Month: July 2005

On Used Books

The New York Times printed an interesting piece about the economics of used books. Link. According to the article, used books probably help increase the sale of new books. Excerpt:

When used books are substituted for new ones, the seller faces competition from the secondhand market, reducing the price it can set for new books. But there’s another effect: the presence of a market for used books makes consumers more willing to buy new books, because they can easily dispose of them later. . .

[T]he presence of lower-priced books on the Amazon Web site, [Amazon CEO Jeff] Bezos has noted, may lead customers to “visit our site more frequently, which in turn leads to higher sales of new books.” The data appear to support Mr. Bezos on this point.

Applying the authors’ estimate of the displaced sales effect to Amazon’s sales, it appears that only about 16 percent of the used book sales directly cannibalized new book sales, suggesting that Amazon’s used-book market added $63.2 million to its profits.

Furthermore, consumers greatly benefit from this market: the study’s authors estimate that consumers gain about $67.6 million. Adding in Amazon’s profits and subtracting out the $45.3 million of losses to authors and publishers leaves a net gain of $85.5 million.

All in all, it looks like the used book market creates a lot more value than it destroys.

Read the rest

CSL’s Paganism

C.S. Lewis’s vision assumed “that pagan wisdom and mythology may furnish us with some very significant clues to things. Spenser, in his Christian epic on Charity, The Faerie Queen, takes us to such pagan haunts as the Cave of Morpheus and the Garden of Adonis. Milton calls Christ Pan in his hymn for the Nativity. In Narnia we find Silenus and Bacchus themselves, surely the most pagan of all pagan gods, with their vines and wreaths and capering and tippling.”

Thomas Howard, C.S. Lewis: Man of Letters (Ignatius Press), p. 60. … Read the rest

Hooligans Need Love, Too

Germany’s determination to provide 24/7 sex continues:

A German company is looking to cash in on an expected boom in the sex trade during next year’s soccer World Cup with a 60-room brothel a walk away from Berlin’s Olympic Stadium, German media reported Friday.

Named after the virgin huntress of Greek mythology, the “Artemis” complex is due to open for business in September with whirlpool, sauna, cinema, buffet restaurant and a staff of 100 prostitutes, mass circulation daily Bild reported.

What is it about the Germans that prompts them to be in the forefront of troubling Western trends? We’re shooting from the hip here, but they were the most successful of the centralizing nationalist political trend of the 19th century, they played an important role in eugenics, they blazed ahead of everyone when dealing with the Jewish problem, and now they’re leading the world with heterosexual sex.

If memory serves, G.K. Chesterton didn’t care much for the Prussians. They’re obsession with their amoral efficiency might be part of the reason. If any of you Chestertonians out there have some insight into GKC’s position, we’d love to hear it. … Read the rest

Did They Cast Susan Sarandon?

The evil which is abroad in Narnia when we first come into the land takes the form of a white witch. We learn from Mr. Beaver that she is of the race of Lilith, Adam’s first wife, according to an old and persistent legend. Because of dissatisfaction and disobedience on her part, she was driven into exile, and Eve took her place as the mother of mankind. For this reason, Lilith hates fruitfulness and love and the honest intercourse of man with woman. She is the archetype of all wicked fairies who show up at cradles and christenings, and her particular ploy is illusion. If she can lull you and entice you away from light-of-day reality, and lead you into the sterile limbo of illusion, where you will dry up and die, then she has done what she wants to do.

Thomas Howard, C.S. Lewis: Man of Letters (Ignatius Press), p. 58. … Read the rest

Something for Sunday Morning

The Father of Mysticism, Gregory of Nyssa, illustrated the problem of weakness with a story about a trained monkey who danced for money. The monkey’s owner put a mask on the monkey, so the spectators thought he was a boy dancing with remarkable agility and would throw money onto the stage. It was a clever, and lucrative, trick. Until a man threw almonds (a favorite with monkeys) onto the stage. The monkey tore away his mask, abandoned the dance, and pounced on the almonds. Every one quickly figured out that the human exterior was false; that the dancer was just a savage monkey—thus revealing the monkey as a monkey and making his owner look ridiculous.

