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18 June 2000

"Those buildings are extraordinarily tall!"
-- Matt Murdock, sighted, in Daredevil #223 by Denny O'Neil and David Mazzuchelli

So. Long time no post.

Just links this time, many of which you've probably seen ten other places...

  • On the Contrary: Americans Aren't in the Market for Freedom [NY Times]
    ... the one thing nobody is insisting you rush out and buy is freedom. Ever hear of it? I don't mean freedom of speech or religion, which we enjoy in spades. I mean the freedom to do what you want -- including, if necessary, telling your boss to drop dead. For non-lottery winners, it's the kind of freedom that comes of thrift, and maybe also self-knowledge.

    At a time when more people than ever have the opportunity to do what they want in life, many lack the imagination to do anything but accumulate possessions. Freedom is losing market share to stuff.

    Why? One possibility is that freedom has a marketing problem. All the other stuff is hawked day and night in commercials suggesting that a product will somehow make you more free rather than less. Yet freedom itself goes unpromoted.
  • Courtney Love does the math (long, must-read) [Salon]
    So [the record company's] profit is $6.6 million [from a million-selling record]; the band may as well be working at a 7-Eleven.

    Writing and recording "Hey Jude" is now the same thing as writing an English textbook, writing standardized tests, translating a novel from one language to another or making a map.

    Somewhere along the way, record companies figured out that it's a lot more profitable to control the distribution system than it is to nurture artists. And since the companies didn't have any real competition, artists had no other place to go. Record companies controlled the promotion and marketing; only they had the ability to get lots of radio play, and get records into all the big chain store. That power put them above both the artists and the audience. They own the plantation.

    The present system keeps artists from finding an audience because it has too many artificial scarcities: limited radio promotion, limited bin space in stores and a limited number of spots on the record company roster. The digital world has no scarcities.

    It's a radical democratization. Every artist has access to every fan and every fan has access to every artist, and the people who direct fans to those artists. People that give advice and technical value are the people we need. People crowding the distribution pipe and trying to ignore fans and artists have no value. This is a perfect system.
  • The Spin Myth [Malcom Gladwell]
    The curious thing about our contemporary obsession with spin, however, is that we seldom consider whether spin works. We simply assume that, because people are everywhere trying to manipulate us, we're being manipulated. Yet it makes just as much sense to assume the opposite: that the reason spin is everywhere today is that it doesn't work--that, because the public is getting increasingly inured to spin, spinners feel they must spin even harder, on and on, in an ever-escalating arms race.
  • Hey, they shoulda called it 'Capital' Hill [CNN/TIME]
    Rep. Jay Inslee (D-Washington) doesn't just represent -- and vociferously defend -- Microsoft Corp. against its legions of critics (even attending the antitrust trial's closing arguments to show his support), he's also a part owner.

    House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) is buried in student-loan debt...
  • Scary: Gauging Attitudes About the Internet [NY Times, also via genehack]
    The candid and sometimes contradictory opinions were offered in focus groups held around the country the last two weeks as the Markle Foundation began taking what may be the first comprehensive look at public attitudes about the Internet, its regulation and governance and online privacy and fraud.

    Most participants said they were wary of giving away personal information. But during simulations, few seemed to recognize the seal of a popular program called TrustE, begun by the industry to certify sites that comply with basic privacy standards. [??!!?]

    "I think we should put Oprah on [a board to 'run the Internet']," said one middle-aged woman in Omaha. "She has a lot of pull. She'd be pulling for all of us. She has a loud voice with good morals. She's always for the underdog."
  • On the Campaign Trail, Nader Means Business [Washington Post, via Ghost in the Machine]
    The feisty gadfly is planning on buying some television and radio time. But not your typical banal political spot, he explains, with the American flag waving and a shot of him with happy multicultural school children. "No, these would be the kinds of ads that would make some news," he warns, happily. // Like what? Not yet, Nader says.

    The corporations are planning our futures, Nader tells the audience. One theme: Our children? "They are making sure they grow up corporate," he warns. The kids are over-medicated, militarized, cosmetized, corporatized. They are raised by Kinder-Care, fed by McDonald's, educated by Channel One. They are given hand-held entertainment units like Gameboys, seduced by Disney movies and toys, and their coaches and teachers all operate against a backdrop of corporate logos and sponsorship.

    If Ralph Nader wakes up on a November morning and sees that his Green Party candidacy has helped vault Bush into the White House, so be it. Either he will have helped the Greens become a more viable third party, or he will have shaken the Democrats to their core. Either way, Nader says, he and his party will have made a step toward fixing a system that is broken.
  • the problem with music: some of your friends are already this ________ [A rancid amoeba]
    The band is now 1/4 of the way through its contract, has made the music industry more than 3 millon dollars richer, but is in the hole $14,000 on royalties. The band members have each earned about 1/3 as much as they would working at a 7-11, but they got to ride in a tour bus for a month.
  • Whaddaya mean, you can't find programmers? [Joel on Software]
    When you call someone up to say, "you've got the job," ... you probably have a little post-in note stuck on your finger you got from The Big Boss ... to remind you that you're going to offer them $100,000, but if they balk, you have the authority to go as far as $105. Now imagine that you call the candidate up and offer them $100. They accept. Great! You saved the company $5,000 a year!

    Oh my. Big deal. $5,000 a year. Wait a day, call them right back, and say, "I know you accepted at $100, but we've decided to set your salary at $105."

    Aha. Now sit back and watch the law of reciprocity kick in.
  • DaveNet: How to Settle the Microsoft Case [Userland]
    ...there's more than technology happening here, and certainly more than one *brand* of technology, and ratification of the tying practice would result in a continued stifling of creativity and new structures for enterprise. If it were overturned, I'd argue, the taxpayers of the United States should get a lot of Microsoft stock, because we would be subsidizing them. We've probably been doing it for a long time, but now we have the means to stop it, not just at Microsoft, but at other market-dominating technology companies such as AOL and Oracle, and perhaps Sun and Apple.
  • Mastering Algorithms with Perl [Jason McIntosh, via genehack]
    It is not a book about Perl, but one about computer science algorithms, with an intended audience of Perl programmers, using the peculiar code symbols and idioms they know and love to teach them about these ancient and venerable techniques.

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