Recently a friend asked me what I thought the tanking economy was going to do to the book industry. I said those Chicken Soup for the Soul books would probably get a sales boost, but everyone else is fucked. Well, except for me, because I'm publishing a new line of books modeled on the X for Dummies series. It's called X for Poors. Here's my first one: Wine for Poors. Now taking suggestions. (Feng Shui for Poors? Like, which way should the entrance of your carboard box face?)
I've got a feature article in the current issue of Psychology Today. It examines the methods, efficacy, and ethics of jury selection consulting, which is sometimes branded as a science but often more closely resembles a dark art.
Legendary attorney Clarence Darrow once argued, "Almost every case has been won or lost when the jury is sworn." In the most important trend- and precedent-setting cases, attorneys leave nothing to chance. A trial of one's peers? Nah. Jury consulting rakes in hundreds of millions of dollars a year, a significant portion of which goes to stacking the jury. Consultants stage mock trials, do drive-bys of potential jurors' homes, and enlist body-language experts to intuit potential jurors' moods, personalities, and deepest secrets. (Stealth jurors--the ones secretly plotting to push an agenda or nab a book deal--are notoriously hard to weed out.)
For this story, in addition to researchers and lawyers, I interviewed the top-dollar consultants who helped select the juries for the trials involving OJ Simpson, Scott Peterson, Rodney King, Ken Lay, Vioxx, and other big clients. One of these gurus, Jo-Ellan Dimitrius, has even been personally blamed for the LA riots. Yes, the practice of jury selection is evolving, becoming more rigorous and sophisticated thanks to social scientists and statisticians, but it's still largely based on gut and chance. And sometimes all it takes is a juror with hemorrhoids to throw off your whole game.
So I'm reading a National Geographic booklet aimed at elementary school students, called Looking at Cells by Rebecca L Johnson. In a spread called "Thinking Like a Scientist" that explains how to measure small things in micrographs, I see a picture of a paramecium, labeled "Paramecium x110". Next to it there's the following chunk of text:
Check It Out
Suppose you have permission to photocopy the picture of theParamecium, and you enlarge it to twice its size. Would the magnification of x110 still be correct? Explain.
Note how it says, "suppose you have permission to photocopy the picture," instead of, "suppose you photocopy the picture," or even, "photocopy the picture."
Derrrrrr. Somehow the issue of copyright infringement has made its way explicitly and incongruously into a children's science booklet.
(The inside cover lists the picture credit as "page 27 (middle) ® M. Abbey/Visuals Unlimited".)
I imagine the writer put it more simply before a lawyer or editor touched it up. Because we wouldn't want 4th graders running around with enlarged b&w photocopies of a paramecium taken from Visuals Unlimited. Knowing kids, they might digitize the photocopies and post them on the internets, or store them on their iPods. How would VU make money THEN?
I also imagine copyright-conscious kiddies, attentive to the wording's specific subtext, enchanted by the possibilities of a Creative Commons future. "Suppose you have permission..." Wow! Suppose I have permission! It's telling me to imagine a wondrous world where I'm legally allowed to photocopy this image I hold in my hands! What a spectacular sight that would be! Then I could perform ALL KINDS of measurements on it! But, aw shucks, for now I'm just stuck with my dreams.
My dad's first book just came out: L.eadership in N.onprofit O.rganizations by B.arry D.ym and H.arry Hutson (B.arry and H.arry!). [I have added periods to prevent my parents (H.arry and Sally!) from accidentally discovering my blog via Google. See likely scenario.] He's a leadership and organizational consultant but has decided to write books too. No doubt there is some source of value (and income) in this line of work, but to be honest I fell asleep reading the back cover. It advertises features like
"Chapters on leadership constructs such as fit, dynamics, readiness and flow which provide useful insights and methods to enable success,"
and the "Overarching concept of alignment which reframes leadership as an active process where the awareness of and response to the interplay of multiple, relevant factors matters more than charisma, pedigree or power."
Super. I am reminded of Office Space, or the multiple websites enumerating managerial lingo/jargon/buzzwords for giggles. Such as: