Your work

15 October 2019

Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.

~  Steve Jobs

Amazon’s Fourteen Leadership Principles

15 October 2019

Customer Obsession
Leaders start with the customer and work backwards. They work vigorously to earn and keep customer trust. Although leaders pay attention to competitors, they obsess over customers.

Ownership
Leaders are owners. They think long term and don’t sacrifice long-term value for short-term results. They act on behalf of the entire company, beyond just their own team. They never say “that’s not my job.”

Invent and Simplify
Leaders expect and require innovation and invention from their teams and always find ways to simplify. They are externally aware, look for new ideas from everywhere, and are not limited by “not invented here.” As we do new things, we accept that we may be misunderstood for long periods of time.

Are Right, A Lot
Leaders are right a lot. They have strong judgment and good instincts. They seek diverse perspectives and work to disconfirm their beliefs.

Learn and Be Curious
Leaders are never done learning and always seek to improve themselves. They are curious about new possibilities and act to explore them.

Hire and Develop the Best
Leaders raise the performance bar with every hire and promotion. They recognize exceptional talent, and willingly move them throughout the organization. Leaders develop leaders and take seriously their role in coaching others. We work on behalf of our people to invent mechanisms for development like Career Choice.

Insist on the Highest Standards
Leaders have relentlessly high standards — many people may think these standards are unreasonably high. Leaders are continually raising the bar and drive their teams to deliver high quality products, services, and processes. Leaders ensure that defects do not get sent down the line and that problems are fixed so they stay fixed.

Think Big
Thinking small is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Leaders create and communicate a bold direction that inspires results. They think differently and look around corners for ways to serve customers.

Bias for Action
Speed matters in business. Many decisions and actions are reversible and do not need extensive study. We value calculated risk taking.

Frugality
Accomplish more with less. Constraints breed resourcefulness, self-sufficiency, and invention. There are no extra points for growing headcount, budget size, or fixed expense.

Earn Trust
Leaders listen attentively, speak candidly, and treat others respectfully. They are vocally self-critical, even when doing so is awkward or embarrassing. Leaders do not believe their or their team’s body odor smells of perfume. They benchmark themselves and their teams against the best.

Dive Deep
Leaders operate at all levels, stay connected to the details, audit frequently, and are skeptical when metrics and anecdote differ. No task is beneath them.

Have Backbone; Disagree and Commit
Leaders are obligated to respectfully challenge decisions when they disagree, even when doing so is uncomfortable or exhausting. Leaders have conviction and are tenacious. They do not compromise for the sake of social cohesion. Once a decision is determined, they commit wholly.

Deliver Results
Leaders focus on the key inputs for their business and deliver them with the right quality and in a timely fashion. Despite setbacks, they rise to the occasion and never settle.

Amazon’s  Leadership Principles

What has marked Chinese society

15 October 2019

What has marked Chinese society is its level of cruelty, not just revolutions and wars. We ought to reject it totally, otherwise in another upheaval there will be further cruelty.

~  Jung Chang

Is The Golden Notebook a feminist novel?

15 October 2019

From The Guardian:

The New York Times critic Ernest Buickler once wrote that “a firkinful of scorching aphorisms” could be culled from nearly every page of The Golden Notebook. An exaggeration, of course – but only just. Doris Lessing’s 1962 novel is eminently quotable:

“For with my intuition I knew that this man was repeating a pattern over and over again: courting a woman with his intelligence and sympathy, claiming her emotionally; then, when she began to claim in return, running away. And the better a woman was, the sooner he would begin to run.”

“The real revolution is women against men.”

“If we lead what is known as free lives, that is, lives like men, why shouldn’t we use the same language.”

“One had to be much older than I was then to understand George’s relationship with his wife. He had a fierce loyal compassion for her, the compassion of one victim for another.”

. . . .

The Oxford Companion to English Literature describes The Golden Notebook as a landmark of the women’s movement in the 1960s, an achievement Lessing disliked, denying that the novel was a “trumpet for women’s liberation” or an account of “the sex war”.

It would be reductive to describe all of Lessing’s female characters as victims. Most of them are too smart, determined and independent-minded to allow themselves to be beaten down entirely. But the odds are stacked against them, especially in their relationships with men.

Time and again, the men get to do and say dreadful things, then trot off unscathed to their next victims.

. . . .

It’s impossible to read The Golden Notebook without thinking that there’s something very wrong in the gender relations it describes and in the world at large. It’s easy to see why readers might have taken it as a call to arms and feminist inspiration. But even so, it’s just as easy to see why Lessing was annoyed that people might describe the novel in exclusively feminist terms. It’s too complicated and ambiguous to fit any political programme.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

PG wonders if it matters whether The Golden Notebook is a feminist novel or not, particularly when the author denied “that the novel was a “trumpet for women’s liberation” or an account of “the sex war”.”

In Defense of The Supernatural in Detective Fiction

15 October 2019

From Crime Reads:

Some months ago, I had dinner in New York with an old friend, one of the most senior figures in the American mystery community. We tend to differ on almost every subject under the sun, food and wine apart, but it is possible to disagree without being disagreeable, and I like to think that we have both mastered that art, for the most part.

