One of the signs

19 October 2017

One of the signs of Napoleon’s greatness is the fact that he once had a publisher shot.

Siegfried Unseld

The History of the Ampersand

19 October 2017

From Medium:

These days everybody knows about the ampersand. It’s one of typography’s most unique and interesting characters.

Its rise to hipster fame has catapulted the ampersand from the sketchbooks of type designers onto just about every printable surface you can imagine, the variations of which seem endless. From traditional representations all the way to hyper-stylised forms that bear little resemblance to the original mark.

The varied nature of its form allows type designers a little creative freedom, and is often seen as an opportunity to inject some extra personality into a typeface. Officially classified as punctuation by todays unicode, it was in fact, once the 27th letter in the English alphabet existing as the graphical representation of the word ‘and’.

Designers in all fields both love and hate the ampersand in equal measure, but very few know much about its history, or intended use, which is actually rather interesting.

. . . .

Roman scribes would write in cursive so as to increase the speed of their transcription, often combining letters into one form to save time while also increasing legibility, where certain characters overlap in a visually discordant manner — this was the birth of the ligature. The ampersand is simply a ligature of the letters E and T (et being the latin word for and).

As the Romans expanded their empire across the globe, many languages just absorbed this ligature into their own alphabet.

. . . .

By the early seventeen hundreds, schools throughout England had started to use the phrase per se (essentially meaning by itself) when spelling out words. This was specifically useful when encountering words that consist of only a single letter (A, I and originally O).

As an example, in order to spell the phrase “I invite you”, children would say:

“Per se i, i, n, v…”

indicting that the initial i stood by itself, rather than a part of the proceeding word.

At the same time, and (the et-ligature &, now pronounced and) had become common place and was all but inducted into the English language as the 27th letter of the alphabet. It became so widely used that children in school, when reciting the alphabet, would include & after the letter Z. The result of this was that phonetically you would hear “X, Y, Z and per se and” indicating that the & stood by itself at the end of the alphabet. The phrase “and per se and” was inevitably slurred into one single term and by 1837, the term ampersand was well and truly immortalised in the English dictionary.

Interesting fact — The ampersand was the only letter in the English alphabet that did not represent a speech sound.

Link to the rest at Medium

Jann Wenner and His Biographer Have a Falling Out

19 October 2017

From The New York Times:

Jann Wenner and his biographer are no longer on speaking terms.

If things had gone according to Mr. Wenner’s plan, the two of them would be appearing together at parties, talks and other promotional events timed to the publication on Tuesday of the 547-page tome from Alfred A. Knopf.

Instead, Mr. Wenner, the founder of Rolling Stone magazine, is distancing himself as much as possible from Joe Hagan, the writer who spent four years chronicling Mr. Wenner’s life.

The reason is simple: Mr. Wenner doesn’t like the book.

“I gave Joe time and access in the hope he would write a nuanced portrait about my life and the culture Rolling Stone chronicled,” Mr. Wenner said on Tuesday, in his first public statement about the book. “Rock and roll set me and my generation free musically, socially and politically. My hope was that this book would provide a record for future generations of that extraordinary time. Instead, he produced something deeply flawed and tawdry, rather than substantial.”

Mr. Hagan said there was no reason Mr. Wenner should have been surprised by the book’s contents. “It was all on the table — there’s nothing he didn’t know,” the writer said. “He’s used to having control, and that’s a difficult thing.”

. . . .

Mr. Wenner read “Sticky Fingers: The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone Magazine.” Rather than triumphant, he felt betrayed, according to eight people close to Mr. Wenner.

. . . .

The project began in 2013 in bucolic Tivoli, N.Y., where Mr. Hagan lives and Mr. Wenner has a home. They ran into each other and bonded over their children. Mr. Hagan, then a staff writer at New York magazine who has interviewed Karl Rove and Hillary Clinton, found himself intrigued.

“Your little inner Tom Wolfe is activated,” he said.

