It's a lesson we need to consider in the current push to eliminate so-called waste and fraud in charity. At a certain point we hit not just a point of diminishing returns, but actual loss, as organizations waste their time and money on ineffective paperwork.
Is there potential SOX internal controls liability for Bear executives? If not, and melt-downs like this can happen after SOX (worth $80+/share one day, $2 the next), then what was it, exactly, that SOX did for us? Could it be that SOX didn't eliminate risk after all?
And Tom Kirkendall sees shades of Enron here. When you're a trust-based business and the trust is gone, your value can evaporate mighty quickly. Skilling pointed out that that's exactly what happened at Enron. Tom K notes that it would have happened at AIG had that company not cut a deal with Big E. Tom says, "such loss is simply one of the risks of investing in a company based on a trust-based business model." Does this mean that Enron was all about inherent risk in the market, and not about fraud?
So two possible lessons from Bear: We didn't need SOX, and it didn't do any good.
Jeff Trexler: March 2008 Archives
Philippe Starcke is in the news for announcing his retirement by denouncing design. Core77 has more on that; for our purposes, the accompanying photo exemplifies how the art world freely exploits pop culture trademarks.
It's a symbiotic relationship, extending beyond the art world to include charities and churches, whose appropriation of others' trademarks in the name of higher values is notorious. For the comics community, such appropriation has served in part to legitimize what had for decades been dismissed as a junk medium.
Now that sequential art has gone mainstream (insert obligatory pows, bams, etc.)--and the commodification of marks in the art and charity worlds is increasingly conspicuous beyond the narrow confines of high art--the issue of design dilution is growing more acute.
Soon I'll be starting a series of explanations on issues related to the Siegel ruling and intellectual property. As I noted in the earlier FAQ, if you have any questions, please don't hesitate the email them to me or to post them as a comment. Chances are a number of other people are wondering the same thing.
In the course of my subsequent posts, I'll also take time to tell a bit of the history behind the current controversy as well explain how creators and companies are dealing with these issues today. It's a fascinating area with lots of interesting connections.
For example, one question this morning offered a reminder that the story is not always David and Goliath. The issue: whether the Siegel case was related at all to the Abend ruling, which concerned the movie version of Rear Window based on an original short story. More about that soon enough--gotta run--but one thing worth noting is that the Abend case also involved a deceased creator and his estate . . . except in the that case, the beneficiary was a trust sending the cash to Columbia University.
Who should be able to benefit from a late creator's work? It's a highly contested issue that we'll be exploring throughout this week.
A brief moment of freeze-frame cartoon sex makes this NSFW for about three seconds, but hey, I teach this stuff so it is my work. Via Osocio, here's the perfect pick-me-up for a grey Monday morning: the Telugu condom song, a Bollywood-style PSA from India that features dancing prophylactics and a rather peppy chorus:
I've received a number of questions about the Superman ruling, so over the next few days I'll continue to chat about the case, its history and what it means for the future of the franchise. If all the conflicting opinions and explanations have you confused, stick around--I'll do my best to make it clear and simple, with actual legal references so you can impress your friends at parties with your mad law-quotin' skillz.
Since the Siegel decision became public knowledge, one of the recurring fear in the comics community has been the possibility that DC Comics would not be able to publish Superman comics. Related concerns: the end of any movies and merch related to Superman.
As I indicated in last night's FAQ, DC & co. aren't "doomed," as one commenter put it. The situation just gets a bit more complicated. For the immediate future, this means ongoing litigation and negotiations in regard to profit sharing in reference to works derived from the Action #1 copyright.
As for the profit breakdown, what this entails isn't clear. The most direct candidates for inclusion are things like recent Action #1 reprints or direct artistic references to the material in that book, such as these panels in Grant Morrison's All Star Superman #10.
The situation gets far more complex when deciding what constitutes a derivative work from Action #1. Given how much of the current character is distinct from the material in that story, the amount that the Siegels should receive from new material (i.e., from April 16, 1999 onward) is open to debate.
Making this more difficult is the relation of the Action Comics #1 material to Superman trademarks. Superman trademarks include elements from the relevant copyrighted material, from aspects of Superman's uniform to certain characters to the logo, which reflects the classic Ira Schnapp design "based on Joe Shuster's concept." This is cutting-edge unresolved intellectual property law, with ramifications far beyond the comic book community. Anyone looking for an easy and immediate answer will, alas, be disappointed.
Which brings me to the assertion in the New York Times article that should the Shuster heirs regain their 50% interest in 2013,
That would give heirs of the two creators control over use of their lucrative character until until at least 2033. . . . "Time Warner couldn't exploit any new Superman-derived works without a license from the Siegels and Shusters."
Well, maybe, sort of. Keep in mind, the person being quoted above is the Siegels' lawyer, not exactly an unbiased source. In reality, the situation is far more complicated. Even if the cases didn't settle and the Shusters prevailed, the termination only applies to domestic U.S. copyright. The retention of trademark and foreign copyright by DC & co., as you can imagine, creates a far more complex situation, as does the fact that so much of the current character does not appear in the Action Comics #1 material. I'm not saying it would be easy, but there are things that Time Warner could do without a license, just as there are opportunities the creators' families couldn't exploit without dealing with Time Warner.
So is this the death of Superman? No, not at all. Instead of worrying about DC folding up, expect a settlement with both the Siegel and Shuster families, albeit perhaps one that is more favorable to them in terms of finances and the creators' recognition than might have otherwise been obtained.
UPDATE: I am expanding this FAQ in posts on Blog@Newsarama.com. Worried that Superman will have to be replaced by Madame Fatal? Want to know why Neil Gaiman isn't calling his lawyer to nab the rights to Sandman? I'll be addressing those issues and more in posts at Blog@ and covering related comics & IP themes here on Uncivil Society. Feel free to let me know your own questions and concerns.
I want to take a moment to address a few of the questions and objections raised in response to the decision awarding copyright in Action Comics #1 to Siegel heirs. This is a quick initial draft highlighting a few of main issues--if you have other questions or something seems unclear (or, gulp, wrong), feel free to comment or to contact me directly.
Q: Why are the Siegels pursuing this? Didn't Siegel and Shuster sign a contract assigning the rights to DC?
A: Yes, they did sign away all their rights in that infamous $130 contract seventy years ago. But in 1976, Congress enabled creators and their heirs to terminate the assignment of copyright executed before January 1, 1978, unless the copyright was in a work made for hire. To learn why Congress did this, read pp. 62-63 of the ruling; in brief, it was a way for creators and their heirs to re-negotiate when the value of their work was more apparent.
Q: Do the Siegels now own Superman?
A: Not completely. This decision only grants them a copyright interest in the Superman material that Siegel and Shuster created before they were employed at DC--namely, the material that appeared in Action Comics #1.
Even in regard to the Siegels' interest in Action Comics #1 and works derived from it, the Siegel heirs are at best co-owners with DC (the Shuster situation is explained in brief here). Each holder of copyright interest must account to the other for any profits gained from exploiting the copyright, and no partial copyright holder can transfer exclusive rights without consent of the others holding a copyright interest. In addition, as the court rules (pp. 63-66), under the law the Siegel heirs regain an interest only domestic--not foreign--profits.
