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Neil Gaiman and the Invisible Hand
May 6, 2011 8:38 AM   Subscribe

Neil Gaiman: "A pencil-necked weasel who stole $45,000 from the State of Minnesota". Minnesota House majority leader Matt Dean was moved to fury at the discovery that writer, comic book celebrity and Minnesota transplant Neil Gaiman received this sum for a speaking engagement at a Stillwater, MN high school.

Dean's outburst occurred in the context of discussions over the Minnesota House Legacy Funding Division, which assigns money to various public causes in Minnesota, and a move by the Division's panel chair, Rep. Dean Urdahl, to remove recommendations from the Legacy fund allocations, compelling organizations to compete directly for funding. This would potentially discomfit Minnesota's public TV and radio services, which currently receive funding from the the Legacy Funding Division.

Public funding for arts and cultural heritage projects came under the microscope of the new Republican majority, and Gaiman's apparently exorbitant speaking fee was cited as an exemplar of wasted public money. Those wishing to determine if it was worth the dollah can listen to it here.

Gaiman's first response explained the thinking behind his deliberately high speaking rates. His second talks about the role of "pencil-necked weasel" as a piece of political language, and queries Republican objections to the invisible hand of the market.

Dean later apologised on Minnesota Public Radio for the language of his plaint, although not the message, claiming that his mother had been angry at his terminology and told him not to be a name-caller.

Matt Dean is 45 years old.
posted by running order squabble fest (489 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
It certainly is Crazy Week for Minnesota.
posted by Artw at 8:40 AM on May 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


Matt Dean is 45 years old.

I demand to see the birth certificate.
posted by PlusDistance at 8:40 AM on May 6, 2011 [34 favorites]


...queries Republican objections to the invisible hand of the market.

Why do no (American) Leftists actually in politics understand this idea? Don't apologize for being sane, attack the crazy!
posted by DU at 8:41 AM on May 6, 2011 [11 favorites]


Damn foreigners coming over here and taking our public speaking and fiction writin' jobs!
posted by The Whelk at 8:42 AM on May 6, 2011 [19 favorites]


That explains the all the #pencilneckedweasel Twitter traffic from the circle -o- geeks I follow.
posted by bondcliff at 8:45 AM on May 6, 2011


And with that, the notion of civility in American public discourse turns around to see a cute Goth chick with an ankh necklace holding out her hand and smiling.
posted by Zozo at 8:47 AM on May 6, 2011 [49 favorites]


Prediction: Republicans will use this to cut the fund Gaiman was paid out of entirely. Because the arts aren't important, you see.
posted by zizzle at 8:48 AM on May 6, 2011


I was thinking more a friendly old man who has a very spacious trunk.
posted by The Whelk at 8:48 AM on May 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


How many jobs did this tantrum create? A bunch, I'll bet.
posted by EatTheWeak at 8:48 AM on May 6, 2011 [8 favorites]


Yeah, how dare someone like a writer (unimportant, Not A Capitalist) be able to demand and obtain big speaking fees?
posted by immlass at 8:49 AM on May 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


Internet, don't make me have to choose between Neil Gaiman and some mouthbreathing Republican politician.
posted by Legomancer at 8:50 AM on May 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


This is why you have legacy funds. So idiots with an ax to grind don't get to decide what art gets to be paid for, and how much it is worth.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:51 AM on May 6, 2011 [26 favorites]


I have to admit that I've wondered if he's often photographed wearing collared jackets with the collars popped and mock turtlenecks because he hates his neck, a la Chuck Palahniuk.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:51 AM on May 6, 2011


I've never heard Neil Gaiman speak.
I'm fairly certain he's not worth 45 grand though, because I'm fairly certain no one is worth 45 grand an hour.

Lots of confusion here though.
The article says it was a 4 hour appearance. Gaiman's blog says 1.
The post says High School, the blog says library.
posted by madajb at 8:54 AM on May 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'm fairly certain he's not worth 45 grand though, because I'm fairly certain no one is worth 45 grand an hour.

So if the Rolling Stones play for an hour to an audience of 40,000, they should make, what, a couple hundred?
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:55 AM on May 6, 2011 [8 favorites]


Neil Gaiman has so little money that he has to charge public high schools to give speeches there? And not charge them some tiny token amount, but enough money that would probably pay the salary of a teacher for a year?
posted by hippybear at 8:55 AM on May 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Astro Zombie: "So if the Rolling Stones play for an hour to an audience of 40,000, they should make, what, a couple hundred?"

Yyyyyes?
posted by boo_radley at 8:56 AM on May 6, 2011 [20 favorites]


Also read up on where the money went.
posted by boo_radley at 8:57 AM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


The article says it was a 4 hour appearance. Gaiman's blog says 1.

Gaiman's blog says one hour speech, one hour questions and two hours hanging about.
posted by Jugwine at 8:57 AM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


He says in his blog post that 1) no one asked him to lower the fee 2) the money didn't come from the high school (or library) and 3) the money had to be used up by a deadline or it would have gone to waste.

I think #3 is silly, but that's not Neil Gaiman's fault.
posted by cider at 8:57 AM on May 6, 2011 [13 favorites]


Lots of confusion here though.
The article says it was a 4 hour appearance. Gaiman's blog says 1.
The post says High School, the blog says library.


The blog says Gaiman spoke for an hour, then took Q&As, then took pictures and signed authorgraphs for two hours. That could easily add up to a four hour appearance.

Also, my impression was this was a school-affiliated library, though the event was open to the public (possibly because if the town is small enough, the only library would be the school's.......)
posted by zizzle at 8:57 AM on May 6, 2011


He donated the money to charity. And the money is legacy funds -- it can't be used to pay a teacher.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:57 AM on May 6, 2011 [7 favorites]


(sorry, that was in resonse to hippybear)
posted by cider at 8:58 AM on May 6, 2011


Neil Gaiman has so little money that he has to charge public high schools to give speeches there? And not charge them some tiny token amount, but enough money that would probably pay the salary of a teacher for a year?

Not so, according to Neil himself.
posted by Mad_Carew at 8:58 AM on May 6, 2011


hippybear - check out Gaiman's initial response - his fees are steep on purpose. He would rather spend his time writing than speaking. The funds had to be spent by a certain date or they would expire and he donated his paycheck to charity, less agent fees.
posted by EatTheWeak at 8:58 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, I'm surprised that he charges so much. Nearly every goth girl on my facebook friends list has seen him speak, if their photos are any indication.

(I enjoy Gaiman, but I've never been compelled to see him, or any author in particular, speak.)
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:58 AM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Neil Gaiman has so little money that he has to charge public high schools to give speeches there?

Neil Gaiman has so little time that he sets he speaking fees relatively high; his job is writing. The actual funds (less his agent's cut) were donated to charity.
posted by jenkinsEar at 8:58 AM on May 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


I don't get it. I charge twice what Gaiman is asking. Yeah, just try to get me for less than 90k! I dare ya.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:59 AM on May 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


Much as I dislike arts-despiing Republicans, I have to agree, speakers' fees have become outrageous. Especially when it's publicly funded schools and colleges paying them.

If $100K for a hour of Sarah Palin is bad, $45K for an hour of Gaiman is bad too, much as I'd prefer to listen to Gaiman.

Assume the school was large for a high school, and that all, say, 2000 students attended the speech. That's still $22 per student. For the same money you could buy each kid two Neil Gaiman paperbacks, which gives the student a lot more than an hour's exposure to Gaiman, and one he or she can return to at will.

Of course, not every student will read a free book; in that case, $45K buys what, 1000 library-bound hardbacks?

The value of Neil Gaiman lies in his ideas, not in his personally and bodily speaking them. I'd rather buy the ideas in book form, and give Neil more time to write more great books.
posted by orthogonality at 9:01 AM on May 6, 2011 [12 favorites]


Neil Gaiman has so little money that he has to charge public high schools to give speeches there? And not charge them some tiny token amount, but enough money that would probably pay the salary of a teacher for a year?

It's not a question of money, it's a question of time.
posted by delmoi at 9:01 AM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


John Waters is speaking at the Walker Art Center next month. Tickets are $40, and are so popular that even I had to buy one, despite being a member of the press (I HAD TO BUY A TICKET WHAT IS THE WORLD COMING TO?)

I imagine Waters would find Gaiman's speaking fee to be laughably small. Even Snooki gets $32,000.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:02 AM on May 6, 2011 [9 favorites]


Okay, fair enough. So this is a case of political spin being played by an elected representative in order to stoke outrage about how funds are spent on the arts, and isn't really about Gaiman being paid $45K to speak at a high school.

It'd be nice if the FPP had been framed that way, instead of playing into the propaganda put out there by Dean.
posted by hippybear at 9:02 AM on May 6, 2011 [16 favorites]


Note that this happened over a year ago (the talk was given on April 27, 2010). The only news here is Dean's comment and the subsequent brouhaha-- the "first response" link is from May 7, 2010 (i.e., not a response to Dean), and the "second response" is the actual response.
posted by norm at 9:03 AM on May 6, 2011


I'll buy you a beer and a hot dog - will you come talk to me?
posted by backseatpilot at 9:03 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Neil Gaiman doesn't "charge" for his speaking engagements at all. He has an agency handle all of it for him on account of he's a writer and not a pro speaker. Sometimes he'll speak for free, if he thinks it's for a good cause.

This is all just what I read in the first response. Reading the links on the topics you're about to comment on is a good idea.
posted by LogicalDash at 9:03 AM on May 6, 2011 [62 favorites]


For whatever it's worth, it was a dumb decision on the part of the school board (or whovever) to pay that much in speaking fees for one event. Nothing to do with Gaiman.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:04 AM on May 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


I have to hide this information from my friend, who is still angry with Amanda Palmer for "dallying with his man." I estimate a non-zero probability of him either sending the representative a chicken foot with black ribbon tied around it or simply driving up to Wisconsin for an old school, lumberjack-style ass-kicking.

The majority of my qualms here come from the potential for my friend to be arrested.
posted by adipocere at 9:04 AM on May 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


you know who else wanted speaking fees.
Jesse Ventura.
posted by clavdivs at 9:04 AM on May 6, 2011


Gaiman even admitted he would do a discount rate for a library, but the library didn't even ask.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 9:04 AM on May 6, 2011


(YANML) Is Matt Dean's statement actionable in the US? I bet it would be in the UK.
posted by jet_silver at 9:05 AM on May 6, 2011


Folks, please read the linked articles. That will clear up where the money came from (hint: not the school or library), why Gaiman charges what he does, etc. etc.
posted by superna at 9:06 AM on May 6, 2011 [18 favorites]


The actual issue seems to be "Arts funding, why is it so screwed up?"
posted by The Whelk at 9:07 AM on May 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


(and Matt Dean calls people names like a grade schooler)
posted by The Whelk at 9:07 AM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


1. Obviously the biggest takeaway here is that Matt Dean is a jackhole. The MN Republican leadership are a pretty shitty bunch, so you really have to hand it to Dean for being willing to go the extra mile to stand out of the crowd. No run-of-the-mill jackhole there.

2. Honestly, even though I'm a big arts-and-outdoors guy, I've always been really ambivalent about the Legacy Amendment. Partly because the existence of dedicated funding winds up giving lawmakers an eventual excuse not to direct any discretionary funding. Like, "fuck the art museums, we don't need to appropriate anything for them, they've got that Legacy gravy train to ride on."

But also because, when I've had run-ins with Legacy projects, the administration seems kind of lacking. Part of that is the use-it-or-lose it situation wherein if Gaiman isn't paid $45k, the money disappears. Or, in another example, my museum had to put together a crash proposal for some exhibition/project money that was being offered up out of the Legacy fund. It would have been a cool project and eventual exhibition, but it was the kind of thing you'd want to spend several months planning and then a couple of years executing. We had 2 weeks to plan it and would have had to execute in a matter of months. The arbitrary use-it-or-lose-it deadlines built into the Legacy program just seem like a giant set of handcuffs.
posted by COBRA! at 9:08 AM on May 6, 2011 [21 favorites]


I'm so offended by this gigantic speaking fee that I don't have TIME to read the link, I just have to give my opinion on it now or I'll explode!
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:09 AM on May 6, 2011 [32 favorites]


Lemme see if I understand this.

1. A library had been offered funds specifically earmarked for having writers come in and talk. These funds could not be used on anything else, and they were going to go poof into the air if they were not used.

2. Neil Gaiman comes in and agrees to do a talk, then after giving his publicity staff their cut, hands the rest to two charity organizations.

3. Matt Dean froths, points, name-calls.

4. Until his mom says that's mean and makes him apologise.

I think Mr. Dean needs a cookie and a bit of quiet time.
posted by cmyk at 9:10 AM on May 6, 2011 [86 favorites]


A system the only logical end of which is paying Neil Gaiman $45,000 an hour to talk about stuff or whatever is a system that is broken. I'm glad Gaiman gave the money away, as I can't imagine how in good conscience he could have kept it, but something is really not okay here.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 9:10 AM on May 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


It's too bad this thread so quickly filled up with comments by people who couldn't even be bothered to look at the links, because the issue at hand is quite interesting... a writer being personally attacked by a politician, not for any comments the writer may have made, not for any political differences, not for any interactions between them, but simply for daring to exist, and/or be paid for his time. That the politician would attack the notion of public funds paying for arts programming through a vicious personal attack upon the neck of the artist involved just kind of boggles the mind.

More response from Gaiman here (in a similar vein to what he posted in his blog). His deconstruction of the meaning of "pencil-necked weasel" is pretty entertaining. Because, you know, writers use pencils. And republicans don't like people who use pencils. They prefer swords.
posted by crackingdes at 9:11 AM on May 6, 2011 [16 favorites]


So this is a case of political spin being played by an elected representative in order to stoke outrage about how funds are spent on the arts, and isn't really about Gaiman being paid $45K to speak at a high school.

Precisely. It's part of propaganda against legacy funds. The Republicans have so badly mishandled our economy that we're looking at a possible $5 billion deficit -- a deficit that our past governor refuses to even admit exists. Our bicameral is dominated by Republican ideologues who refuse to raise taxes and actually want to lower taxes to corporations, and so they are trying to squeeze money out of turnips however they can. The legacy funds were voted into place as a constitutional amendment, precisely to make sure that money would be dedicates to clean water, land, and the arts.

If the Republicans can make the case that these funds are being abused, they can take control of them and come up with, well, let's say "creative" uses of the funds. That's what this is about. Nobody actually gives a rat's ass that Gaiman spoke. He's a local writer nowadays anyway, so paying him wasn't just supporting the arts by giving students access to a great writer, but was literally paying a local artist. In the meanwhile, Pawlenty's official portrait is priced at $25,000, and you'll not that Matt Dean isn't saying peep about that.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:12 AM on May 6, 2011 [9 favorites]


Jeez. Before making comments about this, please realize what is NOT the issue:

1. whether Gaiman's speech is worth $40,000 - irrelevant
2. whether writers can ask large fees to speak to groups - sure they can
3. whether the StarTribune ever really gets a story right - what do you think?
4. whether Gaiman's neck is really "pencilly" - doesn't look like it

No, the issue is a well-paid GOP state representative and middle school bully spouted off about "theft" and "state tax dollars" and "Neil Gaiman" without actually checking on what happened. Then when he got called out, he blamed his mom for making him apologize.

Christ, what an asshole.

Oh, and he gave his opponent in the next election cycle such a fund-raising boon....
posted by mooncrow at 9:12 AM on May 6, 2011 [16 favorites]


Good gravy, do people read the article? It was NOT a school board or library but specially designated state fund to pay for the arts.

The man used to live in Minnesota and still lives in the area so no accusations, please of foreigners taking domestic money away.

The speech was given over a year ago and right now, it is being played by a henchman of Bachman's to stoke outrage so the arts fund, which is part of the state constitution, can be done away with and the money reallocated to something more precious such as, a new Viking sports stadium or maybe that bleeding deficit left by Pawlenty.

You have all seen the technique: Distract and redirect. First, make an issue so people can get all riled up and then distract and then focus all that negative energy to dismantle/mangle the longer term target. This case, it is the constitutional legacy fund that skims from the sales tax to pay for the arts and environment projects for Minnesota.
posted by jadepearl at 9:12 AM on May 6, 2011 [7 favorites]


Sheesh. Read the links, people.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:13 AM on May 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


The value of Neil Gaiman lies in his ideas, not in his personally and bodily speaking them. I'd rather buy the ideas in book form, and give Neil more time to write more great books.

No, Gaiman's appearance helps other pencil-necked weasels such as myself understand that I'm not relegated to the loser-dom that high school insisted upon.
posted by jabberjaw at 9:14 AM on May 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


"The value of Neil Gaiman lies in his ideas, not in his personally and bodily speaking them. I'd rather buy the ideas in book form, and give Neil more time to write more great books."

This concluding line is hilarious given Mr. Gaiman's two blog posts.

I think Cobra's comment has an actual, legitimate criticism of the legacy amendment, but of course it's lost in all the confusion.

Which is I guess the intention of the whole thing.
posted by kavasa at 9:14 AM on May 6, 2011


I'm kind of stunned that so many people are taking the GOP's side on this. Let's make sure we have the facts straight, n'est pas?

1. A dedicated state program (which was funded by a popular referendum to raise statewide tax money about 1/8 of a cent-- FOR THIS PURPOSE) exists to get funds to libraries to have community speakers.
2. That program paid the speaking fee for an author.
3. That author donated his fee to worthy causes.
4. A frothing jerk of a state legislator called the author names and accused him of stealing from the state.

And people think that NEIL GAIMAN did something wrong? I'm flabbergasted. Really, I am.
posted by norm at 9:15 AM on May 6, 2011 [45 favorites]


It's the framing of the post which has people reacting. The links are clear, but the framing is incendiary.
posted by hippybear at 9:16 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Worse, if well-meaning and generally thoughtful MeFite types can't be arsed to read the articles or get some perspective/context, what hope is there for the state population as a whole? You can bet people are going off the handle all over the place. 45K? For a writer? That I haven't heard of? From MY taxes?

(All that aside, I do think the 'Republicans object to market-determined fee' is pretty rich).
posted by bumpkin at 9:16 AM on May 6, 2011 [17 favorites]


My takeaway from this is just that a lot of the newly elected tea partiers are unclear on the concept of 'public representative'. If they all just bitch in public about everything they personally dislike - chocolate sucks, strawberry rules - the number of people supporting them is going to rapidly approach zero.
posted by newdaddy at 9:17 AM on May 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


Just to put the basics all together:

1. Gaiman has expressly stated he's set high speaking fees to minimize speaking to keep his focus on writing.

2. This money was not available to this school in any other sense: Gaiman reports being told (after expressing reservations about the fee he was offered, unsolicited, by the library:

“It’s not from the library. It’s from the Legacy Fund, a Minnesota tax allocation that allows the library to pay market rates to bring authors to suburban libraries who otherwise wouldn’t be able to bring them in. They have to use the money now as it won’t roll over to next year and expires next month.” (emphasis added).

Fault the program itself structure of the fund, if you like, but this wasn't going to pay for any teacher's salary under any circumstances. I don't know exactly would have happened to this money if it hadn't been spent thus, though the usual trend of these things is it getting absorbed tracelessly into the general debt and the beneficiaries in question get less next round because obviously they didn't need that much because they didn't manage to spend it.

3. Gaiman gave the money to charity before any controversy over it came up.

This whole thing is such business as usual political tactics, pull some incident completely out of its context and incite a little mild, good-natured hate over it in the name of prying a few clinging funds loose from bullshit like libraries and museums. It would never come close to making the news cycle except it happened to target someone who is Huge on the Internet. Believe me, the only real asshole in this story is the obvious one, our lovely new state House majority leader, no doubt chosen by his party because of how perfectly he represents the average Minnesotan - he comes from tiny Dellwood, the wealthiest city in the state and recently the SEVENTH wealthiest in the country (and here you never even heard of it). Grass Roots, baby.
posted by nanojath at 9:18 AM on May 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


Whoa. A surprising amount of ire.

For what it's worth, I read both links. I think that the republican was being a ridiculous jerk. I also think there's something a bit wrong with a system that allocates so much money to public speaking celebs, for the arts or not. I ALSO think that Gaiman's comment equating the pencil-necked comment to Republicans disliking pencils was kind of nerdily obtuse and not really very illuminating or sharp at all.

And again, I love his books.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:20 AM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's the framing of the post which has people reacting. The links are clear, but the framing is incendiary.

You must be kidding me. I got the same message from the post -- especially the [more inside] bit -- as from the links. No way is 'incendiary' a reasonable description of the post.
posted by bumpkin at 9:21 AM on May 6, 2011 [8 favorites]


For whatever it's worth, it was a dumb decision on the part of the school board (or whovever) to pay that much in speaking fees for one event. Nothing to do with Gaiman.

They had to use it all up by a certain date or they would have lost it altogether. For all we know, they may have been trying to get a bunch of other people, but they wouldn't have been free until after the funds ran out.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:21 AM on May 6, 2011


But I’m at the top end of what it costs to bring an author who should be home writing and does not really want a second career as a public speaker to your event.

So if you want to pay me to come in and talk, it’s expensive.


Now, I've never been a famous author or public speaker, but this strategy of pricing oneself out of the market seems counter-intuitive. Because while it might decrease requests, it sure would seem to make each legit request that much more tempting, from the author's perspective, in an "oh look, a sackful of money" kinda way.

I'm not defending Matt Dean by any means, and I'm all for arts education, but I find Gaiman's explanation a tad disingenuous.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 9:22 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


So, how long until the Tea Party accuses Neil Gaiman of being a cowboy poet?

And how is Gaiman a thief in all this? What about all the contractors who make very expensive components for military equipment? Or Bose selling midrange speakers at high end prices? Just because something's expensive doesn't make it theft.
posted by mccarty.tim at 9:23 AM on May 6, 2011


My takeaway from this is just that a lot of the newly elected tea partiers are unclear on the concept of 'public representative'. If they all just bitch in public about everything they personally dislike - chocolate sucks, strawberry rules - the number of people supporting them is going to rapidly approach zero.
posted by newdaddy


I have some friends who work at the MN Capitol, and they're not too impressed with the governing skills of a lot of the freshman republicans; I get the impression that even the R's didn't really expect to find themselves int he majority and are still grappling with the fact that they actually have to deliver and govern when all they're equipped to do is throw tantrums and protest.
posted by COBRA! at 9:23 AM on May 6, 2011 [8 favorites]


I'm all for the Legacy Funds, though I do feel that the whole operation is a little screwed up. If Dean took some rational stance against the organization of the Funding Division he could have actually made sense here, but yikes - off the rails he did go.

It's a goofy system where the funds disappear (really? where do they go? This is a serious question) if they're not spent within the timeline which essentially forces them to pay Gaiman (or anybody else) more than he's "worth" (and apparently more than he would have accepted.

There are many other projects in the DNR and Trails and Parks systems that happen for very similar reasons - they're also beneficiaries of the Legacy Amendment and some make much less sense than this. Would you rather dump your money into a few lakes or pay a writer to speak? We're doing both, so we all win apparently.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 9:24 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Maybe we need to establish a legacy fund to put the GOP reps through anger management classes so they don't fly off the handle at every little thing like this.
posted by cmyk at 9:26 AM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Dean is not interested in fixing the Legacy Amendment. He's interested in ending it.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:27 AM on May 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


You must be kidding me.

No, I'm not kidding you.

The post says that the speech was at a high school. It wasn't. The phrase "Those wishing to determine if it was worth the dollah" comes immediately after the phrase "cited as an exemplar of wasted public money".

I'll bow out of this discussion now, but I don't think I was reacting only to faeries dancing in my head when I got entirely the wrong impression of what actually happened by reading the words posted to The Blue.
posted by hippybear at 9:29 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


@BitterOldPunk et al, just for context:

In 2010, Sarah Palin would speak for $75,000 plus first class airfare for two, "deluxe" accommodations, chauffeur-driven transport, and two water bottles with bendy straws.

Maybe she donates her fees to charity as well. I bet she does.
posted by mooncrow at 9:30 AM on May 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'd be interested in finding out how much money the Tea Partiers have blown so far in pursuing pet issues.
posted by Artw at 9:30 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Any Republican apologists want to explain how $45k for Gaiman speaking on authors is a travesty but $30k for Bristol Palin to speak on abstinence is A-OK?

Anyone? No?
posted by Aquaman at 9:30 AM on May 6, 2011 [17 favorites]


I don't think I was reacting only to faeries dancing in my head

I am guessing this would have gotten a different reaction.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:31 AM on May 6, 2011


It is awfully disturbing that the Star Tribune never bothered to contact Gaiman or his agent for comment on this before running the story on the front page of their city section. Didn't that used to be basic journalistic practice: give the person you're slamming some kind of opportunity to respond?

It's one thing for Matt Dean to be a jerk here, but what happened to some kind of news reporting?
posted by zachlipton at 9:31 AM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


I used to love me some Neil Gaiman, I really did. But things like

'a writer being personally attacked by a politician, not for any comments the writer may have made, not for any political differences, not for any interactions between them, but simply for daring to exist, and/or be paid for his time'

and

'1. whether Gaiman's speech is worth $40,000 - irrelevant'

are pretty ridiculous. Neil Gaiman knew he was attending a tiny public library, and that the money was state funded. That he blithely decided to charge full price instead of reducing his fee ("because nobody asked") was a super poor decision. The idiots in charge of the library may have been primarily at fault, but he doesn't deserve to escape his share of the blame just because he's a leftist we like.
posted by felix at 9:32 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Should have gotten Snookie, she did a pretty good job at Rutgers.

At least she would have taught them to fist bump instead of being all "I'm sad, and I wear black"
posted by Ad hominem at 9:33 AM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


I've been following this on Twitter since pretty much the start, and all I can say is that Matt Dean appears to be the Tea Party advancement of a high school bully, figuring he can bash on a 'nerd' and, being one of the jocks, no one will stand against him.

He's also laughably uninformed about the situation (as many above me have explained about the situation with the Legacy program and the payments), and proud of it, which also strikes me as one of the hallmarks of the Tea Party elected officials at this time.

And as far as Gaiman's pricing, he has - and probably will in the future - give talks for free at libraries if he's in that area for another event (there's a story of him going to be in NYC for a signing, and he called a NYPL branch to ask if they might like him to give a talk or something, and the librarian's response being a small squeak). He's a writer, he wants to write, so making it a burden to get him to show up and talk means they have to really, really want him there. I don't see it as disingenuous, I see it as what people have called 'destructive spending'. The payment from the Legacy program was basically flat-out that amount of money, they didn't even ask what his fee was, just said, "here's some money we have to use".
posted by mephron at 9:33 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


you really have to hand it to Dean for being willing to go the extra mile to stand out of the crowd. No run-of-the-mill jackhole there.

Hey, you don't get Majority Leader for blending in. This guy's a go-getter!
posted by nickmark at 9:33 AM on May 6, 2011


I don't have any issues with a speaker charging whatever they want. But how does a public high school have 45K to pay a speaker? If a high school in my area did that, I'd have some questions. For 45K, you could have artists do weeks of participatory teaching, or pay to restore (part of) an art teacher's salary in a school where arts have been cut.
posted by theora55 at 9:33 AM on May 6, 2011


how is Gaiman a thief in all this?

