Saturday, May 21, 2016

frieze questionnaire

frieze sent me a list of 10 questions - you answer as many as you want to, within 800 words.

It's probably a good sign if you could in fact have written 5000 words.  Anyway, here I am trying to be concise: http://www.frieze.com/article/questionnaire-helen-dewitt

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Someone is wrong on the Internet

And by someone I don't mean just anyone, but @EdwardTufte.

Verbs = what things DO, not what they're named.Languages have too many nouns, too few verbs. So why do style guides say cut back on adverbs?

ET is, of course, a god, but...

a god, it would seem, unfamiliar with the fabulous verbs of Greek, Arabic, Hebrew, Japanese, Turkish, Russian and Hungarian.  (I don't suggest that this is a comprehensive list.)  ET! ET! ET! What words have passed the barrier of your, erm, fingers?

Also, I take exception to the claim that a language can have too many nouns.  Czech, I think (but memory may deceive) has a word for the space under a bed.  This is a Rachel Whiteread of a noun; we could, in fact, do with more.



Sunday, March 6, 2016

back on the hamster wheel

Paul Klee's Notebooks Are Now Online. 3900 Pages of Bauhaus Teachings (1921-1931)   HT @openculture HT @EdwardTufte



surprises of the day

Readers of pp will have noticed that it has gone silent for long stretches.  There are too many things I can't talk about.

I realised today that I had fallen into bad habits.  Things turn up in my Twitter feed and I retweet; this is, perhaps, helpful to the people who happen to be checking Twitter at the time, but is not much use to anyone else, and, from a selfish point of view, I have no way of going back to these links later on.

There are blogs I check out every day, but the general point of going to blogs I know I like is that I know I will find the sort of thing I like.  Twitter brings more surprises.  I thought I might start putting some of the surprises on pp.   And someday, who knows, there may not be so many things I can't talk about.


How to Make Mistakes in Python, Mike Pirnat, free download from O'Reilly http://www.oreilly.com/programming/free/files/how-to-make-mistakes-in-python.pdf

A great way to lie to yourself about the quality of your code is to use
   Hungarian Notation. This is where you prefix each variable name
with a little bit of text to indicate what kind of thing it’s supposed to
be. Like many terrible decisions, it can start out innocently enough:
strFirstName
intYear
blnSignedIn
fltTaxRate
lstProducts
dctParams
 (Have not finished the book, but this is representative of what I have read so far. Since a writer spends countless hours doing things that looked like a good idea at the time, only to be revealed as idiocy which will take countless hours to fix, it's cheering to read someone who comes clean. Pirnat comes closer, to my mind, to the way a writer thinks; it's interesting that the tone is so different from your typical Paris Review interview.)

A mouse's house may ruin experiments
Environmental factors lie behind many irreproducible rodent experiments.
Sara Reardon, Nature, HT @EdwardTufte

It’s no secret that therapies that look promising in mice rarely work in people. But too often, experimental treatments that succeed in one mouse population do not even work in other mice, suggesting that many rodent studies may be flawed from the start.

 http://www.nature.com/news/a-mouse-s-house-may-ruin-experiments-1.19335

(What's interesting, to a writer: why does the word 'rodent' make a sentence funny? '...many rodent studies may be flawed from the start.' So lovely.)

Cory Doctorow "Wealth Inequality is Even Worse in Reputation Economies" http://www.locusmag.com/Perspectives/2016/03/cory-doctorow-wealth-inequality-is-even-worse-in-reputation-economies/   HT @dgwbirch

The story of ‘‘meritocracy’’ – a society that migrates wealth, status, and decision-making power into the hands of the most capable – is seductive. Rich people love the idea of meritocracy, because the alter­native is that their lion’s share is unfair, the product of luck, or, worse, cheating. But many of meritocracy’s losers love it, too. In the words of John Steinbeck, ‘‘Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.’’

(I revise my opinion of John Steinbeck, previously seen as worthy, now, unexpectedly, a wit.)

Thursday, February 25, 2016

So lovely

I follow up a link for a job with the New Yorker as Associate Director, Audience Development. Am immediately blasted with a lot of language that would never be permitted in the pages of the, erm, New Yorker except possibly in a quirky little piece on corporatespeak.