But wait, there's more! A number of elements in the Superman "universe" (see pp. 13-14) did not appear in the first issue of Action Comics. Kryptonite, Lex Luthor, Metropolis, Beppo the Super-Monkey--none of these appear in the issue. Superman could not fly, nor does he have super-breath, heat vision or a Fortress of Solitude with an interplanetary zoo and the Bottle City of Kandor. The extent to which the Siegels' profit distribution will be affected by subsequent additions to the original material is yet unresolved.
Q: Do the Siegels have creative control over Superman comics?
A: No. The court explains, quoting an earlier case, that "each co-owner has an independent right to use or license the use of the copyright. . . . A co-owner of a copyright must account to other co-owners for any profits he earns from licensing or use of the copyright." (p. 66)
Q: What about Superboy?
A: That's a separate case, although procedurally it is consolidated with the Superman case for discovery and pre-trial purposes. The question of the Siegels' rights to Superboy is as of yet unresolved.
Q: Don't the Superman trademarks make the copyright issue irrelevant?
A: The Siegels conceded that they have no legal right to profits "purely attributable to [Superman's] trademark rights." However, they claim to be "entitled to profits from mixed trademark uses to the extent such exploit recaptured copyright elements (e.g., the 'Superman costume')." The court explains that the issue of mixed copyright/trademark accounting wasn't part of the current motion. Like other aspects of this case it's a rather complex issue that will need to be addressed in more documents filed by each side.
Q: Will the Siegels get profits from the Superman movies and merchandise?
A: That depends on a few things, one of which is the ultimate resolution of the mixed copyright/trademark issue.
In addition, there's also the issue of when a derivative work was created--the Siegels correctly conceded that they don't have an interest in profits attributable to the exploitation of pre-termination works (e.g., works created before April 16, 1999, the effective date of the termination notice). However, the court ruling does not resolve the issue of accounting for profits from pre-termination derivative works "altered so as to become post-termination derivative works." (p.67), such as, say, a special edition DVD.
Another open issue: the licensing agreements among DC, Warner Brothers Entertainment and Time Warner. As the court summarizes, "[w]hether the license fees paid represents the fair market value therefor, or whether the license for the works between the related entities was a 'sweetheart deal' are questions of fact that are not answered" in this ruling. [p.71]
Q: Why is the court even issuing a ruling now? I thought there was going to be a trial.
A: The issues in this ruling were raised as part of what are called "summary judgment" motions. If a court grants a motion for summary judgment, that means the issue is resolved without a trial.
Q: Can DC/Time Warner/Warner Brothers appeal the judge's ruling?
A: Yes, if they choose. And the federal appeals court might reverse it, although there's good reason to think it won't be flipped. This isn't over.
Q: What next?
A: More documents prepared and answered; more rulings; possibly a trial; perhaps an appeal. Ditto (except the appeal) in Superboy. The most likely final outcome in both cases: a settlement.
Q: If there are so many unresolved questions, why does this ruling matter?
A: This is a formal declaration by a U.S. court that the Siegels have regained copyright interest in Superman. However limited, it is a historic ruling, in itself a vindication of the family's and fellow creators' decades-long struggle to receive legal recognition of Siegel and Shuster's role in creating the character. Even if the Siegels settle with DC & co., they will do so with the satisfaction of knowing that a court had finally recognized Jerry's work.
The outcome strikes a chord with our fundamental sense of justice--as Journalista posted as I was writing this paragraph, "[s]ometimes the good guys do in fact win." That people feel this way is not surprising. Siegel and Shuster's creation generated an immense amount of wealth; it only seems fair that for them to benefit. Although some may object that it's too late--Siegel and Shuster have passed on--we should note that many creators work in part to provide a legacy for their families.
Last but not least, in a world where people all too often feel like cogs in a corporate machine, this ruling serves as a potent affirmation of the human spirit.
One of the most clever passages in the Superman ruling concerns the effect of early DC comics house ads on the Siegels' ability to regain a copyright interest in Action Comics #1 (Update: the New York Times talks to the principals here). The law's rather complex, but in a nutshell, the judge notes that the Siegel heirs might not have a claim in elements appearing in these ads, which DC reports as being published before Action Comics #1 was published on April 18, 1938.
Here, for example, is Superman's reported first appearance in a comic book, the inside back cover of More Fun Comics #31, which DC's copyright registration states as having been published on April 5, 1938:
Now you might think that's a slam dunk for Time Warner--after all, this is the iconic cover that introduced Superman to the world.
But here's where thinking like a lawyer can actually be a good thing. The judge refuses to characterize the image on the basis of what came later; instead, he takes it as it was back when it appeared, allegedly before Action #1 hit the stands. Nothing is there regarding the character--his origin, mission, associates, abilities, even his name. Beyond that, the image is in black and white, and the "S" on the character's chest is blurred. All of which leads to what is in this context a pyrrhic victory for Time Warner:
"The Court thus concludes that defendants may continue to exploit the image of a person with extraordinary strength who wears a black and white leotard and cape."
This is the big one. The judge has issued a ruling in the case regarding the Siegel family's rights in Superman. It doesn't resolve all the issues--for example, this does not address the Superboy issue, which is a separate case. However, it does award the heirs copyright in the Superman material in Action Comics number 1 (the judge uses the term "Vol. 1", but that's only a reference to the first issue.).
Here's the stirring conclusion:
After seventy years, Jerome Siegelâ€™s heirs regain what he granted so long ago â€“ the copyright in the Superman material that was published in Action Comics Vol. 1. What remains is an apportionment of profits, guided in some measure by the rulings contained in this Order, and a trial on whether to include the profits generated by DC Comicsâ€™ corporate siblingâ€™s exploitation of the Superman copyright.
If you read the opinion, you'll note a number of references to the treatise on copyright written by William Patry. Patry, now Google's legal counsel, offers a crisp write-up of the opinion on his blog, along with an homage to Jewish comic book creators of the golden age. The key takeaway from a legal perspective is the following:
The dramatic sounding nature of the final paragraph of the opinion has to be put in context though. The opinion doesnâ€™t cover Shusterâ€™s interests, which are not subject to Section 304(c) termination, but rather a future 304(d) termination. Nor does the opinion reach the work for hire question for anything after the (justly famous and important) Action Comics Vol. 1 published on April 18, 1938 â€“ the collateral estoppel applied on work for hire only covers Action Comics Vol. 1. Finally, there are very thorny issues of apportionment. All of these issues are likely to be the subject of subsequent motions and possibly trial.
Still, despite its limited scope and remaining unfinished details, this is a historic ruling rich with symbolic significance. And in a poignant coincidence, the judge issued his order on the same day that Grant Morrison's homage to Siegel and Shuster in All Star Superman #10 hit the stands.
Beware "stark nudity on slick paper!" Never before in history have we had new media capable of subjecting us to the fetishistic predations of a lustful minority!
For your Friday edification, here's classic 1965 video on how girly mags, sodomites, transvestite he-males and lesbian bestiality cultists are making our children vulnerable to the seductive lure of communism.
Oh yeah, it was produced by Charles Keating.
A local bar provides the most convincing argument I've seen for going green.
Of course, its core assumption might be refuted in a decade or so . . .
. . . of commerce. A fascinating debate is emerging in New York as Donna Karan has lost rights to the Houston & Broadway wall that has sported this iconic mural since 1992. The reason: the building was sold and the new owners have leased store space to Abercrombrie and Fitch.
The problem, of course, is that since 9/11 the mural has become a symbol not just of Donna Karan fashion, but the City itself. The pre-9/11 skyline with the Twin Towers; the integration of the City with the Statue of Liberty--this ad has come to transcend its commercial roots even more than the landmark Long Island City Pepsi sign or the Domino Sugar plant in Brooklyn.
