Daily Archives: April 13, 2011

My Wife’s New Toy

We got the new mower a week ago, but fate (and rain) kept it and my wife apart. No longer! Here she is, happily ensconced in its chair, subjecting the lawn to its first whirring slice-ination of the year. As you might be able to guess from her expression, shortly after I took this picture she tried to run me down with the machine. The life of John Scalzi, Domestic Paparazzi, is a dangerous one.

Obama’s Deficit Reduction Speech

Since I know some of you will want to discuss it (politely), here’s the place to do it. For those who haven’t seen it yet, here’s the text. I normally point to the New York Times for stuff like that, but in deference to those of you with paywall issues, I’m pointing to Talking Points Memo instead.

I’ve only skimmed the details, so my thoughts on it are preliminary. But preliminarily speaking, it generally seems to be up my alley, which considering my general consanguinity with Obama’s thinking on these matters, is not surprising. It’s also not surprising to me that the GOP plans to throw a fit about it, as they do with everything regarding Obama and/or the idea that the wealthiest among us might be able to survive a tax increase. Speaker Boehner mouthed the following platitude yesterday: “We don’t have deficits because Americans are taxed too little, we have deficits because Washington spends too much.” Well, no. We have deficits because of both, actually. It’s not an either/or situation, and the GOP’s inability to recognize that fact is the most obvious reason it is not to be trusted with the economy.

There’s lot for Democrats to be unhappy about too, but, eh. Look. We’re not in a place where people are going to be happy. We’re in a place where everyone has to take some hits. In a general sense, I’m for even distribution of those hits.

I’ll probably have more to say later, but in the meantime, feel free to discuss amongst yourselves. Remember that the Mallet of Loving Correction is warmed up and ready to go, so please keep spittle-flinging to a minimum and to respect your fellow commenters. I thank you in advance.

Update, 3:39pm: Here for me is the heart of Obama’s speech, talking about those on either side of the political spectrum who will disagree with his budget approach, and a crystallization of the general pragmatic nature of the man of which I approve:

Of course, there will be those who disagree with my approach. Some will argue we shouldn’t even consider raising taxes, even if only on the wealthiest Americans. It’s just an article of faith for them. I say that at a time when the tax burden on the wealthy is at its lowest level in half a century, the most fortunate among us can afford to pay a little more. I don’t need another tax cut. Warren Buffett doesn’t need another tax cut. Not if we have to pay for it by making seniors pay more for Medicare. Or by cutting kids from Head Start. Or by taking away college scholarships that I wouldn’t be here without. That some of you wouldn’t be here without. And I believe that most wealthy Americans would agree with me. They want to give back to the country that’s done so much for them. Washington just hasn’t asked them to.

Others will say that we shouldn’t even talk about cutting spending until the economy is fully recovered. I’m sympathetic to this view, which is one of the reasons I supported the payroll tax cuts we passed in December. It’s also why we have to use a scalpel and not a machete to reduce the deficit – so that we can keep making the investments that create jobs. But doing nothing on the deficit is just not an option. Our debt has grown so large that we could do real damage to the economy if we don’t begin a process now to get our fiscal house in order.

Finally, there are those who believe we shouldn’t make any reforms to Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security out of a fear that any talk of change to these programs will usher in the sort of radical steps that House Republicans have proposed. I understand these fears. But I guarantee that if we don’t make any changes at all, we won’t be able to keep our commitments to a retiring generation that will live longer and face higher health care costs than those who came before.

Indeed, to those in my own party, I say that if we truly believe in a progressive vision of our society, we have the obligation to prove that we can afford our commitments. If we believe that government can make a difference in people’s lives, we have the obligation to prove that it works – by making government smarter, leaner and more effective.

As they say: yes, this. I’m well-off enough that I benefit from the GOP’s oh-so-tender care of the rich, and while I think it’s interesting that so many of you are of the opinion that the top tranche of my earnings must be defended at all costs from an extra three percent of taxation, I’m here to tell you that I will be fine. All of us up here will be fine. No, when I get my tax bill each April I’m not thrilled at the lump sum going out of my accounts. But what I will be less thrilled about  in the long run is an insolvent country driving our economy into the crapper and possibly taking the rest of the planet with it. An extra 3% from the top chunk of my earnings is a small price to pay. And before some smartass says in it the comments, it’s not enough for me to pay that extra amount; all the other well-off bastards like me should do it too. We can take it, honestly, we can.

