Morning Ed: Society {2017.08.30.W}

[So1] Yeah, these are pretty dark and twisted, made moreso by the smiling faces.

[So2] This is an innovative solution for handling comments on a large website.

[So3] Did nobody inform them that the Joker is white? I have it on good authority that sort of thing is the only reason comic book fans ever object to anything.

[So4] Homemaking without a home.

[So5] GOOD NEWS EVERYBODY!!!!!!!

[So6] Lyman Stone looks at the economics of Game of Thrones and investigates why their world is so poor.

[So7] Introducing the brains behind the most colossally failed video game of all time. I had an Atari 2600, but never got a hold of this one.

[So8] Michael Winslow – the sound effects guy from the Police Academy movies – is really devoted to his craft.

[So9] Perry Horton works out the similarities between Fight Club and A Clockwork Orange.


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Will Truman is a former professional gearhead who is presently a stay-at-home father in the Mountain East. He has moved around frequently, having lived in six places since 2003, ranging from rural outposts to major metropolitan areas. He also writes fiction, when he finds the time. ...more →

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112 thoughts on “Morning Ed: Society {2017.08.30.W}

  1. [So4] “Yet both groups tend to assume that household concerns and routines are trivial, repetitious, unskilled, and not particularly interesting. The work of maintaining a household is scarcely recognized as work—which is why it’s either poorly paid or not paid at all. ”

    Riiiiiight. OK, I’ll give the author that cleaning sucks. Cooking, that’s a different story. But the last sentence? Anyone who’s done it, KNOWS that it’s work. And it’s unpaid because what would be the point of a wage earner (me) coming home, cleaning, and “paying” myself?

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  2. So2 – I think Xkcd proposed something like this

    So3 – I’m more or less on the angry fan boys side on this; origin stories are, by now, trite, weak, lazy, and unnecessary for the genre, and that goes even more so for the Joker, ostensibly an agent of pure chaos.

    So5 – I was expecting this to be something about Professor Farnsworth.

    So8 – I need to make the time to listen tovthis; I’ve long found amusing that 1010 WINS in NYC (the all news station) still foleys the clickity clack of a teletype machine decades after the last one was actually used in the studio.

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  3. So1: I couldn’t look at them.

    So2: The comments section will be in the single or double digits at most.

    So3: The Joker’s real color is Ivory soap.

    So5: Revenge of the nerds indeed.

    So6: Articles like this are tedious. The reason Westeros is poor is that it is necessary for George Martin’s story. Its the same reason why so many fantasy worlds remain in the High Middle Ages for millennia. People want stories in an idealized medieval land with magic, dragons, and princesses. They generally don’t want tales about a fantasy equivalent of the Vanderbilt family using magic to build a shipping and transportation empire. Nor do they like to read about exploited dwarf workers toiling away in the mines and foundries of a magical Andrew Carnegie and getting radicalized into whatever Marxism would be like in a fantasy world.

    I’d also like to point out that humans in our world spent hundreds of thousands of years as hunter-gatherers and most potential industrial revolutions ended up getting aborted before the late 18th century. It is possible for a society not to experience an industrial revolution.

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    • I think there’s an interesting “what if” about the world Westeros is set in. What would development be like if the Winters and summers both came in varying lengths? I could definitely see an argument for a stronger more centralized feudal society due to the imperative of collecting, preserving and protecting huge caches of food during the long summers to allow survival through the eventual long winters.

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      • An area with Westeros particular climate issues would probably have a much more centralized government than a decentralized feudal one because its particular needs. It wouldn’t be feudal at all but more like France or Prussia during their absolutist periods or a bit more benignly England during the reign of Elizabeth I in terms of how centralized things are. Maybe it would be even more like one of the more compact Confucian monarchies like Yi dynasty Korea or Vietnam before the French took over. The smaller Confucian monarchies were pretty skilled at creating hierarchical societies and economies were everybody had their part and played it for the most part. The Chinese emperors tried but controlled too much land and too many diverse peoples to apply pure Confucianism throughout their domain.

        A centralized Westeros would still not necessarily be an industrial one. Their varying winters and summers could easily focus the entire economy on surviving long winters. Agricultural would always be the focus because everything would be about growing enough food and preserving it for as long as needed to survive the winter. Their would also be focus on heating and fuel for long winters when they hit. This would take away from the other fields that fueled the industrial revolution like textiles. Although, I imagine that fur would be a big industry along with coal. The entire society would be focused on surviving a five year winter if it hits. Not really encouraging for capitalism, industrialization, and consumerism.