This comment on Gothamist sums up the negative reaction:
Some very well put arguments in favor of preservation, I don't think there's much I can add. If the Hollywood sign can be landmarked, if classic neon and chrome and be preserved for future generations then surely that advert can be saved.
It's much more New York than Abercrombie and Fitch ever will.
It's this latter sense of the word that comes to mind as I see the nonprofit and social enterprise communities react to the latest PR regarding the OpenSocial Foundation, the Google-MySpace-Yahoo nonprofit promoting an open API for online social networks. For the do-gooder community, this is a Moment of Affirmation--Nonprofit! Hybrid! Open Source! Information Revolution! It's a party with everything except dancing Ewoks, although I expect someone to create a .gif of that soon enough.
And that's exactly what the big three expected and wanted us to do. The fact is, OpenSocial is a deliberate attempt to leverage the cultural biases of the online community against Facebook and Microsoft, not to mention online social networks popular outside the U.S. Social networks, while popular, have proven somewhat difficult to commodify. The Foundation serves as a means to stigmatize the competition by branding it as closed and commercial, even as Google-MySpace-Yahoo leverage their own considerable market resources to profit from the work.
Mind you, I'm not criticizing GMY for doing this--it's rather savvy, and were I in management at any of these companies I'd recommend doing the same thing. I respect the strategy in the same way I do the marketing genius of PT Barnum and Vince McMahon, both of whom used cultural psychology to build entertainment empires.
I'm less enthused about our own recurring tendency to drink the latest Kool-Aid ladled to us in the name of higher good. Social enterprise is supposed to be a movement characterized by business savvy, but time and again we're all-too-eager to imbue someone else's tactics with our own moral hue.
This isn't a sign that we're sophisticated; it marks us as rubes.
The problem with this isn't that it's women using sex to promote a vegan lifestyle. The problem is it's lame.
â€œWeâ€™ve gotten a lot of men eating vegetarian, if not vegan.â€
Wow, that's hot--preachy AND delusional!
Bummed out by the corporatization of charitable culture? Perhaps the antidote lies in music and dancing puppets.
White Courtesy Telephone nails it. Once I get past the current daily grind, I'll have more re my own thoughts on "a proper scientific and philosophical grounding" for metrics and social enterprise.
The number of people practicing evaluation without a license and without a proper scientific and philosophical grounding in the subject is, in my view, a scandal. Worries about evaluation, engendered in part by logic models the length of whale intestines, have become the math anxiety of the philanthropic world.
My general thesisâ€”if I could call it thatâ€”is that from the perspective of somebody like Mr. Walker whose organization has been commissioned to conduct lucrative, large-scale evaluations of social programs (lucrative by nonprofit standards), the Impact Revolution might seem like a good thing. But from the ground, from the perspective of many people working in community-based organizations, this so-called revolution has brought with it new sources of irritation, new ways of adding meaningless make-work to already overburdened nonprofit staff members.
It has not been a peopleâ€™s revolution, in other words, but rather one championed by elitesâ€”like myself, Iâ€™m afraidâ€” unable to see far enough beyond our own measuring sticks to understand the limitations of formal evaluation techniques, and the trade-offs in staff time and other resources that these formal techniques require.
GiftHub today makes a wry observation about the rising gee-whiz generation in charity:
Is it just me or is the atmosphere stifling? I read all the giving blogs, and it seems that overall, the world is pretty nifty. With the nice young practitioners coming up through the system you can be sure, if you had a boat, and put them in charge, it would not be rocked.
As much as I admire the goodwill of those decreed by fate to kill me, I'm also concerned about the extent to which their revolutionary spirit obscures a return to the very mistakes they think they've moved past. Mutatis mutandis, of course--we're now as naive about the limits of market philanthropy as the Boomers were about the limits of government, but the end result is likely to be the same. Glib solutions to systemic problems, disillusionment with failed reforms, and some next-gen Celine Dion dunning our ears with pap songs on how their children are the future.
Via WWD, more evidence of that the environmental fad in American business may be little more than greenwashing. In related news, check out the NY Times' new article on the dubious nature of green collar jobs.
Since it's behind a firewall, here are a few illustrative highlights re the UK Advertising Standards Authority ruling:
The U.K.'s Advertising Standards Authority has banned a batch of ads by Cotton Council International, trading as Cotton USA, for making misleading claims that U.S. cotton is produced in an environmentally "sustainable" manner.
In its ruling, the ASA concluded that magazine and poster ads for Cotton USA, which state "soft, sensual and sustainable, it's Cotton USA," should "no longer appear in their current form." The judgment by the industry oversight body was made following the filing of three consumer complaints that challenged the term "sustainable."
The authority decided that as "there was no universally agreed definition of the term 'sustainable' and there appeared to be a significant division of informed opinion as to whether cotton production in the U.S. could be described as 'sustainable' or not under various available definitions, the term 'sustainable' in the CCI ad was likely to be ambiguous and unclear to consumers."
"We concluded that CCI had not justified the claim," ASA said.
One of the signal myths of internet pop-o-nomics is that digital data is costless. Yes, it can be easy to replicate without loss to the original, but that's only part of the equation.
Case in point: Google's struggle to monetize Youtube.
Google bought YouTube for $1.6 billion in 2006, but the site pulled in as little as $20 million in revenue last year according to Fortune. The problem certainly isnâ€™t viewers â€” YouTube had nearly 79 million of them in January accounting for one-third of all online viewers according to comScore. . . . Fortune has some truly staggering numbers including that YouTube spends roughly $1 million a day on the bandwidth required to stream videos alone.
The implosion of subprime mortgages appears to have had little impact on social enterprise microlending. If anything, it seems to have reinforced the core assumption that homeownership for the poor is a moral right.
It's a classic example of confirmation bias. Rather than re-examining their core assumptions, social entrepreneurs are forcing new data into their pre-existing business model.
Ameliorating the negative consequences of the lending crisis is fine, but what they're doing is not business innovation. Powerpoint aside, it's traditional charity.
Earth2Tech highlights a key issue in nonprofit/for-profit hybrids: the appearance, if not reality, of conflicts of interest. Prompting this analysis: Craig Venter's entrepreneurial leveraging the for-profit/nonprofit relationship for substantial personal gain.
Folks who got into the social enterprise biz before everyone called it social enterprise may recall the controversy over Pat Robertson's making $90 million dollars from the sale of the Family Channel, which had initially been built through charitable donations. Less remembered: how that transaction loomed large in justifying the enactment of intermediate sanctions, tax penalties now imposed for excess benefit transactions.
Now that the economy is slowing, the likelihood of legal blowback is increasing.
Like the original scanner, I'm a serious devotee of Soviet constructivist art. Beyond the intuitive appeal of the form, I'm fascinated by the degree to which the message in early Soviet propaganda resonates with charity today. Not surprising, really, in part due to the degree to which the ideology of Soviet production adopted the principles of Taylorism, which is also a direct ancestor of the principles that animate social entrepreneurship.
Below: engineering creates the mechanism of efficient production by supplanting the spirit of obsolete faith.
Echoing W.C. Fields, "I like children--if they're properly cooked." Go to VoidState to see how it turned out.
