Fred Friendly Turns in His Grave

“The news is the one thing the networks can point to with pride. Everything else they do is crap, and they know it.”

—Fred W. Friendly, American producer, born October 30, 1915

And Then There Were None

Love this quote from Fred Friendly; kind of says it all about American media. I imagine the shameless hucksters and ideologues who are now running TV news continue “to point with pride” at their industry. Or worse, they may not give a shit at all.

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You Paid How Much for Speakers?

“A chimpanzee who is really gearing up for a fight doesn’t waste time with gestures but just goes ahead and attacks.”

—Frans de Waal, Dutch scientist, born October 29, 1948

320px-Cartridge macro shotI grew up in the LP era. On the good side, the experience included wonderful sound (some people think analog LPs sound better than digital recordings). The record companies churned out reissues of historical recordings, folk music (real folk music recorded in the field and performed by real folk as well as the works of Bob Dylan and his myriad imitators), classical Indian and Japanese music, Pardon My Blooper Records, comedy, recorded theater (I’m still looking for the recording of “Waiting For Godot” with Bert Lahr)…A 12 x 12 inch cardboad album cover provided plenty of room for visual pizazz on the front and for informative, interesting, or frankly bizarre written and visual content on the back.

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Edison to Eight-Track: Reflections on Recorded Music

“He was gifted with the sly, sharp instinct for self-preservation that passes for wisdom among the rich.”

—Evelyn Waugh, English author, born October 28, 1903

Edison phonograph

Sound recording is one of the the technical wonders that emerged in the prodigious 1880s. Thomas Edison invented and commercialized cylinder recording. By 1910, the more familiar disc recordings had come to dominate the industry. Rapid technical progress continued, with electric recording and playback coming in the 20s, and vinyl records at 33 and 45 rpm replacing the long-established 78s made out of shellac. Stereo recording replaced monaural recording by the late sixties. (My copy of the original Doors album. featuring “Light My Fire” (1967) was mono. It cost $2.99. Stereo was $3.99.)

Tape recording was pretty widespread by the sixties, and pre-recorded music cassettes of record albums started to be common in the early seventies. The first cassette I owned was the Rolling Stones’ great album, Sticky Fingers, which I bought in Florence, Italy in the summer of 1971. The music industry had also created another tape format, the eight-track tape with superior sound quality and convenience compared to cassettes. It was particularly convenient in the car. My father had an eight track deck in his pale blue ’67 GTO, the small collection including Brahms first symphony, a perennial favorite of the old man’s. But eight track lost out in the lost run to the smaller, more flexible cassette.

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Congress Goes Trollhunting

“Who can wonder at the attractiveness… of the bar, for our ambitious young men, when the highest bribes of society are at the feet of the successful orator?”

—Marsilio Ficino, Italian philosopher, born October 19, 1433

Theodor Kittelsen AskeladdenMy goodness, the US House of Representatives is actually doing something constructive. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) introduced a bill that addresses the widespread and destructive “patent-trolling” business. A patent-troll “… is a person or company who enforces patent rights against accused infringers in an attempt to collect licensing fees, but does not manufacture products or supply services based upon the patents in question….” (Wikipedia). The proposed legislation incorporates good ideas from a number of recent proposals to control patent-trolling, and has the support of both major congressional leaders and industry. (A systematic approach to ending these abuses from the open source community here.)

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God Is Still Dead

“He never wants anything but what’s right and fair; only when you come to settle what’s right and fair, it’s everything that he wants and nothing that you want.”

—Thomas Hughes, British judge, born October 20, 1822

2013-06-08 Projekt Heilufftballon DSCF7648Boy and man, I have always loved systems. I was a software developer for most of my career. I devised, built, and ran lots of them. (Made a lot of money as a direct result of systems I built, too; but that’s a story for another day.) I think my very favorite kind of history is the history of systems, what Fernand Braudel called l’histoire de la la longue durée, the history of things that last a long time. He distinguished it from the history of events, which is what we normally think about when we think about history. Braudel favored the study of long-lasting phenomena like climate, trade, routes, land-use, communications, and technology instead of the more traditional gossipy, biography-oriented history of great men and events.