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        • That sounds entirely plausible to me, well done. Natural sources of renewable heat would also be a huge deal. Martin alluded to that by noting that Winterfell was sited where it was due to the presence of hot springs.

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          • Plus, I’d challenge the primary conceit; smaller cohesive “feudal” groups would manage the winter better than a large sink-or-swim endeavor; losing a few families/bannermen are likely inevitable… but the wheel turns and they are replaced with the survivors. That’s the most plausible path, not single-eater-payment plans run by a central authority.

            [Though the books seem to contravene this theory with impossibly long family histories – but that’s more of GRRM just catching fame by the tail than it is a conscious socio-economic thought]

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            • Marchmaine,
              We don’t have Kulthea’s “Here there Be Monsters” reason for there not to be a central authority.
              If, as was stated, there were specific places for storing food (like the wall), then winters get spent there, and summers get spent with everyone split up and farming. This isn’t centralized authority so much as centralized planning.
              If not, then it’ll make more sense to have “enough defenses to survive winter, and any dangers therein.”

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              • That’s what Winterfell is… the place where you can ride out the winters. The books talk a bit about the natural hot-springs (as per the first TV episode) and IIRC there’s some sort of simple hothouse tech that they deploy to help survive… so survivability is local.

                But yes, ultimately the *reality* of Winter, is not fully depicted in either book or film; rather we get some pale idea of a stylized winter instead. So to anyone who was paying attention, it was pretty clear that GRRM had lost control of his narrative because Winter, winter, and WINTER are characters that have plots all their own. Unless, the plan was simple starvation and fade to black on the Night King’s bloodless victory… in which case, bravely done, sir.

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                • March,
                  I’m not leaving that on the table. Not for Martin at least.
                  Gerrold, on the other hand, may ACTUALLY let the aliens win.
                  Just like tribbles, except…

                  Reading Green Mars now (boy, that needs an edit), Winter is an… odd concept. There’s ice, there’s snow, and then there is bitter cold.

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            • Absolutely I can see that argument being made too. But a five-seven year food stockpile would become an astronomically huge economic asset in the waning days of a long summer and any of the grasshopper neighbors would suddenly become quite interested in it. So I can see a need for a strong central authority to either maintain law and order or to provide adequate protection for said stockpiles.

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      • It seems to me that Martin’s overall conceit isn’t that seasons are weird due to crazy orbits & axial tilt of multiple stars and co-planets or whatever, but rather the seasons themselves are magical.

        Winter doesn’t cause the White Walkers to start moving south, but rather the White Walkers moving south causes winter.

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        • Yes, it’s established cannon that the seasons vary in length. Maesters play a strong astronomical/climate modeling role in sending out warnings (white Ravens) when they identify that the season is changing over.

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    • Lee,
      Kulthea isn’t Middle Ages. It’s… ai yi, Early Renaissance?
      And building a shipping empire is a bitch because of the timelag, more than anything else. Being a Pirate? That’s fun, and in the same era. (Bonus if you are actually a Privateer, flying under flags and with politics involved!)

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      • Many of the people who are writing articles why Westeros never under went industrialization should know this. Most of them are nerds and read their fair bit of fantasy novels. They aren’t literary people or thriller people without previous exposure to the fantasy genre. They know that a seemingly endless middle ages is part of the genre.

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        • The people writing articles about lack of racial diversity in Westeros don’t seem to have read any fantasy genre before. It seems pretty clear to me that Martin, like those that went before him (Howard and Tolkien in particular), is interested in writing historical fiction in a fantasy setting and the world-building elements of epic fantasy are conveyed easier by assuming a base of popular understanding that we are in medieval Northwest Europe.

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          • Well hell, now that I think about it the fishing ecology of Martins world would be absolutely nuts with variable length multi year seasons. Like it shouldn’t resemble earth ecology at all. I could imagine trees and plants evolving to survive those kinds of stints of cold but what the hell would the herbivores eat for five years when winter comes? And by extension what would the predators eat?