Social enterprise ostensibly aims to introduce the rigorous analysis found in business culture to the world of public benefit. To an extent it succeeds in doing this, except in regard to its on PR. The Darwinian rhetorical analysis of corporate texts has little place in our world--just look at the critical reaction to Allan Benamer's routine parsing of a Convio press release and you'll find reactions you'd rarely if ever encounter in the rough and tumble real world.
Today's New York Times offers another opportunity for us to think about the tentative future of social enterprise, and my bet is the real message is going to be missed. The occasion: David Brooks' opinion column on social entrepreneurship, Thoroughly Modern Do-Gooders.
If I were to give this piece the typical SE-friendly read, I'd write about how this sort of recognition is a sign that the movement has truly arrived, even if the mainstream media is actually a bit late to the game. But that's not what's really going on.
The timing is one clue. Note when the article appeared--Brooks touts the venture-capital model of philanthropy a week after the collapse of Bear Stearns exposed systemic problems in the investment world, problems that persist despite the post-bailout dead cat bounce.
Another clue: Brooks' description of social enterprise as a "decentralized" post-welfare-state movement that limits the role to government in administering social programs. If it sounds like there's a resonance here with Reagan-era public policy, you're not hearing things--that's the perspective from which Brooks speaks.
In a nutshell, what we have in Brooks' column is not an emblem of triumph for social enterprise but a signal of an ideology in retreat. Brooks is writing this now because free-market capitalism and conservative federalism are in desperate need of validation outside politics and pundits. McCain, Obama, Clinton, Congress, the mainstream media--no matter where you look, the future seems to trend more toward government control than the Reagan Revolution. In this context Brooks' appeal to social enterprise is similar to the use of charity in commercial advertising. It's an attempt to borrow goodwill--if you're not going to believe the American Enterprise Institute, listen to social entrepreneurs.
Maybe this will work, but I doubt it. Yes, Brooks is on target in linking social entrepreneurship to conservative social policy; it's a connection, in fact, that I highlighted in my recent StartingBloc talk as one of the ironies of modern progressivism. But if you pay close attention to what people are actually saying both within social enterprise and charity more generally, you'll notice that the social enterprise is old Reagan in new wineskins. Rather, it's what you might call yes-but federalism. Private social entrepreneurship is otherwise the ideal, but national health care is a necessity. Companies need to promote environmental sustainability, but the government needs to be the prime mover. And maybe . . . a hedge spoken in whispers as loud as a roar . . . the focus on private initiative has gone too far, such that we have lost sight of the substantial good that government can do.
If you want to see the future of social enterprise, you have to do more than round up the usual appealing suspects. Robert Reich's Supercapitalism, Jim Collins' Good to Great and the Social Sectors, Michael Edwards' forthcoming Just Another Emperor and columns like this one today in the New Statesman--whatever we might think about their particular objections, we ignore them to our peril.
From today's RSS feed for the Social Enterprise blog (comments now closed). Even with an aggressive filter, I get dozens of these every day. I'm sure I could get a better screening system if I tried, but frankly, it's easier for me to use a capcha and not worry about what's showing up on the blog when I'm not looking.
An open door, a dark corridor, 11th Avenue.
So I figured, why not go in?
And that's how I found Honey Space, the new unattended gallery for emerging artists in New York. What's particularly interesting about this project is the degree to which it embodies the notion of a place apart--no organization, no bills, no exchange. As the New York Times notes,
"Mr. Beale calls his creation a no-profit gallery, perhaps because nonprofit sounds far too official for a space where you can see your breath on a winter morning."
Note: One of the archaic aspects of current law regarding lawyers is that we're not allowed to give legal advice outside our licensed jurisdiction, which, in today's increasingly standardized legal environment, is a bit like saying you can't do web design for a New York client if you happen to live in New Jersey. So instead of giving legal advice, I'm going to provide a professorial analytical case study and some links to useful summaries of the applicable laws. I'm also going to do this in relatively informal language stripped for the most part of legalese--such as using "defamation" as shorthand for a range of defamation, slander and libel claims. As per the note in the blog's footer, this doesn't constitute legal advice etc. etc. disclaimer disclaimer., and anyone who relies on anything said here is a numbskull. If you're in a legal muck-up, pay a lawyer licensed in your state to apply it to your situation, which is kind of the point of the @#$#! restriction.For a basic introduction to current law, check out the Electronic Frontier Foundation's guide here as well as the useful write-ups at the Chilling Effects Clearinghouse. The upshot of the rules described in these references is that despite what you might hear from folks who are threatening you with a lawsuit, it takes more than just a negative or inaccurate statement to trigger a viable claim.
Here's a real-world example. A few days ago, NonprofitTechBlog's Allan Benamer published a post in which he assessed a recent press release from Convio, a for-profit company that provides CRM software to nonprofits. Convio is a company that has received a substantial amount of public attention for, inter alia, its political clients, a security breach and IPO filing. Specifically, Allan observed that the announcement of the departure of co-founder and former CTO David Crooke was rather terse:
The inference here is that the quick and abrupt departure of David Crooke was payback for the Convio security scandal last year. . . . One would think that a co-founder would receive a rather more celebratory send-off than a one-liner buried deep in the tail end of a press release but what do I know? Weâ€™ve seen other co-founder CTOs unceremoniously dumped so this isnâ€™t anything new.
Allan's post was not at all unusual. It's the sort of observation biz watchers make all the time; there are entire blogs filled with this sort of thing. Yet afterwards he received an email from David Crooke himself, in which he describes himself as being "generous" in giving Allan the opportunity to apologize and withdraw his post. Here's an illustrative selection:
You need to understand that the web is not a playground where you can just say anything you want, and then say "oops, I made it up, it's only an opinion". The same defamation, slander and libel laws that apply to the New York Times apply to your blog. . . .In the law biz this would be called a "cease and desist" letter, or C&D, and Crooke's* is typical of the form. Maybe you think Crooke is a hero for sending it; maybe you think he's a villain--personally, I have no opinion on that. I don't know David Crooke and have no reason to think he's anything other than a fine human being who loves puppies, hugs babies and founded a company that has succeeded in providing services that a number of organizations find valuable.
If you are not prepared to do that today, then send me the address where you can be served with legal notices, and the name of the attorney that will represent you here in Texas.
Convio's attorneys are also monitoring this situation, and may wish to take action on the company's behalf.
But is his C&D viable? That's the subject of the immediate case study, which I'm conducting as I did back when I was a corporate law professor in, coincidentally, Texas.
My assessment after the jump.
*I use Allan's first name in part because I've met him in the course of my work with social enterprise; I haven't met David Crooke, so I don't presume to be on a first name basis. Moreover, Allan is a helluva lot easier to pronounce at first glance than Benamer.
Given his strong nearsightedness Mr. Magoo might have been a better fit for an American Academy of Opthalmology vid, but then again, corrective lenses would have ruined his whole shtick.
Via the essential NewsFromME
Yes, it can be exciting and revolutionary and all to hype social capital markets, but in the eyes of many investors it's gonna be a just a bunch of worthless penny stocks.
[On ****.com] I met an awesome guy called Ryan that worked at Ultra Gas Station. He impregnated me and we moved to Europe where hes in mergers and aquisitions for a large company. Since then I have recommended all my friends to join a good dating site like *****.com.Date online and get impregnated by a guy who works at a gas station--now why didn't Match.com think of that? Of course, he did go from there to global M&A deals . . .
