Overeducated and Underemployed

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ONE of the oddest things about the brutal post-crash economy is that all the average-is-over cries by neoliberals to educate the workforce for a global world has accompanied hard times for many educated people. It's especially true for academics caught in the adjunct trap, though it is not unique to struggling scholars. It's certainly an issue with troubling implications for the creative class, … [Read more...]

Real Estate (the Band) on Tour

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LAST night I had the pleasure of seeing of my favorite current indie-rock groups play at the Belasco Theater in downtown Los Angeles. They remind me of several bands of past and present -- The Velvet Underground, the Feelies, Luna, the Clientele -- and have these gently transporting guitar harmonies. It will be hard to hear on a computer or even playing an MP3, but these guys manage to make two … [Read more...]

Billy Bragg: Taylor Swift vs. Spotify

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RECENTLY, I've been puzzled over how to frame the Taylor Swift vs. Spotify fight. Having to take sides in that battle -- between a plutocrat popstar and an exploitative streaming service -- really makes me feel like I live in a dystopia. It's sort of an illusion of choice. "Maybe I should just ignore it?" crossed my mind a few times. In any case, the British rock musician Billy Bragg -- a … [Read more...]

Are Books an “Essential Good”?

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IN France, bookstores and literary culture thrive, in part because of laws privileging books and protecting their producers and disseminators. A recent discussion in the New York Times Book Review asked if we need a similar system here. The provocative critic Daniel Mendelsohn starts by talking about cultural differences between French and American culture. Whatever the cultural reasons, … [Read more...]

Farewell to Clive James

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HOW much longer will the beleaguered polymath last? No one knows. But my friend and guest columnist Lawrence Christon has penned an appreciation of the great Australian-born writer. With no further ado: "THE LONG GOODBYE,"  By Lawrence Christon At 75, Clive James is close to the end of a battle with a form of leukemia that’s gone on so long that he’s expressed embarrassment over outlasting … [Read more...]

Is Free Will For Real?

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SO who decides what we do -- our biology or us? Is there anyone home, or do we just run through our decisions the way nature programmed us? I didn't think there was a lot more to say about free will, which often provokes dull, abstract debates, but a presentation in Puebla, Mexico last week by David Eagleman, a neuroscientist at Baylor College, fascinated me. Eagleman's speech -- and I saw a … [Read more...]

Musicians Respond to YouTube’s Streaming Plan

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IT'S been on the verge of dropping for months now, but YouTube has finally announced its new music streaming service, which could perhaps crush some of the others. What will it mean for musicians, er, content providers, especially those without corporate backing? At this point we don't entirely know, but the group Content Creators Coalition -- a group I neither belong to nor always agree with, but … [Read more...]

Amazon and Hachette Put Down Their Guns

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WELL, it's not clear who cried uncle first, but this fight between the online realtor and the French publishing company -- whose authors were being punished by late delivery and discouraged sales -- seems to be resolved. Here's the lead from today's New York Times story: Amazon and Hachette announced Thursday morning that they have resolved their differences and signed a new multiyear … [Read more...]

La Ciudad de las Ideas festival

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YOUR humble blogger is just back from a few days in Puebla, Mexico, which hosted an annual ideas conference that included writer Piper Kerman, filmmaker Werner Herzog, tiger mom Amy Chua, and a host of musicians, neuroscientists, and magicians. There was also an appearance by the Orquestra Esperanza Azteca, one of the many groups of kid orchestras inspired by El Sistema. (There is a new branch … [Read more...]

Michael Lewis and the Wolves of Wall Street

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FEW writers have penetrated the macho, risk-taking culture of finance like journalist Michael Lewis, who worked on Wall Street and in the City of London in the late '80s. His first book, the colorful, high-octane Liar's Poker, has just been reissued for its 25th anniversary, and it describes the birth of the sort of casino capitalism/ winner-take-all world we live with now. I had the pleasure … [Read more...]