Sunday, August 12, 2007

As Coisas A Esmo (Random Things)

Several quick notes: today is C's birthday; as I had the pleasure of wishing him personally, Happy Birthday!

At Firedoglake, there's a Book Salon featuring Digby (who presides over one of my favorite blogs) and Robert Frank, the author of Falling Behind: How Rising Inequality Harms the Middle Class. (And everyone else who's not obscenely rich, especially people who work for wages everyday.) You can participate in the comments section. I have 1,000 thoughts on this topic, but none are coherent right now, so instead, please visit Firedoglake.

For weeks I've been meaning to link to Audiologo's followup post on the vicissitudes of Black American literary fictionists, which she launches through a discussion of Helen Oyeyemi's The Opposite House, but there is so much great stuff on her blog, from a review of the Shainman Gallery's Color Line show to a link to a post on the Black Documentary Collective's screening of Woodie King's The Segregation of the Greatest Generation at Film Forum, muchos recados sobre Black Rock, and a beautiful riff on Black LGBT theater that invokes the PoMo Afro Homos and finishes by noting the August dates of the Fire! Plays in Development that Matter! And that's just July's posts! Drop in and catch some science!

Once upon a time I took an economics course. Or muddled my way through it. The highlight was listening, alongside 200 or so other students, to the legendary John Kenneth Galbraith dilate on the flawed economic assumptions of the Reagan administration, while the low points were too numerous to stick in my memory. (Well, maybe they weren't so bad, but after reading the words "opportunity cost" and "marginal utility" too many times and struggling to decode the various mathematical graphs, I breathed a hugh sigh of relief when I'd taken the final exam and the winter break arrived.) I learned so little that back in the early 1990s, I was unable to concisely explain junk bonds to my mother, despite the fact that I'd worked at a commercial bank and written economic reports! It's a good thing I got out of that business. Anyways, one of the economists whose work I've been reading of late is George Mason University professor Tyler Cowen, who may be the first member of his profession (along with Alex Taborrok) that I've read comprehensibly explain and graph in economic terms the relationship between artists' production of popular, mass-market artworks and those of a formally avant-garde nature. (Cf. the output of the late filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni, for example). Cowen writes quite a bit about the economics of culture, globalization, and related topics. His ideological perspective tends, if I can describe it simply, towards the moderate, pro-capitalist libertarian (he has called himself a pluralist and "libertarian with a little l," acknowledging the limits of that perspective), and demonstrates a deep interest and knowledge in the arts and culture, in the broad and micro senses. One example I'd point to is his Reason Online article on protectionism and the French film industry, which not only presents a compelling argument against the French film quota system, but also offers a précis of French film history that I imagine many filmgoers may be unaware of. While I disagree a number of his conclusions, I still enjoy exploring his blog, whose most recent post asks people in India the names of random, deserving individuals there to whom he can send money. He also asks his readers to make "merit-based" donations to India as well. He also suggests skimping on tipping waiters in the US and sending the money to Haiti, ending jail terms for people convicted of marijuana possession and some other reasonable things; then again, Milton Friedman is one of his heroes....


  1. John, thanks for the shout out. That's a really interesting article by Cowen, thanks for referencing it (and lol your econ memories!). I wish I could make it to your gig with Christopher Stackhouse. I hope you'all will have that conversation again sometime, 'cause I'd really like to be present.

  2. Thanks for the good words. It was a lot of fun, and the questions people asked were provocative and helpful. One artist wanted to know if we'd thought about working with artists in other media; Chris has done this a lot, but I haven't, so it really got me thinking....