Foreign accent. Up to something.
posted by EatTheWeak at 9:33 AM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


RTFA.
posted by Artw at 9:33 AM on May 6, 2011 [7 favorites]


(PLEASEPLEASEPLEASE RTFA BEFORE COMMENTING FOR COCK'S SAKE)
posted by EatTheWeak at 9:35 AM on May 6, 2011 [13 favorites]


Felix, at this point in the thread you have zero excuse for not having read Gaiman's blog posts or any of the comments in this very freaking thread that explain that. Zero, none. Not ok. :/
posted by kavasa at 9:36 AM on May 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


(Or, you know, even read some of the comments by people who have RTFA, that'd probably get you most of the way there at this point. )
posted by Artw at 9:36 AM on May 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


Having been following this via Twitter since it started, I second everyone in here when I too say:

READ THE GODDAMN LINKS BEFORE CHIMING IN WITH YOUR TWO CENTS.
posted by Kitteh at 9:36 AM on May 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


Anyway it is available on the web CTRL-F Gaiman.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:37 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


(PLEASEPLEASEPLEASE RTFA BEFORE COMMENTING FOR COCK'S SAKE)
posted by EatTheWeak

for what it's worth, of my 2,610 comments, really only a tiny handful of them have been for the sake of cocks.

posted by COBRA! at 9:38 AM on May 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


But how does a public high school have 45K to pay a speaker?

They don't because they are not paying him. The payment is coming from a fund specifically for this purpose.
posted by gaspode at 9:38 AM on May 6, 2011


And people think that NEIL GAIMAN did something wrong? I'm flabbergasted. Really, I am.

Imagine that Gaiman charged $2,000 for his time. Instead of one Gaiman speech, the library could have had 22 authors speak at $2,000 an hour. An author every other week.

And $2,000 an hour is not ungenerous at all.

$45 thousand dollars is just a little under the median US household income of 49K.

In other words, Neil collected from the taxpayers for an hour's work about as much or more than what half the households in the US make in a year of hard work. Households, not individuals, so some of those are two-earners making less in a year than Neil made in a hour, paid for by the same taxpayers who make so much less than Neil.

Yeah, just like astronomical CEO pay, that's wrong.
posted by orthogonality at 9:38 AM on May 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


OK. for those that cannot seem to read the articles:

From the link to Gaiman's blog marked in the original post as 'first response':
I was asked if I’d come and talk at Stillwater, and be paid $40,000. I said, “That’s an awful lot of money for a little library.”

“It’s not from the library. It’s from the Legacy Fund, a Minnesota tax allocation that allows the library to pay market rates to bring authors to suburban libraries who otherwise wouldn’t be able to bring them in. They have to use the money now as it won’t roll over to next year and expires next month.”

“Ah.”

Well, that seemed fairly simple. They’d already booked a number of other authors. They had the money sitting there and were happy to pay me my rack rate. Either they gave the money to me or it went away – it couldn’t be used for anything else. And, most importantly, the dates worked. Another week and I would have had to say no, as I would have been away writing. But I got in from Chicago that morning. I said yes.

I figure money like that, sort of out-of-the-blue windfall money, is best used for Good Deeds, so I let a couple of small and needy charities (one doing social work, the other library/book based) know that I would be passing the money on to them, after agents had taken their commission, and did not think twice about it.
There. now you don't have to read Gaiman's side of it. You can thank me with reading another article in a different place before you comment ignorantly.
posted by mephron at 9:39 AM on May 6, 2011 [38 favorites]


Yes he collected a fee

that he asked to be lowered

that they didn't

which was then given to charity.
posted by The Whelk at 9:39 AM on May 6, 2011 [14 favorites]


Dean is a genius in his own way-- he has created a meme that will have powerful, lasting effects and at no cost to himself. Sure he looks a bit of a jackass to anyone who actually bothers to investigate what really happened, but how many people will bother? No. This is going to come up every time tax cuts, budgets, "tax payer money" and wasteful government is discussed and be used as a talking point by everyone stumping for Republican tax cuts.

As for Dean being penalized for this statement? Don't make me laugh.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 9:44 AM on May 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


This is probably the first time I've shaken my head this hard at metafilter. I mean, this is tea-party-level head-shaking. My lips are pursed so tight and brow so furrowed I may have done some semi-permanent damage. I have a bruise on my forehead from the intensity of my facepalm.
posted by jabberjaw at 9:45 AM on May 6, 2011 [8 favorites]


Yeah, just like astronomical CEO pay, that's wrong.

Oh, FFS. I say this as a writer who

a. does a lot of library talks for free or for a low honorarium (mostly because the cost of gas is a real bitch these days and much as I'd like to drive to Tiny Library 90 Minutes Away for free, I can't afford it myself)

b. charges a goodly amount for her teaching time SPECIFICALLY because it takes me away from what I should be in the studio doing, and I don't necessarily want to spend a bunch of time traveling unless it's a teaching gig that sounds fun to me

1. read the damn links -- the money was about to expire, so this whole "let's find 22 authors who'll speak for $2000 each instead" thing is just dumb. If the money's about to expire, it's about to expire. Good luck finding 21 other people to come talk.

2. it is not wrong to charge market rates for one's work. Popular speakers command higher fees than unpopular ones. This fact alone is why speaker's agents are able to earn a living doing such an arcane job.

3. Acting like Gaiman is the one kicking kittens here is not going to solve whatever issues you have with this fund and how it is operated, etc. I think the cigarette tax here in our county which has created one of the largest public arts funds in the country is dumb because the people administering it don't know their ass from a hole in the ground, but I'm not going to blame my friend who got one of their grants for that.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 9:46 AM on May 6, 2011 [10 favorites]


Neil collected from the taxpayers for an hour's work about as much or more than what half the households in the US make in a year of hard work.

...which he promptly donated to charity.

Frankly he could have kept it all and used it to race Charlie Sheen to an early OD and it wouldn't have made a lick of difference. The buyer always has the responsibility for getting their money's worth, caveat emptor is literally the law of the land (IANAL).
posted by Skorgu at 9:46 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


(What's up with no one reading the links today? It's like Slashdot around here today! Is it the good weather or something?)
posted by wenestvedt at 9:46 AM on May 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


The Whelk: "Damn foreigners coming over here and taking our public speaking and fiction writin' jobs!"

He's taking your amanda palmers, too! Soon, Britain will have all the songs about women yelling at mirrors! Mwa ha ha haaa!

seriously though I thought 8 in 8 was cool and Gaiman's part in this ridiculous controversy seems so completely innocent I'm stunned anyone with a functioning sense of proportion is blaming him
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 9:47 AM on May 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


orthogonality: Imagine that Gaiman charged $2,000 for his time. Instead of one Gaiman speech, the library could have had 22 authors speak at $2,000 an hour. An author every other week.

Jesus Effin Christ... how many times do people have to point out in this thread that it may be a good idea to read the damn links?
The money would've gone away the following month anyway.
It's maybe not the smartest way to manage that particular source of funding but there was no way they were going to spend it on anything else.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 9:47 AM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also, my impression was this was a school-affiliated library, though the event was open to the public (possibly because if the town is small enough, the only library would be the school's.......)

Stillwater is a decent size outer-ring suburb of St. Paul/Minneapolis. The high-school is pretty big and local library is completely separate AFAIK. I graduated from there in a class of 753 and the classes were getting larger (though it was already feeling crowded. They teach grades 10, 11, and 12 so my best guess would be that there are around 2,600 students enrolled there right now.

The gym will hold the entire student body but the auditorium is much smaller. Gaiman says, in is response, that 500 people were there and that was the capacity. I remember the auditorium being bigger than that (more on the order of 1,000 people capacity) but I could be remembering that wrong.

The only reason I can think of that the high school was involved is that it was a library event using the high school's auditorium. I don't think the library in Stillwater has any place large enough to hold 500 people without taking all the books out so that is the only thing that makes sense to me.
posted by VTX at 9:47 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wait, wait, I've know this next part... Matt Dean turns out to be Loki.
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 9:47 AM on May 6, 2011 [12 favorites]


One of these days Thessaly is gonna show up and straight his shit out.
posted by The Whelk at 9:49 AM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


What's up with all the people assuming that it is impossible to have read the links and and still to disagree with them?
posted by enn at 9:49 AM on May 6, 2011 [7 favorites]


Maybe Matt Dean was 501th to ask for a seat?
posted by Artw at 9:49 AM on May 6, 2011


@Felix -- I see -- so you contend that Gaiman needs to be not just a great writer with limited time to write, but also be so attuned to current events and "how things will look" that he can almost instantly calculate the financial position of public libraries, high schools, charity fund-raisers, etc -- and then always waive his speaking fees because he's such a nice guy and doesn't want to cause undo financial harm to those groups. They certainly seem incapable of making such financial decisions themselves. Really, those poor saps are like babes in the woods. I mean, essentially, he put a gun to their heads and forced them to pay him the $40,000. Well, metaphorically.... So that he could give it away to charity.....

He is so thoughtless. I see your point. You are absolutely correct...
posted by mooncrow at 9:51 AM on May 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Where I work people are always wanting custom material done for them. We don't want to do it. We really, really, really, don't want to do it. It's rude to say you aren't interesting enough, or I don't have time for you, or any of the actual reasons we don't want to do it. Because pushy people persevere through all of that crap. What they don't persevere through is money. We charge 20 times as much as would be reasonable because we don't have time to devote to it nor do we wish to garner ill will by flatly stating the reasons we don't want to do it, see above. And we really, really, really don't want to do it.

And still we get people who pony up the cash, dammit. And they probably bitch about the expense. It's that expensive to chase you away, braniac.

This place has dumbed down to the point where no one rtfa and anything over a blurb is tl;dr.
posted by umberto at 9:51 AM on May 6, 2011 [13 favorites]


What's up with all the people assuming that it is impossible to have read the links and and still to disagree with them?

Because the people disagreeing are making statements that are contrary to the information in the links.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:51 AM on May 6, 2011 [31 favorites]


enn: What's up with all the people assuming that it is impossible to have read the links and and still to disagree with them?

There is a difference between disagreeing and making false statements.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 9:52 AM on May 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


We call that the "fuck off rate" around here, umberto. And I can't even tell you how many times I've ended up charging it for something...
posted by bitter-girl.com at 9:52 AM on May 6, 2011 [8 favorites]


Metafilter: READ THE GODDAMN LINKS BEFORE CHIMING IN WITH YOUR TWO CENTS.

(seriously, can we make this the new slogan? have it right below the logo?)
posted by jammy at 9:54 AM on May 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


What's up with all the people assuming that it is impossible to have read the links and and still to disagree with them?

Because the people disagreeing are making statements that are contrary to the information in the links.


If you'd RTFA you'd know that...
posted by Artw at 9:54 AM on May 6, 2011 [9 favorites]


Minnesota and Wisconsin are *not* broke. We can spend money occasionally. We can pay teachers and librarians and Niel Gaiman, it is not an one-or-the-other situation.

Whats the problem here?
posted by kuatto at 9:55 AM on May 6, 2011


Yes, this will become part of the Republican mythology, right next to Welfare Queens in Cadillacs.

Egg-head author stealing from the state. A fund that these bureaucrat librarians that isn't really used until the money has to be used up, pitched into the fire.

Gaiman, as I understand it, knows a bit about the seductive power of myth. And that's why I'm angry at him: he should have known better, should have realized, in the current political climate, that this would be misused, against him, and against funding for the arts in general.

I suspect it was an ego thing: I know how proud I was when I first was able to charge $100 an hour. It wasn't the money, it was being acknowledged as being worth the money by someone else.

Surely being able to say you're worth 45 thousand an hour, even (especially?) if you magnanimously give it to charity, feels great, great enough that Gaiman ignored the larger potential consequences.

But Gaiman hasn't hurt himself, he's hurt funding for the arts in general, he's contributed to the suspicion the Right and some in the Middle have that "intellectuals" and professors are do-nothing parasites who live in fancy houses and drive fancy cars and take your tuition and tax payments to teach your children values antithetical to your own.

I don't say Neil meant to do this, I just wish he'd been more savvy.
posted by orthogonality at 9:56 AM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


"What's up with all the people assuming that it is impossible to have read the links and and still to disagree with them?"

Because it was not 45k.
Because it was not money that could have been used for a 20 lesser-known authors.
Because the whole point of the money was to get people excited by outer-ring libraries.
Because no one is disagreeing with anything Gaiman actually said or did.
Because all the disagreement is in the form of hacking at straw men.

That is why.

The shame is that the actual interesting discussion has been lost in the shuffle. It seems probable that the legacy amendment is being poorly administrated. It seems likely that we could be making better use of the money. This is actually an important issue! As has been said, Minnesotans consider the arts important enough that they're in our state constitution. But no one is talking about mis-management of those funds because they're too busy blathering about shit that did not happen.
posted by kavasa at 9:57 AM on May 6, 2011 [9 favorites]


Y'know, I read this article a few days ago and thought about posting it here, but I decided against it, thinking "A Repbulican tool trying to accuse Neil Gaiman of being a greedy snake" would be too much of a LOLREPUBLICAN mefi fanwank circle jerk.

Imagine my surprise when it was posted, and 90% of the people couldn't even bother to read the article and started angrily belching out Dean's trollage.

The GOP thanks you all for your undying support. Holy FUCK people.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 9:57 AM on May 6, 2011 [23 favorites]


We call that the "fuck off rate" around here, umberto. And I can't even tell you how many times I've ended up charging it for something...

Yeah, a few years ago I tripled my hourly rate to free up some time and somehow ended up with more clients...
posted by the_artificer at 10:00 AM on May 6, 2011 [8 favorites]


Yeeeeah this is one of the few times I've just been gobsmacked by the route a thread takes here.
posted by The Whelk at 10:00 AM on May 6, 2011 [9 favorites]


So if I understand things right, the school was storing $45k in the library that they were planning on using to feed orphans, then this Neal guy comes in to give a speech and then STEALS THE MONEY!?

And then he apparently set a small boy afloat in some sort of balloon?
posted by ODiV at 10:01 AM on May 6, 2011 [25 favorites]


I considered a MeTa about the lack of RTFA in this post but decided the right people wouldn't read it.
posted by mephron at 10:01 AM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


This thread...WTF...I'm going to go and scream for a while. Bye.
posted by mooncrow at 10:01 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Now, I've never been a famous author or public speaker, but this strategy of pricing oneself out of the market seems counter-intuitive. Because while it might decrease requests, it sure would seem to make each legit request that much more tempting, from the author's perspective, in an "oh look, a sackful of money" kinda way.

I'm not defending Matt Dean by any means, and I'm all for arts education, but I find Gaiman's explanation a tad disingenuous.


it doesn't necessarily reduce requests at all - people are always going to ask.

what it does do is allow the writer to pick and choose what they want to do and who they want to support or donate time/resources to. if the writer is one who is working solely for sackfuls of dollahs, then the fee is a straightforward one. if the writer has other interests or principles, as Mr Gaiman does, the fee becomes a useful discretionary filter.
posted by jammy at 10:02 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Witness orthogonality's post, which does not in any way acknowledge the fact that Gaiman charges high rates for speaking because he doesn't want to do it.

FWIW, ortho, Gaiman's time is PROBABLY worth considerably more than $45k/hour. He writes very popular books and sells movie rights for them, and time spent speaking is time spent not-writing. His time spent writing probably earns him an hourly rate well in excess of $45k/hour.

And saying that someone should have known that actions they made in good faith would be lied about and mis-used by other people in bad faith a year later is just shitty and asinine and wrong. Neil Gaiman hasn't hurt shit - he got 500 people into a little library in fucking stillwater. Dean and his friends are trying to tell lies about that in service of doing harm, but Gaiman has 0 responsibility for that.

Whatever initial reaction you had to the post's original framing, you need to get over it.
posted by kavasa at 10:02 AM on May 6, 2011 [7 favorites]


Because it was not 45k.

Gaiman says it was less. I have no particular reason to take his word over that of the Star-Tribune. Perhaps the two parties are accounting differently for the agency's fee, or for taxes, or who knows what.

Because it was not money that could have been used for a 20 lesser-known authors.

Nonsense. Yes, the money would have been gone in a month, but it's not as though it had just become available; they could have spent it earlier in the funding cycle on more and cheaper authors. It's perfectly legitimate to criticize the administrators of this money for procrastinating in its disbursal such that there arrives at the end of the year a manufactured "crisis" necessitating the payment of a ridiculous speaking fee to a single author in order to meet the budget.

Because no one is disagreeing with anything Gaiman actually said or did.

Yes, they are. Many people here are saying that it is unethical to charge such high fees for their labor, and that "the market will bear it" is not a valid ethical argument to the contrary. That is a perfectly coherent position. You may disagree with that position, but it is entirely consistent with the facts as noted in the links, all of which I have read.
posted by enn at 10:03 AM on May 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


Any Republican apologists want to explain how $45k for Gaiman speaking on authors is a travesty but $30k for Bristol Palin to speak on abstinence is A-OK?

Anyone? No?


. . . I'm not a Republican apologist, but am I allowed to think that both things are wrong?
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:03 AM on May 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


That's the thing, the_artificer -- I teach a business class for people in my industry (an industry that's probably 95% women). They all want to charge lower rates for their work until I tell them WHY that's counterproductive. Sometimes raising your rates is the best thing you CAN do for yourself as a professional.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 10:04 AM on May 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


Let's declare today RTFA day.
posted by Artw at 10:05 AM on May 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


hippybear: It'd be nice if the FPP had been framed that way, instead of playing into the propaganda put out there by Dean.

I realise people have already suggested that you read the links, but did you also read the post? The idea that you got from it that I am uncritically backing Minnesota Republicans dismantling funding for public radio, or that I thought Matt Dean behaved in a manner appropriate to the dignity of the office of Majority Leader is kind of astonishing. Admittedly, I tried to avoid overtly LOLREPUBLICANS phrasing, apart from the bit about Dean being told off by his mother for being a namecaller, which was too funny to omit, but, really? That's what you got from this?

Oy.
posted by running order squabble fest at 10:05 AM on May 6, 2011


His time spent writing probably earns him an hourly rate well in excess of $45k/hour.

I assure you you're wrong.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:07 AM on May 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


It's amazing that some commenters are able to type, because they sure as hell can't read.
posted by ryoshu at 10:07 AM on May 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


His time spent writing probably earns him an hourly rate well in excess of $45k/hour.

A public speaking event doesn't take an hour. One of the issues here is that it actually took four hours, from start to finish. He lives in Minnesota, but travels often, and for an out-of-state writer to make an appearance, it's usually a whole day that must be set aside (even for a local writer, a speaking engagement is going to eat up much of your day.)

And then there is an hour's worth of material you must have. Some writers read, so that's years worth of their writing, and it must be chosen, rehearsed, etc. Some actually give presentations, and that must be prepared, which can take six months.

Broken down by actual hours spent, the money charged isn't small potatoes, but it starts seeming pretty reasonable.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:07 AM on May 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


kittens for breakfast, do you have any idea what kinds of crazy cash Hollywood pays for stuff? Why do you think I'm always trying to talk you two into doing EL GORGO THE MOVIE? I suspect he is one person who, if you divvied up the money from all sources into an hourly rate, probably WOULD be making that much!
posted by bitter-girl.com at 10:09 AM on May 6, 2011


I kind of wish this thread and the "speaking fees are too damn high!" folks would collide into one of our many threads about book piracy where in The Future, all authors will live off speaking engagements, and then they can argue with those folks. Then there will be an ultimate showdown of ultimate destiny and the only winner will be me.
posted by Amanojaku at 10:09 AM on May 6, 2011 [7 favorites]


Oh, I meant to add to that, if Gaiman had been flown to Hollywood to do a rewrite for a script, he could easily charge $45 for the day's work. So if that's what he can make for a day, that's what he can make for a day, and he can then choose between Hollywood or a Stillwater library.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:09 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Many people here are saying that it is unethical to charge such high fees for their labor, and that "the market will bear it" is not a valid ethical argument to the contrary. That is a perfectly coherent position.

How can it possibly be unethical to offer anything? I'm boggled and genuinely curious.
posted by Skorgu at 10:10 AM on May 6, 2011


> It's not a question of money, it's a question of time.

This has nothing to do with the fpp controversy but: if a writer's time is so short that he has to set his rate up to $ridiculous to defend himself against all the requests to come and talk to some group, why do speaking gigs at all? Why not just state "Mr. Gaiman is a writer not an entertainer, he does not do speaking gigs"?
posted by jfuller at 10:10 AM on May 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


$45k.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:10 AM on May 6, 2011


While I'm generally sympathetic to the notion that there are some wack speaking fees in this world, I have a really, really tough time seeing Gaiman as a villain here.

"Want to come speak? We'll pay your quoted rate -- it comes from a fund that can't be used for anything else, and the money disappears if we don't use it up right quick."

"Bah! My quoted rate is an outrage! Pay me $500 or I won't do it!"

"Er, sure you don't want the whole thing? We'll just wind up trying to schedule another big-name author to burn the rest of the fund on."

"Let us speak of it no more!"
posted by Zed at 10:10 AM on May 6, 2011


I read the article, Neil's blog and started to listen to the talk. I think there are probably dozens of examples of the same thing happening and he just singles out Gaiman because he is somewhat unknown, and those who do know him probably know him as a comics author. I think Dean is a hypocrite, who is just making political hay, I think he would have had no problem spending 5 times that for Tom Clancy. Furthermore, I think he isn't interested in fixing l or abolishing anything, I think he is interested in scoring political points and the issue will soon disappear, until some other politician wants to trot it out for a dog and pony show.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:11 AM on May 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


I kind of wish this thread and the "speaking fees are too damn high!" folks would collide into one of our many threads about book piracy where in The Future, all authors will live off speaking engagements, and then they can argue with those folks. Then there will be an ultimate showdown of ultimate destiny and the only winner will be me.

Of course, the people who make astronomical amounts off speaking fees are often the people who can survive off sales from their books already.

I suspect the literary world is becoming one in which only celebrities don't starve for their art. If it's not already.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:12 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm a fan of Gaiman. I think he's a generally a standup guy. But there is no way in hell that he should have charged a library (or the state) just a few miles from his house $45,000 to make an appearance. Period. I don't care if he gave the money to charity. It's obscene.

If the legacy fund is regularly paying that kind of money to people who would probably do an appearance for free, it's being mishandled.
posted by empath at 10:13 AM on May 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


I would prefer that public funds were not used to pay celebrity speaker fees like Gaiman is recieving. I think it is a poor use of public money. This does not mean I take any issue with Gaiman charging the fees he charges I just think it is unwise for the institution to pay those fees. I think pointing out that a public institution paid 45,000 dollars to a celebrity to speak and being critical of that is appropriate. I think the way Dean chose to blame Gaiman and the nature of his attack was pretty out there. I think the fact that Gaiman chose to donate the fee to charity mitigates the damage somewhat but money is fungible and it isn't like Gaiman or any individual can earmark certain income for charity in a meaningful way.
posted by I Foody at 10:13 AM on May 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think there are probably dozens of examples of the same thing happening and he just singles out Gaiman because he is somewhat unknown, and those who do know him probably know him as a comics author.

There may be some truth to this. Dean later went on to say in the midst of his "apology" that "I've probably lost the Star Trek fan vote", which is a huge, huge sign that he Just Doesn't Get It.

I'm also more baffled by Dean's admission that "My mom made me apologize." What is he, twelve?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:13 AM on May 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


And I Foody:

I would prefer that public funds were not used to pay celebrity speaker fees like Gaiman is recieving. I think it is a poor use of public money.

It is. But "public money" was not used. It was PRIVATE money, earmarked EXPRESSLY for this purpose, and if it had NOT been used, it would have been taken back by the donor's estate.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:15 AM on May 6, 2011 [12 favorites]


I'm also more baffled by Dean's admission that "My mom made me apologize." What is he, twelve?

Matt Dean is 45 years old.

Incidentally:

Lots of confusion here though.
The article says it was a 4 hour appearance. Gaiman's blog says 1.
The post says High School, the blog says library.


I think the 4 hours/1 hour thing has already been covered. The MPR broadcast of the speech, in the introductory minute or so, says that the speech was delivered in front of a large crowd at Stillwater High School - I imagine because libraries tend not to have large, empty rooms where lots of people can sit and look at a stage, because they are libraries, whereas high schools do, so logic suggests that if the crowd was large it took place in a school hall. The speech was commissioned, however, by Washington County Libraries, using Legacy Fund cash, which is presumably where the confusion arose.
posted by running order squabble fest at 10:17 AM on May 6, 2011


> I'm also more baffled by Dean's admission that "My mom made me apologize." What is he, twelve?

Went down to the river
Thought I might jump in
My mother, wife, and daughter shout
"We will tell you when."

posted by jfuller at 10:18 AM on May 6, 2011


But Empress, those facts don't outrage me!
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:18 AM on May 6, 2011


Relevant MeTa.
posted by Skorgu at 10:18 AM on May 6, 2011


It is. But "public money" was not used. It was PRIVATE money, earmarked EXPRESSLY for this purpose, and if it had NOT been used, it would have been taken back by the donor's estate.

Where are you getting this from -- from what I understand (and from Gaiman's post) it was from the sales tax funded Legacy fund. Was it not?
posted by empath at 10:19 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


/facepalm.jpg
posted by ryoshu at 10:21 AM on May 6, 2011


Empath, isn't a "legacy fund" something that is made through a will or something?

I'm asking a sincere question; I have (unlike several here, perhaps) RTFA, and that's how i interpreted the "legacy fund" the're talking about -- that some donor said "I bequeath this fund to this institution for THIS purpose, and whatever is left over by this date must be given back". A private thing, in other words. Have I been mistaken about that?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:22 AM on May 6, 2011


Witness orthogonality's post, which does not in any way acknowledge the fact that Gaiman charges high rates for speaking because he doesn't want to do it

While I firmly believe that the guy is allowed to charge whatever he wants to speak, and others may pay crazy high fees if they like or have some weird pot of money about to sink into the sea, I call bullshit on this weird bit of rationalizing. If Gaiman prefers staying home and writing to going out and speaking to audiences, then he should just have the discipline to stay home and write.
posted by aught at 10:23 AM on May 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm asking a sincere question; I have (unlike several here, perhaps) RTFA, and that's how i interpreted the "legacy fund" the're talking about -- that some donor said "I bequeath this fund to this institution for THIS purpose, and whatever is left over by this date must be given back". A private thing, in other words. Have I been mistaken about that?

I'm not sure of the particulars, but I wonder if some of the private/public confusion is that it's being used in two different ways (ie, money provided by the public via taxes, or money that could be utilized for the public's benefit).
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:23 AM on May 6, 2011


Enn, I would actually say you are the FIRST person to respond to the actual facts of the situation, even vaguely.

You contend that the library administrators fucked up and should have spent the money earlier and with more planning. You actually have no idea when they were notified of the available funds. See cobra's comment early in the thread. Did you read that?

