Saturday, January 30, 2010

Amazon vs. Macmillan

Say there are four companies in the world who make widgets. These widgets are basically of the same quality of make, the only difference is the companies that sell them. And let's say that one of those companies, Ajax Widgets, is run by a charismatic, visionary leader who, using aggressive sales tactics and undercutting the prices of their competitors, manages to claim a significantly larger share of the widget market than the other three companies. But capitalism being capitalism, that's not enough for Ajax- they want the whole pie. So they set out to crush their competition, either by selling widgets at a loss until the competing companies can't sell any widgets, or just using their deep pockets to buy up the competition. In the end, there is only one widget maker in the world. And any small entrepreneurial company foolish enough to try their hand in the widget market will be set up and destroyed with lawsuits and unfair pricing. And we know what happens next: with no competition, the price of widgets goes up. That's why the government regulates monopolies.

Well, I was planning on blogging about something else today until I saw this article in the Los Angeles Times. Seems Amazon has gotten into a squabble with one of the largest publishers in the country, and has stopped selling their books. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I think Amazon is basically a criminal enterprise. They quite obviously want to use their market share, gained from years of selling at a loss while being propped up by venture capital and money from the sale of stocks, to become the only bookstore on the planet. And when that happens, I'm guessing the prices won't stay quite so cheap. And not just that. A company that is willing to stop selling an item that its own customers want just to make a point is a company that would make sure that a book it didn't want published, say an expose on Amazon, didn't get published. I'm just saying...

Friday, January 29, 2010

Winston Smith rocks!

San Francisco can lay claim to many famous residents over time, but while we all know that Jack Kerouac slept off many a late-night bender here, and that Mark Twain spent his coldest winter ever here during summer, there is one stalwart talent who has been here for decades but that you may not be familiar with - Winston Smith.

Winston, who took his name from the ill-fated protagonist in George Orwell's 1984 began working with Jello Biafra and The Dead Kennedys in the late 1970's when his iconoclastic sculpture of Christ crucified on a cross of dollar bills was used as the cover of "In God We Trust, Inc." This collaboration begot a relationship that lasts to this day, but while always sticking to his anarchistic guns, Winston has broadened his influence to include work for Spin, Playboy, Mother Jones and can even lay claim to a New Yorker cover!

Last night in a basement gallery, down a tiny alley in North Beach, Winston decided to clean out his closet and sell dozens of original collages, many of which were turned into flyers for some of the greatest punk shows ever, and most from that sweet-spot of his Alternitave Tenticles partnerships, the early 80's; trust me when I tell you that I was like a kid in a candy store!

So, maybe you've seen Winston's stuff on a Green Day record or maybe you own some of his books, but chances are you've never seen the stuff I just added to my collection. Until now! Thanks again for the great time last night, Winston (and for the killer deals) - you do San Francisco proud!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Poem of the Week: Robin Ekiss

It's about time we launch our poem of the week series, isn't it? For who among us couldn't use more poetry in our lives? From now on, each Monday you will be greeted by a poem. That's it. Here's today's, from local poet Robin Ekiss: "The Opposite of the Body."

The Opposite of the Body
Of the face in general, let me say it's a house
built by men and lived in by their dreams.

When you've been plucking eyes
out of the floorboards as long as I have,

you'll see this, just as you'd see
the patience it requires

to render an eyebrow, half an hour
and an understanding of architecture.

When you see your body,
think its opposite: not the bridge,

but its lighted face reflecting the water,
some other city as seen from a ship--

your forehead, once ponderous,
now light as umbrellas--

still not beautiful enough to make time stop.
The pleasure in being a woman's

knowing everything's borrowed
and can't be denied,

as when you take apart a clock,
there's always another inside.Link

from The Mansion of Happiness by Robin Ekiss, University of Georgia Press, 2009.