Morning Ed: Society {2016.02.03.W}

Peter Suderman argues that Hollywood is stuck in expanded universes. I think such things have been a great advance, a form of continuation without the repetition of sequels.

Teens aren’t so sure that there’s anything wrong with porn, but come down hard on failing to recycle.

The interesting story behind Cyndi Lauper’s Time After Time. Lion considers the class implications of the music video.

A paper purporting to disprove conspiracy theories doesn’t add up. That’s scandalous! Who knew about this and when did they know it?!

Riffing off a series of tweets on the matter, Adam Gurri looks at trust and good faith.

Margaret Atwood is writing a comic book.

Micah Singleton says Apple took too long to get into music streaming. They’re not hitting their user targets, but it seems to me that’s always been secondary to Apple compared to making money. Which, since they charge for their service, I assume they are.


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Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter. ...more →

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99 thoughts on “Morning Ed: Society {2016.02.03.W}

    • I’m all in favor of making you pay more if you want to send stuff to the landfill rather than recycling it. (of course, I also like singlestream recycling, where the sorting happens after you’re done putting it into a single bag). If you’re sending leadcoated stuff, I’m all in favor of you paying $500 per piece.

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      • I long for the day I can sit on my future porch and tell kids that the Frisbee that landed on my yard is “now mine” or to “get off my lawn” while I shake my cane in their general direction. Sadly, most kids will be playing virtual reality by the time I’m that old, so I won’t have the pleasure.

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    • My granddaughter is two and a few months. Last time I was visiting and we finished a can of ginger ale, I asked her where we should put the can (my daughter has a tendency to move it around). The granddaughter knew exactly where aluminum cans went for recycling, and let me know when I started to put the can in the wrong container.

      Me, we have a nice recycling center here in town that I drive close to on errands a couple of times each week that takes single-stream stuff for no charge. Reasonable rates for other harder-to-recycle stuff.

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      • So you’re saying that, in addition to having to sort the crap, AND take it somewhere, they CHARGE you money take some things?

        Screw that. Maybe if they were adding value, like sorting all your recyclables, I could see a fee. Otherwise, nope.

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        • Damon,
          They’re charging you for things that are illegal to dump, generally. CRT monitors, and other things that are really annoying.

          We have free trash and recycling here, because the city got sick of people tossing stuff down our hillsides (we have a lot!).

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        • Obviously I’ve been less than clear.

          I have to sort stuff into landfill vs “single stream” recyclable — small glass, aluminum, steel, corrugated cardboard, election flyers, that sort of stuff. Every service in the area requires at least that. I could pay someone to pick up the separated single stream things. Instead, I take a few minutes every 7-10 days and drop them off, no fee, where cheerful young people with mild developmental disabilities jump to take my stuff. As a convenience, the same center will take most things that are harder to recycle, often with a modest fee — lead-acid batteries, electronics, latex paint, big chunks of styrofoam, etc. Over the years they’ve branched out — for example, they take used books and (IIRC) sell them into a used-book supply chain for so much per pound. The wife and I are slowly whittling down a lifetime’s worth of accumulation, so once a month or so I’ve got some of the odd stuff.

          The landfill stuff is picked up by a small local company once a week. They’re prompt, inexpensive, and compared to the big guys, never ever spill stuff on the street.

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  1. I don’t disagree with Suderman’s worries, but in the art of the written word, genre fiction has done the ‘franchise’ thing for decades. Not just trade paperbacks with Star Trek/Star Wars logos slapped on the cover (though that’s when everything took off), but Herbert, Tolkien and Asimov all made derivative works based on their own, earlier works.

    (and Star Wars, X Files, Clintons – like the next link says, recycling is what the kids want these days)

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  2. Time after Time: One thing that I find interesting about a lot of pop music and music videos is that there is a lot of train imagery even decades after trains became irrelevant as a mode of transportation for most Americans. The music video for Time after Time involves the image of leaving home or whatever on a train. By the 1980s, long distance train travel was basically dead even though it was possible and commuter trains existed in only a few cities. The Journey song that people like to sing in karaoke, I forgot the name, has a lot of train imagery. For some reason the idea of leaving home or somewhere else for a new start by getting on train carries a lot more emotional resonance than getting in a car when it comes to pop music.

