Someone sent me this article by Keynes celebrating the Arts Council in the Listener shortly after World War II had been won in Europe.
A world away, and worth a read.
Fellow Troppodilians, especially those resident in Canberra, may I commend this production of Black Diggers to you. I saw it last year in Sydney at a packed out matinee (only tickets available) at the Opera House on Australia Day! It was electrifying: great script drawing on extensive historical research with a fine balance between humour and pathos. Great storytelling!
It is on at the Canberra Theatre Centre from Wednesday 25 to Saturday 28 March next week.
“Some of the most powerful and moving live theatre you’re likely to see this year.”
★ ★ ★ ★ ★ Daily Telegraph
Oh well I guess snark can be justified as necessary to keeping standards above some rock bottom. Anyway, I did wonder whether this article on the Renaissance and innovation was the silliest thing written on either. Even ignoring the fact that he is about half a millennium out in equating the mediaeval period with the ‘dark ages’ there’s a deeper deliciousness to the way in which he imagines that, by describing a period he has explained it. “It wasn’t just a change of culture that made Western Europe so conducive to innovation at that time. It was also a change of mindset”. Innovation thrived in the Renaissance because of its more innovative culture – not only that but it’s more innovative mindset. The sedative worked because of its dormative qualities.
Anyway, for your delectation it is reproduced below: Continue reading
The NIMBY Brigade is a blight on urban civil society. These people have never seen a new development that they don’t oppose, unless it’s a community vegetable garden or possibly a Montessori preschool built from mud bricks (although only if they’re very quiet middle class kiddies whose
mothers parents drop them off on foot).
Their opposition to any new development is always couched in impressive-sounding terms: residential amenity, excessive noise and traffic density, streetscapes and shadowing. But the real unspoken reason is always that they have an irrational fear that the development will damage their property values.
In fact, most studies of urban consolidation/densification have shown that it’s a positive for property values, as long as the new buildings are not complete slums and attention is paid by planning authorities to transport, social and environmental factors.
I had all this in mind a few days ago when I penned a brief but indignant letter to the local Northern Territory News. It was published today:
I have a strange habit of looking for bargain books. Why is this a strange habit? Because it looks awfully like a false economy. After all, even if you don’t read a book through, just reading a few chapters might take you an afternoon, the full book a few days. So it’s looking pretty silly to economise on the buying price of the book – and save, say $20 when the constraint that matters is one’s endowment of time not money. Ben Franklin rightly said that time was money, but it doesn’t work the other way round.
In any event, the thing is, it’s not working out too badly. Normal bookshops peddle the Latest Thing at high prices for a few months, then it disappears. And in the remainders bookshops like the Book Grocer – where everything is $10 or a tad over $8 if you buy five at a time – while there are quite a lot of duds (lots of the biographies are dreadful) there are some real gems, often about a decade old but which are no longer cool and recent enough to make it into the higher margin bookshops.
Recent highlights from this style of buying include, Non-Zero, Building Jerusalem, Paul and Jesus, Roads to Modernity. All really interesting reads. But right now I’m reading a great book written in around 2000 called The Mating Mind. It’s thesis is adequately summed up in this review:
Evolutionary psychology has been called the “new black” of science fashion, though at its most controversial, it more resembles the emperor’s new clothes. Geoffrey Miller is one of the Young Turks trying to give the phenomenon a better spin. In The Mating Mind, he takes Darwin’s “other” evolutionary theory – of sexual rather than natural selection – and uses it to build a theory about how the human mind has developed the sophistication of a peacock’s tail to encourage sexual choice and the refining of art, morality, music, and literature.
Where many evolutionary psychologists see the mind as a Swiss army knife, and cognitive science sees it as a computer, Miller compares it to an entertainment system, evolved to stimulate [attract] other brains.
As I was reading the first chapter outlining his approach - which I find very persuasive, and more to the point pregnant with insight into all manner of things, not least how impoverished much contemporary social science is, I found myself thinking of Nietzsche. The word “Nietzsche” is typically associated with mad ‘superman’ theories of history. But what I’m thinking of is Nietzsche’s conviction of the ponderousness and self-importance of much enlightenment thinking: The lack of irony and self-reflection with which people imagine they are on a search for Truth. Of course the idea that human intelligence and its cultural accoutrements are not adaptations to the wild, an increasingly clever Swiss Army Knife, but rather the startling and thoroughly arbitrary outcome of a runaway process of positive feedback – peahens picked fancy tails and women picked humour, musical and story-telling smarts as markers for fitness? Well that’s a bit of a comedown.
As Nietzsche puts it in the brilliant opening of Beyond Good and Evil:
Supposing truth to be a woman – what? is the suspicion not well founded that all philosophers, when they have been dogmatists, have had little understanding of women? that the gruesome earnestness, the clumsy importunity with which they have hitherto been in the habit of approaching truth have been inept and improper means for winning a wench?