Secondly, the purpose of the money was to get people excited about libraries outside of the urban core of the Twin Cities. Do you really think that getting 20 lesser-known authors would have absolutely for sure necessarily been as effective at meeting this goal as one appearance from Gaiman?

I mean, maybe so? But I don't think you can claim that that's obviously the case.

If you're just mad about the sum, then again, what would you have him do? He sets the bar high to filter most of the requests out. He often speaks for libraries for free, because he believes they're important, but this particular library had a fund for that purpose.

You also may want to say something like "the legacy fund should never pay $X for Y service," because you're outraged by whatever. I would suggest to you that this is a risky road to go down with regards to arts funding. Someone will be outraged by the price paid for any given thing, and the way Dean is framing the issue is, to my eyes, code for "we should not fund the arts ever".

kittens for breakfast - on what basis do you assure me of that? Jack Konrath is nowhere near as well-known as Gaiman, has sold no movie scripts, and is at this point mostly self-published via Kindle books. He makes tens of thousands of dollars a month. He is a millionaire. He does not make as much money as Gaiman, who can afford to get a 33.6k speaking fee and donate 100% of it to charity. And yes, as AZ points out, he actually spent about 4 hours there total, which means his writing time only needs to be worth more than ~ $10k/hour, which it very easily could be.

I mean, I don't know Gaiman's finances, but I think if you feel certain that you know them well enough to say that's not true, you're probably fooling yourself.

Empress - it is indeed public money. Here's the Legacy Amendment's about page. The idea is that we as a state are willing to pay extra sales tax to provide for a legacy for the coming generations.
posted by kavasa at 10:24 AM on May 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


Yeeeeah this is one of the few times I've just been gobsmacked by the route a thread takes here.

Me too.
posted by ZeusHumms at 10:25 AM on May 6, 2011


I also have always thought that "legacy fund" by its definition was "a donation made as part of a will". I mean, you can't have a legacy fund without having a given person whose legacy it is, right?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:25 AM on May 6, 2011


Empress - it is indeed public money. Here's the Legacy Amendment's about page. The idea is that we as a state are willing to pay extra sales tax to provide for a legacy for the coming generations.

Ah, gotcha. Thanks.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:26 AM on May 6, 2011


It is the state's legacy for future citizens.
posted by kavasa at 10:26 AM on May 6, 2011


Okay, here's the deal.

For speaking engagements, I want $20/hour, plus transportation and an inexpensive hotel room. Clean, but cheap.

For speaking engagements with my clothes on, I want $45000/hour, plus transportation on a litter carried by nubile virgins and a local palace.

Not that the speaking engagement is any more exciting, you just get to know you are performing a public service by reducing the amount of time I spend around people naked.
posted by Samizdata at 10:26 AM on May 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Empress: the Minnesota's Legacy Fund is set up so that Minnesota has extra money to cover its legacy, to leave to the future, in public land and in the arts.

It's using the term 'Legacy' as something left by today to tomorrow, not something left by yesterday to today, in a cultural and ecological manner.
posted by mephron at 10:27 AM on May 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


The big issue here isn't what anybody charges for public speaking engagement. Its completely irrelevant and its exactly what Matt Dean wants you to focus on.

The real question here is why was this library sitting on $45,000 that they had to spend right now or lose. It is possible that they went looking for other authors to come and speak but they couldn't find an author who charged enough to meet their requirements. They might have said, "Well, we can get four people no one has ever heard of, we'll still have $10,000 left over and we don't have time to arrange four speaking engagements before the funds expire. Screw it, lets blow all $45,000 on the most famous Minnesota author we can get."

Who cares who they paid for what and how much. The real question is, why the was the library in that position to begin with.

Clearly, there is something wrong with the way this money is getting allocated. I'm really curious about who would be making the allocation decisions under Dean's plan. The nice thing is that he isn't talking about spending less of this money on art, cultural heritage, and social programs. He wants to change how the money gets allocated. Making it competitive is not the way to do it as I think it would become far too political but it does need some reform.

It is. But "public money" was not used. It was PRIVATE money, earmarked EXPRESSLY for this purpose, and if it had NOT been used, it would have been taken back by the donor's estate.

You're mostly right. The money came from state sales tax though.
posted by VTX at 10:27 AM on May 6, 2011 [9 favorites]


are pretty ridiculous. Neil Gaiman knew he was attending a tiny public library, and that the money was state funded. That he blithely decided to charge full price instead of reducing his fee ("because nobody asked") was a super poor decision. The idiots in charge of the library may have been primarily at fault, but he doesn't deserve to escape his share of the blame just because he's a leftist we like.
Well, he gave the money to charity, so what's the problem? If Gamin hadn't taken it would have just gone into the general fund for the state. Since it wasn't budgeted for anything it wouldn't be spent. On the other hand, Gaiman actually donated the money to charity, so it was actually put to a better use.

Complaining about someone taking free money is ridiculous.
What's up with all the people assuming that it is impossible to have read the links and and still to disagree with them?
Because some people seem to misunderstand the basic series of events?
Gaiman, as I understand it, knows a bit about the seductive power of myth. And that's why I'm angry at him: he should have known better, should have realized, in the current political climate, that this would be misused, against him, and against funding for the arts in general.
That's completely fucking ridiculous. Do you sit around every day and wonder how your actions will reflect on liberalism if they suddenly became national news? Because that's completely ridiculous.
--

What is the preferred outcome here: He would either give the speech and take the money, or not give the speech and not take the money, in which case it would have just gone away anyway. It couldn't be spent on anything else. Isn't it better that the money can now be used for the charities that Gaiman donated too?
This has nothing to do with the fpp controversy but: if a writer's time is so short that he has to set his rate up to $ridiculous to defend himself against all the requests to come and talk to some group, why do speaking gigs at all? Why not just state "Mr. Gaiman is a writer not an entertainer, he does not do speaking gigs"?
Well, there's no reason not to do that but I don't see what the point is. Presumably he's OK with doing speaking engagements occasionally and is happy to take $45k to do it.

---
I'm a fan of Gaiman. I think he's a generally a standup guy. But there is no way in hell that he should have charged a library (or the state) just a few miles from his house $45,000 to make an appearance. Period. I don't care if he gave the money to charity. It's obscene.
He didn't charge "a library" the money came from the state government. He was paid to speak at a library. So just to be clear: you would prefer he turn them down and have the money just roll back to the state government, instead of being spent on the charities he donated too?
posted by delmoi at 10:28 AM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


@orthogonality: "I don't say Neil meant to do this, I just wish he'd been more savvy."
Yeah, I hear your pain. I wish Neil was Jesus Fucking Christ as well. He should have known...god is he a thoughtless bastard.
posted by mooncrow at 10:28 AM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


The real question here is why was this library sitting on $45,000 that they had to spend right now or lose.
They didn't. The money didn't come from the library. Seriously it's RTFA-Day for a reason.
posted by delmoi at 10:29 AM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Minnesota State Arts Board

In November 2008, Minnesotans passed the clean water, land, and legacy amendment to the Minnesota Constitution. As a result, over the next twenty-five years, 3/8 of one percent of the state’s sales tax will be dedicated as follows:
33 percent to a clean water fund,
33 percent to an outdoor heritage fund,
14.25 percent to a parks and trails fund, and
19.75 percent to an arts and cultural heritage fund

posted by Ad hominem at 10:29 AM on May 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


@orthogonality: He refuses to cure my sister's cancer as well. What a bastard.
posted by mooncrow at 10:30 AM on May 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


But Gaiman hasn't hurt himself, he's hurt funding for the arts in general, he's contributed to the suspicion the Right and some in the Middle have that "intellectuals" and professors are do-nothing parasites who live in fancy houses and drive fancy cars and take your tuition and tax payments to teach your children values antithetical to your own.

Ortho, I usually find your comments insightful and well-reasoned; it is because of this that I have to respectfully ask that you stop being so incredibly wrong right here.
posted by FatherDagon at 10:32 AM on May 6, 2011


Ad hominem, I was just about to post that.

Minnesota is awesome. Let's keep it that way. How many states wouldn't even give 3/8ths of 1%?
posted by kuatto at 10:32 AM on May 6, 2011


Okay, fair enough. So this is a case of political spin being played by an elected representative in order to stoke outrage about how funds are spent on the arts, and isn't really about Gaiman being paid $45K to speak at a high school.

It'd be nice if the FPP had been framed that way, instead of playing into the propaganda put out there by Dean.


Agreed. I was thinking about doing an FPP on this, but wanted to take the time to lay it out chronologically, and point out that the Library's hands were tied, instead of relying posters to look at article links.
posted by ZeusHumms at 10:34 AM on May 6, 2011


Apologies to running order squabble fest for any testiness in my posts.
posted by ZeusHumms at 10:36 AM on May 6, 2011


He didn't charge "a library" the money came from the state government. He was paid to speak at a library. So just to be clear: you would prefer he turn them down and have the money just roll back to the state government, instead of being spent on the charities he donated too?

I would prefer that the legacy fund would better manage their allocated funds so they don't have $45k to piss away on an extremely wealthy local writer who says he would have done it for less.
posted by empath at 10:37 AM on May 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Kavasa, presuming a work week of eight hours/five days, $45,000 an hour has Gaiman making approximately ninety-four million dollars a year. I don't know anything about Neil Gaiman's finances, but common sense tells me this is not true.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:38 AM on May 6, 2011


You contend that the library administrators fucked up and should have spent the money earlier and with more planning. You actually have no idea when they were notified of the available funds. See cobra's comment early in the thread. Did you read that?

I said that the administrators of this money—as I understand it, the legacy fund staff, not the library administrators, though maybe I am misunderstanding the details of the allocation process, maybe the fund gave the money to the library to use— fucked up. I did read Cobra's comment. He said that his museum had several months to execute the funded project. But Gaiman says that this money was going to expire "next month." So that says to me that there was time to spread the money out.

I don't have a problem with anything Gaiman did and I think it was awfully classy to donate the money to charity. But I also think that the state of Minnesota ought to be able to come up with better ways to spend its money than paying five-figure hourly rates to people who are already fantastically wealthy. I would prefer my government's redistributive policies aim downwards rather than upwards.
posted by enn at 10:38 AM on May 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


He didn't charge "a library" the money came from the state government.

This is a ridiculously nitpicky statement, btw. The money was allocated to bring speakers to libraries. It doesn't really matter if it was accounted for out of state dollars or the library budget. The facts are the same-- they spent an absurd amount of money to get Gaiman to speak, and they shouldn't have.
posted by empath at 10:39 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


.. and all this bullshit about Wisconsin and Minnesota being broke, are we building a $700 million Vikings stadium or not?! We already have a new Twins, and Gopher stadium all within the last 5 years!

Broke? Not so much. This is it folks, this is all out culture and class warfare. What does Matt Dean want? What is his vision for Minnesota's future?
posted by kuatto at 10:40 AM on May 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm sure the $2000 would be very nice for whoever you can get for that, I'm not sure you really would get the same audience experience from them from them.
posted by Artw at 10:40 AM on May 6, 2011


For those of you saying that the library should not have spent that much -- with the understanding that the money was going to run out otherwise, and that they had to spend it on guest speakers and nothing else, how would you rather they have used the money?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:41 AM on May 6, 2011


Maybe the situation was that somebody that manages the library legacy fund really, really likes Neil Gaiman, and especially likes the fact that he's a fantastic local author. So that person goes to Gaiman's website, calls the right people, and learns his speaking fee is $45,000.

They want to bring in local author Gaiman some day, and now is as good a time as any. So, being a Minnesotan that really wants to see Gaiman speak for the library, that person thinks, "Hey, we have that much cash in our fund! We could totally afford this!" Next year, they can book other speakers, more speakers, less expensive speakers, more expensive speakers, whatever. This year, they get Gaiman.

Wheels are set in motion, phone calls are made, questions are asked, contracts are signed, and Gaiman shows up and devotes 4 hours of his time and donates the fee to two charities.

I'm having a difficult time seeing the outrage here.
posted by jabberjaw at 10:41 AM on May 6, 2011 [13 favorites]


Crazy Kindle lady would probably agree to speak to an empty auditorium for just the expenses though.
posted by Artw at 10:41 AM on May 6, 2011


If the legacy fund is regularly paying that kind of money to people who would probably do an appearance for free, it's being mishandled.

The only real story here are the perverse incentive that government "use it or lose it" accounting systems create.

-Fund exists for special purpose and only for special purpose
-Library applies hoping to do some events that year.
-Government contracting office delays enough contracts (approvals, forms, you have no idea) that some things don't get booked and there is a surplus
-Head of library realizes they have 50k extra with 1 moth to go in fiscal year
-Head of library panics because if s/he doesn't spend it, s/he will get at least 50k less next fy*.
-Head of library instructs staff to spend money right quick.
-Stressed librarian books expensive author with speaking rate closes to 50k, is grateful to author that she can spend it all in one place.

*HoL is likely partially culpable for many of the approval delays in step 3.

This logic is the priamry reason for government over-spending. Being thrifty or looking for good value is punished, being miserly for 11 months then a month's spending like a drunken sailor is rewarded.
posted by bonehead at 10:43 AM on May 6, 2011 [18 favorites]


So apparently the spending was constitutionally mandated, as passed by referendum. Which is an important point. For one thing, there's no way to get rid of it without another referendum. For another, the money had to be spent.

And here's another important point: It's not 3/8% of the sales tax, it's 3/8th of a percentage point. The total fund is over half a billion dollars, 19.75% of which goes to the arts.

So look, we're talking about spending a little over $100 million a year.

So, after trying to spend $100 million dollars in a year, they had $45k left over and decided to pay Neil Gaiman to give a speech. It's only 0.045% of the total.

The idea they should have "planned better" is nice but when you're dealing with $100 million you can't be perfect in how the money is spent.

And Gaiman gave it to charity as well, so the money will ultimately spent on more careful funding for the arts as well as crisis prevention.
posted by delmoi at 10:44 AM on May 6, 2011 [13 favorites]


Maybe the situation was that somebody that manages the library legacy fund really, really likes Neil Gaiman, and especially likes the fact that he's a fantastic local author. So that person goes to Gaiman's website, calls the right people, and learns his speaking fee is $45,000.

They want to bring in local author Gaiman some day, and now is as good a time as any. So, being a Minnesotan that really wants to see Gaiman speak for the library, that person thinks, "Hey, we have that much cash in our fund! We could totally afford this!" Next year, they can book other speakers, more speakers, less expensive speakers, more expensive speakers, whatever. This year, they get Gaiman.

Wheels are set in motion, phone calls are made, questions are asked, contracts are signed, and Gaiman shows up and devotes 4 hours of his time and donates the fee to two charities.

I'm having a difficult time seeing the outrage here.


Perhaps somewhere there was a thought that if they didn't use the money, it would reduce their allocation for the following year.
posted by ZeusHumms at 10:44 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


For those of you saying that the library should not have spent that much -- with the understanding that the money was going to run out otherwise, and that they had to spend it on guest speakers and nothing else, how would you rather they have used the money?

I'm pretty sure that anybody can come up with a thousand better uses for 45k off the top of their head that would fit in with their mission statement.

FWIW, I think in terms of 'ways governments waste money', this is pretty small potatoes, but that doesn't make it okay.
posted by empath at 10:45 AM on May 6, 2011


1. Neil's neck in no way resembles a pencil.

2. Leaving aside anything else, $45k for a working day out of the life of a #1 New York Times best selling author whose books have won major awards and have been turned into Oscar-nominated films is not an egregious sum, particularly when (in this case) the talk is also broadcast on the radio and stored online, and thus available to a substantially higher number of people; as Neil has noted, the cost amortizes.

3. Speaking from experience, a speaking engagement does in fact take a working day from you -- more than one if you travel any distance. I'll have a one-day speaking engagement in November which will mean a day of travel before, the day spent speaking, and a day of travel back home. For that I'll be paid a sum which while it looks (and is) a pretty nice amount, is also less than what I would make from staying home writing that day, given how much my book advances are at this point, and how much I can write a day on average.

I suspect that when Neil (or anyone else in his position) lists an amount for his time, what he's doing is asking for an amount that means that it is now worth his time, relative to the other things he could be doing, to carve out time. It might be that $45k seems high to anyone not in such a position, but understand that Neil is unambiguously an A-list author, both in terms of sales, in fervid fan base and in terms of sheer presentation, i.e. he is an author is who is actually entertaining live, which is a rare thing.

That Neil then turned around and gave that amount (less his agency fee) to charity is a sign of personal virtue on his part but it's not something that I think should have been expected of him; he listed his asking price, it was met, and at that point he was free to do whatever he liked with the money. Conversely, that Neil gives generously of his time in other circumstances but also has a high going rate for his speaking fee is neither here nor there. In the first case he is as free as anyone to decide what to do with his time, since it's life. In the second case he's equally free to say "if you want me to do something I wouldn't otherwise normally choose to do, here's what it costs." That's rational economic allocation of time.

4. The fault here, if there is such a thing, is neither with Neil nor the library which asked him to come speak, or even with the overarching idea of the Legacy Fund, but the detail that says "this money has to be spent by this time or it goes away." That seems like a reasonably easy fix, if people are interesting in making that fix rather than (as one suspects in this case and with Matt Dean) posturing as a way take that money away entirely because it's a politically desirable goal.

5. As with Neil, I would take a dim view of anyone, and particularly a Republican, who would choose to tell me what I can and cannot charge for my time/engagement, particularly if he did not take the time to educate himself on the specifics of how I was paid and why, and if it was clear and obvious that the attempt to chastise me was less about me than it was a political pander. That the sums in this case were from public funds is neither here nor there, especially since neither Neil nor the library did anything wrong as regards the rules concerning the allocation of funds.
posted by jscalzi at 10:46 AM on May 6, 2011 [50 favorites]


This is a ridiculously nitpicky statement, btw. The money was allocated to bring speakers to libraries. It doesn't really matter if it was accounted for out of state dollars or the library budget. The facts are the same-- they spent an absurd amount of money to get Gaiman to speak, and they shouldn't have.
Wtf are you talking about? I honestly don't understand what you're trying to say here: do you think the money could have been used for library books or something instead?
posted by delmoi at 10:46 AM on May 6, 2011


-Head of library realizes they have 50k extra with 1 moth to go in fiscal year
-Head of library panics because if s/he doesn't spend it, s/he will get at least 50k less next fy*.


Ah, this is a very, very good point.

Speaking as someone who's worked with a non-profit arts institution -- a lot of the ways state and city arts grants are distributed is based on how much you got the previous year, and how you used it. As part of that, the distributing party checks out how much you got the prior year, and whether you used it all. And....if you didn't use all of it the preivous year, they'll give you less because "well, you clearly don't need all that much".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:46 AM on May 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Fred Blassie is spinning in his grave.
posted by Scoo at 10:47 AM on May 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm pretty sure that anybody can come up with a thousand better uses for 45k off the top of their head that would fit in with their mission statement.
Maybe, but they had to spend one hundred million dollars The $45k was just a part of that.
posted by delmoi at 10:47 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Here is what it boils down to for me.... An artist who makes a great wage? Woo Hoo!

and as a Minnesotan.... Thank fucking god for the legacy fund.

There has been some small talk about raiding it, for the general fund, from the Republicans here and there. I wouldn't be shocked if Dean's comments where a prelude to an attempt to find legal and scapegoat justification for doing so. Although given that it was created by referendum for specific purposes I think raiding it would be legally difficult. Not that that hasn't stopped Republicans int he the current climate mind you.
posted by edgeways at 10:47 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm just wondering in what parallel universe Neil Gaiman is a science fiction writer.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 10:48 AM on May 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


From an article: "Facing a $6.2 billion budget gap, some state legislators are eyeing a tempting pot of money in the state's Legacy funding, the $548 million in sales tax money dedicated by a constitutional amendment to preserving Minnesota's natural resource and arts and cultural heritage."

And 19.75% of that goes to arts funding, $108.23 million.

This was money from a special sales tax passed by referendum, not paid for out of the state's general fund!
posted by delmoi at 10:50 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm sure the $2000 would be very nice for whoever you can get for that, I'm not sure you really would get the same audience experience from them from them.

Now wait just a minute. I've seen a great many amazing (and well known) readers and speakers who were given honoraria in the range of hundreds of dollars, not tens of thousands.

I think it's every bit as unfair for you to try to disparage those who charge modest amounts for speaking engagements or readings as it would be for others in this thread to misrepresent Gaiman and his situation in the way you've claimed.
posted by aught at 10:51 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


So Neil Gaiman seized an opportunity to funnel legacy funds to a couple of worthy charities that could otherwise have never received that money, meaning Neil effectively turned this paid appearance into a benefit, albeit using state funds (that would have disappeared into the ether somehow) rather than by charging those who attended. Yeah, what an asshole.

At least his (presumably corporate) agent did the right thing and merely pocketed just over 25% of the fee. That's how it's supposed to work; tax money is supposed to go to businesses, not fucking artsy-fartsy nerds with their stupid Star Trucks movies and Twinklelight vampire sexing.
posted by SpaceBass at 10:52 AM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm just wondering in what parallel universe Neil Gaiman is a science fiction writer.

The same parallel universe where Republicans are outraged about taking money from the poor via a regressive sales tax and giving it to the rich in great heaps, apparently.
posted by enn at 10:52 AM on May 6, 2011 [7 favorites]


I'm just wondering in what parallel universe Neil Gaiman is a science fiction writer.

Sci-fi, fantasy, fiction, mystery, horror... I'm pretty sure on the rare occasions that Dean wanders into a Borders, his perspective of the bookshelf arrangement is 'Books About Military Technology' and 'All the Rest of That Bullshit, And Maybe a Cookbook About Grilling Or Something'.
posted by FatherDagon at 10:53 AM on May 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


It's actually not just one, but several parallel universes in which he's a science fiction writer. About twice as many parallel universes that the ones in which he's a street busker for those keeping track at home.
posted by ODiV at 10:53 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


...and I bet if they hadn't used up that last $40K in the fund, next year the fund would have been $40K less.
posted by frecklefaerie at 10:54 AM on May 6, 2011


I'm not going to take a position on whether Gaiman should have taken $45,000 for this appearance. If I were in a position to charge $45,000 for an appearance of a few hours, I would have a hard time saying no, no matter the source of the money. I might not even have donated the money to charity.

The bigger concern is whether the state should have paid Gaiman $45,000 for a four-hour appearance. I think they should not have. Some argue this is OK because the money was earmarked for this purpose and would have been lost otherwise. To me, this means that perhaps earmarking the money this way in the first place maybe wasn't the best idea.

I do not know exactly what would have happened if the money hadn't been spent on Neil Gaiman, but it's not like the state would have just taken out the money in $20 bills and set them ablaze otherwise. I do know that the Minnesota Constitution mandates that the money "may be spent only for arts, arts education, and arts access and to preserve Minnesota’s history and cultural heritage." Giving unspent money to the general fund or back to taxpayers would appear to be unconstitutional. So I suspect the money would have been spent on other arts and cultural heritage programs the next year. And that would have been a better expenditure of the money, in my opinion.
posted by grouse at 10:56 AM on May 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


I think this thread might have gone a bit better if the FPP had included information about what the Legacy Fund is and how it works.
posted by nickmark at 10:56 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Kavasa, presuming a work week of eight hours/five days, $45,000 an hour has Gaiman making approximately ninety-four million dollars a year. I don't know anything about Neil Gaiman's finances, but common sense tells me this is not true."

Granted, I was overzealous with the initial statement.
However, there are a couple things to consider. First, again, he was there for closer to 4 hours and received 33.6k. So we're looking at 8.4k/hour. 52 weeks at 40 hours a week and 8.4k/hour is 17.4 million for the year, which seems much more within the realm of possibility. Gaiman is also a busy person that does a lot more than writing - I don't think he's spending 40 hours/week writing all year long. I think it's very very possible that that he's paid for a speaking engagement is not as much as he makes hourly writing things.
posted by kavasa at 10:58 AM on May 6, 2011


Money that is unspent does not go to waste. It goes back to the state, if the state was the source.
posted by zippy at 10:58 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yes, the money goes back to the state, but it likely wouldn't have been allocated for the next year. That's how these things work.
posted by frecklefaerie at 11:00 AM on May 6, 2011


Kids, my roller skating troupe and I are here to tell you ... Drugs aren't cool! Jesus is the answer!

($50k speaking fees, crickets from politicians)
posted by benzenedream at 11:01 AM on May 6, 2011 [7 favorites]


That seems like a reasonably easy fix, if people are interesting in making that fix

You might think that. You would be very, very wong, but I admire your optimism.

The long answer is that it's mostly caused by a tragedy of good intentions. Targeted funds are used so the bureaucrats won't steal it for something off-mission and non-necessary, like reduced core library funding. Use-it-or-lose-it rules are there because general accounting offices don't want midl-level bureaucrats squirrling away slush funds over many fiscal cycles, so any extra money gets taken away at year-end. Accountablility and approvals are onerous because taxpayers and their lawmakers are concerned that money be used with great care. Budgets for grants and programs are assessed on a year-to-year basis because demands are always higher than supply---if someone underperforms one year, it makes sense to pay them less the next.

Which is a long way of saying that we get negative outcomes like this---and make no mistake, paying 50k to even Mr. Gaiman was a bad use of money, just to soak a year-end surplus---because of the best intentions, because no one care how the whole system behaves, just how each little bit should work.
posted by bonehead at 11:01 AM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Money that is unspent does not go to waste. It goes back to the state, if the state was the source."

Irrelevant, from the perspective of the library system. If they didn't use that dough, it was gone for them.

Again, the real issue here is "is the legacy fund being managed well," and "would a 'competitive' system (how do arts compete?) be better"?
posted by kavasa at 11:03 AM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


it's not like the state would have just taken out the money in $20 bills and set them ablaze otherwise

This was for arts funding right? That's an easy one: hire a freshman videographer and call it performance art.
posted by bonehead at 11:05 AM on May 6, 2011


and make no mistake, paying 50k to even Mr. Gaiman was a bad use of money, just to soak a year-end surplus

How is paying market speaking rates to one of the most famous, most successful, well-read, and engaging local authors in order to inspire support for libraries, encouragement of reading and education, and to provide a positive role model, a bad use of money?
posted by jabberjaw at 11:06 AM on May 6, 2011 [7 favorites]


I'm beginning to think the real Meta-issue is "where the hell do you non-Minnesotans get off telling my state what to do with its arts legacy funding?". Let's not forget, the reason Dean made these comments is because he a) wants to strip public radio of local public funding, and is seizing on a supposedly outrageous speaking fee by a guy he "hates" in order to stoke public opinion against arts funding under the Legacy amendment; and b) he wants to steal constitutionally set-aside funding (3/8 of a cent worth, albeit in the most regressive tax style possible) to avoid a progressive tax increase on wealthy Minnesotans.

The armchair quarterbacks who would love to micromanage the administration of this funding are exactly buying into Dean's rhetoric.
posted by norm at 11:09 AM on May 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


Because the library was forced to use a lot of money in a short period of time to find the best benefit the could under the fund. Ten thousand dollar an hour is probably not the best use of money, even for someone like Mr. Gaiman (in fact, he thinks so to---those are his fuck-off rates). If, on the other hand, they had been able to either spend the money over the course of the year or save it for the next, I'm sure they could have found better value for money, more programs for less cost.
posted by bonehead at 11:10 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


"How is paying market speaking rates to one of the most famous, most successful, well-read, and engaging local authors in order to inspire support for libraries, encouragement of reading and education, and to provide a positive role model, a bad use of money?"