Likewise: Christ on a pony, anyone who can’t see that screws need to be put on spending is nuts, but not every spending cut is equal, and some are better than others for the overall well-being of the US. I’m okay with some pain when it comes to government spending, but I’d prefer it to be healthy pain that promises a more healthy body when its done. And even then, not everything I personally want the government to do is going to be spared. Not everything you want it to do is going to be spared either. That’s where we are at the moment.

Obama’s smart enough to know that what he’s going to get out of Congress with this will look nothing like what he proposes, but I wouldn’t mind too terribly if it was close to it eventually. We’ll see where everything goes from here.

Multiple Revenue Streams, Revisited

Yesterday I rather cryptically announced on Twitter that at that moment someone was using me as an example of something; that person was Cory Doctorow, in a Twitter discussion with author David Hewson about writer career models. Hewson wrote about how he wouldn’t take career advice from Cory, which precipitated a rather long Twitter conversation between the two in which I was brought up by Cory as an example of a writer who has several revenue streams. Other writers, including Nick Harkaway and Suw Charman-Anderson, also pinged in; Charman-Anderson saved the Twitter conversation and also posted her additional thoughts here.

Leaving aside the specifics of Cory’s own personal brand of income generation, the general discussion seems to be about revenue streams, and whether book authors can/should have a second (and third, fourth, etc) income stream burbling along, complementing the book income writing stream. Hewson appears to be of the opinion that not every author can muster that second revenue stream; Cory argues for the value of a multistream career, and the others chime in with thoughts and points to make in support of Hewson or Cory’s general position.

Most writers, mind you, have multistream careers whether they want them or not; they have day jobs. For the successful few who manage along without one of those, I think it’s better to have multistream careers than not, for the simple reason that you never know when a line of income is going to evaporate, and when it does, it’s best it’s not your only way of making money. Also, again, I don’t think most full-time writers have a choice about whether to have a multistream career, since generally speaking, when it comes to writing, most income streams don’t offer enough to live comfortably on.

If you are someone who makes enough from writing one sort of thing — usually books, but not always — that you can argue that writers shouldn’t have to have multiple streams of revenue, well, then. Excellent for you. But you’re in a small minority of all working writers, and you should probably recognize that. Even among those folks, mind you, I would recommend multistream careers if you can manage them. Because that extra cash is nice to have (and to save, hint, hint).

Pursuant to the above, I think it’s worthwhile to make a distinction between two different types of writer revenue streams: The ones that support the writing, and the ones that come as a consequence of the writing. In the former camp you have things like day jobs, and writing gigs you get without reference to the main thrust of your writing career (or perhaps more accurately, what you would like the main thrust of your writing career to be). In the latter camp you have things like movie options and speaking engagements. They are important distinctions to make because the latter are both quantitatively and qualitatively harder to get and to keep. Any writer can get a day job of some sort to pay the bills. Not every writer will get paid by Hollywood, or get paid to show up and talk about their writing. For those, again, nice if you can manage them. I don’t know that it does anybody any good to lump those two categories together when making examples, however.

My overall thought on all of this is that if you can only write one thing and get paid enough for it that you don’t have to (or want to) do anything else, then do that — it’s nice to be you. Otherwise I’m a big fan of authors keeping their eyes open for opportunities and to be aware of the (distinctly relative) fiscal security that having more than one source of income can bring. I don’t think writers should be too proud about how they make their money, within the bounds of their personal ethics; it all spends (and saves) the same.

Athena and the Pre-CGI Effects Films of Death!

My FilmCritic.com column is back on its regular schedule, and this week my daughter (seen above, scowling dramatically) passes judgement on all effects-laden films prior to Jurassic Park and finds them completely unacceptable. Why does she do this — and is she correct to do so? The answers await you, my friends. As always, if you feel the need to comment, please feel free to do so over at the column.