Some time later, Mr. Wenner picked Mr. Hagan up in a Porsche, the satellite radio tuned to a station playing 1950s-vintage oldies. Over lunch Mr. Wenner proposed an idea: Would Mr. Hagan write his biography?

“Immediately, I was just really scared,” Mr. Hagan said. “A lot of people walked the plank on his pirate ship.”

Two previous attempts at an authorized Wenner biography had come to nothing. In 2003, Mr. Wenner enlisted Lewis MacAdams, a longtime friend and former Rolling Stone contributor, only to pull out after reading a few hundred pages. (Knopf, which had initially bought Mr. MacAdams’s book, said the stalled deal was canceled in 2014.)  In 2011, a similar arrangement with the Rolling Stone writer and author Rich Cohen made it to the proposal phase — Spiegel & Grau offered a reported $1 million — before Mr. Wenner revoked his cooperation.

To test Mr. Wenner’s willingness to handle unflattering information about himself, Mr. Hagan said he gathered anecdotes, including from the 1990 book “Rolling Stone Magazine: The Uncensored History” by Robert Draper, which was said to be banned in the magazine’s offices, and ran them by his prospective subject.

“He became incredibly agitated,” Mr. Hagan said. “I came out of that meeting very disenchanted.” Mr. Wenner also indicated that he would like to have some veto power over coverage of his sexual history.

. . . .

After Labor Day, Mr. Hagan sent Mr. Wenner an early copy of the book. “I hope you like it,” Mr. Hagan wrote in a brief note. “It’s a true story.”

Mr. Wenner did not like it.

In short order, Knopf informed Mr. Hagan that he would no longer take part in the 92nd Street Y discussion; he would be replaced by the filmmaker Alex Gibney, who was making a documentary about Rolling Stone for HBO. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, where Mr. Wenner remains chairman of the foundation that oversees inductions (and was inducted himself in 2004), canceled on Mr. Hagan, too.

Link to the rest at The New York Times

At Core of 5Pointz Trial: Is Graffiti Art Protected by Law?

18 October 2017

From The New York Times:

Graffiti has come a long way since the 1970s when fly-by-night taggers sprayed their work on bridge abutments or subway cars then slipped away before the authorities arrived. These days, fashion labels use it in their photo shoots. Huge corporations include it in their ad campaigns. In museums and auction houses, it has been rebranded with a classy new name: aerosol art.

On Tuesday, however, a trial began in Brooklyn that will eventually determine whether graffiti, despite its transient nature, should be recognized as art to the point of being protected by federal law. The trial, which is likely to explore broad questions of aesthetics, property rights and the relationship between the arts and gentrification, has, at its heart, pitted more than 20 graffiti artists whose work appeared in the beloved 5Pointz complex in Long Island City, Queens, against the owner of the buildings who demolished both them and the art adorning their walls.

. . . .

5Pointz was a rare collaboration between a real-estate developer and a group of street artists. In 1993, when Long Island City was beset by crime, the developer, Jerry Wolkoff, allowed a crew of taggers to decorate his buildings at 45-46 Davis Street with a wild array of colorful, swirling murals.

For 20 years, 5Pointz was an offbeat tourist destination that not only attracted thousands of visitors, but also helped transformed Long Island City into the thriving residential neighborhood it is today. 5Pointz eventually became “the world’s largest open-air aerosol museum,” in the words of Eric Baum, a lawyer for the artists, but its existence was always predicated on Mr. Wolkoff tearing it down and developing the complex, which he ultimately did in 2014.

Before the demolition, the artists tried several times to stop it — asking city officials to grant the complex landmark status, even attempting to buy 5Pointz themselves, Mr. Baum said. They filed suit in Federal District Court in Brooklyn shortly after Mr. Wolkoff destroyed their art, sending in a team of painters to whitewash the graffiti.

. . . .

 Their claims rest on a rarely tested provision of a federal law called the Visual Artists Rights Act, or V.A.R.A., which has been used to protect public art of “recognized stature” created on someone else’s property. Given that the plaintiffs are seeking financial damages for ephemeral work they did on Mr. Wolkoff’s walls, Judge Frederic Block, who is presiding over the case, suggested on Tuesday that the case would very likely venture into novel legal territory. “We’re working with a clean slate,” Judge Block said.