This is arguable and can be a part of the legit criticism of the amendment administration. If they'd been able to hold on to that money into next year, might they have done a better job? Maybe asked for and received a free engagement from Mr. Gaiman? Been able to fund some sort of weekend event where, in fact, they did get a bunch of local authors including him to talk about their books with people? We have no idea! Because the library administrators had to Use The Money, so... they did.

Dean is still a miserable shit who accuses non-thieves of thievery for the sake of political theater instead of grappling with the actually difficult issues.
posted by kavasa at 11:10 AM on May 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


The problem here is that it's not a question of "I could have spent $45k better!" but rather whether or not you could spend $45k better 2,400 times in one year. Keep in mind that a single person working full time works about 2080 hours per year. Do you really think you could effectively figure out how to spend $45k an hour for every working hour for a whole year without making any errors?

Probably not, you'd need to delegate. And keep in mind if you pay people too much money or hire too large of a staff people will criticize you for taking too much of the money in salary. Quibbling over 0.04167% of the money is ridiculous.

The second issue is whether or not Gaiman should have just turned the money down. Given that he was told the money would go away if he didn't take it, it makes more sense to take the money and donate it to charity then it does to turn the money down.
posted by delmoi at 11:11 AM on May 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Irrelevant, from the perspective of the library system. If they didn't use that dough, it was gone for them.

Relevant, from the point of view of a taxpayer. If the specific program that paid Gaiman did not spend the dough, it still would have been spent on arts and cultural heritage for the public good.
posted by grouse at 11:13 AM on May 6, 2011


Use it or lose it budgets lead to a lot of weirdness around this time of year and no small amount of stress on the part of the people to oversee them. On one hand, if you go over budget, your ass is in a sling. If you go under, you usually have to give back the money and then see your budget for the next year reduced by a similar amount.

So you end up saving over the course of the year Just In Case something crops up that needs that extra cash, then blowing anything remaining at the last minute. If nothing happens, then you were operating inefficiently all year long. If something does, yay, you have cash to deal with it!

But usually, nothing happens, so you end up with some money to spend. This is how the loaner laptop program that now accounts for 40% of all library circulation ACROSS THE UNIVERSITY started - we had some cash left over in the supplies budget and the Director said, "screw it, let's get some laptops."

It's almost like an award for being frugal.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:13 AM on May 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


What cracks me up here is how many people are complaining about Neil Gaiman collecting 45k for a speaking engagement also overlap the people who bitch that authors should not be offended by illegal downloads of their books, and maybe they should tour (IE, DO SPEAKING ENGAGEMENTS) to actually make their money.
posted by headspace at 11:14 AM on May 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


Been able to fund some sort of weekend event where, in fact, they did get a bunch of local authors including him to talk about their books with people? We have no idea! Because the library administrators had to Use The Money, so... they did.

And Simon & Schuster should consider getting a bunch of local authors together for a weekend in order to write a best-selling novel (with a movie-rights option).

What I mean is, there is a special, unique and awesome value in having Neil effing Gaiman come speak, especially to the local audience, which might actually transcend and be irrespective of the "Had To Use The Money" issue.
posted by jabberjaw at 11:15 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


What cracks me up here is how many people are complaining about Neil Gaiman collecting 45k for a speaking engagement also overlap the people who bitch that authors should not be offended by illegal downloads of their books, and maybe they should tour (IE, DO SPEAKING ENGAGEMENTS) to actually make their money.

How many people are those? Do you have a list?
posted by grouse at 11:16 AM on May 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


It's almost like an award for being frugal.

I've seen estimates that something like 1/3 to 1/2 of our spending now happens this way. The amounts have been going up steadily with greater numbers of accountability rules. Ours now have criminal penalties---you want to bet that slows down the signing pens.
posted by bonehead at 11:17 AM on May 6, 2011


SO let me see if I understand what happened here:

1. I don't understand what happened here

2. I post something anyway

3. 57 people correct me and say RTFA

4. Someone else comes in here and repeats my mistake

5. Some smartass makes a joke about it

And NONE of this actually makes the Republican leadership in my state stop trying to gut arts funding?

Is that about it?

The Repubs in MN can go choke on a dog turd as far as I am concerned. They want to cut arts funding. They want anti-gay hate written into our state Constitution. They are anti-culture, anti-gay, anti-education, anti-woman. Anti-American, if you ask me.
posted by caution live frogs at 11:17 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


The "had to use the money" is an assumption on our part. I'd rather believe they thought he was worth it. I do.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:17 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]



So if the Rolling Stones play for an hour to an audience of 40,000, they should make, what, a couple hundred?


I was clearly talking about a speaking engagement, but hey, don't let me get in the way of your sarcasm.
posted by madajb at 11:17 AM on May 6, 2011


Question:

Which option is more acceptable: A) Gaiman taking the $45k and donating it (less some % for his agents) to charity or B) Gaiman saying "Nah, don't pay me, you're special and good and I approve of what you're doing and I'm rich and famous" and the "on-paper-money" of the State goverment isn't spent.

I have no opinion but look forward tor yours.

Mefi analysis: Go.
posted by RolandOfEld at 11:17 AM on May 6, 2011


As many people have pointed out more or less without saying the words $45,000 is not that much money. Anyone who is obsessed with it doesn't have any idea how much money Neil Gaiman is making, or how much money a state government wastes on a regular basis.
posted by TypographicalError at 11:18 AM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Gaiman's blog says one hour speech, one hour questions and two hours hanging about.

Got it, thanks.
posted by madajb at 11:19 AM on May 6, 2011


FWIW, ortho, Gaiman's time is PROBABLY worth considerably more than $45k/hour. He writes very popular books and sells movie rights for them, and time spent speaking is time spent not-writing. His time spent writing probably earns him an hourly rate well in excess of $45k/hour.


Assuming a standard 2000 hour work-year, you think Neil Gaiman makes "considerably more than" 90 million dollars a year?

According to Forbes magazine, that means Gaiman makes more annually than all but the top four most highly paid CEOs in the world?

Only Larry Culp Jr, Larry Ellison, Aubrey McClendon, and Ray Irani makes more than Neil Gaiman? And even some of those make less if we look at a five year average?

Really?
posted by orthogonality at 11:20 AM on May 6, 2011


I was clearly talking about a speaking engagement, but hey, don't let me get in the way of your sarcasm.

Actually, you said nobody was worth that sort of money, so, no, you weren't clearly talking about a speaking engagement.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:20 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Really?

No, but I can see the point in the thread when you stopped reading.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:21 AM on May 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


Good for Neil Gaiman for making money. If someone offered me the chance, I'd take that as well.

And isn't this a case of "straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel"? People have no problem with spending trillions on killing dirty foreigners, but...
posted by blue_beetle at 11:21 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


$45,000 is not that much money.

That's pretty big dollars in arts grants. That would support a year's-worth of an artist in residence, for example, with enough left over for a few storytime hours.
posted by bonehead at 11:24 AM on May 6, 2011


"Relevant, from the point of view of a taxpayer. If the specific program that paid Gaiman did not spend the dough, it still would have been spent on arts and cultural heritage for the public good."

Sure, but that's not the argument the house majority is making and not the discussion they're looking for. They're just namecalling and screeding and using this example to claim we need "competition" for arts grants. Again, what does it mean for arts to compete? Would "competition" really result in better uses of this money?

Jabberjaw - I think that's a fine argument to make, but I don't think you can dismiss the other one out of hand.

Orthogonality, I already addressed that. The core point I was trying to get at remains.

Typo, I don't really think handwaving the amount is a good response. I think that the situation described, where the local library system was notifed at some point that they had a sum of money that had to spend or lose it forever, is a bad situation. As bonehead says, it's an artifact of a certain, very common method of departmental budgeting that gives "accountability" people hardons. Even in a situation like this, where there's often no clearly most efficient or best way to spend the money and reasonable people can disagree on whether a given work of art was worth what was paid, pressure for accountability means that if you don't spend everything right now, it goes away.

The MN Republican answer to this is the extra-asinine "competition!" and... no. Competition is not the answer, but just dismissing the whole thing as unimportant plays into their hands.
posted by kavasa at 11:27 AM on May 6, 2011


The jealousy of may respondents is shocking. That Mr. Gaiman sets his fee high is his right and more power to him when he gets it. After all this I suspect he'll need to raise it. He's a successful author and, apparently, a successful speaker. Good for him.

The alternative is for him to become a hermit and not speak at all, like Neil Stephenson. I've never had the opportunity to hear Mr. Gaiman in person, but his recordings show him to be interesting, charming, and enlightening. If people choose to pay what he demands, who are we to say, "it's too much"?
posted by cptnrandy at 11:28 AM on May 6, 2011


Gah! I somehow missed jscalzi's comment which sums up everything I've been trying to say in a concise and correct manner, instead of the occasionally hyperbolic dribs and drabs I've been using.

I encourage everyone to refer back to that comment.
posted by kavasa at 11:31 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


The alternative is for him to become a hermit and not speak at all, like Neil Stephenson.

I've seen Stephenson on book tours a couple of times. My impression was that he's not especially comfortable with public speaking, but he seemed committed to giving it his best shot.
posted by Zed at 11:33 AM on May 6, 2011


There's an awful lot of ill-purposed 'RTFA' in this thread. For what it's worth, I read the article top to bottom the day it came out, and my comment is no less accurate. Shame on those people who, in disagreeing with it, tried to bring out the RTFA hammer.
posted by felix at 11:33 AM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sure, but that's not the argument the house majority is making and not the discussion they're looking for.

I am not constrained by their arguments or desired discussion.

Again, what does it mean for arts to compete? Would "competition" really result in better uses of this money?

Many institutions issue competitive grants for arts funding. For example, the National Endowment for the Arts. Whether "competition" would result in better uses of this money than the current funding system is a whole other ball of wax, I agree, and that deserves an entirely separate discussion.

$45,000 is not that much money

It's enough for the salary and benefits for a state employee earning $32,000 annually*. So I'd disagree that it's not an amount that could have been spent on something else more worthwhile. Now if there is really only $45,000 wasted in the entire arts funding system, then that is a pretty good result, I agree.

* Benefits estimated using University of Minnesota fringe benefit rates for civil servants
posted by grouse at 11:34 AM on May 6, 2011


At least his (presumably corporate) agent did the right thing and merely pocketed just over 25% of the fee. That's how it's supposed to work; tax money is supposed to go to businesses, not fucking artsy-fartsy nerds with their stupid Star Trucks movies and Twinklelight vampire sexing.

Contact added.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 11:35 AM on May 6, 2011


Were any of those addressed, specifically, to you? I am not seeing that. They seem to be addressed to the people who actually didn't read the articles.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:35 AM on May 6, 2011


Anyone at the library fired yet? I bet these assholes are just itching to find someone to take the fall to prove they are decisive leaders who will take a stand.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:35 AM on May 6, 2011


>$45,000 is not that much money.

>>That's pretty big dollars in arts grants. That would support a year's-worth of an artist in residence, for example, with enough left over for a few storytime hours.


This is assuming they didn't spend that much, or more, in arts grants. Until we audit their entire 2010 budget, I'm not sure we can slather on such assumptions.

Viewing any individual large expenditure of money in a vacuum (or among erroneous or misinformed assumptions) is easy to criticize.

Jabberjaw - I think that's a fine argument to make, but I don't think you can dismiss the other one out of hand.

I can, because you are equating the value of a speaking presentation by Neil Gaiman with a hypothetical weekend of a bunch of supposed local authors to talk about their books with people. I understand the sentiment, but I think I stand on pretty firm ground here.
posted by jabberjaw at 11:37 AM on May 6, 2011


If your stupid comment is stupid for reasons other than forgetting to RTFA please disregard all RTFA notices. Thank you.
posted by Artw at 11:42 AM on May 6, 2011 [9 favorites]


What does "it had to be spent" even mean? If they had spent $10k on a speaker, were they going to light the other $35k on fire?
posted by smackfu at 11:45 AM on May 6, 2011


If they had spent $10k on a speaker, were they going to light the other $35k on fire?

I would definitely go to the library to see that.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:46 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


That would be a federal crime. Watching said crime could be classified as art not participation.
posted by clavdivs at 11:49 AM on May 6, 2011


For burning money you can't really top K Foundation Burn a Million Quid. It doesn't seem like there's any reason to do it anymore.
posted by grouse at 11:49 AM on May 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


I wish this had happened in Wisconsin. Because then the answer I was going to post here:

"It would have been spent on bounty hunters to persue AWOL state congresscritters."

would actually work.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:49 AM on May 6, 2011


"I can, because you are equating the value of a speaking presentation by Neil Gaiman with a hypothetical weekend of a bunch of supposed local authors to talk about their books with people. I understand the sentiment, but I think I stand on pretty firm ground here."

You misunderstand. I am talking about the constellation of infinite hypotheticals of what could have been done with that money if the library hadn't had to spend it Right Now. You are arguing in support of the model of accountability that allots $x dollars to an organization, and if they don't spend the entirety of that allotment, they lose whatever they didn't spend forever.

Does this seem like a good system for arts spending to you? Does the "if you didn't spend it all you clearly didn't need it?" method of accountability really make sense?

"What does "it had to be spent" even mean? If they had spent $10k on a speaker, were they going to light the other $35k on fire?"

The library system that was given the money that year would not have received it next year nor been able to hold on to the money given them that year and spend it later. So from their perspective, it would have gone away forever.
posted by kavasa at 11:50 AM on May 6, 2011


I think someone at the library really wanted Neil Gaiman, intentionally didn't plan on spending the whole amount they had allocated, and then used the use-it-or-lose-it argument to convince him that it was fine for him to take the money to speak. Otherwise that is some pretty shoddy planning on spending a hefty chunk of taxpayer money.
posted by smackfu at 11:53 AM on May 6, 2011



Assuming a standard 2000 hour work-year, you think Neil Gaiman makes "considerably more than" 90 million dollars a year?

According to Forbes magazine, that means Gaiman makes more annually than all but the top four most highly paid CEOs in the world?

Only Larry Culp Jr, Larry Ellison, Aubrey McClendon, and Ray Irani makes more than Neil Gaiman? And even some of those make less if we look at a five year average?
No one is saying that. It's not clear how you could think anyone was saying that. It would be impossible to do 8 $45k speeches in 8 locations each day five days a week 52 weeks a year. Doing a speaking engagement takes at least an entire day of actual time, it requires adjusting schedules and turning down other engagements, and so on.
What does "it had to be spent" even mean? If they had spent $10k on a speaker, were they going to light the other $35k on fire?
They wouldn't have been able to spend it on anything else. I'm not sure why this is so complicated for people.
Otherwise that is some pretty shoddy planning on spending a hefty chunk of taxpayer money.
Again they had $108 million dollars to spend. Is it realistic to expect people to spend that much money without spending any of it on stuff random people might declare 'frivolous' later on? What happens if they make plans and some of their stuff doesn't come through, or comes in under budget?

The Gaiman thing was 0.045% of the total. Beyond that, some money might have been allocated to libraries for that year to spend, and those libraries had to either use it or lose it in next years budget.
posted by delmoi at 11:58 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Guess what? I'm pretty ok as a Minnesotan with spending .85 of one cent for some library in MN to have Neil Gaiman come speak. hell, I tell you what.. I throw in a whole dime next time just to not hear the same complaints.


Does this seem like a good system for arts spending to you? Does the "if you didn't spend it all you clearly didn't need it?" method of accountability really make sense?


it is probably not good, but it is very SOP across the board for a hell of a lot of institutions. I have a budget of oh ~$15,000 a year, spread over 4 or 5 line items. If I don't use the money my next years budget is cut. Which leads to all manner of tap dancing where I try to run a general surplus for most of the year, then come close on most of the line items but intentionally go slightly over on the line items I feel I will need extra funds for next year (thereby showing need), hopefully producing a balanced budget overall. I doubt I am along in this slightly crazy method.
posted by edgeways at 11:58 AM on May 6, 2011


$90 per person in the audience to see him speak. They got their money out of their sales tax.

They wouldn't have been able to spend it on anything else. I'm not sure why this is so complicated for people.

Because it's not that simple? Money just doesn't disappear. It was collected from the sales tax, it will go somewhere. Maybe into the general fund, maybe to pay off the deficit. Just because the library doesn't end up spending it doesn't mean it isn't used for some good, and the library doesn't need to spend it just for the sake of spending it.
posted by smackfu at 12:01 PM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Again they had $108 million dollars to spend.

One library, or the whole state system?

No one is saying that.

kavasa did. He wrote: FWIW, ortho, Gaiman's time is PROBABLY worth considerably more than $45k/hour.... His time spent writing probably earns him an hourly rate well in excess of $45k/hour.
posted by orthogonality at 12:01 PM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Presume that the library hadn't spent the money, and it had indeed "gone away forever" (from the library's perspective). Why is that a bad thing? As others have joked, it isn't like the money would have been set on fire or magically disappeared. It would be reallocated elsewhere. The "use-it-or-lose-it" principle is well-known and pretty roundly despised, but that doesn't mean it's always bad per se. If this fund had $45,000 to pay Gaiman this year, then maybe this fund should have $45,000 less next year.

And the fact that Gaiman donated the money to charity doesn't really counter that point. Just because he didn't buy a yacht with it doesn't invalidate the argument of people who are saying it shouldn't have been paid to him in the first place. We all want money to be used for good, but process matters.
posted by cribcage at 12:04 PM on May 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Money just doesn't disappear. It was collected from the sales tax, it will go somewhere. Maybe into the general fund, maybe to pay off the deficit. Just because the library doesn't end up spending it doesn't mean it isn't used for some good, and the library doesn't need to spend it just for the sake of spending it.

The Catch-22 situation, though, is that if they library does not spend it, and they go back to the grants board saying "well, you gave us X, but we only spent X-$45k," then the grants board will say, "well, I guess you only need X-$45K this year, then," and the library gets less money next year.

think of it like you getting penalized by your boss for not using all of the money he pays you in your salary. If you don't spend all $45K a year, and end up with $1k unspent, you will get a $1k DECREASE in your salary this year. Wouldn't that motivate you to figure out "shit, I need to spend that last grand on something"?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:05 PM on May 6, 2011


One library, or the whole state system?

What "One library" are you talking about? There was never "One Library" who paid for this stuff and could have used the money for something else. The state has $108 million dollars to spend on arts stuff due to a constitutionally mandated 0.375% sales tax. That's where the money came from. Presumably the money is divided up among various sub-sections or whatever, presumably some sub-group would end up giving up on the money for next year if they didn't spend it.

Beyond that: what are you even trying to say here? Do you think that there is some library somewhere that had $45k to spend however they wanted and chose to have Gaiman give a talk? Because that's clearly not the case.
posted by delmoi at 12:06 PM on May 6, 2011


We all want money to be used for good, but process matters.
Well, some people are criticizing Gaiman for taking the money, saying he never should have taken it, or whatever.
posted by delmoi at 12:07 PM on May 6, 2011


If this fund had $45,000 to pay Gaiman this year, then maybe this fund should have $45,000 less next year.

To put it in the terms I usually see it: "Saved money this year? Great, your reward is you get to fire someone because your budget is cut for next."
posted by bonehead at 12:08 PM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI PAID NEIL ARMSTRONG $45 MILLION DOLLARS TO TALK TO HOWARD DEAN'S MOTHER ABOUT PENCIL-NECKED WEASELS?

I'M OUTRAGED.
posted by chasing at 12:08 PM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


To put it in the terms I usually see it: "Saved money this year? Great, your reward is you get to fire someone because your budget is cut for next."

The other way to look at is: maybe you should have done a better job of budgeting.
posted by smackfu at 12:10 PM on May 6, 2011


maybe you should have done a better job of budgeting.

They budgeted enough to be able to afford to bring Neil Gaiman out. It's like saving enough money to have a pizza party at the end of the school year!
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:11 PM on May 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


The other way to look at is: maybe you should have done a better job of budgeting.

Yeah, lets see your line item budget for $108 million dollars to spend on arts but nothing 'frivolous'. And remember, if any of them fall through you have to line up replacements.

Is it realistic to flip out over 0.0416% being spent on something people feel like complaining about?
posted by delmoi at 12:12 PM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


A little bit of poking around led me to this page for Club Book, which looks to be the program that brought Gaiman to Stillwater.

It looks to me like this is a much larger project that has brought a lot of authors to a lot of schools and libraries -- popular writers like Elizabeth Gilbert, award-winning novelists like Pulitzer Prize winner Paul Harding, and Peabody winner Mike Reiss, of ... The Simpsons. This is the run of folks they've had in just the past year. So while I wouldn't take a position about this particular booking -- I think there are about five different issues here that are all too easy to conflate into one, from legacy funding to use-it-or-lose-it to any ethical obligations on Gaiman's part to whatever. But it's not like somebody randomly got it into his or her head to bring Neil Gaiman to Stillwater. This is a fairly sizable initiative with a purpose that obviously goes beyond a personal attempt by Neil Gaiman to get paid a lot of money.

There's more on the series -- which sounds like it was funded a total of $100,000 -- here. If that article is accurate, it looks like the decision to spend $100,000 on this project was made by the library agency, not the state, meaning that had they not spent the entire $100,000, it's not clear whether it would have just gone back to the library agency, or back to the fund, or what. But it would not, I don't think, have gone to the general fund or to reduce the deficit or to pay teachers or even to buy books for the library, based on this information. And honestly, Gaiman is certainly one of the most well-known authors on that list, so if they spent a big chunk of the money they allocated just to get him, at the beginning of the series, to get attention for something they hoped to make a permanent program, I can imagine arguments in favor of that.

As I said, it doesn't resolve all the issues by any means, but I think it's worth looking at this one booking in the context of the larger project. If they received a grant to do this, then this is what the grant was for, and they're doing it. The wisdom of that grant is a separate issue, but to me, it's helpful perspective.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 12:12 PM on May 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


Yeah, lets see your line item budget for $108 million dollars to spend on arts but nothing 'frivolous'.

I do think it makes people go... wait, $108 million in a year is a lot of fucking money, and maybe I should pay a bit more attention to that.
posted by smackfu at 12:14 PM on May 6, 2011


That? That's just walking around money!
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:17 PM on May 6, 2011


I do think it makes people go... wait, $108 million in a year is a lot of fucking money, and maybe I should pay a bit more attention to that.

In what sense? I'm not sure what you mean by "budgeted it 'better'". Can you clarify?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:17 PM on May 6, 2011


I do think it makes people go... wait, $108 million in a year is a lot of fucking money, and maybe I should pay a bit more attention to that.

You can pay all the attention you want, but realistically the work of allocating the money has to be delegated, and the people you delegate the work to have to be paid, and they only have a certain amount of discretion. If you can only complain about 0.0416% then you can't really call it poorly budgeted.
posted by delmoi at 12:18 PM on May 6, 2011


The Catch-22 situation, though, is that if they library does not spend it, and they go back to the grants board saying "well, you gave us X, but we only spent X-$45k," then the grants board will say, "well, I guess you only need X-$45K this year, then," and the library gets less money next year.

And the money would have been spent on some other worthy arts project instead, one that is unable to achieve its aims due to the limited funds they got this year. I'm OK with that.
posted by grouse at 12:19 PM on May 6, 2011


Whoa Whoa,Garrison Keillor? How much did that pay that guy. Maybe we should dig a little deeper.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:20 PM on May 6, 2011


And the money would have been spent on some other worthy arts project instead,

Maybe last year some other recipient of legacy funds underspent their budget and this is the result.
posted by rtha at 12:21 PM on May 6, 2011


In what sense? I'm not sure what you mean by "budgeted it 'better'". Can you clarify?

Planned it better so they didn't have a $45k gap at the end of the year. Or if they really couldn't find a way to spend that $45k, then maybe it should be cut next year and given to people who could spend it on worthwhile things.
posted by smackfu at 12:22 PM on May 6, 2011


And the money would have been spent on some other worthy arts project instead, one that is unable to achieve its aims due to the limited funds they got this year. I'm OK with that.

grouse -- let me make sure I understand you.

You think that the library should have just thrown up its hands and said "oh, well, I guess we lose out on the money next year, but it's okay in the grand scheme of things since I hear 'Little Village Theater' could lose the money, so even though we have to fire Gladys because we dont' have her department in the budget next year, it'll be okay in the grand scheme of things"?

That's...well, I admire your perception of how noble people can be, but I'm not quite sure things work that way.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:23 PM on May 6, 2011


Planned it better so they didn't have a $45k gap at the end of the year.

Do we know for a fact that they had a gap at the end of the year?
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:24 PM on May 6, 2011


It's fine if people act human and aren't noble ideals, but they shouldn't be lauded for it.
posted by smackfu at 12:24 PM on May 6, 2011


Planned it better so they didn't have a $45k gap at the end of the year. Or if they really couldn't find a way to spend that $45k, then maybe it should be cut next year and given to people who could spend it on worthwhile things.

Except that this particular $45K had to be spent specifically on hiring speakers, and nothing else. They did not write that particular part of the budget. That budget line item was written for them. Now what?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:24 PM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Does anyone else find it amusing when Republicans tell private businesspeople that they shouldn't be able to charge what the market will bear for their services? I'm pleased to learn that Rep. Dean has suddenly discovered the virtues of a regulated market.

Or if they really couldn't find a way to spend that $45k


They did find a way to spend that $45k. You know that's what this is about, right?

then maybe it should be cut next year and given to people who could spend it on worthwhile things.

Oh, a lecture by Neil Gaiman is not "worthwhile". I see.
posted by Errant at 12:25 PM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


It might be that $45k seems high to anyone not in such a position, but understand that Neil is unambiguously an A-list author

An autuer! Not at your level! In a much higher position than you! He's A-list, you plebs don't understand how it is in the stratosphere!

Yeah, how's that play to the guy who makes minimum wage and pays for this Legacy Fund through a regressive sales tax?

It plays to him like out of touch liberals in their ivory towers playing Marie Antoinette with money he would have spent on diapers for his kid. And then he votes Repoublican and against the arts.
posted by orthogonality at 12:27 PM on May 6, 2011


Actually, you said nobody was worth that sort of money, so, no, you weren't clearly talking about a speaking engagement.

My apologies, next time I'll be sure to say "In the context of the linked article and subsequent discussion".
posted by madajb at 12:27 PM on May 6, 2011


My complaint is that the library seems to have not really cared if this was way too much to spend on one speaker, because they had to spend the money anyways and they had a deadline.
posted by smackfu at 12:27 PM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


My apologies, next time I'll be sure to say "In the context of the linked article and subsequent discussion".

For whatever reason you want to keep this discussion going, then, yes, if you mean something specific, it helps to be specific, and not generalize.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:29 PM on May 6, 2011


How do we get from, (1) "The library had access to $45,000 that could only be used to hire speakers," to, (2) "and if the library doesn't get that $45,000 again next year, then Gladys will be fired"?
posted by cribcage at 12:29 PM on May 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


My complaint is that the library seems to have not really cared if this was way too much to spend on one speaker, because they had to spend the money anyways and they had a deadline.

