled it, and he knows you know—and the fact that you both know is part of the point. Forcing the lie on you is part of the thug’s power.
Josh Drummond on the interfaith prayers that open meetings of the Hamilton City Council. Quote unquote:
Zoroastrianism, a traditional religion of Persia, is tragically missing from the list of religions represented by the interfaith prayers, possibly because their chief deity is called Ahura Mazda. Having this name evoked at council meetings could give rise to accusations of inappropriate commercial relationships.
John Birmingham on why unauthorised downloading is wrong. He would say that, wouldn’t he, because he is an author but he is right, especially about the cheese analogy. Quote unquote:
For instance, when I write a book, I could, I suppose, invite you to my house and read it to you. But that is inefficient. So I allow my publishers to create copies and distribute them. I get paid for each copy thus sold.
Let me repeat that. I get paid for each copy sold. If lots of people buy the copies, I get to write more. My readers get to read more.
I get paid nothing for each copy distributed outside the channels I authorised. I created value by doing the work, but I realised that value by controlling the distribution channel. When you make your own copy you have, quite literally, robbed me of that value.
Please don’t expect me to be your friend when you do that. Please don’t tell me I actually benefited because it raised my profile or you told your other friends to get the book. And please don’t tell me that copyright is dead and I need to develop a new model. I really don’t want to have to invite people around to my house and charge entry to the garage where I can do paid readings and sell a few overpriced T-shirts.
David Lynch’s hair and its fine art equivalents.

Tim Worstall on why Amazon doesn’t have to pay tax on its UK operations.

Distance looks our way, or at least Rod Liddle in the Spectator does in the case of Ronald Clark, pixie-fancier. Quote unquote:
First, catch your elf, etc. It is only rarely that one chances upon such beings these days and they are notoriously difficult to entice with promises of boiled sweets or puppies.
Also in the Spectator, Philip Hensher gives Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists 4, edited by John Freeman, a mixed review. Quote unquote:
The list has gained a substantial reputation for an authority beyond literary prizes, though many large talents have been excluded in the past, either through their age (Ali Smith) or working in a genre (Douglas Adams) or just short-sightedness about excellence in an unusual form. But Granta has done well to identify future stars, even if it has also pinned too much on a few novelists who have never come to anything.
John is leaving Granta after five years. Bah.

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