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Daily Office:


20 January 2010


Matins: Mark Peters suggests a useful new word (over ten years old, actually, and born, like so many fashions, in the sporting world): "Nontroversy." (Good)

“Nontroversy” has a less-catchy sibling/synonym, the “manufactroversy.” Though quite a mouthful, manufactroversy does add a level of meaning by highlighting the cooked-up-edness of contemporary kerfuffles. A 2009 quote about autism and vaccines nails the spirit of this word, as Harriet Hall wrote in Skeptic: “During a question and answer session after a talk I recently gave, I was asked for my opinion about the vaccine/autism controversy. That was easy: my opinion is that there is no controversy. The evidence is in. The scientific community has reached a clear consensus that vaccines don't cause autism. There is no controversy. There is, however, a manufactroversy—a manufactured controversy—created by junk science, dishonest researchers, professional misconduct, outright fraud, lies, misrepresentations, irresponsible reporting, unfortunate media publicity, poor judgment, celebrities who think they are wiser than the whole of medical science, and a few maverick doctors who ought to know better.” That last sentence is about the best definition I can imagine: Think Tom Cruise pooh-poohing medication or Sarah Palin inventing death panels. It just takes one loud and famous naysayer to spread misinformation. Whammo: A manufactroversy is born.

If it weren't for "television news..."

Lauds: Today, it's the Video Game Music Club. Tomorrow, it will be an academic specialty at Berklee College of Music and elsewhere: Interactive Audio. (Boston Globe; via Arts Journal)

Back when he was a student, notes Sweet, video games were popular but hardly a career anyone at Berklee thought much about. “Now, it’s a juggernaut," he says. “The quality of the artwork and production values [are] dramatically higher, and so is the orchestral work."

Berklee is offering five classes this semester in video game audio or game scoring. Sweet says his typical student is not only knowledgeable about state-of-the-art video games like Modern Warfare and but also has classroom experience in disciplines like sound production, voice acting, music technology, and film scoring.

Versatility and familiarity are important. In writing for games, composers must anticipate and create cues for the various layers and levels a player passes through. Story lines and scenes change rapidly and unpredictably. As technology improves and memory space expands, moreover, these games have grown more sophisticated, visually and sonically. Players’ expectations rise accordingly, creating a demand for such elements as a full orchestral score.

We've actually been waiting for this.

Prime: Felix Salmon takes apart a wishy-washy column by Andrew Ross Sorkin in order to make a definitive case against financial institutions so large that they pose a systemic risk to the stability of financial markets — the TBTFs. Here is Mr Salmon's reply to Mr Sorkin's belief that huge corporations need huge banks.

The fact is that if Pfizer or Verizon need to raise billions of dollars, there are broadly three ways they can do so. They can ask an investment bank to help them raise the money in the stock market; they can ask an investment bank to help them raise the money in the bond market; or they can ask a large commercial bank to help them raise the money in the syndicated loan market.

Pfizer and Verizon are well known in the bond markets, where thousands of institutional investors trade those credits every day. And when banks enter the syndicated loan business, they rarely make significant profits from the loans themselves. Instead, the lead managers get fees for putting the deal together, and selling off most of the loan to banks which have excess liquidity and/or want to develop their relationship with the company in question.

Ultimately, however, the economy would be better off if big companies raised more equity and less debt; and borrowed what they needed to borrow in the bond market rather than the loan market, leaving the banks to do what the bond market can’t, which is lend to individuals and small businesses.

The final paragraph is wealth-of-the-Indies wise.

Tierce: Robin Sloan applies the economic terms, stock and flow, to activities that we might as well call "creative." (Snarkmarket)

  • Flow is the feed. It’s the posts and the tweets. It’s the stream of daily and sub-daily updates that remind peo­ple that you exist.
  • Stock is the durable stuff. It’s the con­tent you pro­duce that’s as inter­est­ing in two months (or two years) as it is today. It’s what peo­ple dis­cover via search. It’s what spreads slowly but surely, build­ing fans over time.

This would have been handy to know when we were starting out, but we figured it out eventually. Sadly, there hasn't been a lot of time for stock lately, as we've been concentrating on flow management.

Sext: Minneapolitan Lily Coyle thanks Pat Robertson for his thoughtful explanation of the earthquake in Haiti — in the voice of Satan. (StarTribune; via The Rumpus)

But when you say that Haiti has made a pact with me, it is totally humiliating. I may be evil incarnate, but I'm no welcher. The way you put it, making a deal with me leaves folks desperate and impoverished. Sure, in the afterlife, but when I strike bargains with people, they first get something here on earth -- glamour, beauty, talent, wealth, fame, glory, a golden fiddle. Those Haitians have nothing, and I mean nothing.

Nones: Japan Airlines seeks bankruptcy protection. Not at all the same thing as going out of business! The BBC story comes with this handy sidebar:

  • Founded in 1951, Japan's flagship carrier came to symbolise the country's rapid economic growth, leading to privatisation in 1987
  • But when Japan's stock market and property bubble of the 1980s burst, it was hurt by risky investments it had made in foreign resorts and hotels
  • It also found itself with growing pension and payroll costs, and running many unprofitable domestic routes, which it was politically obliged to maintain
  • More recently, it has seen falling passenger numbers in the global downturn, and as a result of increased competition from Japanese rival All Nippon Airways
  • It lost 131bn yen ($1.4bn; £880m) in the six months to September

Vespers: Amy Halloran writes a nice appreciation of Ludmilla Petrushevskaya's Scary Fairy Tales, at The Millions.

When people write about Ludmilla Petrushevskaya, they remark on the hope that clusters around the bleak stories. I am not so certain I read hope in these pages but there is redemption within them, something that keeps the fantastical and mystical events that do not often end happily from seeming ripe with despair. For me, maybe it is just the act of storytelling that is redemptive. Someone lived to tell the tale.

Compline: Maria Popova addresses the importance of "data viz," or what Edward Tufte calls The Visual Display of Quantitative Information.

So if there’s one takeaway for your day-to-day here, be wary of what we like to call data-washing — the selective and manipulated framing of information aimed at steering your understanding of it in a specific direction. When things are this visual, it’s all the harder to look for the “fine print” — but more often than not, there is one.

Don't miss the clip of Alex Lundry's short talk on the subject — and steer clear of pie charts! (Brain Pickings)

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