Monday, October 20, 2014

Amazon’s Monopsony Is Not O.K. -
So far Amazon has not tried to exploit consumers. In fact, it has systematically kept prices low, to reinforce its dominance. What it has done, instead, is use its market power to put a squeeze on publishers, in effect driving down the prices it pays for books — hence the fight with Hachette. In economics jargon, Amazon is not, at least so far, acting like a monopolist, a dominant seller with the power to raise prices. Instead, it is acting as a monopsonist, a dominant buyer with the power to push prices down.

And on that front its power is really immense — in fact, even greater than the market share numbers indicate. Book sales depend crucially on buzz and word of mouth (which is why authors are often sent on grueling book tours); you buy a book because you’ve heard about it, because other people are reading it, because it’s a topic of conversation, because it’s made the best-seller list. And what Amazon possesses is the power to kill the buzz. It’s definitely possible, with some extra effort, to buy a book you’ve heard about even if Amazon doesn’t carry it — but if Amazon doesn’t carry that book, you’re much less likely to hear about it in the first place.

So can we trust Amazon not to abuse that power? The Hachette dispute has settled that question: no, we can’t.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

It's pretty, but is theatre any longer necessary? - DC Theatre Scene:

We’ve done a parallel disservice to the theatre: we’ve allowed an ancient institution of high purpose to devolve to something merely decorative, an appurtenance of leisured life, not a preserver of life itself. Theatre no longer guides, it distracts. Theatre no longer orients, it diverts. Theatre no longer flashes out danger, it celebrates good feeling. We’ve lost any visceral sense of what theatre is for. Like the lighthouses of popular imagination it’s perceived as quaint. It’s become a tourist attraction.

At the summit discussion Peter Marks organized this spring at Arena Stage, five Artistic Directors bemoaned the lack of diversity in playwrights and directors, the lack of young people in the audience, the high cost of production, and the high cost of tickets. Their confab produced a flurry of derisive tweets blaming the bemoaners themselves for all these shortcomings.

I found myself unable to take sides on these questions because my mind couldn’t let go of a statistic somebody mentioned in passing: according to the NEA, the audience for theatre has declined by a third in ten years.While we debate how to make theatre cheaper and more inclusive, a good part of our audience is dying off or learning to live without us.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Jess Row: Native Sons - Guernica / A Magazine of Art & Politics:

When Another Country was published—at the very peak of Baldwin’s public stature as a civil rights activist—it was taken as a document of a very small slice of the present: the Greenwich Village and Paris of the late 1950s and early 1960s, where interracial couples and gay people were able to live openly, mostly but not entirely out of the omnipresent shadow of violence. But Another Country is also an intensely prophetic book, in which Baldwin glimpses a world much more like the one we inhabit today, where overt, legal racism and homophobia is inexorably falling away, and what we have to look at, instead, is the face of the person we’ve feared and misunderstood and avoided. It’s a plural world, a world of unstable pronouns, multiple identities, and overlapping narratives. Which is not to say that anyone in the book ends up happy: this is a novel, after all, that begins with one man’s leap off the George Washington Bridge and ends with a series of betrayals—profound and petty—among his survivors. It’s out of that traumatized state, Baldwin seems to say, that the most important realization occurs: our offenses, our intertwined histories and mutual obligations, are more like love affairs than legal cases—love affairs that are never really over. “It doesn’t do any good to blame the people or the time,” one of his characters says, “one is oneself all those people. We are the time.”

Friday, July 18, 2014

Daisey Doubleheader July

A reminder that next week I'm performing two nights with two different shows at Joe's Pub.

On Wednesday, July 23rd, it's
OUR MAN IN HAVANA, my travel monologue about our fractured relationship with Cuba, drive-through mojito stands, and a very special seder in Havana.


Then the next night, July 24th, I follow with
YES THIS MAN, my controversial monologue about men, women, privilege, power, and the Yaffa Cafe's carrot dressing.


Hope you'll join us for this doubleheader,


“He’s a brilliant trickster, a close-magician with superb sleight of hand. His furies are bright and stark, incandescently theatrical. His phrasings and delivery are ensorcelling and incantatory. He’s an escape artist.”
New York Magazine

“The master storyteller—one of the finest solo performers of his generation.”
The New York Times

“He embraces the insightful hostillity of the best comedy.”
The New Yorker

Friday, July 11, 2014

NYTimes today, page one, above the fold: Child Labor in the High Tech Factories in China.