“We Agree …”

“We agree much more than you think.” This was Niels Bohr‘s kind way of indicating profound disagreement with a colleague’s point of view.  The genial physicist knew that the literal truth of that statement – after all, all scientists would agree on basic mathematical principles, for example – would camouflage his rebuke and foster a continued, friendly dialogue.

Bohr was perhaps the greatest scientific and collaborator mentor of the twentieth century. Although his talks were notoriously digressive and hard to follow, his spoken manner was otherwise congenial, drawing talent to his laboratories and conferences. People responded well to him. The phrase “we agree” is an excellent way to indicate that your relationship with someone is important. A lot can be accomplished on that basis alone.

Independent Creativity: Making Yourself Successful

The wonderful Molly Crabapple explains what she has learned, in fifteen paragraphs. Here are a half dozen:

Companies are not loyal to you. Please never believe a company has your back. They are amoral by design and will discard you at a moment’s notice.

Negotiate aggressively, ask other freelancers what they’re getting paid, and don’t buy into the financial negging of some suit.

I’ve cobbled together many different streams of income, so that if the bottom falls out of one industry, I’m not ruined. My mom worked in packaging design. When computers fundamentally changed the field, she lost all her work. I learned from this.

Very often people who blow up and become famous fast already have some other sort of income, either parental money, spousal money, money saved from another job, or corporate backing behind the scenes. Other times they’ve actually been working for 10 years and no one noticed until suddenly they passed some threshold. Either way, its good to take a hard look – you’ll learn from studying both types of people, and it will keep you from delusional myth-making.

I’ve never had a big break. I’ve just had tiny cracks in this wall of indifference until finally the wall wasn’t there any more

Don’t be a dick. Be nice to everyone who is also not a dick, help people who don’t have the advantages you do, and never succumb to crabs in the barrel infighting.

Remember that most people who try to be artists are kind of lazy. Just by busting your ass, you’re probably good enough to put yourself forward, so why not try?

Saudi Students and “Veblen Goods”

I’ve had a number of superb students at Kwantlen Polytechnic University from that country. This is awful news.

From Inside Higher Ed this morning:

Saudi Arabian students in Canada are caught in diplomatic crossfire.

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Education is making plans to transfer students out of Canada to institutions in other countries after a diplomatic meltdown between the two countries sparked by Canada’s criticism of the kingdom’s arrest and detention of human rights activists.

A spokesman for Saudi Arabia’s education ministry said on Twitter that the ministry is “working on preparing and implementing an emergency plan to facilitate the transfer of our students to other countries.”

CNN reported that 7,000 Saudi students on government scholarships in Canada will be relocated.

Dan Drezner of the Washington Post has three “not mutually exclusive” explanations for the Saudi action:

– Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman is “trying to demonstrate that he is in control [in his country], even if these sanctions will not lead to any Canadian concessions.” …

– “Another possibility is that these sanctions are less about compelling Canada and more about deterring other Western countries from criticizing Saudi Arabia.”

There is one final, more speculative explanation. There has been some recent international relations research into “prestige goods” or “Veblen goods,” things that states spend costly sums of money on with little tangible return. … As I explained this summer: “Veblen goods are positional goods, in which demand increases along with price because the good is seen as a display of prestige. Veblen goods can explain why some countries choose to invest in aircraft carriers or space programs when they should be allocating scarce resources elsewhere.” …

Maybe, just maybe, economic sanctions themselves have become a kind of Veblen good. Not many countries have the resources to impose economic sanctions of any kind on another state in world politics. The United States sanctions a lot, the European Union sanctions some, so do Russia and China, and then . . . crickets.

Except for Saudi Arabia. If Saudi Arabia is seen as a country that can sanction others, it starts to look more like a great power. The very fact that these sanctions are costly is what makes them such a compelling Veblen good. According to this logic, it does not matter whether they work: Most sanctions fail anyway. What makes them successful is that Mohammed has demonstrated that he can impose them in the first place.

reposted from basil.CA

Protecting yourself from the CRA phone scams

Just last week I received a voicemail from someone pretending to be a Canada Revenue Agency official. This person told me that liens were going to be placed on my bank accounts because I hadn’t “paid penalties for tax evasion.” The liens would happen “later today” if I did not call back and settle up.

This was a really scary voicemail. It raised my blood pressure! After a few minutes of controlled breathing, I decided not to call back. I didn’t want to be a victim of a fraud.