The same happens when the good Christian man loses all semblance of virtue when tempted or tried. He may attend church frequently, but commits a sexual sin when tempted or frequently loses his temper whenever something goes wrong. He then looks like a savage creature; and his Owner looks false.

In the same letter, Gregory also imagined what would happen if a king hired an artist to paint his picture so he could send it to people who had never seen the king. If the artist painted an absurd caricature, the king would be furious because the painting, being the only likeness of the king available, would cause the foreigners to think the king was hideous. Likewise, the purported Christian who does not understand the proper religious life, who cultivates pride at his humility and obedience to God, presents a false picture to non-believers. And such a “Christian” can only hope that his King will not be furious.

So the

Read the rest

Is There Good Foreign Aid?

We believe in international charity. In America, our “poor” are rich, by comparison to third world countries, so we’re more inclined to ship our donations across seas. Yet, we gotta wonder: Does our money do more harm than good? We’ve generally resisted foreign aid through the federal government. Such aid just props up dictators. Private agencies like UNICEF support abortion, and even “good” agencies are infected with crooked individuals. And now, it appears private aid efforts might help terrorists. It makes sense. If we’re shipping wealth to countries with large militant Muslim populations, those militants might benefit.

Charitable donations to help people affected by the Asian tsunami disaster are falling into the hands of radical Islamic groups linked to terrorists in Indonesia, a leading expert on the global al-Qaeda network warned yesterday.

Relief money had become the “primary source” of income for two militant groups, including one founded by a Muslim cleric serving a prison sentence in connection with the Bali bombing in 2002 in which more than 200 people were killed.

Link.

Maybe it’s time just to spend our charitable money on beer and Bibles and distribute both to the needy.… Read the rest

Library of Modern Thinkers

We’ve started ISI Books’ Bertrand de Jouvenel. It promises to be another great offering. We’ve read the other four books in the series (Ludwig von Mises, Wilhelm Roepke, Eric Voegelin, and Robert Nisbet) and have immensely enjoyed all of them. In a world strained for time, these books provide quick yet massive doses of intellectual history, philosophy, and wisdom. Yes, ISI Books advertises with our blog, but we aren’t pandering when we say that, so far, this is the best non-fiction series of books we’ve ever seen.

Subjects slated for future volumes make a nerd salivate with anticipation: Christopher Dawson, Will Herberg,Willmoore Kendall, Christopher Lasch, John Courtney Murray, Michael Polanyi, Richard Weaver. The books are inexpensive and quick to read. Yes, highly recommended. … Read the rest

King of the Dung Hill

Over the last decade, [David Hans] Schmidt has emerged as one of the nation’s leading purveyors of celebrity porn, the man who brokered the sale of Tonya Harding’s wedding-night sex video; arranged for Paula Jones, the former Arkansas state employee who sued Bill Clinton for sexual harassment, to pose in the buff in Penthouse magazine; and was the behind-the-scenes wheeler-dealer who obtained topless shots of rescued U.S. Army POW Pfc. Jessica Lynch and nude photos of Amber Frey, the star prosecution witness in the Scott Peterson double murder trial, and then tried to peddle them to Hustler magazine’s Larry Flynt.

When a cache of explicit photographs of Oscar-winning actor Jamie Foxx turned up in May — a workman claims to have found them in a Dumpster outside Foxx’s Las Vegas home — guess who got ahold of them? . . .

A Phoenix publicist and agent, Schmidt says he relishes his role as a peddler of Hollywood sleaze. “Somebody has to make the deals,” he says. “I’m the CAA of smarm.” As such, he occupies a position close to the heart of America’s twin obsessions — porn and celebrity in the Internet age.

Link.

Schmidt is obviously an unsavory character, but his attack on Hollywood celebrities might be characterized as feeding a dragon his own waste. Hollywood feeds the sexual appetite in a mass market (i.e., conventional) way–through, for instance, bikinis and approving portrayals of illicit sexual relations. The Hollywood types also crave the attention and fame. Schmidt takes both and turns them against Hollywood. We can’t say we like the guy (and he doesn’t restrict himself to Hollywood types), but we can’t shed … Read the rest