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10 March 2010


Matins: Joe Jervis reports a weird but deplorable press release from the Patriots For A Model Utah, announcing proposed legislation to deport homosexuals from the state. However seriously it is intended to be taken, Joe's concern is not without foundation.

You may laugh at these idiots, but this yet another example of the recent avalanche of Christianist calls to criminalize, imprison, and exterminate homosexuals in the United States. These demands are now made openly, boldly, without shame. And they are often coming from the top rungs of the most powerful and well-known Christian organizations in the nation.

Lauds: Eduardo Porter, reflecting on the brief Oscars blackout, wonders if it wouldn't make sense to pay Disney the seven cents an hour it seems to want, and to stop thinking of television as "free." It's a question of how much your time is worth. (NYT)

Americans watch 153 hours of TV a month, on average, according to a Nielsen survey. On prime time, ABC has a 9 percent share. At $1 a month, a rough, back-of-the-envelope estimate (assuming families watch TV together) would suggest Disney wants, at most, 7 cents an hour from the average Cablevision subscriber to watch its shows.

Compare that with today’s price of TV. Cablevision’s basic “family cable” package costs $55.95 a month, which works out at most to 37 cents an hour per home. That is cheap compared with the real price we pay for television: 18 minutes out of every hour that we are expected to spend watching ads. Those 18 minutes are much more valuable to me and you than they are to ABC.

A study in 2009 estimated that advertisers paid about $230,000 for a 30-second spot on ABC’s “Desperate Housewives.” That amounts to 79 cents an hour for each of the 10.6 million homes plugged into the show on Sunday nights. But if average hourly wages are $22.05 an hour, 18 minutes of the average workers’ time are worth $6.60.

Prime: Jeffrey Pfeffer outlines a method for tying CEO compensation to company performance. (What? You thought that they were already linked?)(The Corner Office)

The solution is both straightforward and reasonably simple. Get rid of the idea of trying to find comparisons similar in size or other attributes-statistical techniques can take these differences into account. Draw a large sample of companies, and compute the effect of performance on pay for those organizations, measured in shareholder return or accounting measures and similar factors. To produce a suggested pay figure for a given company, plug that company’s values for each factor into the equation derived from the large sample.

A procedure like this diminishes the focus on the median in the pay determination process and gives performance a role. Over time, as pressures for a performance component to pay determination persist, the effect of performance will become stronger, captured in the statistical estimation process and then transferred to the pay inside individual companies.

Tierce: Why, if the brain is so smart — one of Jonah Lehrer's readers wants to know why, "if the brain is so smart, why do half of all marriages end in divorce?" Mr Lehrer has some scientific things to say ("We adapt to our pleasures; we habituate to delight."), but his ultimate authority seems to be Shakespeare. (The Frontal Cortex)

I can't help but think that Shakespeare was trying to warn us about the fickleness of passionate love even as he was inventing its literary template. Romeo and Juliet, after all, begins with Romeo in a disconsolate funk. But he's not upset about Juliet. He hasn't even met Juliet. He's miserable over Rosaline. And so, while the rest of the tragedy is an ode to young lovers and impossible passions, Shakespeare has prefaced the action with a warning: passion is erratic. The same randy Romeo who compares you to the sun was in love with someone else last night.

Sext: All about pockets. (BBC; via The Morning News)

The pocket flattened out, and became two pieces of cloth, one solid (the one at the back) and the other shaped almost like a 'U'. The pocket was also attached to its own belt, usually cloth at this time, and was often elaborately embroidered and decorated. You can still see some of these beautiful works of pocket artistry in museums that are dedicated to original period costumes.

However, if history had been left to the rich and carefree who had time to make and elaborate on the undergarment pocket, then our pocket history might have ended there. In many ways, that would have been a prettier solution. Imagine, pocket factories, we'd have them made out of all sorts of materials; after all, they were often right up next to the skin. Angora pockets, velour pockets, pockets made of polar fleece with silken tassels on the bottoms, etc...

Nones: Peter Mair sketches the new political landscape in the Netherlands, where the government collapsed last week on the issue of sending troops to Afghanistan.

But the one great uncertainty is what will happen to the Freedom Party (PVV), led by the blonded Geert Wilders, and this is where the entrails of the local elections have been studied most keenly. Wilders is the latest in a short line of rightwing political entrepreneurs who have been trying to build a position in Dutch politics in the last ten years, and whose impact so far has been to throw traditional Dutch political culture into disarray. The story began with Pim Fortuyn, who was assassinated by an animal rights activist shortly before his debut election in 2002. His party fell apart soon afterwards, and though it is now gone, it is not forgotten. The second was Rita Verdonk, who left the VVD in high dudgeon when she failed to win the party leadership, and is now effectively forgotten even if not yet gone. The third is Wilders. The new PVV is distinctively anti-Islam, but tempers its persistent anti-immigrant rhetoric with an occasional reference to policies aimed at protecting pensioners or curbing the privileges of the political elite. This is an increasingly common package of appeals in northern Europe. At the last election, the PVV won 9 of the 150 seats in the Dutch parliament. This time around, it is expected to triple that figure and become one of the biggest parties in the country.

Wilders runs the party with iron discipline. Its elite is entirely under his control, which makes it less likely he will fall foul of the sort of personality clashes that did so much to undermine both Fortuyn’s successors and Verdonk. The PVV has no ordinary members – this is the first party in the Netherlands that one can’t actually join – which helps Wilders maintain unchallenged leadership control.

Vespers: Jim Behrle tells you everything that you need to know in order to become a celebrated poet "overnight." It's as funny as ground glass! (via The Awl)

You might think the answer is to write great poems. The cream rises to the top, right? In my experience, no. The most famous poets are not the most gifted, the most daring, or the most geniusy. Fame and poetry mix best through steady mediocrity, the creation of a “poetic voice” and a concrete underpinning of institutional power. You ought to write poems that scare or challenge no one, poems that are speckled with the kind of folksy charm people like in politicians. Be experimental in name only. All those French poets everyone claims to love, who wrote about cow’s uteruses or what-have-you, died in the gutter with massive cases of chlamydia—certainly not the kind of romantic death that contemporary poets ought to strive to emulate.

Compline: Our friend, George Snyder, reflects on the overlooked fact (it suits no one's ego) that it's not a good idea to expect your interesting friends to like each other. Case in point: Interior designer Herman Schrijver (1904-1972).

Clearly, however, Herman was drawn to people with personalities, sometimes even people with fairly difficult ones.  Nancy was forever showing up chain-smoking and drunk, and Ivy always scraped the butter off the toast at tea.  Nancy almost never ate, and Ivy liked very simple, very plain English food.  Ivy, in fact, disliked people speaking anything but English in her presence and would demand a translation when someone spoke French.  Nancy, as Harold Acton told Duncan Fallowell (in To Noto, Bloomsbury 1989) "was an extraordinary woman.  She always had to have enormous black men plunging into her morning, noon and night."  As for Ivy, it is unclear whether her long-term relationship with the English furniture expert Margaret Jourdain with whom she lived for many years was ever physical.  Opinion is evenly divided.

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