Children's books are another example of a venture that was a social business long before we coined the phrase. Here's a site dedicated to a series I was positively addicted to as a tyke. I vaguely remember telling my first grade teacher that they were my favorite books. In the years before the Web stuff like this was a lifeline.
Market capitalism, once again, totally overshot, taking a fine ideaâ€”providing credit so that folks who arenâ€™t rich can own homesâ€”and slicing and dicing it until no one understood the financial Frankenstein theyâ€™d created. The government and the Fed turned a blind eye, which was fine with the â€œinnovators.â€ Now that the monster has turned on them, theyâ€™re running back to the govâ€™t to bail them out.The takeaway here is not, as some say, that capitalism is bad. Hubris, blind optimism, trendhopping, waveriding--these are the real culprits, and they're problems endemic to any social system, including social enterprise however it's defined.
It tolls for thee, social enterprise.Â
When for-profits like Bear Stearns aren't sustainable without a bailout, why should charities put their faith in earned income and business metaphors? Â
Today sugared cereal is a health menace. When it first hit the market, it was a health food.
Well, not really. Boing Boing posts the following spam received by Bruce Sterling. Y'know, it doesn't sound all that different from some of the social enterprise pitches I hear . . .
Good time of day. You are disturbed by the charitable company Redd Cross of Slovenia. We have the business offer for you. We can offer to you of earnings, thus your salary will make from 1000$ to 2000$ per one month, at an incomplete working day. Your earnings can be and higher. The more and forces you will give time, the there will be your salary more.
If it is interesting to you, you write on the address of e-mail of our agent: firstname.lastname@example.org he will contact you within 24 hours and will throw off to you all details, and will answer you on all your questions.
Thank you for attention Redd Cross of Slovenia!
When you try and "monetize your users", you accept the almost obscene assumption that people are meant to be pimped out, sold to the highest bidder, resources to be slashed, burned, and exploited.
But that's not how the edgeconomy works. Businesses need what connected consumers have to give more than connected consumers need what businesses have to sell.
Let's put that a little more formally. Monetization is ugly because it blinds us to the truth that value must flow in many directions. That's the essence of edge strategy, in fact.
That's why businesses that aren't deeply, durably connected to people are already falling apart (hi, Facebook, Gap, and Microsoft).
Just ask yourself: how many
firmsindustries has "monetization" already killed?
If monetization is a problem for commercial business, how much more so for charity?
The Edison Phonograph--customization, personal production, a world of sound with no boundaries. It's Telegraphy 2.0!
Via Trendhunter, news of a cause marketing product that would truly weird me out. Not because it's Guantanamo; I just don't see lathering up with somebody's face:
Lush Cosmetics have started making bath bombs to raise money for Reprieve which campaigns to raise awareness of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay. Costing Â£2.95 the orange (of course) bombs come decorated with a dove of peace. Once placed in water the bombs dissolve and release a picture of a prisoner.
The later the post, the more I've taught, the greater the chance of a dopey double-entendre. No matter--the story itself is quite interesting. Valleywag points to a revealing
(NSFW) Fleshbot write-up on how the alternative porn movement evolved from an anti-corporate counterculture to a routinized big business lacking the movement's original core values. There but for go we, etc.
[Konrad] Lorenz observed that jackdaws form lifelong attachments, as rooks seem to do, and that there is a distinct, well-understood pecking order within the tribe to which all the members adhere without question. Lorenz gradually learnt the Jackdaw vocabulary: 'Zick, Zick' is uttered by the courting male to mean 'Let's nest together' and, once in possession of an actual mate and nest, 'Keep out.' Any act of social delinquency is immediately censured by the other tribe members with a variation of this call, expressed by Lorenz as 'Yip, Yip.' Most interesting of all is Lorenz's discovery of the subtle distinction between 'Kia' and 'Kiaw.' The first is the cry uttered in flight by the dominant jackdaws to urge the whole flock outward to new feeding grounds. The second is to urge them home. Thus, 'Kiaw' plays a vital role in maintaining the integrity of the flock when one meets another.
Most birds seem to keep their song quite separate from their language. The staccato alarm cry of a wren or blackbird is quite distinct from its sweet song. Jackdaws, however, incorporate their words into their songs to create, as Lorenz puts it, something more like a ballad, in which they can re-create past adventures or directly express emotions. Not only this, but the singer accompanies the different cries with the corresponding gestures, quivering or threatening like the lustiest performer passionately enacting a song. In a way, the jackdaw is mimicking itself, as a solitary jackdaw kept in a cage will come to mimic human speech, but it may also, Lorenz thinks, be expressing emotion. When a marten broke into the roosting aviary at Altenberg and killed all but one of his jackdaw flock, the lone survivor sat all day on the weathervane and sang. The dominant theme of her song, repeated over and over, was 'Kiaw,' 'Come back, oh, come back.' It was a song of heartbreak.
The founder of Facebook: "We're not incredibly profitable, we're not at that stage." For now, he said, people should remember that Facebook itself is a charitable gift to the world.
One commenter's response: "If "just helping people communicate" makes the world better, then AT&T is frickin Jesus."
And why not?
From a Slate article based on extensive interviews with New York's sex workers:
What high-end clients pay for may surprise you. For example, according to my ongoing interviews of several hundred sex workers, approximately 40 percent of trades in New York's sex economy fail to include a physical act beyond light petting or kissing. No intercourse, no oral stimulation, etc. That's one helluva conversation. But it's what many clients want. Flush with cash, these elite men routinely turn their prostitute into a second partner or spouse. Over the course of a year, they will sometimes persuade the woman to take on a new identity, replete with a fake name, a fake job, a fake life history, and so on.
There's an organic resonance here with the nonprofit identity as a means of trying to transcend necessity. Other relationships involve constant give-and-take, negative assessments, webs of responsibility, even the need to perform sexually. The relationship with the sex worker may overt exchange at the front end, but beyond this moment of overt commodification is a sense of freedom. Maintaining this is difficult, inasmuch as it calls for a total disconnect with reality, as evidenced by this telling comment on a Gothamist thread:
Wasn't it originally reported that "Kristen" was a 24 year old cabaret chanteuse from Montreal? Now we find out she's just another 22 year old aspiring singer from the Jersey Shore. So much for the fantasy.
On the way to work this morning, I read an article in the Post noting that Spitzer had asked his security detail for a classical music CD for the evening of the assignation. This in itself would appear to be a way to offset the features of exchange proceeding the encounter with "Kristen," aka Ashley Alexandra Dupre, nee Ashley Youmans. Ashley herself is someone who has adopted an array of alternate identities, much as we all do. The contrast in the photos below really struck me; each is quintessentially human, yet in different ways:
Again, this is not an endorsement of any of the acts mentioned--just observations.
Leader or not, do-gooders may be more smoke-and-mirrors than the real McCoy.
Research has shown people do the bare minimum in many respects, and so with morality, the appearance of taking the right action could be just as beneficial as actually taking that action.
Eliot Spitzer is resigning within the hour. He will go down in history as one of the state's most despised and ineffective governors, but his wife will leave a more lasting legacy. Above: a video from Silda Wall Spitzer's recent New School talk on green buildings and her work in greening the governor's executive mansion. Domino has a Silda-hosted video tour of the mansion, along with an interview on her environmental initiative. Advertising Age quips:
Actually, her eco-friendly interview turns out to have been especially timely. Mr. Spitzer may have been publicly tagged Monday for one traditional sin, but the Vatican over the weekend added "ecological" offenses to its list of evils.