Actually, it seems more like the library didn't really know that this was "way too much" to spend. I'm not sure it is, but anyway, they've apologized for it:

Urdahl also released a letter from the executive director of the Metropolitan Library Service Agency, who apologized for using "poor judgment" in paying Gaiman's fee. "In our naivete, we simply thought there was no room for negotiation," said Chris Olson, the group's executive director. "I am very sorry."
posted by Errant at 12:30 PM on May 6, 2011


My complaint is that the library seems to have not really cared if this was way too much to spend on one speaker, because they had to spend the money anyways and they had a deadline.

Again, I think this all comes out of speculation from this thread. I'm not seeing any evidence in the links that they had extra money, panicked, and hired the most expensive person they could. Without evidence to the contrary, I am going to assume they wanted Neil Gaiman, had money budgeted to pay him at market rate, and that's precisely what they did.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:31 PM on May 6, 2011


I think whether this was "way too much to spend on one speaker" is an open question, smackfu. Celebrity speakers have charged between $15K to $100K, after all; so whether or not $45K is "way too much" is a matter of some debate.

And that's one reason why Neil Gaiman tried to ameliorate the situation by donating it to a charity. People often charge elevated rates for things if the proceeds are being donated entirely to a charity.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:32 PM on May 6, 2011


I don't think Gladys was going to get fired. I don't think it means the library was trying to burn the money. I think it's quite possible that the library system had $100,000 that was set aside for speakers, and they wanted to use it as well as they could to get the best folks they could -- for a new program they were trying to launch -- and they thought that splurging on a multi-award-winning writer with a really diverse audience and a couple million Twitter followers might be worth it. You can argue it wasn't worth it, but I don't think it's fair to assume that they were just throwing the money out the window willy-nilly. I think they wanted this guy, and this was what this guy told them it would cost, and they felt that they could pay it, so they did.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 12:34 PM on May 6, 2011


And upon post preview, on AZ's comment:

I am going to assume they wanted Neil Gaiman, had money budgeted to pay him at market rate, and that's precisely what they did.

Neil has said that he will reduce his speaking rate for special library benefits, if asked. The blog post that Mephron quoted above clarifies Neil Gaiman's perspective on how this particular transaction was handled.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:35 PM on May 6, 2011


I'm not seeing any evidence in the links that they had extra money, panicked, and hired the most expensive person they could.

Maybe I'm reading too much into this line from Neil's response:
They have to use the money now as it won’t roll over to next year and expires next month.
posted by smackfu at 12:35 PM on May 6, 2011


so whether or not $45K is "way too much" is a matter of some debate.

It was $90 per person, based on the audience of 500. That's a bit dear, in my opinion.
posted by smackfu at 12:36 PM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Reading through Neil Gaiman's blog, I got the impression that his speaking fees can slide upward, depending on ability to pay and whatnot.
posted by ZeusHumms at 12:36 PM on May 6, 2011


It was $90 per person, based on the audience of 500. That's a bit dear, in my opinion.

Where are you reading that they charged the audience that much?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:37 PM on May 6, 2011


Yeah, I read them as saying to him, "We have the money already budgeted, and it won't matter if we pay you less." Not, oh my god, what are we going to do with all this money?
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:37 PM on May 6, 2011


Actually, where are you reading that they charged the audience period? They didn't need to charge the audience to reclaim that money, because -- as we have been arguing at length -- they already had the money and had to spend it on the speaker.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:37 PM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


When you are using public tax funds to pay someone 10,000 dollars an hour for half a day's work, I think it is more than proper to be slightly outraged.

Astro Zombie, re your ridiculous Rolling Stones analogy upthread, do you get that those are private dollars, generated by ticket sales, and that they actually generate taxe revenue.
posted by puny human at 12:37 PM on May 6, 2011


The link Linda_Holmes posted gives useful context.
This does not read like a case of "oh no, we have leftover money, must spend now."

The metropolitan library agency (which covers the larger Twin Cities metro area, not just Stillwater) had a grant to fund speaking engagements in the suburbs. The list they developed is a who's who of authors with locally high profiles. When they called Mr. Gaiman's agent and found out how much he wanted, they apparently thought it was worth it, and were able to fit it into their budget.

On preview, I see that the library agency did apologize for their naivete in not further negotiating Mr. Gaiman's rate. This is very stereotypical Minnesotan - haggling would just be rude, dontcha know?
posted by superna at 12:38 PM on May 6, 2011


When you are using public tax funds to pay someone 10,000 dollars an hour for half a day's work, I think it is more than proper to be slightly outraged.

I'm going to assume from this comment that you also feel defense budgets are outrageously high, because this happens all the time.
posted by Errant at 12:40 PM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Astro Zombie, re your ridiculous Rolling Stones analogy upthread, do you get that those are private dollars, generated by ticket sales, and that they actually generate taxe revenue.

Well, it;s only ridiculous if you neglect to consider that it was a response to the question of whether or not anybody ever deserves to make that kind of money. Which has since been clarified to mean only during a speaking engagement, so your question has become a bit academic. But I suppose when a thread is this long, you toss around charges of ridiculousness when you can.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:40 PM on May 6, 2011


This is a non story.
- Big name author gets lots of money for public speaking
- Right wing asshat makes regrettable comments.

Really, that's all that happened.
posted by doctor_negative at 12:40 PM on May 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


Where are you reading that they charged the audience that much?

I'm talking about the cost-per-audience-member. That seems like a fairly reasonable metric for measuring the worth of an activity, because it's easy to see what other things that $90 per person could have been spent on.
posted by smackfu at 12:41 PM on May 6, 2011


@smackfu: In addition to those people, though, the speech has been made publicly available through MPR the entire time, and it still is. So presumably, it's worth something to anyone else who has listened to it. My guess is that making these talks available online was part of the concept for the series and therefore the justification for the grant.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 12:43 PM on May 6, 2011


Keep in mind, that $90 per audience member metric does not consider that the presentation was also recorded and made freely available for download on the internet.
posted by superna at 12:43 PM on May 6, 2011


I'm talking about the cost-per-audience-member. That seems like a fairly reasonable metric for measuring the worth of an activity, because it's easy to see what other things that $90 per person could have been spent on.


Hmm. I disagree, as money isn't always necessarily a good yardstick for measuring something's "worth". Some people would happily spend $90 for a ticket to a major league ball game; others would not. Which one of those to people is right about whether attending a ball game is 'worthwhile" as an activity?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:44 PM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


It was $90 per person, based on the audience of 500. That's a bit dear, in my opinion.

Yes, and that's your opinion. There isn't really an established index of fees for speakers, so really this is hard to quantify a proper value. There are probably some people in the audience on that day that would pay much more to meet Mr. Gaiman and some would pay much less.

Also, you're only considering the direct value to the 500 people. This talk was broadcasted on the radio, is available for streaming, so the potential audience for this talk is definitely more than just those 500 people in the room.

Another thought is, Neil Gaiman did say he does speak for much, much lower (maybe free?) rates for stuff like library benefits. Maybe this will smooth things over for the next time he's invited?
posted by FJT at 12:45 PM on May 6, 2011


$45,000 for unlimited distribution and download rights? The library actually got quite a bargain.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:45 PM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


"I'm going to assume from this comment that you also feel defense budgets are outrageously high, because this happens all the time."

That would be a correct assumption. Why be outraged at one and not the other.


"it;s only ridiculous if you neglect to consider that it was a response to the question of whether or not anybody ever deserves to make that kind of money"

If Gaiman had made this amount of money giving a concert and charging 90 dollars a ticket would anyone bat an eyelash? Would it even have been a story.
posted by puny human at 12:45 PM on May 6, 2011


I don't think that you can call Gaimen a science-fiction author. He's pretty well exclusively fantasy (awesome contemporary fantasy).
posted by jb at 12:46 PM on May 6, 2011


Well, whatever, they won't have that money anymore anyway:

Urdahl, himself an author, said, "I simply subtracted out $45,000 -- just making a point," in explaining why he cut the library system's proposed Legacy budget to $3.45 million. The Legacy funding proposal, including the reduced budget for the regional library system, is being reviewed by legislators.
posted by Errant at 12:46 PM on May 6, 2011


This is a non story

Yeah pretty much. But they could have gotten Chuck D four times or for another 5k they could have gotten Cal Ripken Junior. And who the hell is this guy who wrote "The Search" that he pulls in 50k.

I am looking at Keppler Speakers to see if maybe I can get some quotes on a celeb outgoing voicemail message.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:49 PM on May 6, 2011


Wow. Rather than getting a writer to speak for a bit for $45K, the school should have just bought 10,000 books or something.

Its ok when writers rip off colleges (private especially)...but what the fuck? $45K for talking at a high school? I want to know the name of the former goth administrator that proposed this plan and let it go through.

Neil, you're a dick.
posted by hal_c_on at 12:51 PM on May 6, 2011


If Gaiman had made this amount of money giving a concert and charging 90 dollars a ticket would anyone bat an eyelash? Would it even have been a story.

The difference between spending money from sales taxes and people spending their own money. Which is a meaningful thing.
posted by smackfu at 12:51 PM on May 6, 2011


I don't think it's a done deal yet, as far as whether they'll have the money. For one thing, it appears that this is all still under review.

For another, there's absolutely no reason to think that cutting the entire library system's $1.2 million allotment by $45,000 will be administered by the library system in the form of taking that money out of Club Book. How much the library system gives to Club Book will be up to the library system, and my guess is that it will be based on how valuable they think various things they've been spending their grant money on actually are.

But reducing a larger grant by the amount the grantee spent on one thing is potentially a little bit counterproductive. It's like your boss finding out that you spent $100 on dirty magazines, cutting your salary by $100, and saying you won't have money for dirty magazines anymore.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 12:51 PM on May 6, 2011


Wow. Rather than getting a writer to speak for a bit for $45K, the school should have just bought 10,000 books or something.

I don't ... what ... did you read any of this thread, or any of the links?
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:52 PM on May 6, 2011 [9 favorites]


Forget about it, AZ, it's RTFA day.
posted by mephron at 12:54 PM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Except that this particular $45K had to be spent specifically on hiring speakers, and nothing else. They did not write that particular part of the budget. That budget line item was written for them.

Actually, has anyone other than Neil Gaiman claimed this? I believe it was MELSA's idea to set up the budget that way. The state appropriation is simply "to provide educational opportunities in the arts, history, literary arts, and cultural heritage of Minnesota." The only further specific restriction is that "No more than 2.5 percent of funds may be used for administration by regional library systems." So actually, unless there is other evidence I won't believe this claim that they had to spend the money on a speaker. They could have, and perhaps should have budgeted it elsewhere.

You think that the library should have just thrown up its hands and said "oh, well, I guess we lose out on the money next year, but it's okay in the grand scheme of things since I hear 'Little Village Theater' could lose the money, so even though we have to fire Gladys because we dont' have her department in the budget next year, it'll be okay in the grand scheme of things"?

As cribcage points out, this argument makes zero sense—if they had to spend $45,000 on Gaiman because they can't spend it on something else, then they can't spend it on Gladys's salary next year regardless.

I admire your perception of how noble people can be, but I'm not quite sure things work that way.

Let's presume that a government employee was allocated funds specifically to spend on speakers. I don't think that gives them carte blanche to spend it as they see fit. If they are not "noble" enough to recognize that the public would benefit more from a more efficient expenditure of the money, then they can be motivated by the fact that people will see the inefficient expenditure later, and their budget will be cut just as much or more. Which is exactly what happened here.

But really, I am less concerned with the person who spent the budget allocated for speakers, than with whoever made the decision to allocate that much money for speakers, with little control on how it was spent.

For another, there's absolutely no reason to think that cutting the entire library system's $1.2 million allotment by $45,000 will be administered by the library system in the form of taking that money out of Club Book.

There is a reason to think that anyone in Minnesota libraries will think twice about spending $45,000 on a single speaker again.
posted by grouse at 12:55 PM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Wow. Rather than getting a writer to speak for a bit for $45K, the school should have just bought 10,000 books or something. Neil, you're a dick.


Hal_c_on:

1. It wasn't a "school". It was a library, using a school's auditorium.

2. The library was part of a network of libraries all using a state grant for "hey let's get big-name authors to speak at little local libraries because the suburbs need love too".

3. The way this fund was set up, they were not ALLOWED to use the money to "buy 10,000 books". They had to use it on a speaker, or not use it at all.

4. People who do not RTFA are dicks.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:55 PM on May 6, 2011 [10 favorites]


In the long run I think it will turn out ok, the point was to drum up interest in the local libraries, I think they will do better than 45k in donations.

How much would it cost to get Neil to comment in this thread?
posted by Ad hominem at 12:57 PM on May 6, 2011


$5, same as in town.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:58 PM on May 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


There is a reason to think that anyone in Minnesota libraries will think twice about spending $45,000 on a single speaker again.

Of course. But that's not because of the change in the grant, which is for show and largely meaningless, particularly since it hasn't happened yet. That's because of feedback from the public that it's excessive, which is perfectly fine, provided people don't misunderstand what money was being spent (that is, they don't share the sentiment that's been repeatedly expressed here that it could have been spent by the school on books, or on a teacher, or gone to the general fund or deficit reduction). I'm certainly not opposed to changing how you spend public money based on public feedback, provided it's informed.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 12:58 PM on May 6, 2011


Quit with the RTFA shit already. We read it, we just think paying an already mega rich dude the equivalent of most peoples annual salary for 4 hours work was a wrong decision and not a prudent or wise way to spend public funds.
posted by puny human at 12:59 PM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


The difference between spending money from sales taxes and people spending their own money. Which is a meaningful thing.

How would it be possible to decide what is a "proper amount" then?

I mean the only way is for Minnesota to hold a large referendum on deciding how much they should pay Neil Gaiman to appear at Stillwater.
posted by FJT at 1:00 PM on May 6, 2011


I wrote a letter to the Club Book program administrators and explained that if they want to avoid a kerfuffle next year, all they have to do is spend $5.00 of their budget to join Metafilter and post a question to Ask Metafilter about how they should spend their money and what authors they should invite to be a part of their program.

I'm now researching all state programs that use public money to pay for arts programming. Once finished, I will post the list of programs and the artists they have paid (including amounts) so that you can find the artist(s) you dislike and throw a fit.
posted by perhapses at 1:00 PM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


This thread needs pics.
posted by ryoshu at 1:01 PM on May 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


We read it, we just think paying an already mega rich dude the equivalent of most peoples annual salary for 4 hours work was a wrong decision and not a prudent or wise way to spend public funds.

And yet you repeated a fallacy that's been repeatedly debunked in this thread -- that the money could have been spent on books instead of a speaker.

Perhaps you will forgive me for suggesting this this leads people to think that you don't know what you're talking about? And that it may cause your opinion, no matter how dramatically voiced, to not be taken seriously?
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:01 PM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


With all due respect, puny human, I would wager that someone who is saying "they could have spent the money on books instead" may not have read the article.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:02 PM on May 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Nice that he donated to charity, but what would have been a really cool move was if Gaiman had turned right around and donated that money directly to the library.
posted by de void at 1:03 PM on May 6, 2011


And yet you repeated a fallacy that's been repeatedly debunked in this thread -- that the money could have been spent on books instead of a speaker.

That wasn't puny human, that was hal_c_on.
posted by Errant at 1:03 PM on May 6, 2011


How would it be possible to decide what is a "proper amount" then?

Well, in Minnesota, I would have thought there would be someone involved who would say "golly gee that sure is a lot of money for one person to give a talk, isn't it?"
posted by smackfu at 1:04 PM on May 6, 2011


"And yet you repeated a fallacy that's been repeatedly debunked in this thread -- that the money could have been spent on books instead of a speaker."

Really. Please to direct me to which of my comments said that.


so ftfo and "forgive me for suggesting this this leads people to think that you don't know what you're talking about?"
posted by puny human at 1:04 PM on May 6, 2011


My apologies. I got confused, perhaps because it sounds as though puny human is defending hal_c_on. But it explains why puny human used the royal we.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:05 PM on May 6, 2011


Well, in Minnesota, I would have thought there would be someone involved who would say "golly gee that sure is a lot of money for one person to give a talk, isn't it?"

Empirically, it is. But when it comes to "how much do speakers charge in general", it's about average.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:07 PM on May 6, 2011


But when it comes to "how much do speakers charge in general", it's about average.

Agreed, and I've seen it getting quite a bit of bad press in other contexts, like when mandatory university student fees going to fund "free" lectures by reality TV stars.
posted by smackfu at 1:11 PM on May 6, 2011


The way this fund was set up, they were not ALLOWED to use the money to "buy 10,000 books". They had to use it on a speaker, or not use it at all.

That is what Neil Gaiman claims that his agent told him. I do not believe that this is true, and that MELSA could have spent it on other programs.
posted by grouse at 1:12 PM on May 6, 2011


I do not believe that this is true

Without evidence to the contrary, what you personally believe doesn't matter. Do you have any evidence of untruth here?
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:14 PM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


There isn't really an established index of fees for speakers, so really this is hard to quantify a proper value.

Well, there's this list. That's alot of people charging $40k or more to speak. You could get Lou Dobbs! Or Scott Adams!

Aren't we supposed to reserve our criticism of arts funding for poo-sculptures or scandalous pictures of naked dudes?
posted by cabingirl at 1:15 PM on May 6, 2011


That is what Neil Gaiman claims that his agent told him. I do not believe that this is true, and that MELSA could have spent it on other programs.

Well, here are two articles about the program itself. It sounds like MELSA earmarked a certain amount of money for the "club Book" program, and "Club Book" turned around and gave the money to Neil's agent. While MELSA could have indeed allocated its funding differently, it chose to start the "Club Book" program instead, and "club Book" was not created to purchase books, but to garner authors for speaking engagements.

The fact that MELSA did not allocate its funding to your wishes does not appear to be either the fault of Club Book, the Stillwater Library, or Neil Gaiman.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:17 PM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, in Minnesota, I would have thought there would be someone involved who would say "golly gee that sure is a lot of money for one person to give a talk, isn't it?"

Yes, and the person involved thought this amount was fair. And you disagree. and I'm sure sometimes I'm going to disagree with this person. So unless we put it to vote every time a decision is made, this is going to happen.
posted by FJT at 1:19 PM on May 6, 2011


I am Neil Gaiman*. They're real, and they're magnificent.



*not intended to be a factual statement
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:19 PM on May 6, 2011


This accountablility requirement:

smackfu: [they could have p]lanned it better so they didn't have a $45k gap at the end of the year. Or if they really couldn't find a way to spend that $45k, then maybe it should be cut next year and given to people who could spend it on worthwhile things.

is the primary and direct cause of this behaviour:

smackfu: My complaint is that the library seems to have not really cared if this was way too much to spend on one speaker, because they had to spend the money anyways and they had a deadline.

Demanding an exact and full accounting in advance---usualy a full year in advance---then punishing a failure to spend as much as allocated, is the cause of your problem. It is not the solution. If you institutionalize punishment for underspending, don't be suprised if wild overspending happens. Budget cutting is widely regarded as punitive.
posted by bonehead at 1:21 PM on May 6, 2011


That's alot of people charging $40k or more to speak. You could get Lou Dobbs! Or Scott Adams!


But how much does Scott Adams charge to pee in your cesspool?
posted by never used baby shoes at 1:22 PM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


$5 dollars. Same as in MetaFilter.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:23 PM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


You mean MetaFilter's Own Scott Adams?
posted by Mister_A at 1:25 PM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Spend trillions on trying to get one 80 year old on dialysis who's been sitting in a suburb for years, untold innocents killed and tortured, no one bats an eye. Pay a good writer a fraction (and he donates it to charity) to speak on writing and reading, trying to educate people, and it's OUTRAGE!!
posted by usagizero at 1:26 PM on May 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


An autuer! Not at your level! In a much higher position than you! He's A-list, you plebs don't understand how it is in the stratosphere!

Yeah, how's that play to the guy who makes minimum wage and pays for this Legacy Fund through a regressive sales tax?

It plays to him like out of touch liberals in their ivory towers playing Marie Antoinette with money he would have spent on diapers for his kid. And then he votes Repoublican and against the arts.
Apparently government arts money should be spent on shitty art. For someone living paycheck to paycheck and making $20k per year the tax would amount to $75 a year. Oh boo hoo. Also the money was allocated by a constitutional referendum, not by "the democrats" or whatever.
Quit with the RTFA shit already. We read it, we just think paying an already mega rich dude the equivalent of most peoples annual salary for 4 hours work was a wrong decision and not a prudent or wise way to spend public funds.
If hal_on_c had read the article, he wouldn't have made that moronic comment about spending the money on books or whatever.
Really. Please to direct me to which of my comments said that.
Who said you, in particular didn't read the article? No one as far as I can tell. So you must have been talking about someone else, and clearly there were people in this thread who hadn't read the article or else they wouldn't be making claims that were clearly incorrect.
posted by delmoi at 1:27 PM on May 6, 2011


"Aren't we supposed to reserve our criticism of arts funding for poo-sculptures or scandalous pictures of naked dudes?"

This is confusing the issue. No one is arguing the content of Gaiman's speech, just the unjustifiably steep fee paid from a public fund.

And if your local library paid Lou Dobbs 40,000 dollars to come and speak about his latest book for 4 hours, would that be an intelligent use of taxpayer money?
posted by puny human at 1:29 PM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


The fact that MELSA did not allocate its funding to your wishes does not appear to be either the fault of Club Book, the Stillwater Library, or Neil Gaiman.

Exactly right: Most of all I blame MELSA. And their executive director seems to have taken some of that blame by apologizing for the expenditure. And it's not a matter of allocating funding to my wishes, it's a matter of efficiently spending arts money for the public good. It appears to me that they would have been able to get even Neil Gaiman for much less money, so I regard this as a waste.
posted by grouse at 1:30 PM on May 6, 2011


At the end of the day, it's not my sales tax money that was paying for it.
posted by smackfu at 1:31 PM on May 6, 2011


Or would it be ok because they had to spend it or lose it?
posted by puny human at 1:33 PM on May 6, 2011


I too think this was bad planning - not out of any dislike of Neil Gaiman, but because I'd rather have seen 10 authors attracted at $4.5k or 4 at $10,250 or something. It's good that he gave it to charity, but when you're budgeting limited public funds then you can't assume that every person who is paid a large speaking fee is going to do that, or that they will spend it within the same economy where they earned it. And although I do think it's worth having a budget to attract Famous Writers who would not normally drop by small suburban libraries, it seems to me like there are much better ways to use it.

For example, Famous Writers are famous because they have sold a lot of books. Generally selling a lot of books involves publishers organizing speaking tours. It would be good for administrators (of programs such as this one) to coordinate with publishers so as to reach authors that are going to be on tour anyway, and for whom an additional, paid, appearance at a library will only draw them slightly out of their way; one extra day with 2 library visits on a 3-week-or-longer book tour is only a slight imposition and thus likely to cost less. And libraries being what they are, the writer and publisher do well out of the arrangement because the speaking appearance will generate increased revenue from book sales. Of course, it's possible that administrators do make such plans, but some of them fall through, and so they would up with a surplus in their year-end budget...but that's why you have things called 'contingency plans,' in which you have some efficient alternatives lined up, rather than looking for ways to spend the money in a rush.

Another alternative that would have been much better value would be to ask Neil Gaiman for something special under the unusual circumstances; to visit ten or twenty libraries rather than just one, for example. Obviously, that would have been 1-2 weeks of work, like a mini-tour in itself. Being a solitary and creative type myself, I can appreciate the sinking feeling that such a proposal might engender, since the Famous Writer who receives it knows that while libraries and fan meetings are awesome, on a practical level it's going to mean giving the same speech 10-20 times and answering questions 10-20 times, 75% of which will be exactly the same (and 50% of which will consist of 'where do you get your ideas' and 'how can I get published'). Of course, for $45,000-less-publicist's-fees, that's still earning several thousand dollars a day just to talk about yourself and have people tell you how interesting you are, so if you don't like it you can wipe away the tears with $100 bills until you feel better. But money isn't everything, and time is a far more precious commodity for many people, especially artists. So yet another alternative (my favorite, this one), would have been to ask Neil Gaiman to do a talk for say $7500, but also to work his super fame powers to round up 5-10 slightly less famous writers who would be thrilled and excited to do Neil Gaiman a favor by taking an all-expenses paid trip to visit a few libraries in Minnesota. Or in the worst case, just ask Neil Gaiman for some suggestions about up-and-coming authors that he'd recommend, or thinks might be willing to do such things at short notice (almost all of them).

Or why stop at short speaking engagements? How about a weekend writing workshop, hosted by...Neil Gaiman!!! You could have a writing competition for high school kids, or anyone, and 10 winners get to spend two entire days with a literary master. Or with several of them, if you rope in a couple of lesser writers. Or a 3 month creative writing course involving one afternoon a week. Or...

My problem is not with the arts or with Neil Gaiman, it's with lazy planners that essentially had $45,000 burning a hole in their pocket and wanted to get rid of it in one quick transaction. In 15 minutes of solo brainstorming I've come up with several different possibilities that would have been feasible, delivered more value to MN library patrons who might not have been able to see Neil Gaiman at that particular library on that particular day, and which would have attracted little in the way of political controversy. Now if I can come up with multiple alternatives off the top of my head, surely a few experienced arts administrators could do even better with an hour of brainstorming and a day or two of organizational work. This kind of thing is not that hard to do; usually the obstacle is a lack of money in the budget. If you're an arts administrator and this is the best way you can think of to spend a $45,000 windfall in a hurry, then you are no good at your job.

Let's be frank with ourselves here. Metafilter likes Neil Gaiman, Neil Gaiman is a talented and charitable fellow, and calling him a pencil-necked weasel is pathetic and mean-spirited. But $45,000 is a lot of money, public budgets are under strain, and this is not an effective way to spend it. If the administrator had happened to select a conservative-leaning writer, people here would be furious about it.
posted by anigbrowl at 1:33 PM on May 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


We read it, we just think paying an already mega rich dude the equivalent of most peoples annual salary for 4 hours work was a wrong decision and not a prudent or wise way to spend public funds.

Yeah, well get in line. I'm absolutely certain there are people who think their representatives, governors, and mayors are overpaid. Some think college coaches, athletes, researchers, and professors at public universites are overpaid.

In fact, I didn't know that Anaheim had a lack of males, but apparently Anaheim was going to spend $75 million to relocate about two dozen men to their city.

I mean, that money could have paid for a lot of basketballs...
posted by FJT at 1:34 PM on May 6, 2011


Who brings sports to a library fight?
posted by smackfu at 1:36 PM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


And if your local library paid Lou Dobbs 40,000 dollars to come and speak about his latest book for 4 hours, would that be an intelligent use of taxpayer money?

