A GRAVE WARNING

A GRAVE WARNING

He’s wrong, at least in large part and as to ultimate effect.

The historian, at least. The reason the Roman state was the economic engine is the fact that the Roman state had in effect monopolized higher industries and technologies (used for architecture and building, military expansion and defense, manufacturing, mining, road building, ship building, etc.) and those capable of employing them.

The Roman economy was, in fact, far more reminiscent of the Nazi economy (a state-centered command and demand economy) and had been since the late Augustan age, than ours.

Having stripped away this human talent from elsewhere, and what the ancient world had as an equivalent of private enterprise (just as the Ptolemies did in Alexandria with all the scientists and inventors and philosophers and information specialists) was a Roman state that basically consumed all of the best pragmatic and technological specialists; engineers, administrators, military personnel, inventors, etc.

Once the state began to collapse there was, in effect, no private industry, markets, enterprises, or places to escape to. And trust me, if history is any guide at all then all states will eventually collapse. Entirely, or so thoroughly that it really doesn’t matter if it does survive in some crippled and hamstrung remnant.

He’s right about the fact that the state was the engine of growth, but wrong about that being any kind of real advantage. It assured that once the state had monopolized skills and industries and specializations and knowledge that any kind of state collapse would be utterly disastrous for the wider Roman world.

Once the state fell apart there was little to no private (or higher non-state) infrastructure left with which to rebuild it. The grand effect of relentless centralization is that once the center collapses so too must the frontiers.

This should be a definite warning to us. Binding American civilization wholly or too closely to the government of the United States is the mindset of a propagandized and state-educated fool.

Sure, we are still far from the state being the true engine of enterprise or the monopoly of most human talent in America (if anything the state is the very antithesis of most higher human talent and enterprise, or at least the counter to the same), but a great many ignorant and ill-educated people wish that were indeed the case.

A grave warning for us.

If you wish to bury America then make the state the center of anything and everything truly important.

That kind of ridiculous and simple-minded state-centered bullshit has been going on since Athens and Sparta and even far longer (the Assyrians, the Akkadians, the Hittites, and so on and so forth) and it rarely ends well.

Oh, it might go on a while, true enough, as long as your neighbors have nothing better to offer or are no stronger than you.

But once they do, or once they are, and your state collapses, so does your entire civilization.

Tying your civilization and its achievements and abilities too closely to your state is the most moronic of all human enterprises.

Don’t do it. It assures not only a steep and rapid decline of your nation, but an ultimate and thorough collapse of your entire civilization.

 

 

Why did the Roman Economy Decline?

I want to reflect on one leading account for the economic decline of Europe following the collapse of the Western Roman Empire. I recently encountered an explanation of this decline that strikes me as deeply problematic.

This argument is worth paying attention to as it is advanced by Peter Brownof Princeton University, who is among my favorite historians of late antiquity, and the author of influential, insightful, and often beautifully written reflections on religion and society in the late antique world. As a writer, he has the ability to make the ancient world come alive in original and unexpected ways. I particularly admire his biography of Saint Augustineand recent work on wealth in early Christianity. Nevertheless, in recent work he has been advancing a particular explanation of the decline of the Roman empire which strikes me as incompatible with both basic economics and what we know about other comparable preindustrial societies.

I’ll focus on the summary of the argument that he presents in The Rise of Western Christendom (I’ve been reading the 2013 Tenth Anniversary Revised Edition). His presentation draws heavily on Christopher Wickham’s Framing the Middle Ages . But I focus on Brown’s version here.


It should be clear that I am writing this as an economist and not as an ancient historian. But the problem with Brown’s account does not lie with his treatment of evidence or mastery of the source material but in his use and misuse of economic concepts.


The Roman State as the Engine of Growth?

In the Rise of Western Christendom, Brown summarizes the new wisdom on the transition from late antiquity to the early middle ages. He accepts that this transition brought about an economic decline — a decline evident in the radical simplification in economic life that took place. Long distance trade contracted. Cities shrank and emptied out. The division of labor became less complex. Many professions common in the Roman world disappeared.

All of this is relatively uncontroversial. At issue is what caused this decline? Traditional accounts emphasized the destruction brought about by barbarian invasions and civil wars as the frontiers of the Western Empire collapsed. These accounts emphasized a collapse in trade and increased economic insecurity. Brown, however, argues that the bulk of modern research rejects this old fashioned view. Instead, according to Brown:

The fault lay with the weakening of the late Roman state. The state had been built up to an unparalleled level in order to survive the crisis of the third century. The “downsizing” of this state, in the course of of the fifth century, destroyed the “command economy” on which the provinces had become dependent (Brown 2013, 12).

The barbarian invasions, of course, play a role in this story because they put pressure on the Roman state. But their role is peripheral. Rather, Brown contends that the Roman state was the engine of economic growth of late antiquity. Turning on its head the old view associated with Michael Rostovtzeff that attributed the decline of the Roman economy to high taxes imposed by the Emperor Diocletian and his successors, Brown argues that these high taxes were in fact the source of economic dynamism:

High taxation did not ruin the populations of the empire. Rather, high tax demands primed the pump for a century of hectic economic growth. Fiscal pressure forced open the closed economies of the countryside. The peasantry had to increase production so as to earn the money with which to pay taxes” (Brown, 2013, xxv)

He unabashedly presents the state as key to the late Roman economy:

With its insistent gathering of wealth and goods through taxes and their distribution for the maintenance of large armies, of privileged cities, of imperial palaces, and of an entire ruling class implicated in the imperial system, the late Roman state was the crude but vigorous pump which had entered the circulation of goods in an otherwise primitive economy. When this pump was removed (as in Britain) or had lost the will to tax (as in Merovingian Gaul and in the other “barbarian” kingdoms) the Roman-style economy collapsed (Brown 2013, 13).

This, I should add, is not presented by Brown as a tentative hypothesis or conjecture, but introduced as the current historical consensus. Brown is damning of historians who deviate from it, and particularly contemptuous of those inane enough to blame the decline on invading hordes of Germanic barbarians.


Let us grant that Brown is correct to present this argument as the current consensus among historians of late antiquity. The problem with it is that it is at odds with what standard economics and with what economic historians know about other preindustrial societies. To see why it is so flawed, I’ve done my best to reconstruct the argument.

