Pavlos (pavlos) wrote,

Fire and dross

Greece is mostly on fire. This happens most summers and is usually merely "a shame", but this time round over fifty people got burned alive in their cars or houses. Common knowledge is that forest fires in Greece are set on purpose, to get rid of forests and thus develop properties that are covered by the forest. This is, of course illegal, but one can be caught for cutting the forest, while there is no official geographical record of where the forest ought to be. So once it is burnt, the owner of the land can say "what forest" and develop. So over fifty people dies because of greed and (tacitly accepted) technical incompetence by the state. Several attempts to establish such a geographical system met with resistance or non-cooperation and failed.

It could be worse, of course. In places such as Nigeria or Pakistan you occasionally hear that a fuel truck crashed, people turned up to scoop the petrol off the road with metal canisters and they all burned alive in the inevitable explosion. So in terms of civil stupidity Greece rates slightly higher than some of the world's worst countries, but not by much.

I'm in Edinburgh and it's the last few days of the various festivals. Normally the festivals are a good thing, but I'm kind of overcome by dross. The great majority of the Fringe is, of course, dross. This in itself would be OK if it merely meant empty seats at bad shows, but we don't get such efficient market discipline. We get to see the ugly side of the market, more often than not. People crowd the High Street and try to grab the attention of punters with the cheapest possible tricks: A man wearing a kilt, Jokes about inflatable girlfriends, another man who is dressed as a slice of toast. They give you flyers for equally stupid and ultimately unsatisfying productions. After a while you feel harangued by this constant stream of people wanting to take your money in exchange for some valueless hastily thrown-together entertainment non-product. It's hard to resist insulting them before they do it to you.

The trend in response to this is what in general business is knows as channel consolidation: The people who control the channel of bringing the goods to the market, which in this case are the venue brands, consolidate. Five large distributors, Assembly, Pleasance, Underbelly, C, Sweet, and the ultra-lowbrow Meadows Big Top monopolise the venue real-estate and essentially turn the Fringe into a corporatised supermarket experience. This seems to go down well with the crowds of stupid people from London, who apparently are here to drink beer and be generically entertained, or possibly distracted from the banality of their beer-drinking but scores of derivative comedians.

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