Advocacy groups oppose $10 million children's trauma center sponsored by Abercrombie and Fitch.
The cult of the entrepreneur that the microfinance boom has helped foster is understandably appealing. But thinking that everyone is, and should be, an entrepreneur leads us to underrate the virtues of larger businesses and of the income that a steady job can provide. To be sure, for some people the best route out of poverty will be a bank loan. But for most itâ€™s going to be something much simpler: a regular paycheck.
Free enterprise, egalitarian democracy, fast fashion, and our historic puritanical moralism flow together in a mercantile analog to the stockade:
I was aware of the distinction but am grateful for the letter, because it illustrates one of the systemic problems plaguing the Red Cross and charity more generally. The issue is not, as some would have it, that the Red Cross is a traditional 1.0 philanthropy that hasn't adapted to the network model. Rather, it reflects a danger that is latent in many forms of networked charity.
The Red Cross isn't a monolith; it's a web of organizations tied together through a common symbol, shared principles and partnerships. It was 2.0 before there was a 1.0--the local organizations are joined together in iconography and abstract statements, but the more you get down to particulars, the less anyone outside the specific actors is involved.
On the plus side, this has enabled the Red Cross to adapt to diverse local conditions far better than a single centrally controlled group. An earthquake in California and a tsunami in India trigger different needs and require different responses, just as the politics of operating in the U.S. are far different from those elsewhere. Without the affiliated network structure, the Red Cross might never have been able to provide effective assistance anywhere for long, let only be allowed to exist.
Yet this same medium, typified by distributed responsibility, also generates systemic dysfunction. In particular, the organization on both the macro- and micro-levels exhibits a tendency to disclaim responsibility for actions or features outside one's own direct control.
Within a national Red Cross, the result can be a PR clusterf**k, akin to what we saw in the U.S. after 9/11 or the various mini-scandals in local administration. As I've examined at greater length elsewhere, the rhetoric at the time reflected this ingrained segmenting mindset--fundraising publicity was showing images of the Twin Towers and blood drives; management was saying don't give blood & spending the funds on infrastructure as allowed by the bylaws.
More globally the result can be tragic. Case in point: the International Red Cross' own admission of "moral failure" in refusing to take action to convey what it knew about the Holocaust. The organization's moral sense, both globally and on the local level, was shaped by the distribution of moral responsibility embodied in the ethic of neutrality, a value that at once promoted and subverted the group's humanitarian mission.
With regard to the present day, yes, it is true that the Red Crosses in the U.S. and Norway are legally separate in regard to their national charters. But they are also united in a common symbol and a web of contractual agreements that serve to foster collective goodwill. The significance of this shared identity only increases in an era of instantaneous global communication--the Red Cross generated by the code on a server in Norway appears the same in New York as in Oslo. While some folks may like the maudlin bait-and-switch, I can say that the reaction I've seen here has been universally negative.
If the Red Cross is to maintain trust in the long run, it needs to develop more effective means of policing its mark. Just as there are agreements as to general humanitarian principles by which all national Red Cross signatories must abide, the International Federation as well as the nationals need to consider adopting shared standards of fundraising and promotion.
This isn't being critical; it's identity management 101. If you want to use a logo to generate millions of dollars in donations worldwide, there should be standards to assure its continued integrity. A good place to start for a charity would be to agree to be honest--to avoid manipulation and misdirection in the name of a supposed greater good. This is a cause in which the Americans could take the initiative instead of disclaiming responsibility. After all, we could have a fair bit of experience in what can happen when the public feels duped.
But the broader issue here isn't the Red Cross--it's the simplistic view of network dynamics that's rife in the promotion of philanthropy 2.0. Networks can do a lot of good, but they can also exacerbate the problems that we glibly ascribe to what was done before we who know all came along.
We've been discussing Zuck, Sarah Lacy, Facebook's privacy controls, etc. But perhaps we don't have the luxury of that self-indulgence.
Why not? Because the global economy is about to get hammered. The signals the economy is sending are, to put it bluntly, very, very scary. As Lex notes:
"...Now, after a very nasty week in markets, the whispers are that it might even be the big one: the worst crisis since the 1930s. Signals of distress abound: Friday's non-farm payroll data were awful, the US auction rate market is closed, banks' shares are collapsing, interbank rates are back in the danger zone and debt spreads are ballooning."
From this perspective, Yahoo + Microsoft, Google + Digg, Zuck + Lacy - who cares? We're lost in the trivial. It's like happily painting your toenail - while Freddy Krueger closes in on slashing your jugular.
Politics is rife with convenient fictions, one of which is that charities associated with political spouses are mainly about the cause. It wasn't really a coincidence that Bill Clinton's foundation jacked into social enterprise last year, yet like symbiotic little fishies cleaning a shark's teeth we happily joined in what was at base a campaign to promote the Clinton name for other purposes. And this week, mirabile dictu, Clinton's charity is launching a nationwide environmental initiative targeted at the college student vote. Major overseas and corporate donors aren't giving to the Clinton foundation because no one else is committed to sustainability and the green movement--they're buying attention from Bill and his wife.
On a more local level, consider NYC's Children for Children Foundation, a charity started by the wife of Eliot Spitzer, Silda Wall. The charity does a lot of good work, yes, but so do a lot of other charities that somehow can't attract high-powered corporate partners or manage to get donors to chip in upwards of 800K at an annual cocktail party. And in politics, donations to schools and schoolkids aren't just acts of goodwill; they're a strategic means of locking in the teachers' union as well as parents.
Like I said, it's a symbiotic relationship, and the fact that I call attention to the fiction doesn't mean I think it's a bad thing. Children for Children, for example, pays a low-to-middlin' ED salary given its stature & location, and I bet if you asked the recipients of its largesse they wouldn't object to whatever political networking may have prompted the original gift.
Next to Spitzer's family, CFC & its beneficiaries are perhaps the folks who stand to lose the most from this whole sorry affair. Whether Spitzer resigns in a back-room plea deal or gets indicted (the two alternatives he's now rumored to be facing), the charity won't lose much if not all of its political cache. Spitzer's senatorial & presidential possibilities have evaporated; his influence as a lobbyist will likely trend to nil, at least for the immediate future. That leaves the Board having to count on the sheer goodwill of its supporters to maintain current levels of support.
Psalm 146:3 advises us not to trust politicians; the Spitzer provides a potent illustration why. Perhaps it would not be a bad idea for charities with a substantial connection to a political leader or celebrity to consider contingency plans in case of scandal, death or other change in fortune. Insurance might even be in order, if a company can be found to write the policy. That may sound like overkill to some folks, but if you've ever worked with an organization that's seen funds dry up after the impossible has happened you'll know why I'm raising the issue.
I love it when people clothe (as it were) unseemly activities in the jargon of the marketplace because they think it'll make it sound less obscene. This sounds pretty white-slave-y to me (emphasis mine):
We specialize in marketing fashion models, pageant winners and exquisite students, graduates and women of successful careers (finance, art, media etcâ€¦) to leading gentlemen of the world. Catering to clients who will not compromise in any area of their life. We provide our customers and associates with complete discretion and privacy while we guarantee the most exclusively valuable dating and travel companionship.
- a repeat customer--he had $400 credit on deposit before the DC assignation and paid extra to make a deposit on a future session, and he was familiar with the woman, Kristen, chosen to meet him on February 13 (!)