Just finished the second volume of Vaclav Smil’s magisterial history of 20th century technical innovation, Transforming the Twentieth Century. The first volume traced the development of the key inventions, mostly between 1867–1914, that formed the modern world. The second takes the story through the twentieth century, with detailed studies of key technologies like electrical generation and transmission, the automobile, container shipping, the oil and gas industries, and electronics and computing. Smil ends with reflections on the gains and losses humanity has achieved: comfort, health, and leisure for billions of people on the one hand; dire, existential threats from global climate change, the potential fragility of systems, and grotesque (and growing) economic inequality on the other.

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Support InCommN

What Does InCommN Do?

We do a lot of things (probably too many for our own good!)

  • Consult— with businesses, individuals, public entities, and non-profits
  • Network— we network the networks
  • Calendar—The best business calendar in Western Massachusetts
  • Valley Venture Mentors—Support startup businesses
  • Work with investors to build local businesses




Why Support InCommN?

Supporting InCommN is an investment in a valuable set of resources for the Western New England business community.

  • InCommN Business Calendar. People have been talking for years about the need for a comprehensive, curated calendar of business events in our region. We stopped talking and built it. 
  • The News From InCommN is our weekly e-newsletter. It’s a preview of the following week’s business events, things to read, resources to discover, and independent commentary. A fresh, colorful newsletter comes out every Friday afternoon.
  • InCommN blogs. Rick Feldman writes “The Mindful Entrepreneur,” thoughtful essays on business. Daniel Lieberman writes “The InCommN Almanac,” a personal journal of ideas and insights.
  • Don’t Eat Lunch Alone (DELA). Twice a month in four Western Massachusetts communities, InCommN sponsors unique, free, open networking lunches. DELA is a way for the business, tech, and creative communities of Western Massachusetts to meet, make contacts, and exchange ideas. 
  • 21st Century Business Roundtables. Our Tuesday evening workshop series. We’ve had sessions this fall on the recently-repealed IT Tech Tax, What Entrepreneurs Need to Know about Equity Capital, Legal and Financial Issues for Entrepreneurs, and more. 

What’s Next for InCommN?

We need your help to sustain these activities. But we really need your support to finance the creation of high-quality, searchable databases of skills and resources for Western New England.

  • Skills Database: Imagine if businesses, non-profits, and public agencies could find skilled, local people to fulfill their needs for creaitve and technical work, and for the provision of contract services. Entrepreneurs and freelancers would have a place to list and showcase their skills and reach the potential customers and partners they need to find. InCommN is in the process of building this database right now. 
  • Resource Database: Entrepreneurs and freelancers are busy people. They need an efficient, up to date, curated portal to find the services and resources they need from public and private sources to get their work done and grow their businesses. One that they can trust to be comprehensive, current, and trustworthy. Once the Skills Database is up and running, this is our next big project.

We hope you will help us keep InCommN growing. We ask you to contribute $10.00 a month through PayPal to help finance our ongoing activities and our new projects. Supporters will receive the weekly News From InCommN, and will be the first to be featured in the Skills Database. We’re talking to people daily to find out what other services InCommN should offer. Please let us know what you need and how we can help you meet your specific challenges. 

Gimme That Wine

“To some, the ’50s were a decade marked by the banal, the predictable.”

—Annette Funicello, American actress, born October 22, 1942

Tokyo Monogatari 1953Linked to an article yesterday Why Have Young People in Japan Stopped Having Sex? that seems alarmingly prescient. The author stresses that uniquely local, purely Japanese conditions contribute to the trend: twenty years of economic stagnation; 2011’s earthquake, tsunami, and radioactive meltdown; and conservative attitudes in the home and workplace. These are great reasons to avoid marriage, and cohabitation or unmarried parenthood is unusual in Japan.

But young Japanese go way beyond avoiding marriage. They avoid intimacy and sex altogether, even one-night stands. They have come to actively dislike sex and even physical contact with other people. They live in a sort of permanent state of pre-sexual adolescence, dedicated to their circle of friends, consumerism, and media. It’s like “Brave New World” without sex. It’s like a society of twelve-year olds, without the imminence of raging hormones. I suppose a future society of sexless consumers will work out just fine for the corporate masters of Japan, but it seems unspeakably tragic to me. (The image is from Yasujiro Ozu’s sublime “Tokyo Story,” 1953, a masterpiece about family life from an earlier, more human world.)

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“Names are changed more readily than doctrines, and doctrines more readily than ceremonies.”