  1. The first premise of Brown’s argument is that the Roman state was a sufficiently large player in Roman economy, in terms of the taxes it collected, and the money it spent on wages and armaments, that a reduction in state expenditure would have had a major impact on the rest of the Roman economy. And that any reduction in state spending would not have been compensated for by an increase in private spending.
  2. The second critical premise in Brown’s argument is that, in the absence of the demands of the tax collector, peasants would not have participated in the market economy. When “the great engine of enrichment stalled and, eventually stopped,” Brown writes: “No longer disciplined by the tax collector, the peasantry slacked off. They returned to subsistence farming”. It is crucial for Brown’s thesis that, without the pressures of the state, peasants would have produced only for subsistence.
  3. The third premise is that urban economy of the Roman empire served solely or predominantly to satisfy demands of Roman elites whose incomes were crucially dependent on the state. So when these state incomes declined so did Roman cities.

From these three premises, it follows that when the ability of the Roman state to collect taxes and spend tax revenues became severely damaged in the fifth century, the Roman economy went into fairly rapid decline. No longer forced to pay taxes in cash, peasants ceased producing goods for market. No longer emporia for the disbursement of state largesse, the cities of the western Empire went into decline. As the Roman fiscal state declined:

incomes dwindled, the rich no long reached out, as they had done in the glory days of the fourth century, to buy fine pottery, statuary, high-quality wines and exotic foods. They made do with the products of their region.

This, then, is Brown’s explanation for the decline of the Roman economy. It turns out that when examined one by one each one of these premises is either on shaky grounds factually, economically, or requires us to make implausible assumptions.


I think the first premise rests on a misunderstanding of textbook Keynesianism. Simply put, conventional Keynesian theory suggests that in a recession when resources are unemployed, an increase in government spending can in the short-run increase aggregate demand (either directly or via inflationary expectations). The details of this simple proposition have been endlessly critiqued and debated. But we will skip over this. What is important to note is that for standard textbook Keynesianism, this is a short-run effect. In the textbook models aggregate demand should eventually recover (via the real-balance effect). Government spending has the ability to speed up the recovery.

None of this suggests that in the long-run government spending is required to “prime the pump”. Indeed this language suggests a misunderstanding. For conventional Keynesians, the multiplier on government spending boosts short-run aggregate demand, but aggregate demand is not the binding constraint on long-run growth, supply is; growth depends on the productive capacity of the economy.

If anything, the impact of the Roman tax state on the productive capacity of the economy was more likely to be negative rather than positive. Resources were diverted from the private hands of peasants, merchants and small landowners and diverted into the hands of soldiers and officeholders.

For Brown’s thesis to hold, therefore, the Roman economy must have been in danger of continuous secular stagnation. Brown’s second premise alludes to one such source of stagnation. If peasants refused to participate in the monied economy this could indeed be a source of involution. That is, if peasant incomes went up and they spent none of this on urban-based manufactured goods but consumed the entirety of their higher incomes in the form of greater leisure. That is, Brown’s argument requires that at the margin, peasants preferred additional leisure to the wide array of affordable manufactured consumers goods that were on offer in markets and shops across the Roman empire. This is not impossible. But it is at odds with what we know about peasant behavior in other commercial societies such as early modern Europe. If we relax this highly implausible assumption, then the argument that the urban economy required the fiscal-military state, falls apart.

A similar knife-edge assumption is required for his third premise. Research on the earlier Roman empire suggests that the large cities of the empire were not merely “consumer cities” parasitical on the countryside but centers of urban production and manufacturing (see). Brown’s argument requires us to believe that if, for instance, the Roman state stopped spending on armor and weapons in a city, then the blacksmith and armor manufacturer would go out of business. This is a classic case of focusing on the seen and missing the unseen. It neglects the fact that lower taxes would give individuals more disposable income and they would likely spend some of this income to purchase amphora, pottery, textiles or other urban goods that we know the Roman economy was capable of producing. The blacksmith might switch to producing pots and pans rather than swords but he would not then go out of business.


If Brown’s account is implausible, what does account for the decline? The best account I am aware of is Bryan Ward-Perkin’s The Fall of the Roman Empire and the End of Civilization which Brown dismisses as “tendentious and ill-supported polemics”.

The collapse of the Roman state was catastrophic, not because the Roman state was an engine of economic growth, as Brown contends, but because it provided, albeit imperfectly, the public good of defense. In the absence of this, transactions costs greatly increased, long-distance trade declined, markets contracted, and urbanization declined.


Addendum: The Size of the Late Roman state.

Here I explore a related aspect of Brown’s account that appears problematic: his claims about the size of the late Roman state.

Brown claims that the post-Diocletian Roman state was a “command economy” capable of mobilizing tremendous resources and driving the Roman economy. I am skeptical of such a description being an accurate description of a premodern state. Prior to the railway and telegraph, there were severe limits to ability of states to direct economic activity. To get a feel for things I tried a back of the envelope calculation of the size of late Roman fiscal military state.

The main component of the Roman state was the army. The army grew considerably after Diocletian’s reforms. The exact size of the new army is subject to considerable controversy. John Lydos estimated the Roman army to comprise 389,704 men and a navy of 45,562. The largest estimates are based on Agathias and date from the mid-sixth century. These suggest that the total size of army and navy was around 645,000 (580,000 in the army and around 65,000 in the navy). Historians tend to think these number are too high but we will accept them for the purpose of the argument (Agathias is critiquing the government of his day by showing that the army had declined greatly from the days of Diocletian).

Unfortunately estimates of the Roman population are extremely rough and we don’t have any good numbers of the 3rd century. The population of the Roman empire c. 160 is estimated to have been between 60–70 million. The population in 300 was likely lower than this, though it is unlikely that it was substantially smaller, as recent research suggests that the economic vitality of the empire did not collapse as rapidly in the 3rd century as was once thought.

If we take the largest estimate of the size of the Roman army and take a pessimistic view of Roman population in 300 estimating it to be 50 million (noting that is a pure guesstimate and not based on any definite evidence), we obtain an estimate that the Roman army made up 1.3% of the population. If we employ John Lydos’s numbers we obtain an estimate of 0.87% of the population.

These numbers do not suggest that the Roman army was especially large or burdensome in comparison to other advanced preindustrial societies. In the late seventeenth century, the armies of Louis XIV represented as much as 2% of the French population of 20 million. The Dutch Republic in the 1750s also employed 2% of its population in its armed forces (45,000 out of a population of 2.25 million). The Prussian state employed around 3.5% of its population in the army in the mid-eighteenth centuries. Even Britain employed around 1.2% of its population in its army as perhaps as much as 3.8% of its population in the navy at the height of the Napoleonic wars (approximately 400,000 out of a population of 10.5 million).

What about the size of the Roman bureaucracy? It is accepted that the bureaucracy of the principate was tiny (perhaps 10,000 individuals, many of them freemen and slaves of the imperial household). The late Roman bureaucracy was substantially larger. But even if the bureaucracy after Diocletian was ten or fifteen times larger than that of the Augustinian empire, it would not meaningfully change our comparisons. At most around 1.6 % of the population would have been state employees (either soldiers or bureaucrats).