. . . .

 In his opening statement, Mr. Baum told the jury that they would hear from several art experts that the whitewashed graffiti was indeed of “recognized stature” and that Mr. Wolkoff, no matter how generous he had been with his buildings in the past, failed to give the artists the proper 90-day notice that 5Pointz was slated to come down. Mr. Baum added that his clients never wanted to sue; they wanted to save 5Pointz. But once the complex and the art had been destroyed, he said, they had only two choices: ask for money or do nothing.

. . . .

 Mr. Ebert acknowledged that 5Pointz was a “fantastic place” — one that Mr. Wolkoff helped create — but he argued that the law in question was irrelevant. “V.A.R.A. does not protect buildings,” he said. “It protects art.”

Link to the rest at The New York Times

My definition

18 October 2017

My definition of a good editor is a man I think charming, who sends me large cheques, praises my work, my physical beauty, and my sexual prowess, and who has a stranglehold on the publisher and the bank.

John Cheever

Apple eBooks Antitrust Settlement

18 October 2017

PG received the following this morning. He suspects he’s not the only one:

Your Credit from the Apple eBooks Antitrust Settlement is ready to use

You now have a credit of $4.00 in your Amazon account. Apple Inc. (Apple) funded this credit to settle antitrust lawsuits brought by State Attorneys General and Class Plaintiffs about the price of electronic books (eBooks). This new credit is in addition to any previous credit you received from the settlement.

. . . .

In order to spend your credit, please visit the Kindle bookstore or Amazon.com. Your credit is valid for six months and will expire on April 20, 2018, by order of the Court. If you have not used it, we will remind you of your credit before it expires.

If you have any questions about your credit, please visit http://www.amazon.com/applebooksettlement or contact Amazon customer service.

Mob Rule in the Book World

18 October 2017

From The National Review:

American Heart, a young-adult novel to be published in January, is a kind of Huckleberry Handmaid’s Tale, only with Muslims. In a dim dystopian U.S. of the near future that’s been overtaken by a nasty “patriotic” movement, a white girl is oblivious to the burgeoning horror of Muslims being placed in internment camps, but she experiences an awakening and decides to strike out against them to rescue a Muslim immigrant from Iran, who is in hiding and needs to flee the country to save herself. Ho-hum, says the experienced observer. Since 9/11, the Left has been spooking itself with scary tales about how the anti-Muslim Inquisition is going to start any minute now.

So: another attempt to troll conservatives about our supposed persecution of Muslims. Nothing new. When the left-leaning book-industry site Kirkus published a favorable review of the novel, though, it was a gonzo-Left outlook that launched attacks on Kirkus, with denunciation popping up at publishing-chat sites such as Goodreads. Reviewers of the review (most of whom evidently hadn’t read the book in question) insisted that Kirkus’s favorable take on American Heart amounted to inexcusable support for a supposedly abhorrent “white savior” narrative. In other words, the hero of a book about persons of color can’t be white. But if American Heart’s author, Laura Moriarty, had written the book from a person of color’s point of view, that would have been cultural appropriation.

You may not have heard of Kirkus, but it carries influence in the book world because it, and its longtime rival Publishers Weekly, are the established trade publications that run early reviews sparking bad or good buzz months before the book is published. Because the reviews in Kirkus and PW run so early, they carry disproportionate weight. They signal book-review editors (I was one for four years) that certain books are important and worthy of coverage. They signal booksellers which books might be worth ordering by the crate and promoting. A star from Kirkus is like a thumbs-up from Roger Ebert or a “fresh” rating from a Rotten Tomatoes critic. The star is everything. “You got a star in Kirkus!” is a delightful message to hear from one’s book publicist.

. . . .