What if spending 40k on Lou Dobbs brought in 100k in donations. Would 10 authors that cost 4k each be worth it if nobody showed up?
posted by Ad hominem at 1:36 PM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Most of all I blame MELSA. And their executive director seems to have taken some of that blame by apologizing for the expenditure. And it's not a matter of allocating funding to my wishes, it's a matter of efficiently spending arts money for the public good. It appears to me that they would have been able to get even Neil Gaiman for much less money, so I regard this as a waste.

I think you may be a bit confused.

The executive director of Stillwater Library apologized for the expenditure, not the executive director of MELSA.. But the only thing that the executive director might have been able to do differently is possibly offer Neil a lower fee, but they would still have had a certain amount of money that they would have had to spend specifically on a speaker, and nothing else.

That is because MELSA has created a program expressly to bring speakers to suburban libraries. And MELSA has done that because, in part, they feel that suburban and rural libraries should have a shot at attracting popular speakers, so people who live in small towns don't have to make several-day long trips to see them. I don't know what you'd think, but to me, this seems like a concept that in and of itself certainly serves the public good.

So I'm not certain exactly what the objection is. MELSA created a program ("club book") that served the public good. The library signed up for the program, and got a portion of that money. They hired Neil Gaiman.

What's the objection?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:36 PM on May 6, 2011


Two things:

First , as a mental exercise I tried to recast this and imagine my feelings if, instead of an author I like, it had been Sarah Palin, or Snooki, instead. So I totally get and agree with the notion that spending a year's salary for some people on a celebrity speaker is a bad use of taxpayer money. It'd irritate me if it it were my tax money. But the person I wouldn't be mad at would be Palin or Snooki. Gaiman didn't trick them or even entice them. He in fact tried to discourage it and gave the cash to charity to avoid looking like a greedy fuck. So why be mad at him over this?

Second, even Gaiman doesn't claim he's worth $45k per talk (which, btw, surely is much more than hour's work, since he must write the speech, travel, stay four hours, travel back, and do the red tape with his business people). $45k isn't what he thinks he's worth. It's the amount of money where he says the money is too much to ignore even for something he'd rather not do at all. That's an important difference. I don't like snaking out sewage drains. I have not the least intention of putting myself on the market to do so at a fair price. But there's some price at which I'll do it. The fact that it's unreasonably high is sort of the point.
posted by tyllwin at 1:37 PM on May 6, 2011 [9 favorites]


It appears to me that they would have been able to get even Neil Gaiman for much less money, so I regard this as a waste.

I think it's a Schrodingery thing - if it's for a good cause, or he wants to do it, or he is at a loose end, he might speak for free or for expenses, but he doesn't want a career as a public speaker, so he has artificially high rates (arguably) for public appearances he doesn't feel any other motivation or desire to do. He might have done this for less, but they didn't ask - they ate his very high fee, because they didn't think they would be able to use the money for anything else in the allocating year.
posted by running order squabble fest at 1:40 PM on May 6, 2011


Yeah, it's like he sets his fee high enough so that only people with money-to-burn can pay it, which wouldn't normally be a state agency.
posted by smackfu at 1:41 PM on May 6, 2011


My problem is not with the arts or with Neil Gaiman, it's with lazy planners that essentially had $45,000 burning a hole in their pocket and wanted to get rid of it in one quick transaction. In 15 minutes of solo brainstorming I've come up with several different possibilities that would have been feasible, delivered more value to MN library patrons who might not have been able to see Neil Gaiman at that particular library on that particular day, and which would have attracted little in the way of political controversy. Now if I can come up with multiple alternatives off the top of my head, surely a few experienced arts administrators could do even better with an hour of brainstorming and a day or two of organizational work. This kind of thing is not that hard to do; usually the obstacle is a lack of money in the budget. If you're an arts administrator and this is the best way you can think of to spend a $45,000 windfall in a hurry, then you are no good at your job.

Well, let's look at what the planners in question say is the purpose of their project. This is direct from the "Club Book" web site (which I link to in my response to grouse a few posts up.)

"Club Book brings acclaimed authors to library communities across the metropolitan area. From Stillwater to Chanhassen and Minnetonka to St. Paul, Club Book establishes area libraries as vital, vibrant centers of cultural programming and exchange. Kicking-off in April of 2010, Club Book is slated to last through June of 2011, and hopefully beyond. A collaboration of public libraries in the 7-county metropolitan area, this exciting new series presents best-selling and award-winning national and regional writers – proving that libraries may be the coolest club in town.

"Club Book, a program of the Metropolitan Library Services Agency and coordinated by the Library Foundation of Hennepin County, is funded by Minnesota’s Legacy Amendment Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. The funding was made possible by the vote of the people of Minnesota on November 4, 2008 which dedicated funding to preserve Minnesota's arts and cultural heritage."

Now, to my mind, that sounds like "club book" is one central program, which many libraries have signed up for. The "Club Book" program handled all the booking, it sounds like, and it was handling it for the member libraries.

Which meant: they were handling about 20 different speakers for libraries in 7 counties. With that being the case, it sounds a wonder they didn't cock up more.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:42 PM on May 6, 2011


kavasa: ""Money that is unspent does not go to waste. It goes back to the state, if the state was the source."

Irrelevant, from the perspective of the library system. If they didn't use that dough, it was gone for them.

Again, the real issue here is "is the legacy fund being managed well," and "would a 'competitive' system (how do arts compete?) be better"?
"

Easy peasy.

Sunday....

SUNday!

sunDAY!

Welcome to the CUUUUULLLLLTUREDOME!

Two artists enter....

Only one artist LEAVES!

(I am SO nominating Art Koons for the first round!)
posted by Samizdata at 1:43 PM on May 6, 2011


This is confusing the issue. No one is arguing the content of Gaiman's speech, just the unjustifiably steep fee paid from a public fund.

But, but...you are arguing the content. You seem to be saying that the fee is too steep for the value that Gaiman provided. Therefore, you're saying that Neil Gaiman's content is not worth $45,000.

And if your local library paid Lou Dobbs 40,000 dollars to come and speak about his latest book for 4 hours, would that be an intelligent use of taxpayer money?

Would he be encouraging young people to read? Then maybe so.
posted by cabingirl at 1:43 PM on May 6, 2011


Let's be frank here. I voted for the amendment, I'm glad it passed, I am glad artists get grants to speak and the other things that the amendment does. If you don't like it, you can feel free to not pass such amendments in your states/provinces/cantons/shires. It's funny that one of the arguments against the passage of the amendment was "the legislature will want to raid the fund for other things;" which is exactly the subtext behind Dean's move to strip money from the Amendment so he has a zero-sum way to shield rich people from tax hikes.

But $45,000 is a lot of money, public budgets are under strain, and this is not an effective way to spend it.

This is an ignorant statement. The money is from a dedicated non-public budget source, and doesn't trade off with other public budget spending except possibly other artists getting grants. And yes, I'm now officially defending this not because I looooooove Neil Gaiman but because you ignorant haters are denigrating one of the few laws that has passed in the last ten years, state or federal, that I actually agree with. See also my previous statement here.
posted by norm at 1:44 PM on May 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


It appears to me that they would have been able to get even Neil Gaiman for much less money

If Gaiman waives the fee, now he has to deal with 1000 requests to do another pro bono appearance. Just politely saying "no" will take hours of his time. Hours more for the people who don't want to hear the "no." Taking it and giving it to charity is a way to keep the entry barrier intact, without being greedy and profiting off of the state's libraries.
posted by tyllwin at 1:44 PM on May 6, 2011


No one is arguing the content of Gaiman's speech, just the unjustifiably steep fee paid from a public fund.

It's true. If he used fewer than 2250 twenty-dollar words the taxpayers were robbed.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:46 PM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Welcome to the CUUUUULLLLLTUREDOME!
Two artists enter....

Only one artist LEAVES!


Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls... Story' time's here!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:47 PM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


If Gaiman waives the fee, now he has to deal with 1000 requests to do another pro bono appearance. Just politely saying "no" will take hours of his time.

In all fairness, his agent would have to deal with that, which is her/his job.

This thread might inspire me to pull out one of the several Gaiman books lurking in my To Be Read boxes and give it a spin.
posted by aught at 1:50 PM on May 6, 2011


A collaboration of public libraries in the 7-county metropolitan area, this exciting new series presents best-selling and award-winning national and regional writers – proving that libraries may be the coolest club in town.

They should just fire whoever wrote that copy.
posted by smackfu at 1:50 PM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm sorry, culturedome remains deflated, it will not be reinflated until mid-August. That is costing a lot more than $45,000, though, sorry. Would you like to tell the insurance company paying for the repairs who they should contract with to do that?
posted by norm at 1:51 PM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Lift embargo.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:51 PM on May 6, 2011


I tried to recast this and imagine my feelings if, instead of an author I like, it had been Sarah Palin

I didn't have to imagine. She got paid $110,000 to speak at a junior college outside Fresno, CA a week ago (although the dean insists he made the money back in ticket sales and will be able to afford new sports facilities thanks to the surplus...great, that's just what our educational system needs more of).

Now, to my mind, that sounds like "club book" is one central program, which many libraries have signed up for. The "Club Book" program handled all the booking, it sounds like, and it was handling it for the member libraries. Which meant: they were handling about 20 different speakers for libraries in 7 counties. With that being the case, it sounds a wonder they didn't cock up more.

I'm not sure I see your point, EmpressCallipygos. Organizing the visits of 20 different people to 7 different nearby destinations over a period of 14 months doesn't sound like a particularly challenging task. That works out at about one celebrity visit every 3 weeks, which is not that big of a deal. Celebrities' agents are used to fielding such requests and have a vested interest in making it smooth for all concerned, since they get about 15% of any fees that are going for doing so.
posted by anigbrowl at 1:53 PM on May 6, 2011


In all fairness, his agent would have to deal with that, which is her/his job.

And Gaiman would have to pay his agent to do all that.
posted by ZeusHumms at 1:54 PM on May 6, 2011


Agents work on commission.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:56 PM on May 6, 2011


If Gaiman waives the fee, now he has to deal with 1000 requests to do another pro bono appearance.

From his first response:

Obviously I do a lot of speaking for free. The night before I'd done a pro bono 3 hour reading/Q&A as a benefit for the CBLDF in Chicago, in front of 1600 people, who had paid up to $250 a ticket to attend.

Four days before I'd done "An Evening With Neil Gaiman" internet talk with the Jessamine Public Library for nothing, because they asked me to, and because it was National Library Week (although they sent me a wonderful Kentucky nibbles gift basket as a thank you).

In fact most of the talks and appearances I do are for free.

But if you want to hire me to come in and talk, it's expensive.


[snip FAQ rehash]

For this event, nobody asked my representatives if I would do it for less than a normal speaking fee. (I do sometimes. Normally only for libraries.) I was assured before I agreed to sign on that this money was not coming from the library system, but from the 200 million sales tax Legacy Fund. It was a wonderful afternoon. And yesterday Minnesota Public Radio broadcast the entire one hour talk (although not the Q&A).

So, he does speak for free, he mostly speaks for free, but sometimes he doesn't.
posted by Errant at 1:56 PM on May 6, 2011


Apparently government arts money should be spent on shitty art. For someone living paycheck to paycheck and making $20k per year the tax would amount to $75 a year. Oh boo hoo.

And let's face it, in his time off, this guy is unlikely to go to see a speech by Neil Gaiman.

Why should his money -- enough for three trips to the movies for him and his girlfriend, or six months of rentals at Blockbuster -- be taken from him to underwrite programs for the middle class? In a regressive tax sales tax no less? Programs he's unlikely to use.

I'd go to see Gaiman speak, but I make decent money. I don't need to shake down the poor to see Gaiman (or to buy his books).

And if we are going to shake down the poor with a regressive tax, let's use it to buy books for libraries, not to give a guy who makes "90 million" (or whatever) a year more money.
posted by orthogonality at 1:56 PM on May 6, 2011


I'm not sure I see your point, EmpressCallipygos. Organizing the visits of 20 different people to 7 different nearby destinations over a period of 14 months doesn't sound like a particularly challenging task. That works out at about one celebrity visit every 3 weeks, which is not that big of a deal.

7 counties, not 7 libraries. More than 7 libraries were involved.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:58 PM on May 6, 2011


In all fairness, his agent would have to deal with that, which is her/his job

And, if the agent is independent enough that s/he can do that without taking it to Gaiman each time, it works. Until Gaiman finds himself tarred all over the place for being an ass to someone because his agent made that someone jump through hoops and finally said no without bothering NG. Not sayin' anything like that was discussed on MeFi in the last month or anything.
posted by tyllwin at 1:58 PM on May 6, 2011


Why should his money -- enough for three trips to the movies for him and his girlfriend, or six months of rentals at Blockbuster -- be taken from him to underwrite programs for the middle class? In a regressive tax sales tax no less? Programs he's unlikely to use.

then it sounds like your objection is to the fund itself, not to Neil Gaiman in the specific. Was it something you had the opportunity to vote on in the referendum?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:59 PM on May 6, 2011


This is an ignorant statement. The money is from a dedicated non-public budget source, and doesn't trade off with other public budget spending except possibly other artists getting grants. And yes, I'm now officially defending this not because I looooooove Neil Gaiman but because you ignorant haters are denigrating one of the few laws that has passed in the last ten years, state or federal, that I actually agree with.

I guess you missed the bit where I said the idea of such a fund for such a purpose was a good idea and one I supported, but that my criticism was of the mediocre administration of it. RTFC.

Gaiman would have to pay his agent to do all that.

Talent agents are generally paid a smallish fixed retainer + commission. They're used to dealing with a wide variety of appearance requests in a diplomatic fashion that maintains their clients' good reputations. It's not a big deal, at all.
posted by anigbrowl at 1:59 PM on May 6, 2011


Why should his money -- enough for three trips to the movies for him and his girlfriend, or six months of rentals at Blockbuster -- be taken from him to underwrite programs for the middle class? In a regressive tax sales tax no less? Programs he's unlikely to use.

Because that's what your hypothetical working-class Joe voted to do?
posted by Errant at 2:01 PM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


And let's face it, in his time off, this guy is unlikely to go to see a speech by Neil Gaiman.

I wouldn't take that bet. Why are you so sure a poor person wouldn't read? For that matter, if everyone who reads is middle class and can afford to buy his/her own books, why do we even have public libraries?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 2:02 PM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Since this thread already has way more comments than it deserves, I thought I'd add a correction and a question regarding the Republican's statement: Dean said that Gaiman, "who I hate," was a "pencil-necked little weasel who stole $45,000 from the state of Minnesota."

First of all, Dean should have said "whom." Secondly, why the fuck does Dean hate Gaiman? Because Gaiman is an artist instead of a businessman, I'm guessing, and artists are...well, you know, gay druggies and so on?

Regarding the 45 thou...hey, I know it's a lot of money to you and me, but the USA spent it in the last hundredth of a second waging war, so save your outrage.
posted by kozad at 2:02 PM on May 6, 2011


And if we are going to shake down the poor with a regressive tax

I am curious as to why you think only the middle class read Gaiman books. I read sci fi and fantasy when I was poor, and would have loved the opportunity to see one of my favorite authors.

Regressive sales taxes pay for all sorts of things, including Minnesota's sports stadiums, which are not free to the public and support millionaire sports professionals. I voted for the legacy amendment specifically so the arts would see some of that money, and poor people could enjoy it.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:02 PM on May 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Your pet project sux.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:04 PM on May 6, 2011


7 counties, not 7 libraries. More than 7 libraries were involved.

I didn't say 7 libraries, I said 7 destinations. Usually if I'm going somewhere, I mention the nearest town or name of the county as my destination. A cab ride or similar to a particular street address at the other end is the least complex part of the journey. What point are you making?
posted by anigbrowl at 2:11 PM on May 6, 2011


The only "legacy" that Urdahl will leave is as an anecdote in future biographies of Gaiman.
posted by snottydick at 2:12 PM on May 6, 2011


> How do we get from, (1) "The library had access to $45,000 that could only be used to hire
> speakers," to, (2) "and if the library doesn't get that $45,000 again next year, then Gladys
> will be fired"?

Same way we usually get from point A to the Purple Dimension.
posted by jfuller at 2:12 PM on May 6, 2011


This is something you should be aware. You cannot simply become a vendor for the State of Minnesota. One of the constraints of getting your little known authors is the fact that they would have to become direct vendors to the state which entails paperwork and contracts that takes a chunk of time to process.

This is how state money works: encumbrance > make person to vendor if not already > then triplicate contract needs to be processed and returned > paid act > invoicing > processing.

If they had end of fiscal year spend down to happen and were constrained on what they could spend it on e.g. books, supplies and other easy to order items then you are against a wall complying with finance rules and doing a spend down. Couple this with booking authors, if not local, may entail other fees such as airlines, housing, meals and local transportation WHICH also takes a chunk of processing (separate encumbrance processes) on the part of the staff and author.

The easy way out, was to find a local author who was already a vendor or who had an agency that was already listed as a vendor in the state finance system and book them pronto. No need to book airline, meals or transport.

I agree that the present model of spend or lost it is awful BUT it is not unique and there were other factors at play that would influence the decision such as, system constraints of processing that money.

Really, I keep in mind that the over arching goal is stoke outrage and ride that outrage to spending the money elsewhere such as, deficit and other pet projects.

Man, I pay for your damn stadium, you could pay for my damn library.
posted by jadepearl at 2:13 PM on May 6, 2011 [7 favorites]


Neil should at least dedicate his next book to Gladys. She deserves nothing less, poor woman.
posted by perhapses at 2:18 PM on May 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Write your comment better if you don't want quibbles. "Public budgets" being "under strain" were your words. I simply pointed out this money is not part of the public budget, nor does it implicate Minnesota's budget deficit.
posted by norm at 2:21 PM on May 6, 2011


The executive director of Stillwater Library apologized for the expenditure, not the executive director of MELSA.

No.
Urdahl also released a letter from the executive director of the Metropolitan Library Service Agency, who apologized for using "poor judgment" in paying Gaiman's fee. "In our naivete, we simply thought there was no room for negotiation," said Chris Olson, the group's executive director. "I am very sorry."
Chris Olson is the executive director of MELSA, not Stillwater Library.
posted by grouse at 2:24 PM on May 6, 2011


"Spend it or lose it" is mindboggling idiocy. Neil Gaiman un-wasted the money here, simply by converting it from money stuck in an overly restricted allocation fund, subject to spend it or lose it, into a donation to some charity which has freer rein over its use. That act alone was worth it.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 2:24 PM on May 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


This has been a fast moving thread that was already over 100 comments long, so I don't know if anyone posted this, but this comment that appeared on the Minneapolis Star Tribune books blog about the incident nails everything that is wrong with the 21st century "Conservativism" and how it is unmoored from its historical antecedants

This unfortunate incident gives a very clear look at the mentality that is now passing itself off as "Conservatism." It's worth examining. There's nothing being "conserved." There's no consideration for culture or history. Nor is there a value placed on earned achievement. This is a hard-edged, bare-knuckled ideology rooted in envy and vandalism. Anyone who gets ahead by any means other than raw power is sneered at and belittled as "putting on airs" or thinking they are now better than everyone else. Only wealth, brute strength and the determination to use it for advantage are valued. This is not the "Conservatism" of Reagan, much less Goldwater or Taft. This is a movement willing to destroy what it can't own.


Edmund Burke and Michael Oakshotte are rolling over in their graves.
posted by KingEdRa at 2:25 PM on May 6, 2011 [7 favorites]


Neil Gaiman un-wasted the money here, simply by converting it from money stuck in an overly restricted allocation fund, subject to spend it or lose it, into a donation to some charity which has freer rein over its use.

Just give sales tax money that was allocated for a specific purpose to whatever random charity someone wants, that can't possibly go wrong.
posted by smackfu at 2:31 PM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I agree that the present model of spend or lost it is awful BUT it is not unique and there were other factors at play that would influence the decision such as, system constraints of processing that money.

This is a great explanation: that the problem is one of transaction costs. Although I still think there were better ways to make use of the money within these constraints than on a single short speaking appearance, I can see how encumbrance would add to the cost in some cases. That said, aren't there pre-approved lists of vendors for common services like air travel, hotel accommodation and so on, which are usually considerably discounted?

Anyway, the lesson here seems to be that inefficiency can get very expensive. Maybe next time they could invite Paul Krugman and ask him to give a lecture on microeconomics.
posted by anigbrowl at 2:32 PM on May 6, 2011


Write your comment better if you don't want quibbles. "Public budgets" being "under strain" were your words. I simply pointed out this money is not part of the public budget, nor does it implicate Minnesota's budget deficit.

I can't help it if you choose to ignore the context established in the sentence immediately preceding the one you quoted. I group my sentences into paragraphs, and often use several paragraphs to develop a idea. It's obvious you didn't bother to read the whole thing, because I addressed your original concern in the very first paragraph.

You can read it all, or not at all. But if you want to call me an ignorant hater because 5 words in the last paragraph caught your eye and made you too angry to read the rest, then that's your problem.
posted by anigbrowl at 2:44 PM on May 6, 2011


This. This is why we can't have anything nice.

God, I hate these Minnesota Republicans!
posted by Mental Wimp at 2:45 PM on May 6, 2011


In answer to anibrowl, even if you go through approved vendors you still have the encumbrance process. There is further friction to transaction due to negotiating schedules of booking acceptable flights, and all other scheduling. So whether you have a discount is not really the issue, you still have the processing time being lengthy and that is not throwing the invoicing and payment process.

Minnesota, from what I have observed, when it comes to finance, will spend a dollar to track a dime. There is A LOT of process to gaining, allocating, spending and tracking money within the system.
posted by jadepearl at 2:48 PM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is a non story ... Yeah pretty much. But they could have gotten Chuck D four times or for another 5k they could have gotten Cal Ripken Junior.

Fuck that. These days Rakim and I would be happy making $45,000 square for a one-hour gig. Please. Contact our people!
posted by ericb at 2:58 PM on May 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


And let's face it, in his time off, this guy is unlikely to go to see a speech by Neil Gaiman.

What? How the fuck would you know that? When I was working shitty temp jobs, living paycheck-to-paycheck and making a lot LESS than 20K/year, I absolutely would have gone to see Neil Gaiman in my time off. I suspect the same is true of a hell of a lot of people, many of whom probably even live in Minnesota. Minneapolis/St. Paul is chock fucking full of people in their 20's working shit office or service-industry jobs who are into things like comic books, science fiction and fantasy. I suspect some of those people may have even commented in this thread.
posted by dersins at 3:04 PM on May 6, 2011 [7 favorites]


Another alternative that would have been much better value would be to ask Neil Gaiman for something special under the unusual circumstances; to visit ten or twenty libraries rather than just one, for example. Obviously, that would have been 1-2 weeks of work, like a mini-tour in itself. Being a solitary and creative type myself
But why would someone who doesn't like giving lectures and can actually get $45k for a speaking engagement want to do that?

The choices here are either do the speaking engagement or not do it, but you can't somehow demand that Gaiman work for free or for less money then it's worth to him. He did say that he does speaking engagements at libraries for free, and might have lowered his rate but asking him to do a bunch of lectures for far below his normal rates is ridiculous.

So many people in this thread seem to misunderstand that. The guy doesn't like spending his time doing lectures when he could be writing, so he charges a lot of money to do lectures. There was a specific amount of money set aside to pay for lectures in libraries and this library chose Neil Gaimen instead of someone else. Maybe they could have hired some other people to come and talk for less money. Would have been as exciting/enjoyable for the visitors? That's not all that clear.
Apparently government arts money should be spent on shitty art. For someone living paycheck to paycheck and making $20k per year the tax would amount to $75 a year. Oh boo hoo.
And let's face it, in his time off, this guy is unlikely to go to see a speech by Neil Gaiman.
Why not? Poor people don't read? Maybe they might like to see him and they got the opportunity because of this program. I'm willing to bet a lot of the 500 people who saw him were poor. Do you seriously think poor people don't like to read or what?

And anyway this was passed by referendum, not by a political party.
Anyway, the lesson here seems to be that inefficiency can get very expensive. Maybe next time they could invite Paul Krugman and ask him to give a lecture on microeconomics.
Paul Krugman would say this counts as economic stimulus and is a good thing in a down economy.
---

Beyond that, are people here outraged about the BBC spending money on producing programming like Dr. Who which I'm sure is pretty expensive and hiring actors and comedians and news anchors and stuff at rates that I'm sure are much higher then $45k? Because the Legacy fund is actually a lot like the BBC. It has it's own source of revenue outside the normal government (BBC has the TV tax and this has the 0.375% sales tax). In fact the legacy fund is even more independent then the BBC because it's constitutionally mandated.

Let me ask this: If the BBC paid Gaiman $45k to appear on a show, would people be outraged? What's the difference between the BBC and the Legacy fund here?
posted by delmoi at 3:04 PM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Just give sales tax money that was allocated for a specific purpose to whatever random charity someone wants, that can't possibly go wrong.

But it went to its allocated purpose. I get that you don't like that purpose, but you're making it sound like the money was wrongfully funneled into special interests, when in fact the money went precisely where it was intended to go.
posted by Errant at 3:06 PM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]



Nice that he donated to charity, but what would have been a really cool move was if Gaiman had turned right around and donated that money directly to the library.


Really belatedly. Here's what he did with the money:

A third of my fee went to a sexual abuse charity, and the rest to a library- and book-based charity.
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:21 PM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


If the BBC paid Gaiman $45k to appear on a show, would people be outraged? What's the difference between the BBC and the Legacy fund here?

Depending on the situation, I wouldn't necessarily be upset if he were paid $45,000 to appear on PBS, either. (I'm hardly outraged—there are too many other things I am outraged about.) If it came out of Legacy Fund money, or from Corporation for Public Broadcasting money from federal tax dollars. Because I'm sure than many more than 500 people would watch it. Many more than 500 plus however many people are going to listen to the online version of this appearance. (Although I imagine the increased publicity here has meant many more have listened to the audio of his appearance than would have otherwise.)
posted by grouse at 3:23 PM on May 6, 2011


It was also broadcast on regular radio live, then put online. I'm sure more then 500 people heard it, beyond those who went in person.
posted by delmoi at 3:34 PM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


TIL: Only middle-class people read. Thanks Metafilter.
posted by cj_ at 3:49 PM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think this says a lot about Rep. Dean. Not exactly an intellectual heavyweight, is he? Also, Rep. Dean cut-and-pasted an entire blogpost from Gaiman without comment. Why bother explaining your position when you can do that? Lazy, lazy, lazy.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 4:12 PM on May 6, 2011


Some interesting digging by Jessamyn in the Meta.
posted by Artw at 4:13 PM on May 6, 2011


TIL: Only middle-class people read.

Reading, education level, income level, and social class are all positively correlated.

People who read tend to be educated, the educated tend to make more money, more money pays for social status.
posted by orthogonality at 4:23 PM on May 6, 2011


Reading, education level, income level, and social class are all positively correlated.

People who read tend to be educated, the educated tend to make more money, more money pays for social status.
*blink*.

