Mid December Links: Marriage plots and incest, Seattle's tunnels, coffee and economic development, and Amazon.com and independent book stores

* “How Much Is Too Much Incest on TV?” I suspect TV and movie writers want to engage incest plots because there aren’t many taboo sexual relationships of the kind that fuel narrative fiction left. Until recently, it was pretty easy for narrative fiction (mostly novels, but eventually movies and TV) to fuel their plots by taking two people who weren’t supposed to be together and finding out what happens when they get together, especially in the face of families and societies that disapprove of their shocking actions.

When no one was supposed to have sex outside of marriage, this was really easy. Today, most people over 18 can do it with (pretty much) whomever they want, as often as they want. So you have to stretch a lot further for taboo subjects: hence the many novels dealing with student-teacher sex or age-of-consent boundaries. When even adultery isn’t that transgressive any more, you have to look further afield to fuel a plot.

* “It’s not an accident that the age of reason accompanies the rise of caffeinated beverages.” This is a video, but it’s mercifully short. I can’t find an equivalent essay by Steven Berlin Johnson and a cursory flip through Where Good Ideas Comes From doesn’t reveal a section about coffee, though I may have simply missed it.

* [Bill] O’Reilly Gets Ambushed, just like he does to other people. One definition of a bully might be someone who can’t accept what they do to others or say about them.

* Tunnels: Seattle’s boring past filled with thrills:

In a world where most work is done with a keyboard and dispersed into electronic ether, their work is refreshingly real, lasting, utilitarian. Workers seem also to share a frontier can-do spirit. Masters of a subterranean universe, not for nothing is their line of work called heavy civil: a good name for a grunge band, or a workforce that stops at pretty much nothing.

I’m not convinced work “done with a keyboard” isn’t necessarily “refreshingly real,” mostly because I tend to use badass keyboards that are tactiley satisfying.

* Speaking of tactiley satisfying, I got an e-mail about Design.Y notebooks, which are made by a Mr. Hiroshi Yoshino and are also exceedingly, insanely expensive but also look like the Platonic ideal of a notebook. I’m currently using the perfect fountain pen full-time—it’s a Sailor 1911, for those of you wondering—and I’ve lost interest in other pens since finding it.

Sailor and Design.Y are both Japanese companies and both websites linked in the preceding paragraph look straight out of 1998. That might be a kind of inverse marketing: our products are so good we don’t need or want to hire slick website designers. I wonder if both companies also suffer from Baumol’s cost disease, which may explain their prices.

* What Do Low Income Communities Need?:

Public policy can modestly improve the incentives and choice sets that poor people face–and it should do those things. But it cannot remake people into something more to the liking of bourgeois taxpayers. And it would actually be pretty creepy if it could.

* Don’t Support Your Local Bookseller: Buying books on Amazon is better for authors, better for the economy, and better for you. A couple thoughts:

1) Authors like indies because indies are more likely to promote quirky or offbeat books than Barnes and Noble, even if they choose self-consciously quirky and offbeat books that have been marketed as such.

2) In the medium to long term, Amazon’s dominance will backfire on authors if the company becomes in effect a monopoly and/or gatekeeper. Everyone paying attention to these things has seen how shittily Apple treats developers who write software for its “app store;” Amazon will treat writers the same way if it can. Amazon only looks so good right now because the company looks so good compared to conventional/legacy publishers. It is not fun to have no leverage: ask medical residents, PhD candidates, and unpublished or mid-list writers.

3) Current, famous writers like Russo have a vested interest in print books because he and similar writers are already being published by legacy publishers; this means that, the more people choose physical bookstores, the less likely they are to find random writers on the Internet.

4) I like independent bookstores. See also Megan McArdle on bookstores.

* This is a good time of year to read Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning; consider its ideas during mandatory family gatherings.

2 responses

  1. I can’t find an equivalent essay by Steven Berlin Johnson and a cursory flip through Where Good Ideas Comes From doesn’t reveal a section about coffee, though I may have simply missed it.

    IIRC, there’s a discussion of coffee shops and innovation in the Invention of Air.

    Like

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