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            • I think of winter as magic. A lot of the realistic framing at the early part of the series appears to be because magic is in the periphery, and as Winter approaches it feels like magic is emerging. Maybe there are some unconventional answers to your questions? Or maybe we’ll never know.

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            • North,
              The herbivores migrate. or they eat dead grass and absolutely DESTROY the young trees, the way deer tend to when overpopulated.
              (And I was about to talk about El Ninos and fishing in Peru, when I realized you meant the whole ecology)

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              • Sure, that’s probably got them through half of the first year of the winter.

                Then again Martin has always been vague about how winter actually works, like does that just mean 5 years of clammy cold seasons in the more tropical places? If so then I suppose winter would exterminate the wildlife in the temperate zones and northward and they’d just repopulate from southern refuges during the long summers.. or become migratory.

                But ultimately, as Kolohe points out, it’s just too much nitty gritty.

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            • I assume the people writing about lack of racial diversity in GoT find the world today a cringeworthy place; they are the people who find fantasy books that attempt to confront the issue of racistm to be racist. Howard’s diversity seems to be the same as GoT, the main charachter(s) and the center of the action takes place in Western Europe, with rare interactions with peripheral areas.

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              • Dany’s the main character of GoT (if you had to pick one… but there are certainly lots of Western Europe characters also) and the center of the action for most of her arc is non-Western-European.

                That said I agree with you that GoT is trying to confront the issue and critique stuff like the white savior trope. I actually love that about the books. But the people I know who find it racist do so not because they’re ignorant about what Martin’s trying to do, but because they think he’s doing a damn poor job. (Same with sexism in the books, it works for me, others think it’s ham-fisted and not actually better than what it’s trying to critique.) And there are plenty and plenty of books that confront racism without pissing people off nearly as much as Martin does. (Or as Howard does, that’s a whole ‘nother level.)

                I’m not ragging on the GoT books, just asserting that the people who get angry at them are not all doing so because of ignorance.

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  4. So2: I like that idea, reading comprehension required. Would also cut down on the spam comments that ‘bots post about making $X doing some work-at-home scam.

    (As I remember it, the XKCD idea was it read the comment back to you before posting it, and presumably the comment-writer was self-aware enough to realize what an idiot their trolly comment made them sound like once they heard it.)

    So5: warms the icy-black cockles of my shriveled little unpopular-kid’s heart, it does. Of course, living alone, not having had a kid, putting a lot of stress on myself to do well at things, not having a pet, and about fifteen other things are going to kill me prematurely, so I suppose I shouldn’t be too gleeful.

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    • I’d be okay if it were a Rashomon.

      And if it were directed in such a way that actors keep pulling the director aside and asking “so what really happened? Which is the *REAL* story?”

      And directed by a director capable of keeping the actors certain that their version was the right one and all of those other versions were fake.

      Oh, and also capable of keeping the actors from talking to each other until after production.

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      • Mmm I dunno, I’m skeptical. Joker, at least in his most profound iterations, is such a primal dark thing that I’m dubious that any film or story could shed light on the subject in a way that’d enhance it. The unknown, ambiguity of his origin wouldn’t survive the illumination of narrative. It’s quantum; the very act of observing it would change (diminish) it.

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          • He probably would. Frankly I think pretty much all of the DC movies have been pretty shabby affairs narratively. I mean, yeah, they’re super hero movies but the stitches and chewing gum have really been glaring through.

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            • Marvel has demonstrated that they have discovered a formula that works.

              Have you read (or heard of) the book Save The Cat!? This book essentially deconstructs movies that work (FSVO “work”) and gives a formula for how to write a movie that works.

              You may have noticed that pretty much every single Marvel Superhero movie starting at around, oh, Iron Man hits the same notes. It plays the same guitar chords… changes the lyrics, depending on the hero… but they’re all the same damn movie?

              That’s because they use the formula.

              DC, by contrast, says “We can do that… but let’s abandon the formula!” and then you get a hot mess like Man of Steel or Suicide Squad or Batman vs. Superman or… oh, jeez. They’re all so bad in so very many interesting ways but they’re all so bad. It’s like they asked “Let’s say Freud was high on cocaine and in a bad mood where he was mocking Jung… how would Freud make fun of Jung’s Batman vs. Superman script?” and then they wrote *THAT*.

              Anyway.

              Yes.