Or as he put it in less allusive terms early in his career: Continue reading
The ARR scheme so far has cost taxpayers just over $2.2 million and as of December 2013 has delivered a total of 7,800 royalty payments, to 800 artists (or estates) with a median value of about $105 per payment. The scheme has, in three and a half years, only generated a total of less than $200,000 in management fees. It is unlikely that the scheme will be self-funding any time soon, if ever. And what has this costly public art project delivered? A make-work scheme for arts administrators, a restraint of trade and what is essentially an anti-progressive tax: the more you have, the more you receive. Below is a pie chart of resale royalty distributions by value. Note: the construction of the pie chart needed a few ‘extrapolations’ where information from previous years is used to categorise the latest data. These extrapolations might not be perfect.(see footnote below)
The pie chart makes it clear that royalties on resales of individual artworks for more than $10,000 each, account for 59% of all the money collected, yet these top rank payments – about 550 in total - only account for just 7% of the total number of individual payments of the scheme. (BTW many thanks to Paul Fritjers for the tasty pie chart.)
On the other hand the bottom 44% (2,946) of individual payments have only accounted for just 9% of all the money collected. The median value of this bottom bracket of payments is about $55; the average individual transaction cost to CAL, alone, is $30.The only point of these thousands of very small, costly payments is to conceal the real, anti-progressive nature of ARR. Continue reading
Australia’s Artists Resale Royalty (ARR ) scheme has so far cost taxpayers $2.2 million in direct support. And over many years the publicly funded lobbyists for this scheme, headed up by the National Association for the Visual Arts Ltd, have additionally spent a lot of public money on lobbying for their scheme. ARR is a very political project. It is imposed by law on a lot of small ‘sole trader’ businesses; it imposes quasi-compulsory collective management on artists and also imposes a restraint of trade on an art market where profit margins are generally quite thin. ARR is not an ‘art project’.
The fact that these publicly funded arts organisations have, for years, been free to use public money, intended for art projects, to conduct a very partisan political campaign really rankles.
The lobbyists for compulsory ARR are involved in a ‘last ditch’ lobbying campaign for their compulsory ARR scheme to “continue”. As always there is a lot of fudge and misleading by omission to their advocacy. In particular they continue to claim that the majority of royalty payments, to date, have gone to indigenous artists: in this case to date is a very very large lump of fudge.
In the first years of the scheme’s operation, most of the royalty payments raised were on resales of indigenous art. However because resales of indigenous art make up only about 10-15% of total art resales by value, it is inevitable that in time more and more of the royalty payments will come from the resales of non-indigenous art. And it is also inevitable that the distribution of royalty payments by value must, eventually, map to the universal truth that when it comes to the resale of art: artworks by the top 20 artists most favoured by the market get most of the money and the next 80 or so of bestselling artists get most of the remainder.
The agency charged with administering the scheme, the Copyright Agency Limited (CAL), recently released some updated figures and information about the operations of the ARR. I also note that this detailed information was not made available at the time of the ARR review process. The following analysis is based on the figures provided within that report.
Generally speaking, analysis of the top 21 payments confirms that this scheme is already starting to follow the usual market pattern: a handful of sales of a handful of top 20 artists constitute most of the total value of art resales and therefore most of the total value of collected Art Resale Royalties. This is despite the fact that the scheme apparently only currently affects about 10% of resales (according to CAL’s report). Obviously as the scheme starts to affect more and more of the majority of art resales, the skewing of the distribution to a handful of artists such as Whitely, Nolan, Williams etc will inevitably become more pronounced. It would only take the scheme to collect another 10 to 20 high-end sales in the next year, for it to push the distribution to the handful of artists most favored by the market towards 30% or more.
The breakup of the top 21 resale royalty payments is :
Campaigners seem to be having some success in raising the profile of writers and others giving away the product of their labour for free. The first time I ran into this issue in any big way was in launching the Government 2.0 Taskforce with a design competition. The prize? The love and adulation of the community. Now the case against being asked to do stuff for free has made it onto Books and Arts Daily on RN, where after a nervous start, I thought the editor of the new Daily Review did a good job.
I was surprised last night to follow a tweet by libertarian Russ Roberts to this takedown of TEDx. When this guy explained “Why I’m Not a TEDx Speaker” I thought he might be about to decry its relentless drive down market. But no – it was because he wasn’t going to get paid.
Ok, some advice please. I just got a request from a book publisher to reproduce a piece I wrote a while back. It will be in a book for use in secondary schools, a collection of essays on Australian politics with a print run of 2000. While they ask for copyright permission, they are very careful not to mention payment.
So my question is, do I ask for some sort of payment on the basis that writers should be paid? Or do I make an exception because it is being used for educational purposes?
You can read others’ comments on his thread. But I reproduce my own to begin the debate out in the open rather than inside the walled garden of Facebook, which, as I point out in my comment, has the temerity to have Tim writing for it, yet all the while not paying him a cent! Not only that but all those commenters arguing that publishers should pay their contributors, well there they are, giving away their own writing, the sweat of their brow.
I’m shocked: shocked! Continue reading