She plays o' the viol-de-gamboys, speaks three or four languages word for word without book, hath all the good gifts of nature, knows a hawk from a handsaw, and can see a church by daylight. The rest is subject to fancy.

Vanity Fair on Judge Denise Cote

Judge Cote is the judge in the DOJ’s case against Apple and various publishers; this is an interesting background piece.

Since introducing the Kindle in 2007—and setting e-book prices at, or more often substantially below, its own costs—Amazon has wreaked havoc, and panic, among publishers. Beyond devaluing lucrative hardcover books, such rock-bottom prices have helped destroy the “brick-and-mortar” stores where books are showcased. Nothing the publishers did—delaying the release of e-books, complaining to Amazon, upping their wholesale prices to the company, or, in the case of one house, Hachette, actually going to the Justice Department to gripe—seemed to work.

But Apple offered salvation. By opening up an iBookstore in tandem with the new iPad, Apple could “trounce” Amazon, Eddy Cue, the Apple executive who’d pioneered iTunes and other Apple content stores, wrote Jobs in late 2009. Jobs quickly signed on. But Cue had to move fast: the iPad was to make its debut on January 27, 2010, and Jobs wanted to unveil iBooks with it. And Jobs himself was dying.

To each of the Big Six publishing houses, Cue offered the same deal: rather than selling e-books wholesale and letting retailers price them, the publishers themselves would set e-book prices; Apple would only be an agent, collecting 30 percent of sales. By January 26, five of the publishers—only Random House refused—had agreed. Amazon, too, quickly fell in line. E-book prices quickly rose. Soon came the lawsuits—class actions on behalf of consumers; cases filed by various state attorneys general. And then, in April 2012—largely, Apple has charged, at Amazon’s instigation—came the Justice Department’s case. All said Apple and the publishers had conspired together in violation of federal anti-trust laws.

David Margolick. “The Judge That Apple Hates.”

Editor Jill Abramson Fired by The New York Times

Keep in mind that the NYT lost a lawsuit regarding pay inequality and female staffers.

I was also told by another friend of Abramson’s that the pay gap with Keller was only closed after she complained. But, to women at an institution that was once sued by its female employees for discriminatory practices, the question brings up ugly memories. Whether Abramson was right or wrong, both sides were left unhappy. A third associate told me, “She found out that a former deputy managing editor”—a man—“made more money than she did” while she was managing editor. “She had a lawyer make polite inquiries about the pay and pension disparities, which set them off.”

Ken Auletta in The New YorkerWhy Jill Abramson was Fired.

Heidi Roizen on “What I Learned Negotiating With Steve Jobs”

Heidi Rozen, Standord MBA and faculty member, co-founder of classic Mac developer T/Maker, former Apple Vice President of World-Wide Developer Relations, reminisces about negotiating with Steve Jobs, and what she learned:

On the appointed day, after waiting in the lobby for 45 minutes (this, I would come to learn, was par for the course for meetings with Steve), I was called up to Steve’s cubicle. I remember to this day how completely nervous I felt. But I had my contract in hand and I knew my numbers cold.

Shortly into my pitch, Steve took the contract from me and scanned down to the key term, the royalty rate. I had pitched 15%, our standard. Steve pointed at it and said,

“15%? That is ridiculous. I want 50%.”

Sometimes when I listen to people talk about negotiating, whether it’s for a consulting gig, a salary or a publishing contract, they seem to frame the event in the context of a zero/sum game, of winning or losing.

Sometimes it’s about finding a way for both parties to win.

The Fabulous Charlie Stross on The Religious History of UNIX

Thus the scribe hath written:

But in the late 1980s, the Catholic Church succumbed to the sins of venality and simony, demanding too much money from the faithful. And so, in 1991 or thereabouts, Linus Torvalds nailed his famous source code release to the cathedral door and kicked off the Reformation. The Reformation took the shape of a new, freely copyable kernel that all the faithful could read with their own eyes. This Protestant heresy spread like wildfire among the people but was resisted with acts of vicious repression by the high priesthood of Corporate IT (arguably in connivance with the infidel invaders from the Caliphate of Microsoft). The Linux wars were brutal and unforgiving and Linux itself splintered into a myriad of fractious Protestant churches, from the Red Hat wearing Lutherans to the Ubuntu Baptists.

See Over-Extended Metaphor for the day by Charlie Stross for the rest (you don’t have to be a Unix person)

Scott Lobdell, sexism, stupidity etc.

Long story short: A few days ago, cartoonist MariNaomi wrote an op-ed about being harassed by professional comic-book writer Scott Lobdell on a panel at a convention. MariNaomi was very careful to avoid identifying information, but Lobdell apparently read the piece recognized himself—maybe because the shit he had pulled was extreme even in an industry and environment with a long, gross history of tolerance of and complicity with misogyny and harassment.

Lobdell responded by contacting Heidi MacDonald, a self-described friend of his. He sent Heidi an open apology of sorts, which Heidi ran at The Beat, and which is such a spectacular load of equivocation and dodges that my spit-takes are doing spit-takes.

Read the rest

Bart van Es Shakespeare in Company

Cover of Bart van Es's Shakespeare in CompanyThe Times Literary Supplement has an interesting review by Charles S. Nicholl of a new book by Bart van Es from OUP. Van Es’s Shakespeare in Company places Shakespeare in the context of the theater of the sixteenth and early seventeenth century. Here’s what Nicholl has to say:


The idea of Shakespeare as a sort of literary superman was essentially a
bicentenary celebrations of 1764, orchestrated by David Garrick. It was enthusiastically endorsed by Romantic critics such as product of the later eighteenth century, and particularly of the fulsome Coleridge, and is perpetuated in that irritating moniker “the Bard”, with which he continues to be saddled daily. Bart Van Es’s lucid and comprehensive book is in a more recent and surely more realistic counter-tradition which sees Shakespeare as pre-eminently involved: a poet at work in the daily professional context of a busy and successful theatre company.

This is one I’ll be watching for. It’s apparently out of stock everywhere, and the local library has it “on order,” so I may be waiting quite a while.

Bad Decisions Don’t Make You Poor. Being Poor Makes for Bad Decisions

Slate columnist Matthew Ygelsias:

A study published last week in the journal Science shows that the stress of worrying about finances can impair cognitive functions in a meaningful way. The authors gathered evidence from both low-income Americans (at a New Jersey shopping mall) and the global poor (looking at farmers in Tamil Nadu, India) and found that just contemplating a projected financial decision impacted performance on spatial and reasoning tests.

Perhpas more importantly, as Matthew Yglesias notes, this research suggests current eligibility tests for help may be completely wrong-headed and even damaging:

This paternalistic notion that we should be relatively stingy with help, and make sure to attach it to complicated eligibility requirements and tests, may itself be contributing to the problem of poverty. At home or abroad, the strain of constantly worrying about money is a substantial barrier to the smart decision-making that people in tough circumstances need to succeed. One of the best ways to help the poor help themselves, in other words, is to simply make them less poor.

Read the entire piece.

See also: Poverty Impedes Cognitive Function