13 September 2010

Readings, 2010.09.12

Sunday Readings (and Listenings)


In an op-ed at the Los Angeles Times, Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus (who are promoting their verbosely titled new book, Higher Education? How Colleges Are Wasting Our Money and Failing Our Kids and What We Can Do About It) ask "Where the money goes" in higher education. Tuitions have increased much faster than inflation, and little of that money goes to teaching students. According to Hacker and Dreifus, it goes instead to sports teams (which are very expensive and almost universally fail by far to earn enough to cover their costs), administration (the number of adminstrators per student has doubled since 1980), and rising faculty salaries (although most of the money goes to senior faculty who avoid teaching). Rising costs for room and board have also far outpaced inflation.

As it happens, the Hacker and Dreifus book is on hold for me at the library, and I'm picking it up today.  I'll need to read it right away, as the book is much sought after (there are currently 38 holds on 10 copies in the system), so I won't be able to renew it.... You'll be hearing more about it here.

When, by the way, did it become part of a regular marketing strategy for the authors of books like this to plant op-ed pieces in big name papers?  We've seen the same thing recently from Mark Taylor.

Tyler Cowen links to a recent paper on (according to the title of Cowen's post) "The preference for low quality in Italian academia." The paper is:
Diego Gambetta and Gloria Origgi, "L-worlds: The curious preference for low quality and its norms," Sociology Working Papers (University of Oxford), 2009-08.  Freely available here.
I haven't read the paper yet, but I suspect, based on the last sentence of the abstract, that their analysis may have wider applications to academia in the U.S. and elsewhere:
...high quality collective outcomes are not only endangered by self-interested individual defectors, but by ‘cartels’ of mutually satisfied mediocrities.
Yup, "cartels of mutually satisfied mediocrities." That sounds like the academia I know ...


The newest issue of the Boston Review includes a forum on "Democracy After Citizens United." So far I've read Lawrence Lessig's lead article, a must read for anyone concerned with that Supreme Court decision. So far, as of early Monday morning, only three of the nine responses are available on line, but it looks as if the publication schedule is intentionally staggered.

The Economy

Joshua Clover at The Nation reviews three new books on the economy—two on the current mess and one that takes a broader view:
John Lanchester, I.O.U.: Why Everyone Owes Everyone and No One Can Pay
Simon Johnson and James Kwak, 13 Bankers: The Wall Street Takeover and the Next Financial Meltdown
David Harvey, A Companion to Marx's 'Capital'
Clover's review is well worth reading for its own stylistic and intellectual merits.  In writing, I'm usually a proponent of plain and direct over ornate and showy.  But sometimes ornate and showy works.


At PCWorld, Jeff Bertolucci suggests "Apple iPad Already Long in the Tooth," and speculates on improvements that may be in the offing.

Meanwhile, Samsung has just previewed its new Android-based tablet, the Galaxy Tab.  (Just yesterday at lunch, Dr. Mike asked me whether anyone had come up with a tablet running Android.  The answer appears to be yes.)

But when will the makers realize that glossy screens on tablets are a really bad idea (as the many photos and the video demo of the Galaxy Tab repeatedly demonstrate)?


Hugh McGuire at O'Reilly Radar writes that "The line between book and Internet will disappear," that this is inevitable, that this is a good thing (and it is), and that this will happen sooner rather than later....but traditional publishers aren't even beginning to deal with the transition. 

Except, as a commenter points out, Bible publishers.  McGuire himself points out that the Bible at http://www.youversion.com/ is "the most sophisticated implementation of truly webby books."

Meanwhile, as the media storm over the threatened Koran burning fades into well-deserved oblivion, Justin Erik Halldóe Smith asks "Can an E-Book Be Burnt?"


Geoffrey Pullum at Language Log wonders what would dissuade columnist Simon Heffer (a "daft old Tory," in the words of one of Pullum's commenters) from his absurd grammatical prescriptivism, which he is about to inflict on the world in a book.  Pullum's post includes a comment submitted by yours truly, based on corpus research done over my morning cereal.

And Mark Liberman follows up with another post at Language Log on Heffer's spurious explanation of the "true" meaning of "collision."

James Winters at a replicated typo links to a video of a lecture by Terrence Deacon describing his recent work on the evolution of language.  I have not yet watched the video (ca. 1 hr 17 min.), but Winters gives a good short summary.


The first hour of On Point this past Friday was devoted to the newly rediscovered Savory Collection of live jazz recordings from the late 1930s and early 1940s.  Tom Ashbrook's guests were Loren Schoenberg, executive director of the National Jazz Museum (where the Savory Collection now resides) and Michael Cogswell, director of the Louis Armstrong House & Archives.  You can listen to the discussion here (ca. 48 minutes).

"Breaking news" on the show was that Schoenberg and his co-workers had just discovered a "pristine" recording of a jam session featuring Fats Waller, Eddie Condon, Zutty Singleton, Pee Wee Russell, Bud Freeman, and Jack Teagarden.

Lots of clips on the show: Mildred Bailey ("Rocking Chair," and another), Count Basie ("Bugle Call Rag," 1940, and "Jumpin' at the Woodside" with Lester Young), Benny Goodman (incluing "Sing, Sing, Sing," with Lionel Hampton on drums), Billie Holiday ("Strange Fruit"), Fats Waller ("Honeysuckle Rose," 1938), Teddy Wilson ("Love Me or Leave Me"), Coleman Hawkins ("Body and Soul"), Art Tatum ("I'm Beginning to See the Light," 1945), Bunny Berigan (blues, 1938, with Slam Stewart), Cab Calloway ("Bugle Call Rag"), and a couple not clearly identified.

They discuss the copyright issues around 20 minutes in.

So far, only one fifth of the discs have been digitized, and it is anticipated that there are around 100 hours of music in total.
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