Toward the end of the evening, my friend suggested that I had made two errors in my career. One was the decision not to write exclusively in the mystery genre, but to explore other areas of writing. This, he felt, had damaged me commercially—although, as I pointed out to him, it had benefited me creatively. My second error, he believed, was to have mixed the mystery genre with the supernatural. Whatever its benefits or disadvantages to me, either commercially or creatively, he believed that this simply should not have been done. For him, the supernatural had no place in the mystery novel, and there are many in mystery community who share his opinion.

Naturally enough, I demurred. This perceived line of demarcation between the genres is largely a product of the early part of the last century. If we are to point the finger at a single culprit, we may choose Father Ronald Arbuthnott Knox, the British writer, critic, and theologian. Knox was a witty, urbane Catholic cleric, although a little too clever for some.

. . . .

Perhaps the most famous popular demonstration of Knox’s cleverness are his 10 Commandments of Detective Fiction, a set of rules for crime writing published in 1929, of which the Second advises: “All supernatural or preternatural agencies are ruled out as a matter of course.” Knox, one can’t help but feel, was probably writing with his tongue fixed ever-so-gently in his cheek (his Fifth Commandment declares that “No Chinaman must figure in the story,” a wag of the finger in the direction of purveyors of the so-called “Yellow Peril” school of crime writing.) Yet while some of Knox’s rules fell by the wayside, or were deliberately violated by storytellers . . . his injunction against the supernatural appeared to become engrained in the lore of genre, with only very occasional exceptions, William Hjortsberg’s 1978 novel Falling Angel possibly being the most notable of them.

The crime novel is a product of rationalism, which predicates the value of reason over experience or, indeed, spiritual revelation. But as I tried to explain to my dinner companion, the relationship between crime writers and rationalism has always been more fraught, and more creatively interesting, than the purism of Knox—or, more correctly, his followers—allows. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins, published in 1868 and generally regarded as the first modern detective novel, is suffused with a fear of the supernatural. The theft of the titular Indian diamond by Colonel Herncastle during the Siege of Seringapatam seems to unleash all manner of misfortune on his niece, Rachel Verinder, and her family. Whether the Moonstone is actually cursed or not is beside the point. What matters is the belief that a curse may exist.

Or take Edgar Allan Poe, possibly one of the least rational men ever to have set foot on God’s earth.

. . . .

But the most interesting case of all is that of Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of the paragon of logical detection, Sherlock Holmes. Conan Doyle believed in the Cottingley Fairies, an infamous British photographic hoax perpetrated in 1917, and attended séances in the company of Harry Houdini in the hope that Houdini would help him to spot fake mediums—not because Conan Doyle was a skeptic, but quite the opposite: he wished to locate true mediums in order to communicate with his dead wife and child.

. . . .

Philosophically—and, indeed, creatively, given Conan Doyle’s own preference for his historical novels—Conan Doyle’s worldview seems entirely at odds with that of his own most successful creation, and I can’t help but wonder if the two happiest words he ever committed to print were those he wrote in his diary after sending the great detective over the Reichenbach Falls in 1893: “Killed Holmes.”

. . . .

My dinner guest was having none of it. One could not, he affirmed, view a writer’s art in the context of his life. Some degree of separation was required. As a writer, I considered that a writer’s life and his creative work remained inseparable. I fell back on the words of the poet W.B. Yeats (who was, along with Conan Doyle, a member of the paranormal research body known as the ‘Ghost Club’): “How can we know the dancer from the dance?”

Link to the rest at Crime Reads

The only major media coverage surrounding the Canadian film industry

14 October 2019

The only major media coverage surrounding the Canadian film industry, year after year, is the same narrative: What’s wrong with the Canadian film industry?… It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If Canadians are only hearing about how terrible Canadian films are, I’m not surprised by the lack of interest that they have in our work.

~  Filmmaker Kevan Funk

The CBC – Canada’s National State Subsidized Broadcaster – Confronts in Court the Conservative Party and Copyright Law 10 Days Before the Federal Election: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

14 October 2019

From Excess Copyright:

Not for the first time, the CBC – Canada’s 83 year old, usually respected even if frequently controversial taxpayer subsidized broadcaster – has embarrassed itself badly on the copyright front. This time, however, it has outdone itself in terms of controversy by suing one of Canada’s two main political parties for copyright infringement just 11 days before a national election. It has taken, IMHO, an inexplicable and frankly unsupportable position seeking to prohibit the use of short excerpts from broadcast footage in the course of election campaigns. It will be recalled that in 2014, Jennifer McGuire, who is apparently still employed by the CBC in the same very senior position as General Manager and Editor in Chief of CBC News that she has held since May 2009, led the charge with a “consortium” to try to stop the use of such excerpts in political campaigns. The thought was even entertained by the government of the day led by Stephen Harper to pass legislation explicitly allowing for such usage by political parties, notwithstanding that I and others warned that that such legislation was not only unnecessary but could potentially and likely even be very counterproductive. I wrote about all of this almost five years ago just over a year before the last election, including how Rick Mercer demonstrated his sadly ironic apparent ignorance about copyright law. It’s déjà vu all over again, except that this time it’s much worse.

