November 18, 2007
Quote Machine: Culture Clash Edition
From Will Storr vs. The Supernatural, though this bit has very little to do with the book's primary topic (ghosts), and much more to do with a British journalist's confusion over American cuisine:
Back inside, we're presented with confusing breakfasts. There are sausages that are shaped like hamburgers, scrambled eggs with sugar in them, and 'biscuits' that are actually scones.
Good thing no one served up a Mcgriddle.
May 14, 2007
Quote of the Day
From Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential:
No one understands and appreciates the American Dream of hard work leading to material rewards better than a non-American. The Ecuadorian, Mexican, Dominican and Salvadorian cooks I've worked with over the years make most [Culinary Institute of America]-educated white boys look like clumsy, sniveling little punks.
April 27, 2007
Things You Didn't Know About Muhammad Ali
From David Remnick's King of the World:
When he became a Muslim, Ali would say that Clay was his slave name -- and that, of course, was true. But it was also a name in which his family took a certain pride. Cassius Clay was named for an abolitionist, a nineteenth-century Kentucky farmer who inherited forty slaves and a plantation called White Hall in the town of Foxtown in Madison County, Kentucky. Clay was six-foot-six and commanded troops in the war with Mexico. When he returned home, he became an abolitionist and edited an antislavery newspaper in in Lexington called The True American. He was one of the first men in the state to free the slaves on his plantation.
Clay ignored death threats and gave speeches in Kentucky denouncing slavery. "For those who have respect for the laws of God, I have this argument," he said, theatrically laying down a leather-bound copy of the Holy Bible. "For those who believe in the laws of man, I have this argument." Now he laid down a copy of the state constitution. "And for those who believe neither in the laws of God nor of man, I have this argument," and he laid down two pistols and a Bowie knife. During one debate with a proslavery candidate for state office, Clay was stabbed in the chest; luckily, he was carrying his Bowie knife and stabbed his assailant back. Abraham Lincoln sent Clay to Russia for the government, but he returned from St. Petersburg for more abolitionist activity. He maintained his physical courage till the end. When he was eighty-four, he married a fifteen-year-old girl.
Your World In Quotes: Economics Edition
Jamie Galbraith, in the forward to the new edition of John Kenneth Galbraith's "The New Industrial State":
Large business firms often even replace the market altogether. This they do by integration: Replacing activity previously mediated by open purchase and sale with activity either internal to the corporation, or between a large, stable enterprise and its small, specialized suppliers, to whom risk is transferred. People reduce uncertainty neither through clairvoyance ("perfect foresight"), nor by confident exploitation of probabilities ("portfolio diversification"). They do it by forming up into structured groups large enough to forge the future for themselves. In politics these are countries and parties; in economics, corporations.
Once control passes to the organization, Galbraith wrote, it passes completely; the economics developed to describe the small firm and its owner-entrepreneur become obsolete. That form of economics celebrates the rational act of maximization, which consists of finding the shortest path to a given destination. But organizations do not have destinations. They have members, participants, stakeholders, all with a diversity of interests, talents, and purposes. Decisions are made by committees; the leadership of those on top is circumscribed by the need to get the underlings to go along. Individuals, the very focal point of traditional economics, no longer matter very much. Power in the firm belongs to what Galbraith called the "technostructure."
It's always worth saying that "economics," as a discipline, has thought about many of these issues in great depth, and developed cunning and complex models to express some, if not all, of these developments. But economics as it's deployed in common discourse -- often by self-interested interlocutors -- tends towards simplistic neoclassical arguments, which are in fact quite poor at describing the behavior of an economy as complex as ours.
Update: On a slightly less dry note, you gotta love the Galbraith style. He argues that profits aren't maximized merely for shareholder gain, as the shareholders are abstractions rather than voices around the table, and the natural inclination of individuals is to wrest gains for themselves. To think otherwise, Galbraith writes, "one must imagine a man of vigorous, lusty, and reassuringly heterosexual inclination eschews the lovely and available women by whom he is intimately surrounded in order to maximize the opportunities of other men whose existence he only knows through hearsay." This, incidentally, is exactly what's going on with the skyrocketing CEO pay approved by comfy, nepotistic boards of directors. They're advantaging those at the table, not the nameless masses known as "shareholders."
April 02, 2007
What A Difference A Decade Makes
From a New Yorker profile of Donald Trump from 1997:
The phone range -- Jesse Jackson was calling about some office space Trump has promised to help the Rainbow Coalition lease at 40 Wall Street. ("Hello, Jesse. How ya doin'? You were on Rosie's show? She's terrific, right? Yeah, I think she is.")
That would, of course, be this Rosie.