- not exactly committed to the public health agenda of the NYC Health Department--management followed up with "Kristen" and asked if it went well, inasmuch as Spitzer was reported to be someone who "would ask you to do things that, like, you might not think were safe -- you know -- I mean that . . . very basic things"
- conspiring & enticing to transport an individual across state lines to engage in prostitution--he arranged and paid for the escort to travel from New York to DC
- one degree of separation from human trafficking--this was an international sex ring, the subject of a fair degree of scrutiny from law enforcement & policymakers in recent years
- engaged in money laundering and fraud--besides the financial arrangements noted in the complaint, Spitzer apparently conducted business under the name of a member of his campaign staff.
UPDATE: The Gov just gave a short statement asserting his commitment to regaining the trust of his family. No resignation, nuthin'.
Note to social enterprisey readers caught in a sex scandal: don't drag your family into this. It doesn't get any sympathy with us or them. God doesn't help you here either.
If you feel you have to make a brazen bid for our sympathy, say you're going to spend some time in personal reflection with your dog.
More here, including a copy of the relevant portions of the complaint.
â€˜â€˜My work is a response to all things plastic, black, evil and cheap that donâ€™t give people the chance to explore the power of the body.â€™â€™ That tantalizing quote appeared in last Sunday's New York Times feature on Betony Vernon. The article may highlight the "titillating" aspects of Vernon's "erotic ceremonies," but as the writer also notes there's more to the sex than just sex. Her Paradise Found website explains:
"Ritual," "mission," "education," "mystery"--the language of transformation pervades Vernon's work. And it's not just talk: check out the following iconic design, which links the flight of the spirit to bone and flesh:
Besides offering a jewelry line, Paradise Found also doubles as a postmodern mystery faith, with a secret gathering place and rites known only to invited initiates--one more sign that we are living in the midst of a new Renaissance, where art, spirituality and commerce blend into one.
A revealing talk from Ethan Zuckerman. Note the following metric and consider its implications for building a financially viable social network--a lack of frolic appeal may be a sign not of integrity, but fail. Perhaps the social enterprise web is like the DVD rental market, particularly the smaller businesses, where if you weed out all the (for some folks) offensive stuff you won't have the money you'd like for long term sustainability:
Based on my Tripod experience, Iâ€™d offer the hypothesis that any sufficiently advanced read/write technology will get used for two purposes: pornography and activism. Porn is a weak test for the success of participatory media - itâ€™s like tapping a mike and asking, â€œIs it on?â€ If youâ€™re not getting porn in your system, it doesnâ€™t work. Activism is a stronger test - if activists are using your tools, itâ€™s a pretty good indication that your tools are useful and usable.
"I was told late last night that . . . the company has no money," [Domain-Home founder Judy] George, 67, wrote in the Jan. 17 e-mail. "I've been sobbing lately and I'm afraid I couldn't compose myself. You see Domain is the other half of me and I feel like I'm being torn apart."
If there were ever a must-read Trademark Trial and Appeal Board opinion explaining whether a mark is "merely descriptive" or eligible for registration, In re CauseForce would be it. Fun case, clear explanation. The TTABlog has the scoop.
Duke and Carolina basketball fans tend not to unite on positive values--which is the best team, who is the better player--but their game tonight opened with a singular unifying moment. As the announcer declared before the game started, the teams & students were coming together not as two rival teams but as one community, honoring the memory of the UNC's student body president, murdered earlier this week.
Uniting in loss. A moment of silence. Everyone in attendance wearing a ribbon in Carolina blue, not as a mark of loyalty but as a symbol of sympathy (sum + pathos, feeling together) in loss.
Defined not by what they are but what is not.
Still, amidst the usual rah rah, the NY Times mag does raise some useful questions. Here are a few from the close of an article on charitable metrics:
â€œIn the private sector, itâ€™s fairly easy to measure the profitability of a business, a stock return and so on. But in most social-sector organizations, itâ€™s not so simple.â€ Numbers cannot capture everything, Tempel says, and the margins of error can be enormous. And it is conceivable that philanthropy itself might be demeaned by a process that depends less and less on the bond of trust between, say, a foundation and its beneficiary and more and more on an algorithm that calculates the quantitative return on a grant. Joel Fleishman, the Duke professor, points out that there have been spectacular successes in 20th-century philanthropy that did not require sophisticated metrics and portfolio theory. â€œI believe that foundations did very good things before they ever started being formally strategic,â€ he says.
[Paul] Brest worries slightly that a philanthropic community too focused on equating grants with cost-benefit measurement could veer toward projects that are easily measured. Such a tilt could give short shrift to the performing arts. Another possible danger is an inclination to compare the hypothetical â€œreturnsâ€ of financing a project onclimate change, say, with a program to help disaffected youth. â€œThere are apples and oranges,â€ he says, â€œand then there are apples and kangaroos.â€
Even--especially--if you think that metrics, zey are ze future (a la Brest), these are constructive issues to consider.
The upcoming Sunday New York Times magazine features social entrepreneurship. Which is not good, because when the parents start groovin' to the kids' music, that's when it's just about over. Will this . . .
be how kids react to talk of social enterprise in 2025?
Trendhunter's list of 34 bizarre blinged things includes this million-dollar diamond ice cream cone, being sold to benefit Big Brothers/Big Sisters.
Let's see--a series of PR disasters lead people to think your charity lies in order to divert funds. How do respond to that? By creating an ad campaign built around a fake hearing test. Check out the cynical bait-and-switch designed to get you toss the Red Cross a few bucks in this blatantly manipulative site highlighted by Osocio.
It is indeed a small world after all. Disney plans to replace the rain forest sequence on its Small World ride with a Hooray for USA display.
Truth be told the ride is stereotypical as hell, but Hooray for USA? Coming soon: the Main Street Electrical Parade Christmas display gets reworked as Jingo Bells . . .
Now here's why we have universities and charitable foundations: for research into aesthetics and cognition. Good stuff.
In the following excerpt, a Newsarama interview with avant garde comics writer Grant Morrison explains how Superman comics of the 1950s served as a metaphorical exploration of existential crisis:
NEWSARAMA: There was a very interesting article in The Comics Journal recently about Mort Weisinger and the perspective he brought to the Superman books, something youâ€™ve talked about in the past. The point of the piece was that the Silver Age Superman comics are very psychologically interesting in the way they reflect personal neuroses â€“ how, in many ways, theyâ€™re about this man struggling to control the world around him and everyone he knows, and often being subjected to very nightmarish situations of failure, being transformed into something grotesque, or being shown up.
GM: Itâ€™s clear from the material that Mort was attending analysis sessions every week. The 1950s was the great time of psychoanalysis in America, and he was coming back from the couch and giving his writers ideas â€“ at least, thatâ€™s what I understand from what Iâ€™ve read, and from talking to people in the business.
The Weisinger comics, although they were designed to be read by children, were conceived and written by adults, so they actually do speak to the human experience, our fears and hopes and dreams and paranoias.
Like you say, the Superman stories from that era were all about the fears and fantasies of the post-war suburban American male â€“ with his den, his pets, his technology, and his views on women. And we kind of watch the whole thing going into meltdown.
So many of those stories are about loss of self-esteem through physical transformations where heâ€™s old, or fat, or sick and they sort of remind me most of the fairy tales and folk tales we all grew up reading. These are fairy tales and nightmares of the schizoid post-atomic age that created them, but it was also the most popular, iconic â€œpop artâ€ period of Supermanâ€™s publishing history. Back then, as far as I know, those comics were selling millions every month.