These numbers are not trivial. They certainly attest to the tax-raising powers of the Roman state. The successor states would not be able to maintain professional armies or bureaucrats at all. Nevertheless, it seems implausible to describe a state that employed less than 2% of the population as a “command economy”.

WATCHING TIME

THE STORIES BEHIND FIVE OF THE MOST ICONIC WATCHES OF ALL TIME 

What makes a Rolex GMT-Master special? The moon, for starters.

BY ED ESTLOW

07 JUNE 2016

70 REACTIONS

Apple wrist products, smartphones and Fitbits notwithstanding, actual watches are cool again.

And the backstories are often even cooler.

We’ve teamed up with vintage and pre-owned watch dealer Crown & Caliber to bring you the origin tales on five of the most iconic timepieces. These are stories that involve war, polo and a surprising amount of space travel.

Read on. You’ve got time.

Rolex GMT-Master
Everybody knows the story of how Pan American World Airways, the pioneers behind the intercontinental flight of the same name, got together with Rolex to design the GMT-Master. They tackled the project so their pilots could maintain a regular sleep schedule and not fall asleep at the wheel. But that’s old news.

The real dirty little secret of the GMT-Master is that at least couple of them made it to the Moon. Jack Swigert wore one on the Apollo 13 mission (you know, the one during which the command module almost blew out from under Swigert, James Lovell, and Fred Haise; pretty sure they made a movie about it). Some claim it was the GMT and not the NASA-authorized Omega Speedmaster that Swigert used to time critical rocket burns as a crippled Apollo 13 limped home. That one hangs on a plaque at Rolex HQ.

And several missions later, Apollo 17 Commander Ronald Evans wore his GMT-Master clear down to the lunar surface, albeit under his space suit. There it stayed for a little over three days. When he got home, he took his buzz-pencil and hand engraved the case back with “FLOWN ON APOLLO XVII 6-19 DEC 72 ON MOON 11-17 DEC RON EVANS.” The watch sold at auction in 2009 for $131,450. Not bad for an illicit piece of history, eh?

Patek Philippe Nautilus
Patek Philippe commissioned famed watch designer Gerald Genta to design this one in 1974. Even though he’d done thousands of watch designs in his career, at this point he was fresh off designing the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak. One imagines he must have been a little tapped out in the inspiration department.

He was eating lunch during a break in the 1974 Basel Watch Fair when inspiration finally struck. He borrowed a paper and pencil from the waiter and did the first sketches of what would become the Nautilus in about five minutes.

Breitling Cosmonaute
You can guess by the name of this watch that it’s got a spacefaring background. When Korean air combat veteran Scott Carpenter was selected for the Mercury space program, he realized he’d be orbiting — and going through day/night rotations — so fast that he could lose track of whether it was day or night back at Mission Control in Houston.

So he went to his buddies at Breitling and discussed the problem. The solution was a watch with a 24-hour dial: the Cosmonaute, based on Breitling’s famous Navitimer platform. Carpenter’s was delivered to him a mere three weeks before his mission. Although his Mercury Aurora Seven mission only lasted five hours, the watch functioned well in space.

Unfortunately, upon splashdown and recovery, Carpenter dipped his watch hand in the sea and the non-water-resistant watch was toast (the Navitimer was notorious for its lack of water resistance). Here’s where the story gets interesting. NASA apparently sent it back to Breitling for repair, but it was never returned.

No one has seen that particular watch in 54 years. But the Cosmonaute is still being produced today.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso
A sport watch refers to a diver or other ticker made for exploration. And the Jaeger LeCoultre is probably the original sport watch. In 1930, an executive of the forerunner to JLC was in India on business. He was approached by an army officer who played polo in his spare time. It seemed the officer kept breaking the crystals on his watches and needed a solution.

The watch executive considered the problem and discussed it with his associates back in Switzerland. The Reverso, a watch with the case that can flip over to protect the dial side and crystal, is what they came up with. It has seen size changes and dozens of versions in the 85 years since it debuted, but the base model is remarkably like the one that first saw the light of day in 1931.

Omega Speedmaster
Ah yes, the Moon watch. Originally conceived in the late 1950s as a racer’s watch (and said tales about the Rolex GMT-Master notwithstanding), the Omega Speedmaster is the official Moon watch — as designated by NASA. One still goes into space on nearly every U.S. astronaut’s wrist.

The fable goes that NASA engineers went undercover to several jewelers in Houston to buy off-the-shelf timepieces to test for use in space. This story is great, like an actress being discovered in a drugstore at Hollywood & Vine, but it’s generally acknowledged to be untrue.

No matter.

What is true is that the Speedmaster proved to be so tough in tests that, to this day, it’s still the only timepiece approved for spacewalks. And Swigert’s GMT-Master be damned, the Speedy is credited with timing the rocket burns that got Apollo 13 home and saved the crew’s necks.4

Watch nerds everywhere count at least one Speedy in their collection. Watch blogFratelloWatches pioneered the concept of “Speedy Tuesday” on social media, one day each week where aficionados post photographs of their beloved watches in various poses: the nerdier, the better.

SILVERCAR AND AUDI

Audi Leads $28M Investment In Rental Startup Silvercar

Silvercar, a startup rethinking the auto rental experience in airports, already seems pretty tied to Audi — after all, every vehicle that Silvercar rents out is a silver Audi. Now the companies are deepening that relationship with a $28 million Series C investment.

Audi led the round, with the company’s North American president Scott Keogh joining Silvercar’s board of directors. Silvercar and Audi are also looking beyond airports with a new initiative called the Audi Shared Fleet, where businesses will be able to offer cars to employees on their corporate campuses.

“Silvercar represents not just the future of the car rental industry, but a vision for the future of mobility,” Keogh said in the funding release “We want to utilize the company’s strengths in technology and innovation to merge connectivity and mobility for today’s consumer.”

Silvercar has raised a total of $60 million in funding. Previous investors Austin Ventures and Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin also participated in the new round.

The service doesn’t just offer every customer access to the same high-end vehicle. It also streamlines the reservation and payment process, allowing you to make bookings through a mobile app and unlock the car by just scanning a QR code.Writer Ryan Lawler (now sadly departed from TechCrunch) tried the service out three years ago in Dallas-Fort Worth, Silvercar’s very first airport. He came away impressed with “the ease of getting in and out of the airport rental dock,” and he suggested that business travelers, in particular, might be willing to pay a premium to get a better experience. (The exact pricing varies from market to market.)

The company says its business tripled in 2015, and it’s now launching in its twelfth market, Las Vegas, just in time for this week’s Consumer Electronics Show.

