Lion of the Blogosphere

ISIS following bad strategy

with 16 comments

Executing another American journalist is not a smart strategy. Once the media turns against ISIS, they will rally the politicians to get rid of the ISIS threat.

ISIS simply doesn’t understand that the reason they have been allowed to exist is that the United States is wussy about using its military because we find it morally objectionable to kill people, even the enemy.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

September 2, 2014 at 1:39 pm

Posted in International

Allegedly racist bank in Buffalo

with 16 comments

Evans Bank in Buffalo is going to be sued by NY State for violating the Fair Housing Act. Haven’t we recently learned that easy lending for people with bad credit in sketchy neighborhoods led to the mortgage crisis? Just a few years later, government officials are repeating the same mistakes of the recent past.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

September 2, 2014 at 8:23 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Despecialized Star Wars deconstructed part 2

with 22 comments

After the phrase “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. . . .” there is crawling text across a field of stars.

STAR
WARS

It is a period of civil war. Rebel
spaceships, striking from a hidden
base, have won their first victory
against the evil Galactic Empire.

During the battle, rebel spies managed
to steal secret plans to the Empire’s
ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR, an
armored space station with enough
power to destroy an entire planet.

Pursued by the Empire’s sinister agents,
Princess Leia races home aboard her
starship, custodian of the stolen plans
that can save her people and restore
freedom to the galaxy. . . .

For anyone who is able to read and grok the entire passage, what’s going on in the first scene of the movie would be pretty clear, but I suspect that most moviegoers weren’t able to read the whole thing, because who goes into a movie expecting to read three dense paragraphs? Normally, if you want viewers of a movie to know the background of what’s happening, you work it into a conversation. Why didn’t George Lucas do that. Lucas said some stuff about being influenced by old Buck Rogers serials. Probably, the reason is that he wanted the opening scene of the movie to be a space battle, and not a boring conversation about stealing secret plans. It’s hard to second guess Lucas on this; after all the movie was a huge success.

What you should notice about this text is that it leaves absolutely no moral ambiguity. The empire is described as “the evil Galactic Empire.” Therefore you don’t think about whether the bad guys are really the bad guys. Maybe an empire was needed to restore law and order to the galaxy and usher in an era of prosperity? Nah, that isn’t the case, because we are told that the empire is evil.

Six years after the release of Star Wars, Ronald Reagan the described the Soviet Union as an “evil empire,” no doubt borrowing from George Lucas.

Notice that the Empire doesn’t just have agents working for it. The empire has “sinister agents.” Sinister is a synonym for evil. Admittedly, Darth Vader is a pretty sinister character, but Lucas could have let us make our own determination instead of literally spelling it out for us.

Meanwhile, Princess Leia’s goal is to “restore freedom.” Everyone knows that freedom is good.

Why a princess? If there’s a princess, that means her father is a king and there’s a kingdom, and kingdoms are usually about autocratic rule and not freedom. The simple answer to this question is that fairy tales have always had princesses. Japanese samurai movies have princesses. Edgar Rice Burrough’s 1917 book A Princess of Mars has a princess. The Lord of the Rings has several princesses.

It’s at the time the text beings crawling that the movie’s awesome orchestral score begins. It sounds like Wagner. It’s amazing. How could anyone pay attention to the crawling text, the first time seeing this movie, with that music grabbing your attention?

star_wars01

After the text finishes crawling, the camera pans down, we see a moon, then another moon, and then we see that we are in low orbit above a desert planet. (The 1965 novel Dune by Frank Herbert takes place on a desert planet. Dune also has princesses.) The movie is finally about to begin!

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

September 2, 2014 at 3:00 am

Posted in Movies, Nerdy stuff

Despecialized Star Wars deconstructed part 1

with 45 comments

Star Wars, as released in May 1977, begins with blue letters on a solid black background. “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. . . .”

The ellipsis is used to indicate trailing off, but there are one too many periods because this is not a sentence. There is no verb. This clause is merely a long adverb.

It’s weird that a science fiction movie with spaceships is said to take place in the past. Normally movies like this take place in the future. Even when I was a little kid, especially when I was a little kid, I didn’t understand why the movie took place in the past and not in the future.

The implication here is that humans didn’t evolve naturally on Earth, but we are actually descendants of the humans depicted in Star Wars, who must have settled on Earth at some point in time after the movie took place. This is a theme that George Lucas is borrowing from Erich von Däniken’s best-selling book Chariots of the Gods? which was published in 1968. Däniken theorized that astronauts visited Earth in the past and that various archaeological sites such as the pyramids and Stonehenge were created with the help of alien visitors. Däniken’s book may be cockamamie pseudoscience, but he has had a very strong influence on science fiction movies and television, from the voyages of the starship Enterprise where Kirk’s landing team is often mistaken for gods by the primitive natives, to the Stargate franchise which fleshes out the whole theory about the pyramids being built by aliens.