Gawker has the scoop on pseudo-Crip Margaret Seltzer's International Brother/SisterHood foundation.
Afro-IP highlights an interesting certification effort underway in South Africa:
For travellers, there is no standard international label â€“ Fairtrade or otherwise â€“ that will guide you to those holidays that give local people a fairer share of tourism's bounty. The only labelling organisation that comes close is Fair Trade in Tourism South Africa(FTTSA), a national scheme that has awarded its trademark to 30 travel companies in South Africa. The holidays they offer are the kind you'd expect in this part of the world - game-watching safaris in the Kruger national park, wine tasting in the Western Cape and viewing humpback whales off Plettenberg Bay. What makes them different is that the FTTSA has vetted these companies to make sure they adhere to fair trade criteria such as providing decent wages and working conditions for their staff
Via Science Fair:
As part of [Microsoft's] development of new audio technology for better videoconferencing, they've got a room in Building 99 (their pretty new international HQ for research) that is designed to dampen sound -- no, drown sound. In fact, the anechoic chamber stifles all sound -- no echo from the walls, no echo from the ceiling, no echo even from the ground; voices drop like rocks even from a few feet away.
As engineer Ivan Tashev put it, "this is a room that simulates absence of room." Standing on a metal grid suspended above pointy lined-wedges on a floor that is in turn mounted on neoprene mounted on concrete? He's right: Is not like standing in a room.
Even in the quietest places outdoors, our ears still pick up a bit of echo from the ground, which helps us to stay oriented. A few seconds of perfect silence and my ears started popping; a few more minutes and the brain circuitry that normally cancels out the sound of one's own heartbeat would have been overridden as the brain searched for SOMETHING to listen to; 15-20 minutes and the hallucinations would have kicked in.
Not so long ago a trip to Penn Station meant seeing ubiquitous promos for Justin Timberlake. I was hoping to see the same thing for Hasidic pop star Lipa Schmeltzer, but alas, it's not to be.
Two Brooklyn community leaders, Asher Friedman and Rabbi Avraham Shor, mobilized opposition to the concert late last month, warning that the concert would promote â€œribaldry and lightheadednessâ€¦ [and] strip the youth of every shred of fear of heaven.â€ Some Hasidim criticize Friedman for corrupting Jewish youth with secular musical styles, others warn his popularity might eclipse the authority of the rabbis.
The biggest loser: "an Israeli charity that finances weddings for orphans," which was to receive proceeds from the concert. Gothamist highlights a telling response from one commenter:
â€œWe have now banned sporting events, concerts, amusement parks, the circus & malls among other things. Of course I donâ€™t argue with the pâ€™sak on these. But what in heavens name do we want people to do realistically for recreation?â€
That's what Marshall McLuhan called advertising. Paul Rand picked up on the theme in his book, From Lascaux to Brooklyn, and the last episode of AMC's Mad Men riffed on it in one of my favorite scenes in the series. I hadn't made this connection before, though: the children's book graphics of Leonard Weisgard, whose bio notes that he was influenced by primitive cave paintings . . .
This made me laugh, no doubt because I recently re-read Shannon & Weaver and John Pierce.
I used to have a first edition S/W, but it got lost in a move. As usual at such times, there was too much noise, not enough signal.
Paul Revere's church goes green.
I'm writing today. No one else is in the office, so I've set up shop in the conference room. The traffic sounds are calming--rhythmic white noise with the occasional helicopter, which actually keeps it interesting.
Diagonally across the river: 25 Washington St., a Brooklyn riverfront office building that's home to Ashoka Youth Venture NYC, the International Center for Tolerance Education and other nonprofit organizations.
The audiences Riis built through his lectures helped to explain the phenomenal response to â€œHow the Other Half Lives,â€ which was aimed at a more secular audience than the lectures. Riis pointed to examples of Christian charity work and private housing development by benevolent businessmen. â€œWhile he also urged further legal measures to improve building codes for new tenements and to force remodeling of existing ones, he placed far more faith in the entrepreneur than in the state,â€ Mr. Czitrom writes.
An interesting observation on group psychology, as Duke ekes out a tough 1 point victory against North Carolina State:
Duke faced another deep deficit and was staring at yet another road loss, but these Blue Devils had an even bigger problem: They weren't following the instructions of their Hall of Fame coach.So during some late breaks, Mike Krzyzewski turned control of the huddle over to the players, and that strategy led to his latest milestone victory."He kind of let us decide what we were going to do with the game," guard Jon Scheyer said, "because for a lot of it, we weren't doing the things that [the coaches] told us to do.""For a couple of late timeouts, I let anyone who would actually want to talk -- and say something that somebody would listen to -- run the huddle," Krzyzewski said. "Teams become really good when they talk to each other. What happens is, they take ownership. We never took ownership of this game until late in the second half."
Another example of why I don't like to draw absolute moral distinctions between social enterprise and the so-called for-profit sector:
From the Aurea to the Sense and Simplicity showcase, Philips has really immersed itself in light technology and pretty, soothing environments. The company has now expanded that to provide an interactive light display for the brand new Mercy Medical Centre in Rogers, Arkansas.
The installation, displayed in the Women's and Children's waiting area, is a 14-ft long, 6ft-high canvas that uses touchscreen technology to animate 1,420 LEDs. Each 'painting' a visitor produces last for a few minutes before fading away, and up to six 'artists' can make their mark at a time.
For more, check out the always illuminating Shiny Shiny.
Today I had the pleasure of speaking at another StartingBloc Institute, this time at Yale just a few yards from where I used to meet every other Monday with the folks from the University's Program on Nonprofit Organizations--meetings that led me to think about going to law school, which eventually led to this site.
I didn't make the connection just out of nostalgia; my point in the session was that while social enterprise seems all revolutionary and worldchanging now, the same was true back then when folks were touting the civil society revolution and before that, nonprofits as the cutting-edge in administering government welfare programs. From there I did a brief SWOT (well, technically, SOWT) analysis of the social enterprise movement itself to assess whether social entrepreneurship is sustainable or just another fad in a cycle that tends to resolve not in the private sector but the state.
While I have my own answer to this question, I decided that instead of yakking at the SB gang for the whole hour I'd ask 'em what they thought, and I'm glad I did. It was a most engaging discussion, ranging from the ethics of Darwinian competition to the potential dangers of a market-focus to the ways in which a market model can make a charity more responsive to social needs.
Several of the questions hit square on subjects on which I'm currently writing longer articles that will eventually be excerpted on this blog, so if you're interested in Hegel, symbiosis or corporate identity, you might want to check back here every so often, because I'll be addressing those questions soon enough.
I'm going to post the obligatory Powerpoint slides for anyone who's interested, but unless you were there they probably won't make much sense--for example, the Jetsons cartoon may seem nonsensical, but the point was to start with a jokey jab at retro-futures that sequed into asking what future generations will think about the utopian claims made for social enterprise. As for why my slides tend to lack words, well, I've come to use slides for associative iconic reinforcement, not bulleted lines that I read. I'm also lazy as all get out, but please don't tell anyone, because it sounds a whole lot smarter to blame the whole thing on cognitive science. Maybe once I get past next week's deadlines I'll record what I said for the archive, albeit without most of the jokes and all the swears.
A New York Times op-ed on how current law works against the local food movement.