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              • Don’t we want Hollywood to take more risks? A Joker movie is in its own way extremely safe and extremely risky. A purely evil origin story can’t be formulaic. For one thing, the typical origin movie has the origins of both the good guy and the bad guy at the same time. That probably won’t happen here.

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                • I’m afraid that I’d say “Of course I want Hollywood to take risks!” and then be hit with “Therefore you should agree with me that Hollywood should make more movies about (pet issue)!” and, well… let’s back up.

                  Because I mean that I want Hollywood to make more movies about *MY* pet issue.

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                • Didn’t they do an origin story for Hannibal Lector? Heck didn’t they do one for Freddy of Elm St? ( i think they did) As i get the origin story for the evil character is to show how the world shat on him until he snapped.

                  And adding in the SW prequels and the Grinch doing an evil dude origin is not all that new but is almost sure to suck.

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                • The problem I see with taking big risks with existing source material is that it’s about the hardest thing to do with the least likely payoff. “I want to do something different, which is risky, so let’s make it harder by chaining it to some existing concepts and work within the nebulous constraints placed on us by those concepts.”

                  I always think about sketch comedy versus sitcoms. A good sitcom can go forever producing pretty OK episodes because they’ve put together a framework that works. The worst episodes can be bad, but they’re not really disasters. If you have an awesome idea, it may work or it may go by the wayside because it doesn’t fit the framework.

                  Sketch comedy can be whatever you want. Every once in a while, there’s a piece of gold that lives forever, like the Dead Parrot sketch being remembered almost 50 years later. But you’re also having to do something completely new with nothing to anchor it to, so most of it is just garbage. The highest highs come with a low median and absolutely terrible lows.

                  I feel like, “Let’s take a well known story and completely turn it on its head,” takes the worst aspects of both and rarely pays off. You keep a bunch of constraints and you often discard the “good” things that made the original story a useful framework.

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                • I stand by my false dilemma. If you don’t want this specific risk, then you don’t want any risk, and that’s fascism or something.

                  I remember there were a couple of moments in the seventh Harry Potter movie where the scoring and structure suggested that Voldemort was the hero. I would have liked to see them roll with that.

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                  • You could do the mirror thing, where every event that helped propel the Batman to becoming a superhero had simultaneous implications that helped propel the Joker to become a supervillain. And in the closing scene the Joker’s white face comes off, revealing Samuel Jackson is the Joker and we’ve seen this movie before.

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              • Or what if it did follow the formula – of a superhero origin story? And the whole thing shot and scored as if the Joker were a hero. The camera zooms in on a random guy on the street as evil drums play. Then the Joker jumps out and bravely kills him while the music swells. Exactly what a gutsy Star Wars prequel trilogy would have been.

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      • I was thinking that a Rashomon could work, but somebody would insist on it being ‘clever’ in some way that just made it stupid. I can think of a few directors who might do it well, but the guy who did The Hangover is not one of them.

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      • Jay,
        I only know of one person capable of pulling that much insanity off (even Cameron of “you’re REALLY drowning” fame isnt’ that crazy).

        But, he doesn’t direct.

        (one of the DS9 crew, shouldn’t surprise. The showrunners SWITCHED characters on the writers, without bothering to inform anyone except the actor. It was totally awesome.)

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  5. SO4:

    Normative ideas about domesticity lead us to overlook the dynamism, complexity, and diversity of domestic life. Conservatives celebrate the conventional, postcard version of home, while progressives generally criticize it.

    I can appreciate a different perspective on domesticity and overall, this sounds like an interesting project overall. But sometimes people say things so devoid of common sense that only intellectuals could find a way to believe it.

    Yet both groups tend to assume that household concerns and routines are trivial, repetitious, unskilled, and not particularly interesting. The work of maintaining a household is scarcely recognized as work—which is why it’s either poorly paid or not paid at all.

    Calling a particular type of work unskilled is not a value judgment of the character or the moral worth of the people who do the work. It is a description of the lack of specialized education or training needed to do the work. Making up rooms and cleaning bathrooms and doing dishes pays low wages, because that is how much value those tasks provide to employers not because it “isn’t recognized as work.” There is higher skilled domestic work. For instance some parents want a nanny with higher education in childhood development or psychology and some rich people want butlers and valets with special skills and a certain refinement. Those jobs pay more.