FEATURED IMAGE: SILVERCAR

QUIRKED

The Rise and Fall of Quirky — the Start-Up That Bet Big on the Genius of Regular Folks

By

Photo: Courtesy of Quirky

One of the start-up world’s favorite words, in addition to disruptpivot, and on-demand, is community. Kickstarter identifies as “a community of people committed to bringing new things to life.” “The heart and soul of Etsy,” begins the About Etsy page, “is our global community.” Airbnb calls itself “the world’s leading community-driven hospitality company.” You’re not, in other words, just joining a platform where you can fund your screenplay, or hawk your hand-knit iPhone koozies, or rent your apartment — no, you’re belonging to something bigger than yourself.

But back in 2009, perhaps before the word had lost all meaning, a small-time-invention start-up called Quirky built a community that really acted like one. It told the first-world-problem solver in all of us — the one who thought up single-serve French-fry-makers and foldable coffee mugs and musical footballs while out walking the dog — that she no longer had to innovate in a vacuum. Anybody could join. On Quirky’s website, users would assess and workshop each other’s inventions. The most successful ideas, as determined by a vote, would be designed and built by the company. In some cases, the inventors made a lot of money. And it is for that tiny dreamer that the company’s recent death spiral feels like a true loss.

It all came to a head on what seemed like a typical Thursday evening this July, during the weekly Quirky ritual known as Eval. A studio audience of about 100 people gathered in the company’s former-rail-car-terminal headquarters in Chelsea. Lit by webcams from above and a bank of futuristic equipment behind, Quirky’s 28-year-old founder, Ben Kaufman, stood at a lectern in his usual black V-neck tee and announced a panel of product-evaluation experts by nickname: Anna “Make a Buck” Buchbauer, Justin “J-Bomb” Seidenfeld, Aaron Dignan, a.k.a. El Presidente. Ideas submitted and voted on by the Quirky community — watching the livestream from their living rooms — were presented via pitch videos and commentary from Kaufman: a voice-activated lightbulb, a paper-thin Bluetooth speaker that fits in your back pocket, an on-the-go beverage carbonator. The masterminds who won majority approval would hear the rallying mantra “Congratulations, you’re a Quirky inventor!” and have the chance to be like fellow Eval winner Garthen Leslie, a 63-year-old IT consultant from Columbia, Maryland. Leslie came up with the idea of a smart air conditioner during his morning commute, uploaded a rough diagram of the idea to the Quirky platform, and found the community waiting to help him refine it, suggesting additional features and weighing in on the sizing, specs, and the name, which would be Aros. And keeping with Quirky’s leave-the-rest-to-us business model, the company then patented, manufactured, marketed, and sold the unit into Walmart and Amazon, returning 10 percent of the profits to the inventor and those that played Watson to his Graham Bell (in this exceptional case, that’s amounted to more than $400,000 for Leslie and more than $200,000 for the community).

Quirky founder Ben Kaufman, center.

But this Thursday, July 16, it would turn out, was not an ordinary Eval. In fact, it would be the next to last one Kaufman ever did. Following the broadcast, he tacked on what he called an “after-party” — a.k.a. a crisis-management session aimed at addressing recent bad press that the company had gotten. In June, in a sweaty interview onstage at the Fortune Brainstorm conference, Kaufman admitted the company was all but “out of money,” which had once amounted to $185 million in funding from investors like Andreessen Horowitz and GE. In July came the news that nearly the entire New York City staff would be laid off. By August 1, Kaufman would officially step down from the company he started at age 22. It so happened that for every Aros-type success, the community had waved in many more duds like the Beat Booster, a wireless speaker with a built-in charging station that by one account cost the company $388,000 to develop but only sold about 30 units.

It’s not surprising that Kaufman used the word transparency no fewer than three times in the first five minutes of that after-party, the bottom line of which was that he frankly didn’t know if the company would survive — Quirky’s fate was in the investors’ hands. Because, for all the aspirational, rarefied Bushwick-bar vibes telegraphed by the Evals, Quirky was, of course, all about being real. Its cluster of a million members included folks like — to cite some of the most recent inventors featured on the website — Tony Lytle, a welder and proud grandfather from Larwill, Indiana, who’d dreamed up the Pawcett, a step-on drinking fountain for dogs; and Hadar Ferris, a licensed cosmetologist in Oceanside, California, responsible for decorative muffin-top molds called Bake Shapes; and Pennsylvania-based Navy veteran Jason Hunter, who gave birth to the Porkfolio app-enabled piggy bank. (In the age of artisanal everything, just as we want to know where our pickles were brined and our former-church-pew coffee tables were carved, here, too, was the meaningful personal backstory behind your magnetic bottle opener.)

Aros was a rare commercial success for Quirky.

A few weeks after he was ousted, Kaufman emailed with me from his first-ever personal email account: “It’s weird waking up one day and not even having an email address,” he later said on the phone. “This had been my whole life.” He was a small-time inventor himself at first, for a range of iPod accessories he started in high school that went on to become the company Mophie. At the 2007 Macworld Expo, he handed out pens and sketchpads and asked people to help design Mophie’s 2007 product line (sound familiar?) and then held a vote for the top three ideas. That same year, he sold Mophie, reappropriated the Macworld crowdsourcing schtick, and tried to launch a similar concept to Quirky. What helped Quirky finally get off the ground in 2009 was the recession-driven push for alternative incomes (no coincidence that Kickstarter as well as the entrepreneur-competition show Shark Tank, another bastion of scrappy innovation, also launched in 2009). Plus, there was more of a universal comfort with the practice of online sharing: We were now very used to telling our Facebook friends what we ate for breakfast, and by extension, we might as well tell the Quirky forum about our concept for a better egg-yolk extractor. Our notion of community, then, was evolving, and Kaufman — Mark Zuckerberg wrapped in a teddy-bear build, with the mischievous smile of your son or younger brother (depending on where you fell in Quirky’s wide-ranging age demographics) — was a relatable leader.

On the consumer end, seeing these ordinary tinkerers immortalized on the shelves of the Container Store (a big Quirky perk was that inventors’ names and faces appeared on their products’ packaging) was like watching the Spanx lady on QVC for the first time in the early aughts — a humble fax-machine salesperson from Clearwater, Florida, who just wanted to wear control-top pantyhose without the hose. Inventors were just like us! And now everybody could be the Spanx lady (albeit for only a tiny fraction of the profits), because unlike her, we didn’t have to side-hustle all alone. Next it could be my cousin in Westchester, who had four kids but no one to help her prototype her idea for a mother-baby bath towel. Next it could be my semi-retired father, who was in a private war with his never-shuts-properly pantry door and needed a constructive, supportive outlet for his aggression. Next it could be my friend Sarah, who was full of lightbulb moments — an Oreo-dunking robot claw, a universal key for all your locks — but was too stoned to sort through the mechanics by herself.

