The Tipping Point - Malcolm Gladwell

This example isn't in the book but might as well be: by the late 80s, glam metal bands were the rage. At the same time, a small music scene almost unknown outside of Seattle called Grunge existed. By the early 90s, with Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" (the band's frontman is mentioned in a quotation, once) exploding onto the world scene, Glam Rock was passé and a dozen Grunge bands flooded the airwaves. Soon the most popular band of the world was Pearl Jam, and high-end fashion shows featured the (once) cheap, dirty--but warm--flannels, that were the mainstay of grunge fashion. According to Gladwell's book, Grunge hit the tipping point. The idea is that a number of very small factors (i.e. situational context) or individuals (e.g. those who know their stuff (Mavens) or know tons of people (Connectors)) create massive impact that shape events in the street, politics, culture, etc. The book discusses in easy to read language, saving citations for the end as to not scare off readers, numerous examples of the tipping point in action and goes step-by-step and explaining the various types of people and situations that are necessary to cause a tipping point. Here's the problem: the book gives the impression that there might actually be mathematically or perhaps culturally devised ways to make something such as an economic or social trend tip, while if such a thing were possible you would probably have an awful lot of people and companies doing just that. Additionally, a problem with the text is that it further gives the impression that if something tips in remains tipped. This is honestly absolutely ludicrous; trends come and go, empires rise and fall etc. With only one weak example as an exception, there are no trends mentioned that tipped and then eventually fell by the wayside into obscurity (or at least admitted to in the book), and the example given is of a company that undermined itself. Perhaps that is why Grunge is not discussed--it is a trend that tipped and was un-tipped or overshadowed and thus would not fit within the book's model. The work is very interesting and informative, but it is likewise misleading, filled with cherry picked examples that never become un-tipped, and thus in the end it is somewhat disappointing, despite the fact that numerous pages are dedicated to the tale of the incredible and intellectual Mark Alpert—sadly that is not me, but just another namesake pushing me farther down of Google search result list. 

The Lovely Horrible Stuff - Eddie Campbell

Yes, he's talking about money. The artist/writer discusses problems he has with fiscal issues, understanding then, talking about them, dealing with them, making more/less of them, etc. and how money tends to mess up a person's (with the key example being himself) life and the lives of those around you. It is, at times, a very interesting tale, mixing what I assume is autobiographical information with historical accounts--mainly the Yap stones (you probably heard about the giant stone disks that were used by a community in the South Pacific as a form of currency). The trouble is that too often I find myself asking what the heck is going on (made worse by his very stylized narrative and lettering, and far too much time on the Yap stones--it's not the focus of the story!) rather than relating to what should be a very easy subject to relate to: money troubles. 

Shenzhen: A Travelogue from China - Guy Delisle

Delisle's work has been hit and miss with me. I greatly appreciate that he is sharing his time in other countries and has an honest perspective, unfortunately, by his own admission, China--or rather the Shenzhen business zone--is very sterile and boring. With little to do and even less culture the routine is interesting only to a point. I do like his (what appears to my untrained eyes to be) pencil art and am more than willing to see what other trips he shares with us. 

John Constantine, Hellblazer: Scab – Peter Milligan

The amoral, black magician Constantine's new relationship is strained when his body is covered in a magical rash. No, there is no message of practicing safe sex here, although it might have made for a better story. Instead, the situation revolves around a union organizer who sells out and is likewise infected. Milligan attempts to tell a story sympathetic to the working man's plight and how a corrupt government might behave. I never felt the story really got going and it becomes yet another of Milligan's tales that didn't thrill me, which is starting to heavily outweigh the ones that have.

Rework – Jason Fried and David Hansson

Full disclosure: I actually grabbed this because I thought it said Refwork which is a citation computer program and wanted to know more about it. Still, I was glad to learn the authors' views on how business can be productive, profitable, and enjoyable, without being destructive to oneself and others. However, although the practices described may have worked for them and no doubt would work for others, the business climate in this country seems to lean towards the sentiment of the crush everything before you at the cost of your soul (and buy it back with government subsidies while decrying socialism).

Your Guide to the Budget

Your Guide to the BudgetClick to enlarge.

With all the talk of a government shutdown, you may be confused as to why tax breaks for millionaires are good for the economy, while funding the services necessary for a functioning society is bad.

The answer is: you get what you pay for. And by that I mean, if you can afford your own congressman, you too can funnel public funds into your own coffers.

