Dedicated to the examination of the remnants. Phil Levy's words in reference to history, archaeology, Judaism, academe, music, outdoorsing…

Monthly Archives: February 2014

Dispatches from Reportland.

There is a special joy to writing archaeological reports. In writing regular prose one thinks economically. Every line of page space is valuable real estate, and so, each idea has to make a case for its inclusion. In most writing one is wary of opening unwanted doors, or hinting too broadly at themes one does not plan on addressing. The result is that great care taken to tie up ends and not waste time. But in reports, there is no idea, no research choice, no hypothesis on the way to another hypothesis that should be silenced. If books and articles are about persuasion, craftsmanship, and artifice, then reports are their more democratic populist cousins. You ideas had better measure up to make it into article prose, but over in Reportland, everyone gets their moment in the spotlight no matter how consequential or trivial they are. Reports are great places to indulge the anal-retentive detail-mad side of one’s mind.

Dragons’ Den, UK….

Not being a big TV watcher I miss a lot. In many British comedies of my liking there are bits making fun of a sort of real life venture capital game show called Dragon’s Den. I got the gist from the likes of The IT Crowd and Harry and Paul, but I thought it might be interesting to check it out lui meme. Many if not all the eps are on Youtube so it was easy to find. There also are Canadian and American versions, but more on that later. The setting is a spare dark warehouse with a line of chairs inhabited by the posteriors of some “self made” business people. The first five mins of each ep is a paean to egos of these people narrated by a rather odd choice for a TV host. Then, once we are assured that only the shrewdest business minds would sit in a warehouse on TV, we are ready to meet the potential entrepreneurs who troop into the room one after the other for short-cut interviews or longer focus pieces. The idea is that each person or persons present their business idea in the best light possible and then after a grilling by each of the “dragons” (is that a real term or one they made up for the show?) the potential investors choose to invest or not. On one level, the show is a love letter to the market. But, over time something very different struck me. I could only make it through a few moments of the American one, but that was because that show opted for glitz and a quick cut separately produced promo piece on each entrepreneur before we saw the actual pitch. It was so painful, I could not make it through. But there is something raw and unplanned about the British one. What was really interesting though was how much it was actually a critique of the market masquerading as a love letter. The Dragons rarely pony up any money at all. More often, the hapless shmoes looking for backing skulk back to the stairs (or an elevator in later seasons) empty handed, dreams kicked to the ground. The message is very odd. Rather than being a tale of people following dreams to success, the take away really is “your idea is stupid and you are a moron for thinking of it and the wealthy investors who gate keep the market hate you for wasting their time, now leave! I’m out!” Is this good?

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