After publishing that starred review of American Heart and finding itself chastised for it by a small and silly mob, Kirkus did a strange, perhaps unprecedented thing. It backed down. Its editor-in-chief, Claiborne Smith, publicly flogged himself for publishing the review in the first place, saying it “fell short of meeting our standards for clarity and sensitivity” (though the clarity of the review was not in question), then re-edited the review in hopes of appeasing the Goodreads progressives, making sure now to flag the book as “problematic.” He also took the extraordinary step of removing the star to placate the pitchforks-and-lanterns crowd. I’ve never heard of that happening before in the 84-year history of Kirkus. (Smith declined to answer whether the move was unprecedented.)

“We do not bend to peer pressure or cultural criticism,” Smith told Slate. That is correct: He does not bend in the face of peer pressure or cultural criticism. He crumples in the face of peer pressure and cultural criticism. He curls up into the fetal position in the face of peer pressure and cultural criticism. He disintegrates and begs for mercy in the face of peer pressure and cultural criticism. His action is astonishing, craven, ridiculous. It did not need to be so. Kirkus is a tiger in the book world, or at least a collie. This amounted to surrendering to a squirrel. In the centuries-long tradition of critics and their editors who take it as a given that honest criticism will usually displease someone, and that such displeasure cannot be allowed to alter judgment, the routine thing for Smith to do would have been to shrug.

Link to the rest at The National Review

PG posted the OP because it relates to traditional publishing and its marketing and promotion activities. It may also inform decisions indie authors make about marketing, promotion and other aspects of the businesses they operate.

PG understands that The National Review, like Slate, The Huffington Post and other sources of posts on TPV, has a well-known political stance. He also knows that contemporary political disagreements in the US quickly devolve into acrimony and name-calling that result in heat without light.

PG requests that the comments not descend into a left/right political argument.

The internet is full of locations where full-throated political disagreements continue 24/7. It’s not hard to find a place to insult someone who has different beliefs than you have if you’re inclined toward that sort of thing.

What I Learned From Reading Every Amazon Shareholders Letter

18 October 2017

From Medium:

A new mentor of mine suggested I read Jeff Bezos’ Letter to Shareholders to refine my thoughts around building a career and a business.

So I read them all dating back to 1997 and here are my takeaways:

1/ Jeff Bezos is still Jeff Bezos

Despite memes (below) to the contrarian, the core operating principles of Amazon hasn’t changed much if at all since the company went public in 1997.

Amazon aims to be the world’s most customer-centric company. In the 1997 letter, Jeff laid out 8 bullet points on Amazon’s philosophy and throughout the years, he repeatedly talks about these principles. I highlight some in this post.

From his 2014 letter on the type of “dreamy” business Amazon aspires to build:

Customers love it, it can grow to very large size, it has strong returns on capital, and it’s durable in time.

. . . .

3/ Jeff doesn’t do math like mere mortals, because It’s ALWAYS Day 1.

Jeff invariably ends each year’s annual letter to shareholders by attaching a copy of Amazon’s original 1997 letter with the sign off that it’s “still Day 1”.

To Jeff, being a Day 2 company means decline and death (2016 letter). They become too focused on processes and move too slowly.

A brilliant tactic Amazon uses to make high-quality and high-velocity decision is to say:

Disagree and commit

If a team brings Jeff an idea that he disagree with, he can continue to disagree, but immediately commit to supporting the team. The project gets green-lit and the team is moving forward. If they had to actually convince Jeff of the idea, it would have taken much much longer.

If you are rapidly scaling into a large enterprise, you owe it to yourself to read the entire 2016 letter. Here’s a “snack” from that letter:

Here’s a starter pack of essentials for Day 1 defense: customer obsession, a skeptical view of proxies, the eager adoption of external trends, and high-velocity decision making.

Link to the rest at Medium

Wal-Mart Sees ‘Second-Mover Advantage’ in E-Commerce

18 October 2017

From The Wall Street Journal:

 Wal-Mart Stores Inc. U.S. e-commerce chief Marc Lore said the online retail division is still in growth mode, the fruits of which will start paying off over the next two years and help it better compete with Amazon.com Inc.