Quirky was catnip for the press: The Sundance Channel produced a short-lived reality show on the company in 2011. Kaufman appeared on Leno. This magazine featured it as a Boom Brand of 2013, noting, “It’s a pretty rare company that’s so hippieish — Let’s have everyone get a say! — yet so purely free-market.” The Times devoted several thousand words to a piece called “The Invention Mob, Brought to You by Quirky” just last February (by then its financially unsustainable business model had given way to a pivot — a smart-home subsidiary called Wink — that was too little too late).\

Another Times piece, from this past April, cited Quirky as a springboard for the realest of all Real People: older people. “There’s a boom in inventing by people over 50,” John Calvert, the executive director of the United Inventors Association, told the paper. And indeed, Quirky had plenty of them in its hive — like 59-year-old Lorin Ryle, a full-time caretaker for her dementia-stricken mother. When her clip-on baby monitor for the elderly won at Eval, she says she cried, watching from her Hutto, Texas, home. It never actually made it to development (in fact, only about half of the Eval winners ever do), but for Ryle that didn’t take away from the experience of “working with people to make something work,” she says. “I’ve made lifelong friends on there.” (Another Quirky boomer, Marc Rumaner, who came up with a nifty little wine-bottle anchor called Vine Stop, has even gone so far as to host barbecues for fellow community members in his Chicago area.)

Of course, the inmates didn’t always like running the asylum. There was much talk in the forums that the Eval system seemed too democratic. “I failed to see how any of us could know what a product scout from a company like GE or Mattel could know,” says one community member. And indeed, when you look at misfires like the Drift, a $200 wooden balance board that simulates snowboarding and surfing, or the $80 Egg Minder, an app-enabled egg tray that signals to your smartphone when you’re running low on eggs, it would appear that the company’s raison d’être was also the reason for its downfall, a colony of amateurs green-lighting unscalable solutions to nonexistent issues. Quirky brought more than 400 products to market in just six years.

Inside Quirky’s workshop.

Yet Kaufman points out that the community had much less say than all the high-pressure voting would suggest; the real decisions were made when the cameras stopped rolling and he and the actual experts did the math on a product’s marketability. (So, maybe not so much power to the people, after all.) But, he adds of Eval, “There had to be a thing to look forward to on a regular basis — otherwise how are you going to keep the community engaged?” Quirky steered the ship, you might say, but the community was still the North Star.

Steering the ship — handling all of the engineering, manufacturing, marketing, and retailing, even when you’re taking 90 percent of the subsequent profits — was ultimately too expensive of a proposition, especially in comparison to other, less-handholding-oriented start-ups. “The reason why Kickstarter makes a ton of money is they don’t have to do anything besides put up a website,” Kaufman notes. After that, the failure (and let’s face it, many Kickstarter-funded products go on to fail) is all on the individual. Which is not meant to be a dig, Kaufman clarifies. He won’t confirm his next venture but says, “I love Kickstarter.” And: “I will likely use it.”

WHEN GOVERNMENTS DIRECT from POLITICAL CAUSE

WHEN GOVERNMENTS DIRECT THE MARKETS

When governments direct markets the very best that they can possibly hope to achieve is misdirection.

 

Germany’s Energy Poverty: How Electricity Became a Luxury Good

By SPIEGEL Staff

Photo Gallery: The Costs of Green EnergyPhotos
DPA

Germany’s agressive and reckless expansion of wind and solar power has come with a hefty pricetag for consumers, and the costs often fall disproportionately on the poor. Government advisors are calling for a completely new start.

If you want to do something big, you have to start small. That’s something German Environment Minister Peter Altmaier knows all too well. The politician, a member of the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU), has put together a manual of practical tips on how everyone can make small, everyday contributions to the shift away from nuclear power and toward green energy. The so-called Energiewende, or energy revolution, is Chancellor Angela Merkel’s project of the century.

“Join in and start today,” Altmaier writes in the introduction. He then turns to such everyday activities as baking and cooking. “Avoid preheating and utilize residual heat,” Altmaier advises. TV viewers can also save a lot of electricity, albeit at the expense of picture quality. “For instance, you can reduce brightness and contrast,” his booklet suggests.Altmaier and others are on a mission to help people save money on their electricity bills, because they’re about to receive some bad news. The government predicts that the renewable energy surcharge added to every consumer’s electricity bill will increase from 5.3 cents today to between 6.2 and 6.5 cents per kilowatt hour — a 20-percent price hike.

German consumers already pay the highest electricity prices in Europe. But because the government is failing to get the costs of its new energypolicy under control, rising prices are already on the horizon. Electricity is becoming a luxury good in Germany, and one of the country’s most important future-oriented projects is acutely at risk.

After the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan two and a half years ago, Merkel quickly decided to begin phasing out nuclear power and lead the country into the age of wind and solar. But now many Germans are realizing the coalition government of Merkel’s CDU and the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) is unable to cope with this shift. Of course, this doesn’t mean that the public has any more confidence in a potential alliance of the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) and the Greens. The political world is wedged between the green-energy lobby, masquerading as saviors of the world, and the established electric utilities, with their dire warnings of chaotic supply problems and job losses.

Even well-informed citizens can no longer keep track of all the additional costs being imposed on them. According to government sources, the surcharge to finance the power grids will increase by 0.2 to 0.4 cents per kilowatt hour next year. On top of that, consumers pay a host of taxes, surcharges and fees that would make any consumer’s head spin.

Former Environment Minister Jürgen Tritten of the Green Party once claimed that switching Germany to renewable energy wasn’t going to cost citizens more than one scoop of ice cream. Today his successor Altmaier admits consumers are paying enough to “eat everything on the ice cream menu.”

Paying Big for Nothing

For society as a whole, the costs have reached levels comparable only to the euro-zone bailouts. This year, German consumers will be forced to pay €20 billion ($26 billion) for electricity from solar, wind and biogas plants — electricity with a market price of just over €3 billion. Even the figure of €20 billion is disputable if you include all the unintended costs and collateral damage associated with the project. Solar panels and wind turbines at times generate huge amounts of electricity, and sometimes none at all. Depending on the weather and the time of day, the country can face absurd states of energy surplus or deficit.

If there is too much power coming from the grid, wind turbines have to be shut down. Nevertheless, consumers are still paying for the “phantom electricity” the turbines are theoretically generating. Occasionally, Germany has to pay fees to dump already subsidized green energy, creating what experts refer to as “negative electricity prices.”