—Thomas Love Peacock, English author, born October 18, 1785

320px-Baystate Medical Center Springfield MASpent all day on Friday and the morning on Saturday at Baystate Medical Center (not as a patient). They’re building a lot, there’s obviously lots of dough sloshing around, and they’re one of the largest employers in Western Massachusetts. In our rather quiet—somnolent?—local economy, this is going to need some attention from InCommN. More to come.

Work in the Future: I reread this essay, A Few Notes on The Culture, by Iain M. Banks, my favorite science fiction writer, who died earlier this year. He set his stories and novels in a galactic culture called, oddly enough, the Culture. I find his ideas about how a technologically advanced culture with artificial intelligence might arrange politics, society, and the economy both plausible and attractive.

The future has been arriving in Japan ahead of schedule the last few decades. Japan is at the forefront of economic and demographic trends that will soon affect the rest of the world. Is the lack of interest in sex among younger people in Japan something unique to that culture? The decline of traditional marriage is an obvious response to changes in the economy and society, but finding sex “too troublesome” seems weird.  

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Voi Sapete Quel Che Fa

“That is a long word: forever!”
—Georg Buchner, German dramatist, born October 17, 1813

Voi Sapete Quel Che Fa (You Know What He Does)

188px-Don Juan and the statue of the Commander mg 0119Decided yesterday that Jeeves prefigures the Artisanal Servant of the future. He is in fact an Artist. His medium is Bertie Wooster and his social network. (Can’t resist: Aunts Dahlia and Agatha; pals Augustus “Gussie” Fink-Nottle, Harold “Stinker” Pinker, and Hildebrand “Tuppy” Glossop.) The entire edifice of upper class life in Wodehouse’s stories comes to depend on Jeeves.

Mozart’s operas “The Marriage of Figaro” and “Don Giovanni” feature servants as major characters. Leporello opens “Don Giovanni”. While Giovanni is inside raping Donna Anna, he waits outside and complains about his lot in life: “Io non voglio più servir” ( I don’t want to serve anymore). Leporello is clear-sighted about his master’s wickedness, but he admires him, too. He boasts in the Catalog Aria in Scene 2 about the thousands of women his master has seduced. We are in the 18th century, and “master” is literally what Don Giovanni is to Leporello: he beats him. No Artisanal Service here: Leporello has no options and must head off to find a new master when Giovanni meets his dreadful fate.

Figaro in The Marriage of Figaro is actually running the show at Count Almaviva’s house: he is the head of the Count’s servants. The Count tries to exercise his feudal prerogative and have his way with Susanna, Figaro’s fiancée. This would have been common and unquestioned before the eighteenth century, and Figaro would simply have had to stand aside. But this story takes place on the brink of the French Revolution. Feudal privilege and aristocratic license are about to give way to bourgeois marriage and domesticity. Don Giovanni gets dragged off to Hell by a ghostly avenger; Count Almaviva gets manipulated by Figaro (through jealousy, in a somewhat situation-comedy manner) into renewed desire for his Countess. We’re heading into the territory of the miracle-working Jeeves.

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Why Does Jeeves Work For Wooster?

“Arguments are to be avoided: they are always vulgar and often convincing.”
—Oscar Wilde, Irish dramatist, born October 16, 1854

Valet de ChambreI posited yesterday that Personal Service will be a possible career in the future. It will have to be Artisanal, because in my positive scenario about the next couple of decades, nobody has to work. You only do it because you want to make more dough to top up your Basic Income, or for some other motivation besides eating and keeping a roof over your head, the reasons why servants took on the often odious work of caring for their “betters” in the Bad Old Days.

Why did P.G. Wodehouse’s immortal Jeeves work for Bertie Wooster? He didn’t really need the money. He was a crack horse-player, among myriad other practical talents. Jeeves was intelligent enough to succeed in anything, although the class system in his time would probably have discouraged him from many, traditionally upper class, careers. Feudal loyalty was no longer a live option in the early 20th century, although it is often alluded to jokingly in the stories.

He had to have been doing it as an art form, as many perfect gentlemen’s gentlemen will in the 21st: Jeeves was an artist. He explored the rich creative possibilities of taking care of a fathead like Bertie Wooster over a long career, wowing an appreciative world. Everyone is in awe of Jeeves: pretty good for a valet.

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