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  3. We talked about the rise of the franchise movie a lot on this site. Usually when my brother or Rufus brings it up. I think it is basically a result of three issues, the rising importance of a global market for movies at expense of the domestic market, CGI making spectacle cheaper and easier to do than ever before, and the decline in the idea of cultural vegetables. The American movie business has always been more about making money than culture for the most part. Since the global market is more important than ever to Hollywood than they are going to focus on what makes the most money in multiple markets. These are going to be action movies with lots of spectacle because you don’t need to be steeped in American culture to get them. Increasingly sophisticated CGI makes spectacle a lot

    Hollywood made more dramatic or comedic fair that relied less on spectacle in the past because spectacle was more expensive and their was a cultural idea that movie makers deed need to make some serious movies and audiences needed to take their cultural vegetables to for a variety of reasons. The Help would have a big event movie during the mid-20th century but it hardly made a dent when it was released.

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      • That’s part of the problem. Cultural vegetables are culturally specific. What would be a good middle-brow movie in the United States or the United Kingdom would be meaningless in Sri Lanka and Costa Rica and vice versa. Other film industries can still produce a lot of middle brow and high brow culture because they developed as a form of protection against Hollywood and American movies as much as anything else. Since the United States obviously never had a need to protect itself from it’s own culture American movie makers have less insulation against global markets.

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          • Yes! And so we should!
            The Wire and Arrested Development are complicated, intertwined, demanding shows.

            Hunter X Hunter, on the other hand? It’s pure and simple fluff! Great show for the genre, great show in general, but it’s fluffy popcorn and not a bit more!

            Which is GREAT when you’re in the mood for it!!

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            • But that analogy isn’t simply about enjoyment or depth or complexity. It is about the impact on the consumer. Junk food is yummy but unhealthy… it carries harm. Vegetables are generally seen as yucky but necessary (I think vegetables are delicious but that isn’t how we tend to analogize them)… they provide nutrients and vitamins we need to survive.

              I’d be hard pressed to argue that movies — or any art form — function in the same way.

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              • Popcorn’s actually quite good for you. Unless the flick you’re watching is too schmaltzy, that may lead to diabetes. (yes, I know, I’m mixing metaphors!)

                Having to think hard about something is actually good for your brain, so, the lightweight shows are, if not actively detrimental, at least “not helpful”

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        • Not anymore, not with globalization.
          Amelie runs across any language you put it in.

          Not to say there aren’t movies with so much wordplay that doesn’t translate, because there are. (Simpsons, I’m told, is funny in Japanese, though, so it’s not all wordplay by any means).

          But most good “middlebrow” movies translate fine and dandy. Groundhog’s Day, for example…

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  4. Peter Suderman writes:

    Successful franchises, meanwhile, risk overstaying their welcome and running out of fresh ideas. Over time, it becomes harder and harder to mine the same property and delight audiences in the same way.

    I suppose that might be true, but it also makes me roll my eyes. The audience will tell you when they aren’t delighted any more. Did that happen with Harry Potter? How long have people been reading Spiderman comics? Just how many episodes of the anime One Piece are there? And how many books? (We are up to at least 430 episodes and 12 movies, by the way).

    I think what the author is bemoaning is the lack of films that they, personally, like. I don’t fault them for that, I just wish they’d not try to reform the culture at the expense of things that I like.

    Branding matters. Once people know what a MCU movie is like, they can easily guess whether they are going to like it or not.

    The bad part of this is that the art house movie theater is dead. There aren’t any of those places where you can go to see a movie that you’ve barely heard about, but is likely to be pretty interesting. The proprietors of such places had a brand, so you didn’t need to know the film. Nothing has come along to replace that. Perhaps that might happen though, in a more internet-friendly form.

    One further point:

    Star Wars: The Force Awakens suggests the danger here — the movie has many strengths but is also determinedly derivative, as if its creators were terrified of doing anything fans hadn’t seen before.

    He didn’t understand the film. There is some very, very serious risk-taking in this film. First of all, it had a woman at the center of the film – the phrase “The Force Awakens” describes her. Second, it had a villain who was deeply insecure – the opposite of Darth Vader. Third, it killed off one of the most beloved fictional characters of our time. (I don’t care, I’m spoiling it. You had your shot to go see it!), Fourth, it brought forth the idea, which I really like, of “the call of the light side” – that in parallel to temptation is a pull within humanity to do good, to be good, to love. This is echoed by Finn’s journey.

    Now, it’s true that they also larded the film with callbacks and references to the original trilogy. It’s loaded with them. But that’s to reassure fans that it was a Star Wars movie, and that the filmmakers understood what viewers expected and wanted from a Star Wars movie. I have a friend that was quite bothered by all the callbacks and references the first time through, but said that the second time through it didn’t bother him at all.