On the other hand, when the wind suddenly stops blowing, and in particular during the cold season, supply becomes scarce. That’s when heavy oil and coal power plants have to be fired up to close the gap, which is why Germany’s energy producers in 2012 actually released more climate-damaging carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than in 2011.

If there is still an electricity shortfall, energy-hungry plants like the ArcelorMittal steel mill in Hamburg are sometimes asked to shut down production to protect the grid. Of course, ordinary electricity customers are then expected to pay for the compensation these businesses are entitled to for lost profits.

The government has high hopes for the expansion of offshore wind farms. But the construction sites are in a state of chaos: Wind turbines off the North Sea island of Borkum are currently rotating without being connected to the grid. The connection cable will probably not be finished until next year. In the meantime, the turbines are being run with diesel fuel to prevent them from rusting.

In the current election campaign, the parties are blaming each other for the disaster. Meanwhile, the federal government would prefer to avoid discussing its energy policies entirely. “It exposes us to criticism,” says a government spokesman. “There are undeniably major problems,” admits a cabinet member.

But this week, the issue is forcing its way onto the agenda. On Thursday, a government-sanctioned commission plans to submit a special report called “Competition in Times of the Energy Transition.” The report is sharply critical, arguing that Germany’s current system actually rewards the most inefficient plants, doesn’t contribute to protecting the climate, jeopardizes the energy supply and puts the poor at a disadvantage.

The experts propose changing the system to resemble a model long successful in Sweden. If implemented, it would eliminate the more than 4,000 different subsidies currently in place. Instead of bureaucrats setting green energy prices, they would be allowed to develop indepedently on a separate market. The report’s authors believe the Swedish model would lead to faster and cheaper implementation of renewable energy, and that the system would also become what it is not today: socially just.

Trouble Paying the Bills

When Stefan Becker of the Berlin office of the Catholic charity Caritas makes a house call, he likes to bring along a few energy-saving bulbs. Many residents still use old light bulbs, which consume a lot of electricity but are cheaper than newer bulbs. “People here have to decide between spending money on an expensive energy-saving bulb or a hot meal,” says Becker. In other words, saving energy is well and good — but only if people can afford it.

A family Becker recently visited is a case in point. They live in a dark, ground-floor apartment in Berlin’s Neukölln neighborhood. On a sunny summer day, the two children inside had to keep the lights on — which drives up the electricity bill, even if the family is using energy-saving bulbs.

Becker wants to prevent his clients from having their electricity shut off for not paying their bill. After sending out a few warning notices, the power company typically sends someone to the apartment to shut off the power — leaving the customers with no functioning refrigerator, stove or bathroom fan. Unless they happen to have a camping stove, they can’t even boil water for a cup of tea. It’s like living in the Stone Age.

Once the power has been shut off, it’s difficult to have it switched on again. Customers have to negotiate a payment plan, and are also charged a reconnection fee of up to €100. “When people get their late payment notices in the spring, our phones start ringing,” says Becker.

In the near future, an average three-person household will spend about €90 a month for electricity. That’s about twice as much as in 2000.Two-thirds of the price increase is due to new government fees, surcharges and taxes. But despite those price hikes, government pensions and social welfare payments have not been adjusted. As a result, every new fee becomes a threat to low-income consumers.

UNREMARKABLE MARKETING from THE BUSINESS, CAREER, AND WORK OF MAN

Marketing is no substitute for capability and talent, but then again capabilities unmarketed are capabilities unremarked upon, and talent unknown.

UNFINISHED PROJECTS

Had a superb idea for a new on-line business venture (start-up) called Unfinished Projects. I’m going to be approaching some potential partners with the idea later this week.

At this point I am merely creating the design sketches and outline for the business, but in a relatively short period of time I could easily develop both business and operating plans.

THE NEW MARKETS ARE THE OLD MARKETS

At this point in my Business Career I am moving more and more back into the fields of Brokerage, primary Contacts Brokering, and Consulting.

Yes, I will still engage in Business and Copy Writing, especially as regards producing my own books and works. I will also still occasionally engage in Business and Copy Writing for some clients, old and new, if the project is interesting and profitable enough.

But more and more lately I feel myself being drawn back into the worlds of Brokerage and Consulting. The same for my company, Open Door.

So my new business emphases will lean more and more heavily towards Contacts Brokerage and towards Consulting, specifically with an aim towards Strategic Business Planning and Growth and Development.

Those will once again be my primary Business Markets.

In addition I will still be pursuing my Careers as an inventor, a fiction writer, and a songwriter.

Contact me if you are interested in pursuing projects of this type.

WORDPRESS AND THE SELF-CREATED CLASSIC EDITOR FIASCO

As many of you WordPress Users know by now WordPress has reduced their Classic Editor to an extremely hard to get locate set of complicated linkage maneuvers and basically replaced it with an extremely inferior “new” post editor. This has frustrated and outraged many WordPress Users, and with very good reason, especially since the problem was entirely self-created and would be extremely easy to resolve had WordPress either the foresight or the desire to do so.

But to me this points to any even bigger set of current problems in and with WordPress, those being: their total lack of response to user complaints both with the new editor and with a desire to return to easy access to the Classic Editor (and believe me it’s called Classic for a reason, they seem to be entirely missing their own definitional admissions), their willful attempt to avoid problem-solving (when this would be an extremely easy problem to resolve), and their apparent reliance upon an attempt to woo millennial and younger customers with hipster-huckstering tricks like a slick-looking and streamlined yet vastly inferior posting editor.

None of these things bode well at all for the WordPress Business Model.

WordPress is publicly displaying exactly how you do not run a business. Recently though, in an attempt to persuade WordPress to fully understand the type of business suicide they are committing by pursuing this entirely unnecessary course of action I have been participating in this thread and forum:

https://en.forums.wordpress.com/topic/please-reinstate-the-option-of-choice-to-use-the-old-publishing-format?replies=692

If you too are bothered by the inferior nature of the new editor and would like to to see a return to easy user access of the Classic Editor then let your opinion be known.

Here was my first reply to this entirely self-created and easy to resolve fiasco:

For God’s sake this would be so easy to correct. A single line of code that allowed the user to choose by which method and editor he would like to make his or her post.

If this were the marketplace, or a business, the idea of imposing upon your customer, client, or user a choice they find distasteful, inefficient, and functionless would be suicide. And the idea of making your customer, client, or user wade through a large number of entirely pointless steps to correct a “problem” that should have never existed in the first place is utterly ridiculous and juvenile.

There is a certain distasteful arrogance to the modern Geek that borders on a desire to be a petty tyrant. Look ma, I’m powerful! Technology – BOOM!

This is simply a programmer or group of programmers with a month-long hard bone to gnaw, doesn’t matter whether it is infected and full of maggots or not. It’s his to gnaw and tough luck everybody else, get your own maggot-filled bone to gnaw.