Also, this is Neil Gaiman we're talking about. It's not like they invited Haruki Murakami
posted by delmoi at 4:33 PM on May 6, 2011


I think I pretty much trust librarians to know what is popular with people, book-wise.
posted by Artw at 4:44 PM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I can't help it if you choose to ignore the context established in the sentence immediately preceding the one you quoted. I group my sentences into paragraphs, and often use several paragraphs to develop a idea. It's obvious you didn't bother to read the whole thing, because I addressed your original concern in the very first paragraph.

I read this and wondered what I had done to incite such wrath, so I went back and checked your first paragraph to see if I had mis-read it as bad as you suggest. Here's your supposed contextualizing statement:

It's good that he gave it to charity, but when you're budgeting limited public funds then you can't assume that every person who is paid a large speaking fee is going to do that, or that they will spend it within the same economy where they earned it. And although I do think it's worth having a budget to attract Famous Writers who would not normally drop by small suburban libraries, it seems to me like there are much better ways to use it.

Nope, I stand by my statement. It's not "budgeting limited public funds." It's a voter-approved fund completely outside state budgeting of public funds. "Having a budget to attract Famous Writers" also clearly implies that this is a budget item. You may, in fact, just have written this context with ambiguous words, intending to acknowledge the issue (i.e., that this is not trading off with other "limited public funds") that I specifically was drawing attention to, but it's not clear from what you actually said. Your subsequent mean-spirited and condescending attack at me doesn't cover up the fact that you were either unintentionally vague or purposefully muddling the issue.
posted by norm at 5:13 PM on May 6, 2011


And here's the other thing to think about, is the average working class person more likely to be interested in seeing Neil Gaiman or in seeing 10 "local" authors? I think providing the opportunity to see a famous author would probably be a bigger deal for most people then the opportunity to see "local" authors, probably more then ten times as interesting.
posted by delmoi at 5:23 PM on May 6, 2011


Republicans used to get upset about nude pictures of people funded by tax dollars. Now they are upset by a writer of children't books! They are lowering the bar. Pretty soon they will be going after English, Math and Science teachers for daring to teach our kids with tax payer money.

Oh wait, they are already doing that.

Well, I guess in the Republican world we're all pencil-necked weasel socialsists if we get any benefit from tax payer dollars.
posted by Rashomon at 5:30 PM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


And here's the other thing to think about, is the average working class person more likely to be interested in seeing Neil Gaiman or in seeing 10 "local" authors?

Neil Gaiman is a local. And the working class would probably be more interested in Stepanie Meyer, or whatever sells well at Wal*Mart.
posted by orthogonality at 5:34 PM on May 6, 2011


There are so many things that confuse me about the outrage here.

Publicly funded program to bring famous authors to speak at suburban and rural libraries at market rates does exactly that. News at 11? The fact that this GOP lawmaker has managed to stir up such a lot of resentment and anger over this just goes to show how good the spin machine really is.
posted by lriG rorriM at 5:45 PM on May 6, 2011


Neil Gaiman is a local. And the working class would probably be more interested in Stepanie Meyer, or whatever sells well at Wal*Mart.
I'm sure they would. Do you think she would do an appearance for $45k?
posted by delmoi at 5:49 PM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


I bet they're all on facebook, too. Maybe the library should have gotten Mark Zuckerberg to do a talk.
posted by delmoi at 5:56 PM on May 6, 2011


1) I'm not that crazy about Neil Gaiman and I'm surprised to see him being called "Minnesota's most famous writer. I question the idea that he is a household name.

2) I didn't blink at the high speaking fee-- these days it looks like peanuts. How much does Cheney get? $200,000?

3) What I took offense at (and read the article for) was the epithet "pencil-necked" which is language that should be reserved for one's private life. A politician using such language publicly is an outrage and he should be hounded mercilessly for it. To me it is no different than calling someone a Fat-ass.

4) I'm afraid this will become like the hot-coffee-in-the-lap law suit: no matter how many times the facts are trotted out, the average person on the street is going to come away with very negative feelings about the whole thing.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:11 PM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not sure how I feel about this. However, if we remove a writer whom I like make it about something other than arts ...

Say, if the library had a staff vehicle budget and spent the year-end $45,000 on a 2010 Porsche Boxter instead of a boring fleet vehicle or two, I think I would feel pretty bad about that.
posted by zippy at 6:12 PM on May 6, 2011


You know, in all this discussion of whether or not the fee was justified, one thing that hasn't been remarked on is the too-easy cheapening of public discourse that the current brand of Republican politician appears to be deliberately aiming at. The people here in this thread have engaged in substantially more thinking about the use of legacy funds than Dean did before shooting his ignorant mouth off.

I mean, if Dean feels comfortable, when speaking as a state legislator, with accusing Neil Gaiman of theft, then he should by God call the state police and file a formal fucking complaint. You know, try to get charges filed. Absent that, his rhetoric is empty, weak-ass bullshit, and he's a know-nothing cretin, period.
posted by Ipsifendus at 6:16 PM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


I read this and wondered what I had done to incite such wrath [...] Your subsequent mean-spirited and condescending attack at me doesn't cover up the fact that you were either unintentionally vague or purposefully muddling the issue.

You have dished out far more incivility towards me than you have been offered in return.
posted by anigbrowl at 6:21 PM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


He should certainly speak up about other kinds of year-end spending too, if spending is the issue (and no, I know it's about arts funding and he's found a convenient target).

I'm sure police forces, legislative offices, and the National Guard have similar year-end blowout purchases
posted by zippy at 6:24 PM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


That's when they buy tanks!
posted by Artw at 6:30 PM on May 6, 2011


The Catch-22 situation, though, is that if they library does not spend it, and they go back to the grants board saying "well, you gave us X, but we only spent X-$45k," then the grants board will say, "well, I guess you only need X-$45K this year, then," and the library gets less money next year.

And the money would have been spent on some other worthy arts project instead, one that is unable to achieve its aims due to the limited funds they got this year. I'm OK with that.


No, actually, that probably wouldn't have happened. You see, you may think this is brouhaha is all 'Think of the poor taxpayers!" or 'That money could have gone to more worthy art projects!' inspired, but the main reason this has become such a big story is because the Star just doesn't like the legacy fund. Why?

​This isn't the first time the Star Tribune has questioned the use of Legacy Fund money....
Sure, $45,000 sounds like a lot of money for an author, even one as acclaimed as Gaiman. But that's pennies compared to the $791 million Vikings stadium the Star Tribune wants taxpayers to help build.


You know, when I was in college, I went to hear Carl Sagan speak. Right around that time, the sales tax in our county was raised to build a new baseball stadium. I still remember Sagan's talk, and I would 100 times rather money went to events like that than yet another damned stadium. And I even like sports.

So, maybe we should be asking if Neil Gaiman made that kind of impressiom. Here's what one librarian who heard him speak had to say:

I deeply apologize to Mr. Gaiman that he should be put in the position to have to defend his fee. The afternoon was magical. He stayed far longer than planned and spoke privately with a large number of people. This funding is meant to preserve our cultural and artistic heritage. Indeed it is experiences like these that create the next generation of artists and writers. No price can be put on such an experience. I have been to many a book talk that had an audience of 20 people and authors received $2,000...the per capita cost is easily comparable when you consider the large and very grateful audience.

Thank you, Mr. Gaiman, for an inspiring afternoon. It was indeed well worth it. And, again, I apologize that you have been put in this position. 

posted by misha at 6:41 PM on May 6, 2011 [12 favorites]


Let me ask this: If the BBC paid Gaiman $45k to appear on a show, would people be outraged? What's the difference between the BBC and the Legacy fund here?

IF? I imagine the BBC paid him for his Doctor Who script.

As an outsider, people like Neil Gaiman add cultural cachet to Minnesota. I think 'he could live anywhere in the world and he lives there. It must be a great place.'
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 7:58 PM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


It plays to him like out of touch liberals in their ivory towers playing Marie Antoinette with money he would have spent on diapers for his kid. And then he votes Repoublican and against the arts.

That guy would vote Republican and against the arts no matter whether liberals were playing Marie Antoinette, tiddlywinks, or cribbage. That guy would vote Republican and against the arts regardless of whether the invited speaker was a good use of taxpayer money or not. That guy would vote Republican and against the arts whether the invited speaker was Neil Gaiman or Desmond Tutu or JFK resurrected from the dead. That guy would vote Republican and against the arts whether the misspent funds would have been used to buy his kid diapers or himself a beer and a pizza.
posted by blucevalo at 8:18 PM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


It seems that the emphasis on the event occurring in a library-school-auditorium-forum-arena with a cost of $x per attendee glosses over the significance of the hour long broadcast on Minnesota Public Radio. I mean, we're talking about the home of Prairie Home Companion, right? The state of Minnesota was able to offer a few hundred people the opportunity to see Neil Gaiman speak along with the scripting and performing of an hour's worth of broadcasting on what has to be one of the largest public radio networks in the nation for $45K from an arts budget. How is that not a bargain*?

* Assuming you're not among the crowd who thinks public broadcasting is somehow a bad thing in general.
posted by ndfine at 8:37 PM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


1. Gaiman has expressly stated he's set high speaking fees to minimize speaking to keep his focus on writing.

because with all his command of the english language, he hasn't learned the word "no"?

It’s not from the library. It’s from the Legacy Fund, a Minnesota tax allocation that allows the library to pay market rates to bring authors to suburban libraries who otherwise wouldn’t be able to bring them in. They have to use the money now as it won’t roll over to next year and expires next month.”

so, instead contracting with several speakers for a decent, sustained program of events, they just pissed it away on one guy? - this could have been done - a lot of other public entities do it all the time

3. Gaiman gave the money to charity before any controversy over it came up.

that is commendable, but it still doesn't alter the fact that the public's money was not spent that wisely

why should the concept that our government spend its money wisely and efficiently be a GOP stance alone? are we really that mired in bitter partisanship that we can't see that there's a valid point here - that public agencies shoudn't be spending 45k on one speaking engagement? - isn't that enough money to keep 2 or 3 families in food stamps for a year? - isn't that enough money for a library to buy a lot of books? - isn't that enough money to employ a teacher or a librarian?

why shouldn't this kind of expenditure be questioned? - isn't questioning it taking the side of common sense and wisdom, rather than the side of one party?

why don't we take the partisan blinders off and ask if this is how our government should be spending our money?
posted by pyramid termite at 9:15 PM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Thank you bitter-girl.com - "Kittens for breakfast!" is now my new favorite exclamation.
posted by greermahoney at 9:41 PM on May 6, 2011


And now I realize that "Kittens for Breakfast" is someone's user name. *sigh* Well, I'm still going to use it as an exclamation whenever I can.
posted by greermahoney at 9:44 PM on May 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Let's put this in the proper perspective.

A Businessweek article on speaker's fees lists 10 high profile examples:

Bill Clinton: $75,000-$450,000
Rudolph Giuliani: $75,000-$200,000
Ken Burns, noted Documentarian: $50,000
Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger. Notre Dame Football Walk-on in 1975: $15,000 for colleges, $20,000 for corporate groups
Arianna Huffington: $25,000-$40,000
Al Gore: $100,000
Ed Koch: $10,000-$20,000
Mark Spitz: $20,000
Colin Powell: $100,000-$200,000
Sean Hannity: $100,000
posted by eye of newt at 9:50 PM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


and to all the people who accuse the critics of not reading the article -

when are YOU going to start reading the public's discontent with the way that our government spends its money? - yeah, in the grand scheme of things, this isn't that big a symptom, even when multiplied by a few thousand times, nationwide - (and i'm sure one could find that many instances with enough diligence) - but it's a symptom, nonetheless

a government that can negligently pay 45k to neil gaiman is a government that can also piss away hundreds of millions on a football stadium, a billion on a bomber, a few hundred billion on some useless wars, a few hundred billion more on bailouts ...

that's not a GOP position, it's a LIBERAL position - when are we going to have a government that benefits the people instead of private parties? - even private parties who are noble enough to give their government "rent" to charity

stop arguing with the tea party, wasteful government critics and agree with them - and when you agree with them, turn the argument around so that we talk about government waste in a way that is going to improve our country by giving that money to programs that will actually improve the lives of the people

oh, they won't buy it, i'm sure - but there's a lot of people who will
posted by pyramid termite at 9:51 PM on May 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


For what it's worth, the local library system / Arts Council brought Neil Gaiman over to Singapore two years back. I believe it was tax-money that was very well-spent; that festival brought a lot of casual readers closer to speculative fiction as a genre.
posted by the cydonian at 10:10 PM on May 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


Pyramid Termite, the issue here is NOT the speaking fee, but the name calling and outright slander by Dean towards Gaiman. Dean was well within his rights and responsibilities to criticize the program that paid the Gaiman's fee as wasteful. What was uncalled for, and got Gaiman up in a dander was when Dean called him "a pencil-necked weasel" and a thief. What made this particularly galling for many following this story was that it was obvious (from later statements) that Dean had little to no familiarity with Gaiman or his works.

There was no need for Dean to attack Gaiman on such a personal level. Criticize the program, but there was no need to go after Gaiman. Gaiman, from all accounts never even uttered one word of a politicallly partisan nature at the speaking engagement. It is precisely this sort of anti-intellectual bullying and name calling that has made many people (even some, like myself, of a conservative bent) disgusted by various Tea Party advocates/supporters words and behavior. No one wants to "reach across the aisle" to them because all they do insult the other side. Too many people 21st Century "Conservatives" confuse angry rhetoric for substantive action.
posted by KingEdRa at 12:17 AM on May 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Pyramid Termite, the issue here is NOT the speaking fee, but the name calling and outright slander by Dean towards Gaiman.

i choose to ignore the name-calling idiocy and confront the real issue - which is careless government spending
posted by pyramid termite at 1:29 AM on May 7, 2011


Then you've chosen to look at a distraction. I assure you, if careless government spending is your concern, the picayune amount we put into arts is a sideshow,
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:45 AM on May 7, 2011 [13 favorites]


i choose to ignore the name-calling idiocy and confront the real issue - which is careless government spending.

Then have you considered visiting any of the other threads about the two ongoing wars we have on this site? That is where the most wasteful spending can be found, I think.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:36 AM on May 7, 2011 [7 favorites]


and to all the people who accuse the critics of not reading the article -

Mainly I was accusing the people who had clearly not read the article of not reading the article. Or the follow up comments related to the article. Or the bulk of the FPP itself.
posted by Artw at 5:47 AM on May 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


Say, if the library had a staff vehicle budget and spent the year-end $45,000 on a 2010 Porsche Boxter instead of a boring fleet vehicle or two, I think I would feel pretty bad about that.
Sure, but if the money had been allocated for a automotive history musiem to buy 'sweet rides' in order to get people to come in and check out the collection then buying ten 1990 geo prisms wouldn't be a more effective use of the money.

The money had been allocated to bring speakers to the libraries and fill the seats. The assumption that there's a linear relationship between speaker cost and speaker value is, I think, incorrect. I've heard of Neal Gaiman. I've also heard of Garrison Keilor and Al Franken. How many other Minnesota authors do you know of? (and btw I live in Iowa and have actually been to MN. My mom is from there. Great state with very nice people!)
so, instead contracting with several speakers for a decent, sustained program of events, they just pissed it away on one guy? - this could have been done - a lot of other public entities do it all the time
It was the end of the year and this particular program had that money left over. Lots of people are saying the money should have been spent to pay for roads/books/orphans but the money was earmarked for speakers and they had to spend it right away. It's not at all clear that 10 $4.5k speakers would have been as worthwhile for the community as one $45k speaker.
posted by delmoi at 5:59 AM on May 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am a Minnesota author. I reckon I could have attracted tens of people to hear me read.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:03 AM on May 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


why don't we take the partisan blinders off and ask if this is how our government should be spending our money?

We did, a few years back when we voted by popular referendum to spend our money this way.
posted by norm at 10:25 AM on May 7, 2011 [10 favorites]


why don't we take the partisan blinders off and ask if this is how our government should be spending our money?

That's not remotely what happened. Minnesota, through legislation, authorized a fund that provides grants to community facilities to support arts and culture in Minnesota. Good grief, you want to personally micromanage the administration of every single state-supported grants program?

a government that can negligently pay 45k to neil gaiman is a government that can also piss away hundreds of millions on a football stadium, a billion on a bomber, a few hundred billion on some useless wars, a few hundred billion more on bailouts ...

"Public money" is not just one simple giant pot of money akin to a household budget, and it's just...beyond hyperbolic to conflate city, state, and federal funding. The Minnesota State Arts Board was not responsible for authorizing military engagement in Iraq.
posted by desuetude at 12:58 PM on May 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Public money" is not just one simple giant pot of money akin to a household budget, and it's just...beyond hyperbolic to conflate city, state, and federal funding. The Minnesota State Arts Board was not responsible for authorizing military engagement in Iraq.

I think that's the point -- that those complaining about government waste are being penny-wise and pound-foolish when they cut arts programs.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:17 PM on May 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think the reason this thread veered around so much is that we all tired of hearing about Teabaggers demonizing perceived "Liberals" in order to gin up outrage to support cuts in funding in order to attempt balancing the budget without raising taxes on millionaires.
posted by ambulocetus at 1:22 PM on May 7, 2011


I think the reason this thread veered around so much is that we all tired of hearing about Teabaggers demonizing perceived "Liberals" in order to gin up outrage to support cuts in funding in order to attempt balancing the budget without raising taxes on millionaires.

If that's the case, can you explain the preponderance of comments that SUPPORTED the "Teabagger" position?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:12 PM on May 7, 2011




I think this thread veered around so much is that people didn't rtfa
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 6:15 PM on May 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Look don't call me a teabagger you douche just because I don't support giving an average american's yearly salary to some multi millionaire author who gave a one hour lecture and a 3 hour meet and greet for the Minnesota council of the arts. It was half a day! How can anyone justify that price? How can you square this position with wanting to tax millionaires (me too!) and wanting better funding for the arts (me too!). Hypocrite much?

Can you honestly say that if you switched out Gaiman's name for Dan Brown, or Tom Clancy or Lou Dobbs or anyone else that wasn't your favorite writer of teen fantasy ever, that you would be bending over backwards to defend this decision? Just because some dick republican called him on it, does it really make it right?
posted by puny human at 9:46 PM on May 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Look don't call me a teabagger you douche just because I don't support giving an average american's yearly salary to some multi millionaire author who gave a one hour lecture and a 3 hour meet and greet for the Minnesota council of the arts. It was half a day! How can anyone justify that price? How can you square this position with wanting to tax millionaires (me too!) and wanting better funding for the arts (me too!). Hypocrite much?











....Anyway.....
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:54 PM on May 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


I've only been to a few author' speaking engagements, and even those were when I was a child.

Bill Hinds came to speak at my elementary school. He was (is, I guess) a cartoonist focusing on sports. I knew him from Tank McNamara and Buzz Beamer. After he spoke, my friend Owen and I got to hang out with him for a little bit because the teachers knew that we were both fond of cartooning. He was excited about it and showed us some techniques while not talking down to us at all, which was pretty cool.

Brian Jacques spoke at a local (tiny) bookstore around the same time, to an audience of maybe thirty children. Having read Redwall very recently at that point, that was pretty huge to me, but I don't remember much about it.

But I know that I don't care how much they were paid to do so. Hinds was probably paid a small fee out of whatever similar budget the Texas Educational System had to pay at the time (or more likely the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School System. Jacques probably didn't get paid a damn thing, as this 15x15 ft. bookstore in Houston couldn't have managed even his expenses. I imagine he just liked the idea of making books magical for children, and supporting independent bookstores.

And this is what Gaiman did, by and large. Yes, he took a fee, which he questioned and probably would have denied had the laws of allocation not been set up the way they were. But I can't fault anyone in this transaction, really.

1. The fund has a little bit extra to spend at the end of its term. Gaiman is pricy but it's also Neil Fucking Gaiman. They've got the money to spend and they're not going to spend it on anyone else, so why not spend it on a blockbuster local Author?

2. Gaiman, who probably would have done the event for free, questioned the about it, finding out that the money had to be spent anyway.

3. So he took the money and spent most of it on Libraries, in a way which would be more discretionary for them in the future.

4. He wasn't paid $45k, and the fact that the Star-Telegram is reporting that figure doesn't mean much when they didn't do the diligence of contacting him.

5. While that kind of money for a speaking engagement makes me drool, the concept that it was for one hour's work is ridiculous. It's one hour's work if he spoke extemporaneously, with nothing at all prepared, ad was at the location already when they offered. As that is never the case for speaking engagements, hopefully we can put that argument to rest.

6. We can all think of things we'd rather NOT do, but would still be willing to do if the pay was right, or if the conditions were right. In this case, both were true, and the money was directed back towards libraries.

7. Dean doesn't give a shit about the money here, he just wants to create a bogeyman, and a British Comic Book Author works well for him, in that regard.

As seen by this thread.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:08 PM on May 7, 2011


Sorry empress, don't understand your "anyway" comment. Is it meant to dismiss me? To demonstrate that my comments aren't important?

Maybe you have let your screen name go to your head?
posted by puny human at 10:08 PM on May 7, 2011


Again navelgazer, I ask, what if the council had decided on (insert your least favorite famous author here) to give the lecture. Would you still find that fee acceptable when paid out of a public trust?

And ffs, no one is arguing anything about private engagement fees, or local bookstores. Authors do book tours all the time for little or no money. And if some large corporation like Google, or Apple wanted to pay Gaiman for his time, who cares.
posted by puny human at 10:17 PM on May 7, 2011


Tossing around curse words like "douche" and "teabagger" really doesn't help matters. I sort of can't believe we're still talking about this, but I would just like to say that I don't think criticizing the way this fund apparently operates makes one a neocon or whatever, and I do think that calling this criticism the "teabagger position" is a disingenuous and intellectually fucking lazy way to try and win an argument. You know that no one here is talking smack about this because they're a neocon; there are like three people on this entire site who could realistically be called republicans, and none of them are five hundred comments deep into a thread about Neil Gaiman, come on. It's possible that some people are talking smack about it because they're not Gaiman fans, sure...and I actually do think you have to be a fan to support giving him $45,000 for this. I don't think it's defensible to anyone who isn't all "but dudes, it's NEIL GAIMAN" about it all. For me, I like the guy's writing, but yeah. No one deserves that sum for giving a speech. I think most people would say that there had to be a better use for that much money. I'd say so.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:25 PM on May 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


puny human, I like Gaiman enough, but I'm far from a fan of his, to be honest. But if Dan Brown had done the same thing, taking largely non-discretionary public money and the giving it to a more discretionary charity that benefited the original beneficiary (libraries) I'd be fine with it.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:05 PM on May 7, 2011


Sorry empress, don't understand your "anyway" comment. Is it meant to dismiss me? To demonstrate that my comments aren't important?

I don't know what she intended, puny human, but you certainly delivered your comment in such a manner as to give ample evidence that it could be completely discounted as the ravings of a halfwitted lunatic. If you want people to take you seriously, act and write like a serious person.
posted by dersins at 11:56 PM on May 7, 2011


Sorry empress, don't understand your "anyway" comment. Is it meant to dismiss me? To demonstrate that my comments aren't important?

My mother always taught me that when someone was so upset that they blew up inexplicalby like that, tossing around insults like "douche", that there was probably something else going on and the kindest thing to do was talk to someone else and give them a chance to calm down.

Since you've calmed down a bit, I'll answer that -- no, I wouldn't have minded how much they'd paid Dan Brown or anyone else for public speaking. Because that's pretty much what public speakers get paid. The only thing that happened here is that a public fund was set up so that libraries could afford those fees, rather than it always being the corporate teambuilding events or hoity-toity clubs that always get the good guests.

and I say bravo to that, because people who happen not to belong to hoity-toity clubs also deserve to see Dan Brown or Neil Gaiman or Steve Martin or [insert name of author here] speak in person, just as much as the well-off do.

Are you saying that they do not? I notice that you're not objecting to the fee itself -- which is quite average for public speakers -- but to the fact that public money was used for it. Do you think that only the economically fortunate should be allowed the privilege of seeing public speakers?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:50 AM on May 8, 2011


I think it's pretty obvious that puny human is objecting to the amount of the fee. Some jobs pay pretty well - being a hugely successful author with a large fan base is one of them. Sorry if that gives you the shits, puny human, but there it is.

This whole subject seems like such ludicrously obvious political theatre to me. The Arts is always first up against the wall when it comes to questions about public funding.
posted by h00py at 6:08 AM on May 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Look don't call me a teabagger you douche just because I don't support giving an average american's yearly salary to some multi millionaire author who gave a one hour lecture and a 3 hour meet and greet for the Minnesota council of the arts.

Hang on - the Minnesota What of the What?

Puny human, I failed to explain this in the FPP well enough, so if we are no longer asking people to follow the links this is sort of my fault. Let me try to make amends.

The money came from funds earmarked for Club Book. From that link:

Club Book, a program of the Metropolitan Library Services Agency and coordinated by the Library Foundation of Hennepin County, is funded by Minnesota’s Legacy Amendment Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. The funding was made possible by the vote of the people of Minnesota on November 4, 2008 which dedicated funding to preserve Minnesota's arts and cultural heritage.

To explain the last bit - Minnesotans voted in a referendum to having an amount of sales tax specifically dedicated to preserving Minnesota's arts and cultural heritage. I think some people who didn't read any of the links thought that a Legacy Fund meant a fund made up of legacies - that is, bequests from the wills of deceased Minnesotans. In fact, it is called that because it was set up to preserve Minnesota's legacy of arts and culture.

Club Book started in April 2010. That meant that some bookings had to be made during the previous budgeting year. Funds present in the previous budgeting year would not have been carried over to the following year. So, that money - $45,000 according to the Star Tribune, which includes, presumably, facilities hire, refreshments, transport, advertising and Gaiman's speaking fee - had to be spent, and could only be spent on the stated mission of Club Book.

With me so far? Now, you could argue that that $45,000 would not just disappear - that it would go back into the public purse in some way. This may be true. But. Public bodies, including funds, have to balance their books, and a cash surplus is problematic in various ways - especially if it had an assigned purpose for which it had not been used. That is, essentially, failing to fulfil an assigned task for the benefit of the people of Minnesota, for which you had been given public money.

(Also, to be honest, keeping and reallocating that money would probably have cost more than $45,000, in accounting hassle and meetings, but never mind that.)

Other big-name authors have also been involved in Club Book - last month, Walter Moseley (who, no offence intended to any Gaiman fans here, is a much bigger name than Neil Gaiman) did two events, one at a public library and one at the Central Park Amphitheater in Woodbury. The latter of these was hosted by Washington County Library, as Gaiman's speech at Stillwater Junior High School was hosted by Washington engaging him Club Book was delivering on its mandate - to give Minnesota residents the chance to see writers using funding assigned to the arts by the November 2008 referendum.

So, the first question is whether they overpaid for Gaiman (arguably, in the sense that he might have done it for free, if they had not offered his going rate and assured him that the money would not otherwise be spent on books or computers, and that it had to be spent). The second is what the actual consequences of them overpaying for Gaiman were (minimal, as far as I can see, for the people of Minnesota, considerable for Matt Dean).