  • Collaborate cross-functionally with editors, publishers, product development, and sales & marketing groups to develop and execute data-driven audience-growth plans across all content distribution platforms and maximize customer monetization
  • Develop and experiment with new content executions in emerging distribution platforms
  • Project-manage all audience development touch points and their associated components, from inception to successful completion
  • Measure the performance of audience development initiatives and optimize them according to business goals
  • Identify new growth opportunities and best practices based on emerging digital trends, competitive business intelligence, and consumer insight
  • Manage overall audience development testing strategy—including funnel optimization, distribution channel mix, and headline and image optimization
  • Work closely with digital leadership to determine and meet growth KPIs and insure that they align with revenue strategy
  • Apply SEO initiatives and best practices to the content strategy that will strengthen and optimize both website and keyword rankings

Cross-functionally!? (or possibly ?!)
Customer monetization!?
Content executions!?
Project-manage (wha-? new verb to me, and while there ARE publications that embrace the new, the type of person who would embrace this one would never get a gig as editor at the, erm, New Yorker). Moving right along to the object, Project-manage all audience development touch points. OK, or, as the New Yorker would put it, okay, I take it, having read this text, that there are people out in the world who know what an audience development touch point is, and if you know you can probably swan through "associated components" without driving yourself insane by asking what it would mean for something to be a component of a touch point. If you are such a person you are, I can't help feeling, unlikely to warm to the, erm, New Yorker, let alone subscribe to it. And yet YOU are the person whose job is, I gather, to get more readers AND get them to pay for something you think is a load of bollocks.

It's as if a 3-star restaurant thought it could best be promoted by someone who ate Pedigree Chum in the home.

An agent told me last year he could get me a 6-figure deal on work in progress + rights to The Last Samurai. Had his reach not exceeded his grasp, I would naturally not have been exploring careers at Condé Nast. If I did not have credit card debts that weigh on my mind I would have stopped at "cross-functionally."  Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: It might have been.

I clicked on Continue, and was asked to complete a profile including a menu on Career Focus. The options:


Advertising
Corporate 
Editorial
Entertainment
Technology

Hm.

I selected Entertainment.

And it was at this point, cats and kittens, that I decided to write a blog post instead.




Monday, December 28, 2015

Apollo Sports Club/Glengarry Glen Ross

This is a post which will be of no interest to most readers; it affects only those who may happen to be in Berlin, and may happen to be looking for a gym.  I'm sorry to bore everyone else, but I feel I must warn anyone who is contemplating a membership with the Apollo Sports Club in Haupstraße, who are proving very bad to deal with.

I've dealt with Apollo Sports club for several years, and in the past have found them exceptionally helpful, friendly, and accommodating. Back in 2009 I had to go to the States at short notice to take care of my mother; I asked Apollo if I could defer the remaining months of my membership until my return and they very kindly agreed.  If anyone had asked me I would have recommended them without hesitation.

Now, I would certainly not have assumed I could do this any time I chose.  My last membership had lapsed when I went to the States in 2012. When I went back to Berlin in February I expected to be there only a few months before spending some months in Vermont, I didn't know how many. I did NOT think I could take out a long-term membership and take sabbaticals any time I liked. The sensible plan seemed to be to take out a membership for a few months and then extend month by month if necessary.

I went in to sort this out, and everybody was just as friendly and welcoming and apparently anxious to help as they had been in the past.  But there was something I hadn't allowed for.

Apollo has made very extensive upgrades to its equipment. This has no doubt cost them a lot of money, and has made them anxious to recoup the investment. 

Friday, September 18, 2015

The unbearable lightness of Twitter

I went to The Film Council with a two page outline of what it might be. Based on that they gave us the money to cast it and then with the two actors – it was a very, very small amount of money so we had enough money for two actors effectively – I workshopped it and wrote it with the actors. And it was shot in 12 days.
This is going back some time. These days that’s not unusual micro budget filmmaking, but at the time people weren’t doing that at all. And then we had a simultaneous webcast, the first of its kind apparently, at the same time as it was distributed in not very many cinemas.
And at each stage of the process we were trying to break the rather leaden way the film industry works, where contracts go to and fro, and things take forever to agree. We said, ‘Right, we’re going to write it in this amount of days, and you have to greenlight it over the weekend, and we’ve got to go the next weekend.'
That’s impossible; it takes a week just for lawyers to say, ‘No, my client wants egg sandwiches not ham sandwiches.’ We said, ‘What if everyone sits in a room together and we agree on everything?’ They said, ‘Well that never happens, that’s the whole point of having agents and managers, we all disagree.’
And we said, ‘But what if we say yes to everything, and money’s not an issue, we’re all going to work for nothing, so that is off the table.’ So they got round one evening and did all the contracts over some glasses of wine one evening. They all really loved the process. The whole thing was made and shot in a matter of weeks – which has its good and its bad side.

Simon Beaufoy interviewed for the Bafta Screenwriters' Lecture, the whole thing here.