It has also occurred to me that perhaps the “humans” in Star Wars are not actually humans at all, but rather fill-ins for an alien race shown in a form that we can understand and empathize with. It would be hard, indeed, to follow a movie where everyone was wearing a wookiee suit. (On the other hand, the movie Avatar, which followed Star Wars by 32 years, did demonstrate that it’s possible to have a blockbuster movie in which the main characters are weird-looking blue aliens.)

In this opening clause, we also see the first influence of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, which was immensely popular in the 1960s, because like The Lord of the Rings, Lucas is establishing Star Wars as a fairy tale of good versus evil. The similarity of Star Wars to The Lord of the Rings will be a recurring theme in this series of blog posts.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

September 1, 2014 at 11:20 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Wage theft in the NY Times

with 28 comments

NY times article about “wage theft.” That’s when employers don’t pay workers the wages they are legally entitled to. That includes not paying time-and-a-half for overtime, making employees work off-the-clock, keeping tips instead of passing them on to employees, etc.

Lee Schreter, co-chairwoman of the wage and hour practice group at Littler Mendelson, a law firm that represents employers, said wage theft was not increasing, adding that many companies had become more vigilant about compliance. But that has not stopped lawyers from bringing wage theft complaints because of the potential payoff, Ms. Schreter said. “These are opportunistic lawsuits,” she said.

Sorry, I disagree. I once worked at a crappy hourly job, and the employer tried to trick the employees into working a few extra minutes each day off-the-clock. I personally experienced it. So I have to believe that this sort of bad behavior is rampant and that companies getting sued are getting their just deserts.

I guess this is one of the benefits of Charles Murray’s advice to work some crappy jobs in your lifetime. I know what’s really going on. The lawyer in the quote probably had a privileged upbringing and never experienced a crappy prole job.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

September 1, 2014 at 10:49 am

Posted in Labor Markets, Law

Steve Sailer on “affordable” housing set-asides

with 29 comments

Steve Sailer has a an excellent blog post about the NYC policy of requiring developers to build 20% “affordable” housing units in order to be allowed to build the other 80% market-rate units.

One of the dumbest policies ever that only helps a handful of lucky lottery winners. But I think that the reason behind this is that liberals are really stupid, and is not part of a secret liberal plot.

Developers themselves are probably agnostic, because as long as there is a severe shortage of housing in NYC, the few developers who know how to work the system will enjoy good profits. What developers fear most is that NYC allows anyone to build anything anywhere, because that would result in competition which would drive down profits such that developers wouldn’t make much money.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

August 30, 2014 at 11:37 am

Posted in New York City

HBD, the NY Times, and the post-scarcity economy

with 86 comments

Brazilian journalist Vanessa Barbara writes:

According to research by Jerome Kagan, then a Harvard psychologist, people’s temperament is detectable very early in life and is likely to be partly inherited. In this sense, introversion is best understood as a kind of hypersensitivity. Babies who kicked and screamed more in the face of outside stimulation — those who, in other words, were highly sensitive to it — were likely to grow up to be introverts, he found. Less reactive babies, who needed more stimulation to get them interested and involved, had a bias toward becoming extroverts.

Yes, of course, but refreshing to see an endorsement of HBD in the NY Times. I guess, the way this is written, it doesn’t cast aspersions on any demographic groups that liberals care about. Because extroversion is considered to be a good trait, and because blacks are more extroverted than whites, it’s OK to write about how extraversion/introversion is genetically determined.

This op-ed piece also contains an economics lesson:

If you’ve chosen to be a writer, as I have, it probably means you enjoy being alone and expressing yourself in writing. Of course it doesn’t necessarily imply that you are a hermit, but it means, for sure, that socializing should be optional. Not an integral part of your career.

But I’m told exactly the opposite, year after year. So let’s be clear about this: Giving lectures, engaging in literary events and going on book tours are not my job. My job is sitting on a chair and writing. All the rest may be beneficial to my “public image” or my books’ sales, but it’s not obligatory. (Ask J.D. Salinger, Harper Lee, Thomas Pynchon, Marcel Proust or Gustave Flaubert.)

And yet the Internet is full of networking tips, warning that “good writing skills and original ideas aren’t enough to make you a success in this business. You need kick-ass marketing skills, too.” Others talk about the “promotional demands of a successful writing career.”

If good writing can be classified as value creation, then we see how value creation by itself is devalued without self-promotion. There are no doubt far more people who want to write for a living than the market needs, so therefore only those writers who excel at self-promotion can make a living.

In fact, the economics of writing defies conventional supply and demand analysis. If there are far more people trying to be writers than there is demand for writers, this should mean that the money made by writing should fall close to zero. While this is true for the majority of writers, it is absolutely not true for all writers. New York Times journalists make six-figure incomes, and J.K. Rowling has made a billion dollars from her writing. Winner-take-all explains the economics of writing much better than the conventional economics of supply and demand.

As we move into the post-scarcity economy, where individual value creation becomes meaningless because the world will be swimming in value, people will only be able to make significant amounts of money from value transference, which is inherently a winner-take-all type of activity. Thus the irony of a post-scarcity economy is that median person will become poorer.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

August 29, 2014 at 9:01 am

Posted in Biology, Economics

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