“E-commerce is a scale game,” Mr. Lore said in an interview at The Wall Street Journal’s WSJ D.Live technology conference on Tuesday. “We’re looking at a lot of different things right now, everything, in every sector.”

Wal-Mart has been on an acquisition spree in the past year since it acquired Mr. Lore’s startup Jet.com for $3.3 billion and put Mr. Lore in charge of its U.S. e-commerce business. Wal-Mart has snapped up a string of trendy e-commerce startups, including clothing sites Bonobos and ModCloth, as it tries to gain a foothold with consumers who have previously shied away from shopping on its own website.

Wal-Mart trails rival Amazon in online market share, but Mr. Lore said Wal-Mart’s built-in network of thousands of stores can serve as hubs for online orders and distribution. Mr. Lore said Wal-Mart has a “second-mover advantage.”

The Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer is working on a new design for its e-commerce site and better deliveries so it can get goods to more consumers in less than two hours or overnight — a cornerstone of Amazon’s pitch.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal

PG says Wal-Mart should hope that there is a “hundredth-mover advantage” in e-commerce. It has relaunched its e-commerce business almost annually for the last ten years or more and still hasn’t gotten it right.

The Gray Market: Why We Shouldn’t Punish Small Museums for Deaccessioning

18 October 2017

From Artnet News:

On Tuesday, a pair of influential institutional groups chastised Massachusetts’s Berkshire Museum over its plans to auction 40 of the roughly 2,400 works in its permanent collection to replenish its endowment and fund an architectural expansion. And the righteous indignation on display once again resurrected one of my favorite double standards in the nonprofit space.

To review, the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) and the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) contend that their member institutions should only deaccession—see: release and resell—artworks in their holdings for the express purpose of either acquiring new works or, in the AAM’s case, caring for existing works. Flip pieces for any other reason—no matter how dire the financial circumstances—and affiliated museums are almost certain to face sanctions, most often in the form of being temporarily blacklisted from receiving artwork loans from members in good standing.

In a joint statement, the AAM and AAMD argued that the Berkshire’s decision to consign works by the likes of Albert Bierstadt, Alexander Calder, and Norman Rockwell to Sotheby’s “sends a message to existing and prospective donors that museums can raise funds by selling parts of their collection, thereby discouraging not only financial supporters, who may feel that their support isn’t needed, but also donors of artworks and artifacts, who may fear that their cherished objects could be sold at any time to the highest bidder to make up for a museum’s budget shortfalls.”

It’s an ideologically pure, dependably crowd-pleasing position to take. Its naiveté also makes me want to start throwing large objects long distances out high windows.

. . . .

[T]here are many collectors who gift works to museums because they genuinely want those works to benefit the masses. I applaud these people until my hands are numb from the striking, and always will. In their case, the AAM and AAMD’s stance is defensible.

However, there are also many collectors who gift works to museums in large part TO TRANSFORM THEM INTO disposable financial assets. Remember, in the US, single collectors can donate artworks to institutions for tax deductions equal to said works’ appraisable value. So if a massive write-off would be useful in your accountant’s eyes, what better way to “earn” it than to flip a piece or two to an eager museum with the help of a willing appraiser or a few outsize auction results?

In fact, for a recent example, we need to look no further than one of the week’s other big stories: a Canadian government review board’s decision to deny “culturally significant” status to a would-be gift of over 2,000 Annie Leibovitz photographs to the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia—likely because, per a source for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the panel saw the donation as a huge “tax grab.”

Link to the rest at Artnet News

PG isn’t going to turn TPV into a visual arts law blog, but his examination of the Visual Artists Rights Act in a post yesterday took him down a deaccessioning hole.

Just when PG is convinced his legal career has shown him all the major variations of the disputes of humankind, an unfamiliar disagreement shows up on his screen.

The next time Mrs. PG decrees that PG’s lair is too cluttered and some of his junk will have to go, he’ll schedule a Garage Deaccessioning to attract higher class collectors.

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