In the time it took some code-writer or technician or board-monitor to read this complaint (or any of the other complaints on this easy to resolve matter) some clever code-writer could have devised a simple line of code to install at the top of the editor that allows the user to choose “Classic Editor” as their editor of choice. As a matter of fact a clever or smart code writer who cared about the end-user would do that very thing. Immediately.

Case closed.

This ain’t rocket-science boys and girls.

This is mere psychological and professional pettiness to make a juvenile point.

Bravo Einsteins. Technology – BOOM!!!

 

SHARING CONTENT – THE MARKETS

My opinion is that it depends entirely upon the methodologies you employ and the sites you target. As is the case with most anything you do in life.

Is Reposting Blog Content On LinkedIn Pulse, Medium, and Other Sites a Good Idea?

Is Reposting Blog Content a Good Idea

I’ve been questioning recently whether publishing to sites like LinkedIn Pulse and Medium is worth my time and effort.

While the benefit seems obvious (more eyeballs on your content) there’s a big cost—the precious time it takes to create content.

Compared to guest posting on other sites, LinkedIn and Medium use “no follow” links so there’s no link building SEO benefit. The benefit is purely exposure, awareness, and branding. And those are fleeting benefits, unlike the long-term benefits of creating content on your own site.

So what about reposting blog content? It would certainly be more time efficient, but are there drawbacks to that?

When I saw this post on Quicksprout confirming that you shouldn’t repost your content, I shelved the idea. My time would be better spent on guest posting where I could also increase exposure and get links back to my site.

But then I saw Andy Crestodina (one of my favorite bloggers) post the same article I had already read on his blog.

I never walk away from reading his posts without learning something new. So I had to get his take. I was confident he’d have the answers to my burning questions. And he did.

Below is an interview I did with Andy to pick his brain on the pros and cons of reposting blog content.

Chime in to the comments if you have any of your own questions.

Q: What are the benefits of reposting your blog content (verbatim) on sites like LinkedIn, Medium, Forbes, Entrepreneur, Inc, etc?

Andy:

Reach. The idea behind copying and pasting an article into another location is simply to make it more visible to a broader audience. It’s a brand builder and it works. But there are a lot of things that it doesn’t do…

  • Drive traffic to your site (well, it might send a few referral visits if you have internal links
  • Help with your search engine rankings (Google knows that this is the same article you already posted)

So if your goal is branding, but not traffic, the benefits are real.

Q: Ok, we can’t expect it to help our organic traffic, but can it hurt it? In other words, is it bad for SEO to repost an exact replica of your blog content elsewhere?

Andy:

It’s duplicate content, but I actually don’t think it will hurt your search rankings. It’s only a problem if the two versions go live at almost the same time. You want to have the original version on your site to be live for a few days or a week before posting it someplace else. This let’s Google know where the original is and avoids confusion.

Although “duplicate content” is a fairly new buzzword, it’s something that Google has been dealing with since the beginning. Trust me. They don’t get confused easily and I have seen VERY few examples of actual penalties. It’s not that easy to raise flags at Google.

Still, it’s a bit lazy to just hit ctrl+c and ctrl+v. It’s far better to add value and give the article a rewrite. One great way to do this is to write the “evil twin” of the original article. This was one of the tips in our recent What to Blog About article. Here’s how it works.

If the original post on your site was a how to post listing best practices, you can easily write it from the other perspective, explaining what not to do, or worst practices. Although the research and recommendations are almost the same, it will feel original.

Suppose you’re a dog trainer, writing a post about puppies. Here’s an example of a how-to original post, and an “evil twin” that could be posted elsewhere. Same article, different angle.

Evil twin posts help you avoid duplicate content when reposting blog content

The more effort you put in, the more ethical and effective it is.

Q: What if your article on LinkedIn, Forbes, or wherever starts getting a bunch of inbound links and social media buzz. Wouldn’t that be selling yourself short if the larger publication you republished on starts getting all the link juice and social shares instead of your original post?

Andy:

Yes, it would.

It would be a sad thing if the copied version got all the links and shares. But if this happens, don’t feel too bad about it. You already tried posting it on your site and it didn’t win those links, so you really didn’t lose anything. And hopefully, some of the sharing led to a social media benefit for you. Remember, this is more about branding and awareness than measurable Analytics.

If you want to get value from the social media buzz, put the URL into Topsy, see which influential people shared it and go thank them. Since they liked your article, they’re likely to be gracious and follow you back.

Q: Do you think it’s a good idea to republish all of your blog posts, or just a select few? When should you not republish your blog posts on other sites?

Andy:

It doesn’t hurt to republish them all, as long as everything is published in a place where the topic matches the audience. For example, articles with broad-based business advice are good for LinkedIn. Articles with narrow niche topics may do well on Medium.

Don’t just push everything out everywhere. Make it fit. As always, web marketing is a test of empathy.

Q: How do you go about getting your content republished on publications like Forbes, Inc, and Entrepreneur? I believe LinkedIn and Medium are self-service type of platforms? For the larger publications, what’s the best way to get your foot in the door?

Andy:

There is a two word answer to this question: influencer marketing. There are specific people who have control over the content on these websites. They will post your content (new or old) when they decide they like it and they trust you. So the trick is to impress them with your work and your character.

There are a hundred little steps that lead to these outcomes. First, you’ll need to have a nice body of work on your own site so that once you do get their attention, they’ll take a look at your content and be impressed. Now, we just need to get them to notice us.

Here are a hundred steps that you can take on the path toward getting the attention of a blog editor using social media. It really helps if you’ve taken the time to build up a credible following of your own. Each of these makes you slightly more visible. Some of these make them a bit grateful. They are all about networking and relationship building.

ProTip: This influencer marketing tactic works just as well for journalists, podcasters, event directors and any other influencer who makes content and has an audience they can share with you.

  1. Follow the editor on Twitter
  2. Retweet the editor
  3. Subscribe to their content
  4. Mention them in a Tweet
  5. Follow them on Quora, Instagram or other social network
  6. Comment on their content
  7. Like their comments (Google+, LiveFyre, Disqus)
  8. Add them to a Google+ Circle
  9. Friend on Facebook
  10. Like their content on Facebook
  11. Connect with them on LinkedIn
  12. Mention them in your content
  13. Email them, inviting them to a quick video chat
  14. Invite them to participate in an email interview for your website (this tactic is highly effective!)
  15. Call them on the phone, Skype or Google+ Hangout
  16. Meet in person if possible!