    Now yeah, I mourn the death of the art house. I look forward to something taking its place. I don’t know what that will be, but I think it will happen. Though probably all the old guys who think that doing something for video would be a step down in prestige are going to have to retire first.

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    • This is a good point. Artsy people like me are a small core of the movie going experience. When CGI was bad and when cultural sophistication was good*, there were plenty of movies made for us. For some reason though, the STEM revolution is also bringing about a cultural revolution of “Fuck this art and adult stuff”** Movies for artsy folk get made but they can be harder to find and are usually released in the slower months.

      *This seems to happen every few decades. I am mainly thinking that in the 1950s and 60s, it was cool to watch European movies by Truffaut, Goddard, Bergman, etc. Plenty of people still like these movies but now there is an anti-cultural revolt that accuses people of lying pretension when they say “I like Truffaut movies”

      **I am an arts and humanities guy in a STEM world. This is a lonely place

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    • Pretty much this.

      Further, there’s nothing inherently less creative about creating a fictional universe as a vehicle for making money/providing enjoyment. Suderman himself has run outa fresh ideas and become a grumpy old man.

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    • I think that you are mischaracterizing or misunderstanding Suderman. He definitely gets Star Wars. Somewhere on the internet there is a picture of him standing on line for Episode I dressed as a sith lord. And his criticism of TFA is so obvious at this point that it’s banal. JJ Abrams made a movie that very obviously exists in the shadow of what came before it, both in terms of capturing the magic of the first three and avoiding the pratfalls of the prequels. I liked it, but let’s not pretend it’s something more than it is.

      He isn’t lamenting the death of the art house. Rather he is someone who really likes pop culture and popcorn flicks and just wishes that they were more original.

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  5. Someone should put together a model of the likelihood that a science story is bullshit as a function of the number of articles and posts written about it within 48 hours of the finding(s) upon which it is based being made public.

    The trend seems to be a ton of regurgitated press releases over the first 48 to 72 hours, followed by a much smaller number of much more skeptical, or even highly critical articles/posts over a few days.

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    • The CDC also advises against swimming south of the Mason Dixon, staying at hotels without checking for bedbugs, and staying at Disneyworld if you have dog allergies (not related to Disneyworld letting dogs stay there).

      It’s always a bad day when the CDC calls in outside contractors.

      And the EPA is advising against drinking the water in the whole rust belt, unless you know there’s been intensive lead remediation going on.

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      • Let me clarify this. Politicians forced the military to accept women into combat roles that the military was not entirely comfortable with. The military replies by saying, “OK, if we have to let women into these roles, then women should be registered for the draft.”. Said politicians then balk at that and say that forcing women to register for the draft is something that should be put out for discussion/debate.

        The thrust is that the politicians are fine with women in combat roles, but they want them to have full choice to enter combat roles, whereas men have a more limited choice for combat roles. The draft is the vehicle by which this reality is expressed (even though the likelihood of the draft being re-activated is currently slim).

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        • I’m not unclear on what was being said; I read the article and there was nothing in there about said politicians balking. I’m not saying that’s not the case, just that that couldn’t be inferred from the linked article. Hence why I asked for a link to politicians making statements to that effect.

          FWIW, by the way, I fully support women having to register for the draft. I think the fact that they’re exempted is silly and unreasonable.

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          • From the linked article:

            Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus and Army Acting Secretary Patrick Murphy, also testifying at the hearing. would not go as far but did say they believed the issue should be put to a national debate.

            That’s balking.

            ETA: The various Secretary’s of Military branches are the civilian heads of those services, are political appointees, and as such are politicians.

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            • Ah, I interpreted that rather differently; I don’t see that as balking, so much as just wanting to put it up for debate. Also, I don’t think of DoD staff as politicians, but rather as bureaucrats. A politician, to my mind, is an elected rather than appointed official. YMMV, of course.

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              • Political appointees are politicians. They may run the pentagon bureaucracy, but they aren’t hired and don’t wear a uniform or fall under the UCMJ. I mean, Mabus is a politician through & through (even says so on his Wiki page).

                As for the balking, had Mabus, et. al. put the question of women in combat roles up for political debate, and allowed that debate to happen and come to a decision, I’d agree with you. But they didn’t. They made an executive decision about it. I’m ambivalent regarding the rightness of that decision, but it was within their power to make. So making a decisive call about women in combat roles, and then wanting to put the question of the draft up for debate, is balking.

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