Please note how, in all the talk of budgets, one idea never gets mentioned: raising taxes .* That's because we can't afford to piss off our betters.

Sure, ending the Bush tax cuts last year would have made the now eviscerated social services affordable, but that would have required having a Liberal in the White House (or at least a Democrat). Obama is unable or unwilling to stand up to even the most egregious money grabs. And given how far he's bent over to accommodate the Republicans, I can only imagine what happens with Social Security and Medicare.

*or cutting the bloated defense budget.

Comic originally published (in a slightly different format) Feb. 2010.


Click to enlarge.

I guess I'm not real worried about the cost of the clean up to BP. At $40 million a day in profit, they can afford to employ many of the out-of-work people. Just using Tony Hayward's salary ($4.7 m/yr), BP could hire a couple hundred people for a year. Obviously, money alone won't fix the environmental problem (and it's unclear if anything will), but money goes a long way toward easing the economic burden.

Let's face it, unlike any other business, resource extraction is essentially giving a company the license to take something (oil) that either belongs to no one or belongs to everyone, and then sell it at an ungodly profit. No doubt, drilling for oil is expensive, and I believe that extractors should be able to make a profit on their risk. But beyond that, it should be heavily taxed. Again, such resources either belong to everyone or to no one, so it's ridiculous to say that it belongs to whoever grabs it (yes, I know that goes against established law). And given the importance of oil to our economy and the environmental damage that even "safe" extraction causes, those tax revenues could go to paying for things society really needs---like environmental protection or renewable technologies---rather than yet another house for Tony Hayward.

And, yes, kids, that is socialism.

Drawing Board

I did this one with a brush thinking that it would make things look more oily. Instead, it just made them more sloppy. Tony came out a lot less cartoony than intended, and much of the detail in panel 2 got splotchy and unclear. I really need to work on drawing/inking liquids.

Oh well, this was kind of a knock-off joke, so I can't get too worked up about it.

Your Guide to the Budget

click to enlarge.

I don't understand how the Republicans have any credibility when it comes to the budget. They label themselves as fiscally responsible, but history belies that claim. (And, yes, for fairness and balance, many Dems are also bad.)

As with my last cartoon, it is ridiculous for people who ignored deficits under Bush to suddenly discover them under Obama. Moreover, it is even more hypocritical when you remember that the Bushies couldn't wait to spend the surplus fast enough. If we had saved (or invested) that surplus, we might not be where we are now.

Everyone claims to want a balanced budget (especially easy when you are in the minority party), but no one acts that way. And when we did have a balanced budget in 1998, the Republicans were busy impeaching the president.

RIP United States of America

constitutionYesterday marked the death of the proud experiment to have a government in which people attempted to form a more perfect Union. It was replaced by a group of corporations. I could trace the illness that led to this demise and give a biography of all the wondrous (and, granted, sometime not so wonderful, whether with good intentions or not) acts the country once did, but why bother? Nothing I say or do in this land will ever matter again.

Now it's Official

John Jay College is finally giving me business cards! I feel like a real employee. (Yes, the cards have my name on them.) JJ

METRO's Personal Career Strategic Plan

I attended METRO's workshop on developing a career strategic plan, by Susan DiMattia, last night. She gave some good advice on how to be prepared for downturns and what steps might help you pull out of them. METRO supposably has many good events like this but I can only go to the free ones. It was also geared as a networking event, which is ironic as just about everyone there was unemployed or about to be. On the plus side I did get to have some nice chats with fellow librarians, but there are also those you realize should be unemployed. M. is a fellow Queens College student that I've had several classes with; you would think she could have the decency to say hello to me. Then there was the woman who was complaining that since she wasn't up to date on new technologies she would never want to follow Ms. DiMattia's advice of acknowledging your shortcomings but turning that admission into a positive by explaining how you are taking steps to fix the deficiency. Lady, if that technology is important to a job the employer is going to ask you if you can handle it. At that point you can lie, admit you suck, or try to put a positive spin on it. Only the first and the last will get you the job. If you chose the first path or somehow get the job without being asked the results will be the same: you'll be fired soon enough. Put a positive spin on it and take a professional development class.

Just So We're Clear...

moral hazard

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I can't tell you how safe it makes me feel to know that The People Who Know Better understand that bailing out financially illiterate schmucks would ruin the economy, but bailing out people who really ought to have seen this coming is the right thing to do.

Hey it's only money, right? What's a few trillion when we're talking about taxpayer dollars?