Once you’ve built a real connection, it’s time to pitch. Send them a concise, sensitive email that positions your article in a way that aligns with the goals of their readers. Remember, blog editors care most about the interests of their readers. If that’s also your top concern, the pitch should go well…

Kim:

Thanks Andy! The verdict is finally in. I’ll try reposting blog content on LinkedIn, starting with this post 🙂

Readers…Any more questions out there for Andy?

HARMONIZING BUSINESS AND CAREER – THE MARKETS

An interesting article.

But this is exactly why I have harmonized my Business (as a non-fiction writer and copywriter and inventor) enterprises and my Career (as a fiction writer and designer) ventures.

By having my Business and Careers complimenting each other I avoid the “I hate this job syndrome” (actually I very much enjoy everything I do) and I expect this will inevitably advance and accelerate both my Business and Career successes.

Whereas both sets of markets may by separate by nature, and operate differently to some degree, both are complimentary and entirely cross-fertilizing in the long run.

Vonnegut Sold Saabs: 11 Author Day Jobs

Gabe Habash — August 5th, 2011


We all have that same romanticized image of The Writer: sitting alone, hunched over his/her desk, pen in hand, thinking deeply about Writing before putting the pen to the page and Writing. But, unfortunately, doing this for long stretches of time doesn’t pay the bills, and that’s why things like Sylvia Plath working as a receptionist in the psychiatric unit at Massachusetts General Hospital happen. Writers are normal people, too. Just how normal? Here’s a few of our favorite writer day job finds:

1. John Steinbeck was a caretaker and tour guide at a fish hatchery in Lake Tahoe, where he worked on his first novel and also met his future first wife, Carol Henning. She was a tourist on one of his tours.

2. Douglas Adams first thought of the idea for A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy while moonlighting as a hotel security guard in London.

3. Jeanette Winterson, in addition to driving an ice cream truck, was a make-up artist at a funeral parlor.

4. Dashiell Hammett was hired by the Pinkerton Detective Agency as an “operative” at age 21. His job description included staking out houses and trailing suspects. He was thankful for the work; his previous job had been a nail machine operator.

5. Robert Frost changed light bulb filaments in a factory in Massachusetts shortly before he sold his first poem, “My Butterfly: An Elegy” in 1894 for $15.

6. Kurt Vonnegut was the manager of a Saab dealership in Cape Cod, after he’d already published his first novel, Player Piano. The dealership was supposedly Saab’s first in America.

7. Jack London was an “oyster pirate.” At night, he would raid the oyster beds of big-time oyster farmers and sell them in the Oakland markets.

8. Jean Rhys, a 23-year-old and in need of money, posed nude for a British artist.

9. James Ellroy led a life of petty crime and shoplifting as a wayward youth, most likely as a response to his confusion following his mother’s unsolved murder.

10. Harper Lee struggled when she first moved to New York at age 23, working as a ticket agent for Eastern Airlines before befriending Broadway composer Michael Martin Brown. In 1956, Brown gave Lee a Christmas present: a year’s wages so she could devote herself full-time to her craft. During this time, she began work on what would eventually become To Kill a Mockingbird.

11. Ken Kesey, in order to earn some extra cash, was a guinea pig for the psych department at Stanford in a CIA-sponsored drug experiment. As a result of the drugs, Kesey had hallucinations of an Indian sweeping the floors, which compelled him to write One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

Which mundane (or strange) day jobs for writers have we missed? Let us know in the comments below!

 

NEW PUBLICATION SCHEDULE

NEW PUBLICATION SCHEDULE

Recently I have been involved in a number of different projects that have left me little time for blogging. I have been writing the lyrics for my second album, Locus Eater, I have been writing and plotting my novel The Basilegate, I have been putting together a crowdfunding project for one of my inventions and one of my games, I have been helping with and compiling material for my wife’s new career as a public speaker, and helping my oldest daughter prepare to enter college. In addition I have been speaking with and seeking a new agent. I have even been preparing a new paper on some of the work of Archimedes and what I have gleaned from it. Finally I have been preparing my Spring Offensive, which is now completed.

All of which have kept me extremely busy.

However I have not been entirely ignoring my blogging either. In background I have been preparing a much improved Publication Schedule for all five of my blogs, my literary blog Wyrdwend, my design and gaming blog Tome and Tomb, my personal blog The Missal, my amalgamated blog Omneus, and this blog, Launch Port.

Now that most of these other pressing matters are well underway and on an even keel this allows me more time to return to blogging.

So below you will find my new Production Schedule which I’ll also keep posted as one of the header pages on my blogs.

So, starting on Monday, March the 15th, 2015, and unless something unforeseen interferes this will be the Publication Schedule for this blog every week, including the Topic Titles and the general list of Subject Matters for that given day. That way my readers can know what to expect of any given day and what I intend to publish for that day. I will also occasionally make off-topic post as interesting material presents itself.

Launch Port – 10:00 – 12:00 AM

Monday: The Markets – Brokerage, Entrepreneurship, Markets, Marketing
Tuesday: Business of Business – Business, Entrepreneurship, Employment, Self-Employment, Start-Ups, Writing
Wednesday: Brainstorm – Reader Discussions and Commenting, Reblogs
Thursday: Invention and Investment – Innovation, Invention, Investment, Tools
Friday: Capital Ventures – Banking, Capital, Finance
Saturday: Reassessment – Reblog best Personal Post, Review
Sunday – Sabbath

A VALIANT EFFORT

I have to admit that if I were Valiant comics, and given Valiant’s roster of characters, having a Chinese entertainment company as a capital and marketing/production partner would probably seem like a near ideal arrangement.

 

Valiant Comics Plans to Launch Its Own ‘Cinematic Universe’

By

Fear not: There will be no shortage of comic-book movies in years to come, even if DC and Marvel give up on constantly rebooting Batman and Spider-Man. The independent comic-book publisher Valiant Entertainment has secured an eight-figure equity investment from Beijing-based DMG Entertainment, plus an additional nine figures for the production of film and TV projects. The publisher has a library of 2,000 characters, including X-O Manowar and Harbinger, and films based on the titles Bloodshot, Shadowman, and Archer & Armstrong were already in the works. Valiant says its partnership with DMG — which co-produced and co-financed Iron Man 3 — will allow it to “begin to establish its cinematic universe in the United States, China and beyond.”

The two companies plan to develop more superhero films for simultaneous release in the U.S. and China, and to expand Valiant’s Asian audience via Chinese-language publishing, animation, online games, merchandise, and theme parks.

“Audiences in China and the rest of the world are hungry for heroic stories that they can more easily relate to … and with the international box office accounting for the biggest piece of the total gross, the time is right for a truly international superhero franchise,” said DMG President Wu Bing in a press release. “DMG will bring its unique global perspective to the task of transforming the Valiant Universe into the first international comic-movie universe.”