May 26 2009
There are a couple of laws of nature that, if observed, help make life just a little bit more enjoyable because they are the keys that unlock the mysterious.
Now, this isn’t Murphy’s Law whereby whichever checkout line you choose will inevitably be the slowest. I wish I could crack that mystery, though. Instead, these are laws that seem to prevail regardless of human intervention like the 80/20 rule, known scientifically as the Pareto Principle, a theory that says 80% of the effects of something occur as a result of 20% of the inputs. Anybody that has been a part of any team-based project knows this one by heart. Another is the “Gaussian distribution” which is better known as the “Bell Curve” or “normal distribution.” This basically says distribution of a large number of basic random processes follow a general and natural symmetry, akin to the shape of a bell.
Think about the normal distribution in terms of any pop culture item—a music band, an actor, a phenomena like the DaVinci Code, etc. There’s a slow build up, there’s a peak (critical acclaim or popular opinion) and then there’s a descent.
This becomes important because the Wall Street Journal article about Robert Parker today rekindled last months kerfuffle about Parker and his influence. Now, mind you, on the surface, this was about Parker and ethical standards, but below the simmering surface this becomes an issue of anti-Parker hostility and sticking the shovel in the dirt to get the first toss of earth.
Is Parker’s influence on the wane? Of course it is, he’s been at the peak of his game for 20 years. Bloggers have nothing to do with it, if bloggers didn’t exist it would be some other form of communication that’s beginning its ascent up the normal distribution curve. Yes, of course, Parker’s on the slide down the other side of the curve. But, that’s where legacy comes in, and it cannot be understated—his legacy will prevail long after he’s gone.
Who the eff is Carl Friedrich Gauss? I have no idea, but his normal distribution idea lives long after he does.
Methinks those that use Parker as a lightning rod and dump bucket for a larger conversation on his influence and the 100 point scale might be better off letting the law of normal distribution continue its natural course while assailing just the 100 pt. scale. Parker will fade soon enough.
Previous post on this topic:
On Legacies, Music and the 100-pt Scale
What I Wrote About a Year Ago:
Vin de Napkin - R.I.P. Wine-ing 2.0
Elin McCoy, Author of The Emperor of Wine, on Parker:
Via Viddler and David Horowitz