In any event, Ms. MaGuire is still in charge of the news network at CBC and is the apparent guiding mind behind what is likely to go down as one of the most misguided moments in the history of the CBC in terms of both journalism and the law and may well prove to be a defining moment in the increasingly possible demise of the CBC – especially if the Conservative Party of Canada wins the election, which this latest fiasco may ironically help to facilitate. Ms. McGuire is also CBC’s representative on the CDPP (Canadian Debate Production Partnership), which managed to present two French debates and only one English debate (go figure!).

The CBC has unaccountably and inexplicably sued the Conservative Party of Canada for a campaign video, visible above, that includes several short excerpts (only some of which are from the CBC) from various broadcasts, consisting of at most ten seconds in each case. Here is the remarkable Statement of Claim, which could serve as good teachable moment for any law school copyright or civil litigation class. Here’s a hint – why ask for an interim and interlocutory injunction where there is obvious doubt as to whether there is a even a serious issue to be tried just 10 days before the interim injunction would be moot anyway against activity that has already admittedly ceased, and where there is no credible evidence of irreparable harm arising from practices that are decades old?

. . . .

Michael Geist has succinctly parsed and measured the CBC’s possible claim in key quantitative and factual respects:

One of the clips features two short segments (total of ten seconds) of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at a town hall event. There are no CBC journalists involved, though the town hall aired on the CBC. Displaying ten seconds from a town hall that ran over an hour hardly qualifies as a significant portion of the work and again does not implicate CBC journalists or journalism.

The remaining three clips do include CBC journalists. One involves four seconds of Andrew Coyne speaking on the At Issue Panel on conflict issues. Rosemary Barton appears in the clip (as does Chantal Hebert) but says nothing. The clip should qualify as fair dealing, but it is difficult to see what the fuss is about given that Barton does not even speak in it. Another clip involves five seconds of John Paul Tasker appearing on Power and Politics discussing support to Loblaws for energy efficient refrigerators and the last one features five seconds of Rex Murphy talking about moving expenses. The clips are short and demonstrate that CBC journalists engage in legitimate critique of government policies and action. That isn’t bias, that is doing their job. Indeed, all these stories were widely covered in the media and there is nothing particularly controversial about what is said in the clips. (highlight added)

Link to the rest at Excess Copyright

What’s an Influencer Worth to Books?

14 October 2019

From Publishers Weekly:

A mini-scandal lit up Twitter last month when the Cut featured a tell-all essay by 27-year-old writer Natalie Beach. In the piece, Beach exposes her seven-year relationship with her friend Caroline Calloway, who scored an agent and a reputed $375,000 book deal for her memoir. Beach, who ghostwrote the book, says her former bestie bought Instagram followers after being told by literary professionals that “no one would buy a memoir from a girl with no claim to fame and no fan base.”

Platform has always been key when putting together a nonfiction book proposal. But back in the not-so-very-distant past—a mere dozen years ago!—publishers were throwing six figures and two-book deals at anyone who had a half-decent story and a clip in the local newspaper. These days, a huge following on social media, particularly Instagram, is a must for a book deal.

The moment agents or editors hear an author has a small following or no following, it’s over. Yes, there are exceptions. Still, worthy authors are overlooked every day—in favor of a young woman with a photo of macarons that went viral? Now her friend the ghostwriter has CAA shopping rights to her story? Which era is crazier?

The Kardashian/Jenner sisters have 500 million followers. So how come fewer than 500,000 viewers (18–49) tuned in to the latest episode of their show? Kim Kardashian’s book of selfies sold fewer than 40,000 copies, according to BookScan—yet she remains a powerful influencer. When are publishers going to concede that number of followers (fake or not) is only one key to book sales?

Naturally, some influencers produce books that are megabestsellers (usually with a lot of help). That is because they deserve a wide audience for whatever message they are sending. Ariana Grande, who has one of the biggest social media followings in the world, should get a huge deal… because she’s an incredible singer with a fantastic story to tell—not because of her follower count!

. . . .

This latest story about two millennial influencers and their book deal reminds me of that hype. Except now I’m overprotective. Some wanna-be authors are using the acquisitions process to snow us, to dupe us, to basically make a mockery out of what publishing stands for—content. Is this what they mean by influence?

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

PG has two reactions to the OP:

  1. He has zero sympathy for publishers who are snowed, duped or mocked by anyone, including authors (or more likely their agents) who are looking for a book contract.
  2. If PG were looking for a book contract (he is not and never will), he would be inclined to buy Instagram followers if that would help get him a deal. If publishers can’t look farther than the number of followers on an author’s Instagram account, why not? Is there a strict code of ethics that binds publishers to do or not do things like puff up the quality/importance of a book they’re releasing? What’s sauce for the goose . . . .
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