    Also, homemakers don’t get paid because society hates women or undervalues domestic work. It’s because some people will you pay you to do those things for them, but no one will pay you to do those things for yourself.

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    • It is a description of the lack of specialized education or training needed to do the work. Making up rooms and cleaning bathrooms and doing dishes pays low wages, because that is how much value those tasks provide to employers…

      Your first sentence (correct) contradicts the second, which is largely incorrect. The price for most labor is set by supply and demand and has almost nothing to do with any concrete value that labor may add.

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      • It has quite a bit to do with value added. The shape of the demand curve for labor is determined by how much value that labor adds.

        Note, though, that market wage is equal to marginal value added, not average value added. A task can be absolutely essential to life and/or the maintenance of civilization, but if there’s an effectively endless supply of people willing and able to do it, the marginal value added by an additional person doing that task will be quite low, and thus it will be poorly compensated.

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      • Those two things are the same thing, so there is no contradiction. Every potential employer for domestic labor has a level at which they value that labor as a substitute for doing it themselves. No, there is no absolute, objective value for labor, but there is a value to the person(s) employing that labor and a decision about whether that value is equal or greater than what the market wage for domestic labor is.

        For instance, I know quite a few couples where both spouses have degrees and work “professional” jobs. And when those couples started having kids, they faced a decision on whether to pay for childcare of for one parent to stop working and be the primary caregiver. Different couples came to difference conclusions based on some combination of the opportunity costs from lost wages, the childcare options available, and personal preferences. The point of my comment is that no one comes to their respective decisions because they don’t value the work of caring for their child.

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  6. 1 – I kinda like the art. I wouldn’t hang it in my house, but I is interesting.

    7 – I hated ET when it came out and I was 11, and have hated anything that is associated with it. There, I said it!

    9 – Watched the video that he talks about, and while there are some similar scenes that could be inspired by Kubrick, I think the point is stretched a bit thin.

    Oh, is right about fantasy worlds (though I would not mind seeing a good industrialization plot) and is right about how a joker film should go. Sadly, Kubrick is dead.

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            • Yes. Amazon is included in this lawsuit solely because they have money. It’s not at all surprising that people like to grab money from people who have it and stuff it into their own pockets when given the opportunity.

              I’m just pointing out that while that’s true, it’s actually kind of a bad thing.

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                • I go back to Homer Simpson. If the church is correct (and I’m totally willing to believe it’s possible–SPLC’s record has some really dumb stuff in it), Amazon’s crime here is believing a lie that SPLC told about them and not devoting resources to an investigation or something like that.

                  It would be the same situation if the church started suing former donors for stopping their optional donations because of the SPLC rating. The main difference is individual donors aren’t a big bucket of cash to dip into.

                  Amazon should have no obligation to fund anybody’s stupid charity or engage in careful investigations before severing totally optional relationships. Amazon isn’t well served by supporting controversial organizations if it damages their reputation.

                  The ultimate result of this type of thing is that we end up saying, “If you do something charitable, you’d better donate to every conceivable charity in a totally content-neutral way or you’re going to get sued.” Or, more succinctly, “Don’t do anything with charities.”

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                  • “Amazon isn’t well served by supporting controversial organizations if it damages their reputation.”

                    Sounds good. I mean, it’s not like someone asked Amazon to bake a cake or allow a wedding to happen on their property, right?

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                  • I don’t really have any thoughts about Amazon, it’s just that I doubt that SPLC, a group most likely unknown to 99.9% of Americans, does not seem likely to face liability for putting your group on a subjective list. The Amazon component seems to change the angle, at least in part because Amazon seems to be treating it as an objective list.

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  7. [So7] It really brings some things together when you learn that the guy who designed 2600 E.T. was also the guy who designed 2600 Raiders of the Lost Ark.

    Because neither of those games made any damn sense.

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  8. Oh: No, you should not re-watch the Police Academy movies, except maybe as a time capsule of what meatheads in the 1980s thought was funny.

    Like, “he’s gay, haha” is the joke.

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  9. [So9] Enh…not really seeing it. I mean, yes, there are things that look like other things, but “character looks at audience while camera zooms out” is not really a thing unique to Clockwork Orange and Fight Club. And so on for the rest of the video.

    I mean, maybe some of the shot compositions are similar? But I’d think that someone with film knowledge could just as easily find similar compositions in other movies as well.

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