I was lucky – because I did not feel the full persuasive force of these scammers, who have been bedevilling and defrauding Canadians for the last month or so. Many victims have heard their own bank and credit card and other personal information read back to them. Surely the caller was a government official, no?

No, not a government official.

Chester Wisniewski, a friend of No Contest Communications and a researcher at Sophos, a global firm focused on network and computer security, appeared on the CBC yesterday to talk about these scams. Discussing the case of a recently scammed individual, Chester noted,

“The information the criminals had could really have only come from his own device. The amount of information they had is beyond what a bank would have, it’s beyond what the CRA would have. The only place that all that information exists would be your own computer.” …

According to Wisniewski, the con artists will often spend days gathering information they can use against their victims.

“They may be criminals, but they’re not stupid,” he said. …

Wisniewski said it’s crucial that people protect their information by using unique passwords for every online account. There’s software that can handle that, but keeping a handwritten list is another option.

He also recommends keeping all devices up to date, installing every software update as soon as it’s available.

And any time a call comes in from someone claiming to be with the government, police or a bank, Wisniewski says it’s best not to agree to anything and then call back on a verified phone number.

“Because somebody calls you and has familiarity with your personal life, does not make them in a position of authority, nor someone you know,” he said.

Love deserves …

In a marvellous Tukwila, Washington used bookstore the other week I picked up a copy of Yvor Winters’ Uncollected Essays and Reviews for $2.99. I am glad I did because it sure was worth it. I would have been happy to have paid five.

Winters was a Stanford University English Professor and a literary critic and moralist. Long after he passed away, in the 1980s graduate students like myself could leaf through his bound and yellowing PhD dissertation in the Briggs Room library (I was the librarian) in Building 50 next to Memorial Church on the quad. We all read Winters, particularly his book In Defense of Reason, if only to disparage his conviction that a poem should be a rational statement of an abiding human truth. We were more amenable to his discussions of prosody, but could not help but find him often wanting there as well.

As a reader of American poets of the early 20th century, Yvor Winters’ views went from testy to lacerating and back again. I enjoyed his limpid prose. And I certainly enjoyed some of his take-downs of silly poems and poets.

Most interesting to me were his discussions of William Carlos Williams, who was the subject of my first scholarly publication. His ambivalence was all-out, as if he had fallen in love with a drug dealer. This is from an essay called “Poetry of Feeling” found in the Uncollected Essays:

The romantic principles which have governed Dr. Williams’ work have limited his scope. … The combination of purity and of richly human feeling to be found in his language at times reminds one of Thomas Hardy or of Robert Bridges, and of beauty and of execution he is their equal, though in so different a mode; but his understanding is narrow than theirs, and his best poems are less great. On the other hand, when poems are so nearly unexceptionable in their execution, one regards the question of scope regretfully: Robert Herrick is less great than Shakespeare, but he is probably as fine, and, God willing, should last as long. If I may venture … a prediction, it is this: that Williams will prove as nearly indestructible as Herrick; that the end of the present century will see him securely established, along with Wallace Stevens, as one of the two best poets of his generation.

Winters wrote a “postscript” to this piece 25 years later, not long before he died:

My general remarks may stand, but by this time, I would restrict my choice of successful poems much more narrowly. … To say that Williams was anti-intellectual would be almost an exaggeration: he did not know what the intellect was. He was a foolish and ignorant man, but at moments a fine stylist.

“But at moments.”

I find this postscript terribly poignant: What had happened to Professor Winters that permitted scorn to upend his aesthetic attentiveness and delight for work he had loved truly, if never with the wholeness of ease?

“No love deserves the death it has.” – Jack Spicer

News Literacy 2018

Jay Rosen’s NYU School of Journalism’s News Literacy Project is an amazing service to all of us. The links and their analyses give us environmental scans and some helpful dives.

As advertising revenue continues to decline, newsrooms are aggressively developing different or additional revenue streams, from reader-supported initiatives to philanthropic donations. They want to capitalize on a spike in digital subscriptions by cultivating other creative ways to turn more consumers into paying customers. News organizations are also harnessing the power of mobile devices and capturing audiences on smartphones and smart speakers. New tools promise to engage users more deeply and to build trust in a time of “fake news” by measuring the real-world impacts of journalism. While foundations fund significant reporting projects, nonprofit outlets are learning to avoid an overreliance on charity, and newsrooms have discovered the benefits of aligning various revenue streams with their missions. In the pursuit of standout products, more journalists express an openness to exploring emerging technologies. Among the innovations to watch are augmented reality, automated fact-checking, and blockchain-based funding models.