Matt Dean, the majority leader of the new Republican majority in Minnesota, is pressing the Legacy Fund panel to remove recommendations in spending. His argument is that the $45,000 spent on Gaiman (allegedly) is wasted money, which could have been assigned differently. His actual aim in proposing this, as far as one can tell, is to use the new Republican majority to starve what he sees as the liberal media - including Minnesota Public Radio - of funding which they have so far had guaranteed. This would be an extraordinary move, so he is using the example of Gaiman's speaking fee as an example of conspicuous waste.

However, he also chose to personify this - to present Gaiman as a thief, and the Legacy Fund as not competent to avoid being exploited by thieves such as Gaiman. This, along with the changing composition of Minnesota is part of the difference between the initial controversy and the use of the controversy by Dean now in an attempt to unravel the allocation of the Legacy Fund. Another change is that in November 2010 Minnesota Republicans took a majority in both houses. This may contribute to an emboldened Matt Dean stepping up the rhetoric against Gaiman and against the funding model for the Legacy Fund which currently guarantees funding for MPR.
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:50 AM on May 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


If anyone's interested, the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund's report can be read here (PDF). Relevant bit:

Minnesota voters passed a constitutional amendment in 2008 creating a new 3/8-cent sales tax to support outdoor heritage, clean waters, sustainable drinking water, parks and trails, arts, history and cultural heritage projects and activities. Of the total proceeds from the sales tax, 19.75% are dedicated to the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund (ACHF) to support “...arts, arts education and arts access and to preserve Minnesota’s history and cultural heritage.” Based on current sales tax revenue, the people of Minnesota will invest more than $1.2 billion in ACHF programs and projects over the 25- year life of the tax.

This controversy is part of pressure to pass a new appropriations bill, replacing the one already passed, which removes earmarked funding for certain groups (MPR, the Minnesota Zoo) and would make all the potential beneficiaries compete for reallocated funds. It's an egregious move, and presumably Dean thought it required egregious rhetorical support.

A cynic might suggest the long game would be to shrink the 19.75% of the new tax revenues that goes to the ACHF, and instead allocate it to other parts of the remit of the constitutional amendment, but IANA Minnesota state constitutional scholar. A cynic might further suggest that publicly supported arts entities are often supported by Democrats and enjoyed by poorer voters, who are often Democrats, whereas funding going to e.g water treatment would move that money straight into the private sector.
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:14 AM on May 8, 2011


The money was specifically for bringing speakers to libraries. You can argue that it should have been spent on bringing more speakers to more libraries, but that's actually something of a debatable point - but I would say there's a non-linear benefit to bringing in a more famous author then multiple low cost authors.
posted by delmoi at 10:57 AM on May 8, 2011


I agree - and also, there was a finite time to get this budget assigned, and possibly a condition on how far in the future one could book using it. Like I say, Club Book just got Walter Moseley, as endorsed by President Clinton, who (assuming he is charging his standard rate, and assuming he has set it to the market rate rather than artificially high) I would guess is not cheap. IMHestimation, he's considerably better-known in conventional circles than Gaiman. And they got Garrison Keillor, although I very much hope on a discount deal, given his association with Minnesota, Minnesota Public Radio and bookselling in Minnesota. The Legacy Fund must have saved him a whole bunch of time manning the phones for MPR pledge drives.

(I kid!)

It's worth remembering that the people of Minnesota voted for this amendment. If the only argument for the attack on it is that an initiative funded by it may have overpaid for one speaking engagement to clear its budget1, then that makes Dean's choice of language yet more revealing.



1 Itself questionable. Gaiman is hardly a household name, but he has an audience: in Twitter terms he is roughly equivalent to booking 15% of Justin Bieber. How many people across the world now know about Minnesota's Club Book project, or about the great state of Minnesota's commitment to culture, as a result of this brouhaha?
posted by running order squabble fest at 12:19 PM on May 8, 2011


I am surprised at people who say Neil Gaiman doesn't "deserve" to be paid $45,000 to speak.

How do you decide who deserves anything? What gives you that right? If you said, "Well, I personally couldn't afford to pay that," then, fine, but no one is asking you to, so that's beside the point here. "I can't command that kind of money, so I don't want anyone else to get paid that much either," is probably a more honest representation of what some of you really seem to mean.

But just saying someone doesn't "deserve" that money is ridiculous. To paraphrase Humphrey Bogart, if you can command that kind of salary and get it, you're worth it.

I'm also surprised that we don't have more outrage in this thread directed towards an elected official spouting childish insults like, "pencil-necked weasel," and at someone who has done nothing more than fulfill a contractual obligation to speak in front of an audience.
posted by misha at 2:09 PM on May 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


How do you decide who deserves anything? What gives you that right?

Call me crazy, but I think that the people who pay the taxes should have a say in how the money gets spent.

I'm not in MN, so I'm not particularly exercised about it, but if I was, I'd be a trifle annoyed.
posted by empath at 2:29 PM on May 8, 2011


Call me crazy, but I think that the people who pay the taxes should have a say in how the money gets spent.


This is actually a rare example of the people who pay the taxes having a say in how their money gets spent, empath.

As explained above, the funds for the speech came from a fund specifically voted into existence by Minnesotans in 2008. They voted for a sales tax of 3/8 cent on each dollar, with the proceeds going into a Legacy Fund, 19.75% of which goes to the arts and cultural heritage.

They don't specifically get offered a plebiscite on precisely what those proceeds should fund, but it's actually quite a bit closer to getting what you want from your taxes than e.g general taxation.

The expectation in the funding proposition from January 2010 is that over the 25-year life of the tax $1.2 billion dollars will be generated for the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund - so, although it's a crude measure, the top end of the estimate of the cost of getting Gaiman to talk is ... 0.00375% of the expected budget over the life of the tax. Or, by another crude measure, about a thousandth of the amount one might expect to accrue to the fund in a year, assuming that to be a smooth 4% of the expected total per year.

All crude numbers, but an interesting perspective. It's a lot of money, but also not a lot of money, IYSWIM.
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:10 PM on May 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


"I am surprised at people who say Neil Gaiman doesn't "deserve" to be paid $45,000 to speak.
How do you decide who deserves anything? What gives you that right?"

I specifically stated in several of my comments misha that if Gaiman had been paid by a private corporation or had put on a concert and generated those fees, no one would care. It would be a non story. By your logic, why should we care what Halliburton or Bechtel or any government contractor gets paid?

running order squabble fest -- no one is arguing that they didn't follow the law as it was written to the letter. Just that was an obscene amount of money to pay an already wealthy private businessman for his public service. 4 hours worth of public service.
posted by puny human at 3:36 PM on May 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


As explained above, the funds for the speech came from a fund specifically voted into existence by Minnesotans in 2008.

Yes, and those same Minnesotans can vote to kill the fund, too, if they don't like how the money is being spent.

I'd suggest that if you support this program, not having further embarrassingly profligate expenditures like this would be a good thing.
posted by empath at 3:53 PM on May 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


By your logic, why should we care what Halliburton or Bechtel or any government contractor gets paid?

I suspect we would see much less of the argument that it's OK for the government to pay over the odds for a service if a bureaucrat issued a no-bid contract for $45,000 to Halliburton for logistics services that they would have provided for, say, $10,000. Even if it was the end of the fiscal year, the funds had already been allocated for logistics services, and could not be reallocated that year or held over within the same office for the next year.
posted by grouse at 4:09 PM on May 8, 2011


But just saying someone doesn't "deserve" that money is ridiculous. To paraphrase Humphrey Bogart, if you can command that kind of salary and get it, you're worth it.

And also to paraphrase Ayn Rand, but somehow the people who argue against this are the tea party representatives in this thread. But as others have said, I would just think this was a gaudy extravagance if it were a private corporation paying it. Public funds? I really think that's money that's being misspent. It really has nothing to do with whether Gaiman's awesome. It has everything to do with, dang, that is one expensive speech. Was there really no better use for that much money? Really?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:32 PM on May 8, 2011


Well, how many Minnesota taxpayers here think it was a waste of money?

My vote: it was not a waste of money.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:39 PM on May 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


I still don't love all aspects of the implementation, but I'd much rather pay state money for Neil Gaiman than for any motherfucking ballpark.
posted by COBRA! at 4:48 PM on May 8, 2011 [6 favorites]


The choice that was made was whether it was spent on Neil Gaiman or to spend a smaller amount on Neil Gaiman and spend the rest for other arts purposes.

For what it's worth, I'm also against spending so much money on ballparks.
posted by grouse at 4:49 PM on May 8, 2011


I was responding to AZ's comment; and that came from heading over here right after checking the Mpls paper and seeing that a Vikings stadium bill is imminent. This bill, of course, to go through Matt Dean's MN house of reps.
posted by COBRA! at 4:52 PM on May 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


empath: Yes, and those same Minnesotans can vote to kill the fund, too, if they don't like how the money is being spent.

I'm not sure that's exactly right - this is an amendment to the Minnesota Constitution, which runs until 2034. I'm not sure what the process is for repealing an amendment to the Minnesota Constitution... I haven't looked into that, because a popular vote seems like the least likely route the Minnesota Republicans would take at this point.

I'd suggest that if you support this program, not having further embarrassingly profligate expenditures like this would be a good thing.

I don't exactly support the program, personally - I'm not a taxpayer in the great state of Minnesota. But I think you're confused about what they actually voted for. The Club Book program wasn't voted for. The Clean Water, Legacy and Land Amendment was voted for. 19.75% of that goes to the Arts and Culture Legacy Fund. Over the 25 years of the Amendment, it's expected to raise and distribute about $6 billion. $45,000 is a lot of money, but it's also not a lot of money - it's not much compared to the $6 billion the fund will pay out over 25 years on current projections, or the $770-870 million it would cost to build a new Vikings stadium (depending on roofing options). The immediate question is how much political capital who can make out of this.

I'm not entirely sure Dean played a smart game by pulling this up now - it might give the message that the fund has after this blip taken the criticism on board and spent the last year managing its expenditure. Which might in turn make it easier for critics to argue that this is about pursuing a vendetta against MPR, and not actually about Neil Gaiman at all. And, even though the Giffords armistice has somewhat fallen away, the language he's used seems like an easy win for Democrats seeking to portray Republicans in a negative light. The base might enjoy it, but do neutrals? I guess the Republican caucus doesn't need to worry about that for now, anyway...
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:57 PM on May 8, 2011


I'd suggest that if you support this program, not having further embarrassingly profligate expenditures like this would be a good thing.

If this really were "embarrassingly profligate," then this might be a fair point. But when it comes to public speakers, this is actually "pretty much in the middle." The only catch is that most of us are not in the habit of pricing public speakers, so the average person on the street doesn't know that.

Which means that unfortunately it's easy for someone who wants to spin the incident in a bad way to say "oh, mercy, look how much money is being spent on this!" while conveniently hiding the fact that some public speakers charge THREE TIMES as much.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:30 PM on May 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


By your logic, why should we care what Halliburton or Bechtel or any government contractor gets paid?

Because no one gets to vote on whether we want our money to go to government contractors? Seriously, I wish we did get to have some say on, for example, defense spending, because I would definitely vote to cut that right down.

But Minnesotas said, "Hey, one of the things we DO want to spend our money on is arts and culture." And the Legacy Fund was put in place to do that.

And, again, this has only become a pet cause for the politicians because they want to build a new stadium instead. Which would cost a lot more than Neil Gaiman. So it isn't really a case of "This guy is too expensive and I want to save the taxpayers' money!" even though that is the way it is being played. You are buying right into the rhetoric.

Good thing the Minnesotans in this thread are wise to all the razzle dazzle and prestidigitation.
posted by misha at 6:42 PM on May 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Because no one gets to vote on whether we want our money to go to government contractors? Seriously, I wish we did get to have some say on, for example, defense spending, because I would definitely vote to cut that right down.

We may not have a say in it directly. But we do get to vote on the people who do get a vote on this.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:10 PM on May 8, 2011


Bill Clinton: $75,000-$450,000
Rudolph Giuliani: $75,000-$200,000
Ken Burns, noted Documentarian: $50,000
Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger. Notre Dame Football Walk-on in 1975: $15,000 for colleges, $20,000 for corporate groups
Arianna Huffington: $25,000-$40,000
Al Gore: $100,000
Ed Koch: $10,000-$20,000
Mark Spitz: $20,000
Colin Powell: $100,000-$200,000
Sean Hannity: $100,000


Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter: $20

can we get him for like our next 60 meetups? I'll cover his beers, you guys get the speaker fee. (actual listing, from the other speaker fee link upthread)
posted by toodleydoodley at 7:11 PM on May 8, 2011


Again navelgazer, I ask, what if the council had decided on (insert your least favorite famous author here) to give the lecture. Would you still find that fee acceptable when paid out of a public trust?

Sure. I'm puzzled by the concept of making an objection on these grounds.

The point of the program is to bring authors out for speaking engagements, which is a Good Thing for the community in general. I just don't attend the programs by the authors who I don't much like, but I don't have any need for everyone's tastes or politics to conform to mine.
posted by desuetude at 7:29 PM on May 8, 2011


And, again, this has only become a pet cause for the politicians because they want to build a new stadium instead. Which would cost a lot more than Neil Gaiman. So it isn't really a case of "This guy is too expensive and I want to save the taxpayers' money!" even though that is the way it is being played. You are buying right into the rhetoric.

I think it's pretty possible to be against building new stadiums and against extravagant spending on public speakers. That said, building a stadium employs construction workers for months, maybe a year. $45k to one person is just $45k to one person. It's true that Gaiman basically turned around and gave that money right back, but he was under no obligation to do so, and wouldn't have if not for his basic decency. Basic decency is not really something you can count on, you know? So no, I don't think Gaiman is a thief or any of that horseshit, if that's what you mean by buying right into the rhetoric. I just think this money is being spent badly, or was spent badly in this case. It's unfortunate that saying that evidently has political connotations. But for the record, I like Gaiman just fine, I am not a republican, I am for all public money for the arts, and I think this was not a wise use of this money.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:30 PM on May 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


...Or rather, "all for public money to the arts." Not "for all public money to the arts." That's kind of an extreme position, I guess.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:32 PM on May 8, 2011


Good thing the Minnesotans in this thread are wise to all the razzle dazzle and prestidigitation.

The condescension in this thread is thick, and has been since the beginning.
posted by empath at 7:36 PM on May 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, how many Minnesota taxpayers here think it was a waste of money?

My vote: it was not a waste of money.


Second that, AZ.
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:05 PM on May 8, 2011


If you consider the expenditure being discussed here in the context of other exorbitant government expenditures, it's pretty small. The Rs are not making this charge because of a generalized concern about misspending of the public purse. They have selected this one rather minor expenditure because they hate this program. Full stop.

Our bickering on this thread about whether the expenditure is exorbitant or not plays right into their political calculus. The question should be whether the budget for this kind of program is of appropriate size and whether those charged with deciding how to spend the money are the right people to make the decisions. The current crop of not-sane Rs don't care about either question, because they believe any expenditures for public art, education, or welfare are immoral. They would like to see money only spent on roads, bridges, and related infrastructure and subsidies to businesses. They don't understand how government works, nor do they care. They are not good people.
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:15 PM on May 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


As many people have pointed out more or less without saying the words $45,000 is not that much money.

Bullshit. It would have funded a freaking decade of the small-press oriented poetry reading series I have co-curated for a number of years - which got its funds eliminated this year, I presume as trickle-down from the NY state budget crisis. (And we regularly brought in nationally-known poets to read paired up with local folks.)

Part of what's pissing some of us off in this thread is the identification a lot of people seem to have with Gaiman's Hollywood big money mentality, where $45k is a trivial sum. For some of us, it's definitely not.
posted by aught at 9:01 AM on May 9, 2011


Yeah, you want to talk about condescending? How about people who aren't part of the political debate coming in and telling us what a waste of money our legacy amendment is? I can understand denouncing the referendum and amendment process when it comes to taking away unpopular people's rights. That's terrible, and anyone with a brain can see that. But in this case, there was a well-publicized political campaign that started something like two decades ago, in order to set aside a dedicated fund for environmental and arts purposes. It passed in 2008 with a nearly 60-40 vote. There is a context to this controversy, and if you're coming in and knee-jerking about Dean's statement without bothering to learn that context I just don't have any respect for your opinion about it.
posted by norm at 9:13 AM on May 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


There is a context to this controversy, and if you're coming in and knee-jerking about Dean's statement without bothering to learn that context I just don't have any respect for your opinion about it.

That's pretty much the definition of condescension, so thanks.

It's possible to separate the douchebaggery of teaparty politicians from the actual payment to Gaiman and judge them separately, you know. Just because someone you dislike says bad things about a thing, that doesn't by definition make the thing worth defending. If anyone's knee-jerking, it's the people who keep pointing at Dean saying "Look at this asshole" and actually refusing to even consider that the money paid to Gaiman was poorly spent.
posted by empath at 9:28 AM on May 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


So let me get this straight: Dean gets a pass on making several uninformed, ill-tempered and possible slanderous remarks about an an author he very obviously has no clue about just because he doesn't like the Legacy Fund?

Was Gaiman paid too much? That's a very subjective call to make. Other institutions have paid his fee in the past, so there is a market out there for him. The library could have said "Hey, that's too much, we're gonna take a pass." They didn't. They didn't even try to negotiate a lower rate (which Gaiman said he has done in the past WHEN ASKED). Why? Because they had access to enough money to pay his Very High Speaking Fee thanks to the Legacy Fund. Which seems to be THE POINT OF THE GODDAMN FUND TO BEGIN WITH!

Castigating Gaiman for charging too much misses the point. I'm pretty sure Mike Dean would have found a way to ignorantly excoriate the apparently metric shit ton of local authors & artists Gaiman's fee would have paid, all to show his opposition to the Legacy Fund in principle. Let's be clear about something here: Mike Dean's target WASN"T wasteful public spending; that was a smoke screen for his real target: perceived "liberal smarty-pants" who like things like Legacy Fund programs. It was a cheap political ploy to rile up his supporters, which makes it that much more shameful, because there is a valid basis for discussing the public value of the Legacy Fund that didn't need to descend to this level.

It is a mark of the acceptance of the decline of civil discourse that certain people in this thread seem to think that Dean's personalized,inflammatory rhetoric has no bearing on the "larger context" of this issue. If he didn't like the program (or how it was run), then he should have come right out and said so, instead of resorting to name calling and slander. There is no place for the rank anti-intellectualism in the halls of power by the Mike Deans of the world. It serves no purpose other than to marginalize artists, journalists and educators in the eyes of the public and make people suspicious of anyone who dares to speak out in defense of the life of the mind.
posted by KingEdRa at 1:15 PM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've got a huge festering boil on my cheek and the rules say no one with a festering boil on the cheek can get in to the Super Phun Tyme Arcade. Not wishing to be banned from SPT, I find in a crowd of other children one child who has a small pimple on his cheek and say loudly, "Look at that little asshole trying to sneak in with his huge boil; I really hate that pencil-neck weasel." At which the other children begin loudly discussing whether it is a big enough boil to justify a ban and just how much they dislike or don't mind his boil and where does he get off trying to enter SPT with such a boil and geez if they had a pimple like that they would be so ashamed of it. I, myself, by this time have slipped into SPT and am enjoying a ride on the rocking spaceship whilst spreading my boil pus all over it and laughing at my cleverness. The rest of you yahoos are still outside arguing about the size of that pimple.
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:19 PM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


It is a mark of the acceptance of the decline of civil discourse that certain people in this thread seem to think that Dean's personalized,inflammatory rhetoric has no bearing on the "larger context" of this issue.

It was controversial before Dean said anything about it, hence Gaiman's blog post attempting to defend it from last year.

I think Dean's rhetoric is indefensible, but that's a separate issue, and has absolutely 0 bearing on whether Gaiman's payment was a misuse of money or not.
posted by empath at 1:31 PM on May 9, 2011


Just to be clear:

Dean: rude, arts-hating opportunist
Gaiman: cool, talented and successful writer
Legacy Fund: worthwhile program for making the arts more accessible to more people

They didn't even try to negotiate a lower rate (which Gaiman said he has done in the past WHEN ASKED). Why? Because they had access to enough money to pay his Very High Speaking Fee thanks to the Legacy Fund. Which seems to be THE POINT OF THE GODDAMN FUND TO BEGIN WITH!

No, it is not. The point of the Legacy Fund (or specifically, this Club Book project which is financed by the fund) is to attract well-known authors to MN libraries who not come if they were not offered market rates. If it actually takes $45k to persuade Neil Gaiman or any other sufficiently famous person to deliver a speech to library patrons, then that is OK.

What you are saying is that the point of the fund is to spare arts administrators from having to negotiate at all, or even ask for a discount. That is what is wasteful: paying the list price without even attempting to ascertain whether something can be had for less. It's not as if inquiring about a discount would have caused the agent to scream 'NO - and never call again, the Minnesota Library System and Club Book are DEAD TO US NOW because you insulted us with your filthy lowball offer!' Sure, getting lowballed is a little annoying, but no more so than getting highballed as a buyer. It's a fact of life in business, and one can either say 'no, the price is firm because...' or 'we can't afford that low price, you can't afford our high price, so let's see if we can split the difference.'

If a buyer makes an offer for something that is too low, and the seller rejects it, it's the offer that got rejected, not the buyer! No business person in their right mind would reject a buyer for offering a price that was too low unless the buyer persisted in making unrealistic offers so frequently that it became a waste of the seller's time. In general a seller expects to do some negotiating, and sets the opening price high enough to serve as a signal of the price range and to deter non-serious bidders. Any business that drove away buyers for merely attempting to haggle would quickly fail. Whether the seller's price turns out to be fixed or negotiable, a buyer's request for a better price is entirely reasonable. If a buyer declines to make any request, it's because the buyer is averse to doing any negotiation.

I can sympathize with this desire. Negotiating is stressful. I do not find it enjoyable, and such negotiating skill as I have is the product of necessity rather than desire. I would rather just be so rich that that I could pay the asking price for everything and never ever need to haggle or ask for a better deal. But I'm not, so I can't. If I always worked for free and paid top dollar for anything I bought with no consideration of value or negotiability, then I'd be unable to meet my obligations. Likewise, if one is spending money on behalf of the public, and has an opportunity to negotiate, it's irresponsible not to do so. Just because you can spend up to $45,000 does not mean you should, if you don't have to.

Why would you not pay the lowest price you could? This thing about 'it'll be gone from the budget if we don't spend it' is a terrible excuse. If you don't have a 'wish list' of alternatives to spend it on in case your first choice is unavailable, then it means you did no contingency planning. It is the job of an administrator to make the most of available resources and to be prepared for contingencies.
posted by anigbrowl at 2:47 PM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Negotiating is stressful. I do not find it enjoyable, and such negotiating skill as I have is the product of necessity rather than desire.

Some people love it. These are not my people.
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:23 PM on May 9, 2011


Metafilter: Sheesh. Read the links, people.

I cannot BELIEVE nobody got this one yet.
posted by antifuse at 3:25 PM on May 9, 2011


And just as a datapoint -- I've done some booking of talent -- $45k is more than it costs to book a touring 'superstar dj' in a major city on a friday or saturday night, who will draw several thousand people paying $50 a person, not to mention money at the bar.

Music acts also adjust their prices to the venue. I booked nights at a suburban bar where locally based DJs who would normally ask for $5000 or more a night would halve their booking fee because their schedule was free and they didn't have to travel, and they knew how many people we could reasonably draw at that location. And I'm talking about people who made 90% of their income from bookings, not multimillionaires who didn't need the money. If Gaiman didn't want to speak for 500 people unless they paid him 45k, they should have said no, and that's all there is to it.

Gaiman gave every indication of either needing or wanting the money, and from his own words the only reason he took it was because the person who wanted to book him convinced him that they were going to lose the money if they didn't spend it. He knew full well that it was an excessive amount of money for that sort of engagement, and anybody that has ever booked talent for any reason should know that, too.

The money was poorly spent, that's all there is to it.
posted by empath at 3:58 PM on May 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


What you are saying is that the point of the fund is to spare arts administrators from having to negotiate at all, or even ask for a discount.

Where did I say that? If anything, my comment above implies that the blame for paying the full amount fell on the person who called the booking agency without making any inquiries or doing their homework. They could have asked for a discount but failed to do so. However, what if Gaiman DIDN'T have a discount policy? By your own admission, it would have been fine.

I fail to see how any of this is Gaiman's fault and where Mike Dean was justified in using his rhetoric agaianst Gaiman. Yes, I know Dean eventually apologized, albeit in a rather disengenuous way, but what was the point of his initial remarks about Gaiman other than to dog-whistle his base about the "evils" of public arts funding?
posted by KingEdRa at 4:40 PM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Some people love [negotiation]. These are not my people.

What does this have to do with anything?

If anything, my comment above implies that the blame for paying the full amount fell on the person who called the booking agency without making any inquiries or doing their homework. They could have asked for a discount but failed to do so. However, what if Gaiman DIDN'T have a discount policy? By your own admission, it would have been fine.

Um...that's exactly what I am talking about. By 'arts administrators' I mean the persons who do the administrative work of calling booking agents, making deals with them, and cutting checks, and whose job it is to inquire into things like whether discounts are available.

I fail to see how any of this is Gaiman's fault and where Mike Dean was justified in using his rhetoric agaianst Gaiman.

Did you see that bit where I said Gaiman was a cool talented guy, Dean is an arts-hating opportunist, and I support having a legacy fund to promote the arts? No criticism of Gaiman here. No approval of Dean here. No objection to spending money on the arts here.
posted by anigbrowl at 6:04 PM on May 9, 2011


If people read nothing else in the comments of this thread, they need to read running order squabble fest's response to puny human here.

Now, personally? I think the arguments in this thread have gotten a bit out of control. Club Book was created to pay the large speaking fees commanded by popular authors, so that libraries can get big name authors in to get people interested in reading. Is Neil Gaiman worth spending $45k on? Maybe, maybe not. But I highlight this part of ROSF's response above:

Club Book started in April 2010. That meant that some bookings had to be made during the previous budgeting year. Funds present in the previous budgeting year would not have been carried over to the following year

The program had JUST started. It's not like it was running for the whole year, and then they came up at the end of the year all "Woo, lookit all this extra money we have! I want a GOLD PLATED rocket car of an author, let's see who we can find!" The program had just started, and if they got their budget cut by that $45k (or whatever it actually was, who knows where the Strib got their numbers from), it would have been a ridiculous punishment.

Now, whether or not Club Book is a valid program? I don't know. Will they pay lots of money for big name authors in the future? Sounds like it. That's what the program was created for. I'm not an MN taxpayer, so I can't go complaining to my local representative about it. But if you're an MN taxpayer and you don't like the program, feel free to go complain. So far, having read all the comments in this thread, I've only seen two people admit to being MN taxpayers, and they both liked the program.
posted by antifuse at 7:36 AM on May 10, 2011


Update on the story in today's Star Tribune.

Some people love [negotiation]. These are not my people.

What does this have to do with anything?


Just agreeing with you regarding the stress associated with it and then advancing the further thought that I don't feel a kinship with those people who seem to relish negotiating. Was I too obscure?
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:48 AM on May 10, 2011


Oh, I see - I read it the wrong way and got confused. Don't mind me!
posted by anigbrowl at 1:04 PM on May 10, 2011


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