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Open Thread 126.25

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973 Responses to Open Thread 126.25

  1. theredsheep says:

    Hurricane Michael hit Bay County, FL six months ago. It was rated at Cat 4 on landing; this was recently revised to Cat 5. It still looks basically like a hurricane just hit it–there’s a limit to how quickly this area can repair. People are living in sheds, wrecked and abandoned buildings can be found everywhere, and you still see piles of trash/rubble lying around. I’d just like to share a few of the weirder lessons I’ve learned from living in a recovering disaster zone:

    Carbon is king. Most effective disaster relief consists of moving a lot of stuff around, very quickly. That requires energy. Fossil fuels are an excellent source of portable energy. That means hurricane relief tends to involve burning a crapton of petroleum, one way or another. Loads of supplies coming in, and debris getting hauled away; lots of extra linemen, tree service guys, cops, contractors, etc. coming from as far away as Ohio; temporary power with portable gas generators; even the chainsaws they use to clear dead trees are overwhelmingly gas-powered. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that climate change is increasing the frequency of storms, but since Michael, I do wonder how well a greener country would handle such disasters. Everyone seems to agree that electric chainsaws are inferior, you can’t replace gas generators with popup solar plants, and if all those hordes of heavy vehicles are being powered by electricity, one wonders how local infrastructure will handle recharging them every day. Electricity is not as portable as gasoline.

    Assholes ruin everything. There are lots of heartwarming stories here about generosity and kindness; there are also lots of stories about people making a bad situation worse by being jerkwads. FEMA came in promptly and starting handing out checks, but the process was retarded tremendously by the elaborate vetting they had to do. It seems there are people who swarm to disaster sites and claim to be residents to collect a check. Then there are all the loads of “unlicensed contractors,” ie meth-smoking chimps with hammers. Nothing like having your damaged home fall apart shortly after it’s “fixed.” And then there are all the rent-jackers. Yes, it’s normal for prices to go up after a fifth of the county’s buildings are damaged, and a tenth totaled. But local rents now outstrip those of Boston; very few locals can actually afford such rates. So our local entrepreneurs tend to rent their pricey properties out to well-dressed men in new pickup trucks, who pay with cash, then turn around and “sublet” them to unlicensed contractors, ten to a room. All of them disappear quite abruptly some time later, leaving the property rather the worse for wear. Okay, that part of the story is maybe a little bit heartwarming. Like the invisible hand of the market reached down and smacked some fools upside the head for being greedy.

    Dead trees are a menace. Bay County used to have a lot of trees, mostly ugly, spindly pines–the local paper mill owns a lot of them. Roughly a third of these trees fell down, and there aren’t nearly enough tree service people to clear even a quarter of them. The roads are all cleared, but the trees are still a big problem. Since trees suck a lot of water out of the soil, the region is now much more prone to flooding–and some of the streams that used to drain the north of the county are currently clogged with massive amounts of dead timber. We’re moving out of our house soon because a nearby lake has risen to the point where most of the area’s septic fields are in it. We’d like to hope for no rain, but wood also burns nicely so dry weather leads to wildfires. There have been several recently. And even without fires or floods, all that dead wood could attract a devastating swarm of pine beetles, which would create still more dead trees.

    Labor gets weird. Since so many houses and businesses were wrecked, a significant percentage of the population has fled the county for greener pastures. That percentage tended to be people who were well-off enough to have prospects elsewhere, but not so well-off that they had reserves to see them through for months of unemployed recovery. Not really the bottom of the labor market, but basically, semi-skilled labor is at a premium right now. I’m a pharmacy tech, so this works out well for me. I got laid off by my hospital while it rebuilt, but now they’ve recovered enough to start hiring again. I could sign back up if I liked, except my current employer recently promoted me to full time and gave me an unsolicited 10% raise.

    It’s pretty grim. The county can hardly pretend to call itself recovered, and the next hurricane season is about to start. We don’t have official figures for how many people have fled, but homelessness has more than quadrupled, enrollment in Bay District Schools is down 15-20%, Congress still hasn’t passed the typical hurricane-relief package after six months (my wife informs me that this is a new record) … I’m not doing at all badly, but I was really lucky. If you look at New Orleans on Google maps satellite view, there are still a number of vacant green lots. And New Orleans has the benefit of being famous. Brad Pitt is not going to come down here and raise awareness.

    • John Schilling says:

      And then there are all the rent-jackers. Yes, it’s normal for prices to go up after a fifth of the county’s buildings are damaged, and a tenth totaled. But local rents now outstrip those of Boston; very few locals can actually afford such rates.

      This sounds like a job for RVs. And mobile homes and containerized shelters. Maybe not for displaced local residents, but it certainly seems that anyone who is going to be importing workers for the reconstruction would favor bringing in temporary housing to paying vastly inflated rates for what local housing is left standing.

      I’d guess there are local zoning laws and no-homeless-people-sleeping-in-vehicle laws that hinder this, and that it’s cheaper to pay the jacked-up rents than to pay the city council to waive the laws for the duration, but are there any other obstacles to the obvious solution?

      • theredsheep says:

        RVs and mobile homes are also hella dear, and difficult to get from anywhere that could be reasonably described as “local.” There’s a bustling market in sheds all of a sudden, and I gather the authorities are looking the other way when it comes to enforcing zoning and occupancy rules. Of course, the sheds need to be bought and installed and converted into something you can actually live in, with plumbing, etc. Given the ludicrous demand for repair people right now, I’d guess they care more about speed and convenience than cost of housing. Every hour they spend handling logistics is an hour that could be spent gouging clients.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Every hour they spend handling logistics is an hour that could be spent gouging clients.

          Let me start with the caveat that I 100% agree that disasters will and do result in unethical and fraudulent behavior. I’m sure you are seeing plenty of it.

          The “but” here is that a big chunk of what you are seeing is predictable and essentially ethical behavior when faced with a disaster. That’s part of why the unethical behavior is difficult to stop.

          Think of it this way, if I have a decent business in Tallahassee or Jacksonville, what is going to induce me to turn down clients there in order to do work in Bay County? Bay County is not going to care about me later on, they aren’t going to give me business 2 years from now. All of the costs of business in Bay County are now higher as well. So, I have to charge a premium on my work. I’m cannabilizing my normal business so I need to make bank. To the end customer that feels like gouging.

          None of which means that it doesn’t suck for Bay County right now.

          • theredsheep says:

            I get why you responded to the word “gouging” there, but I don’t consider legitimate, high-charging businesses to be gougers–a competent drywall hanger is worth a lot right now. These outfits aren’t unethical because they demand steep prices; that I expect, given the situation. They’re unethical because they aren’t licensed, bonded and insured as the law requires–we have big street signs up now that say “UNLICENSED CONTRACTING IS ILLEGAL”–and those requirements exist for a good reason. When Four Meth-Heads Roofing Co. rolls into town, there’s no guarantee that the roof won’t fall on the customers’ heads a week after the group rolls out. The local governments are grossly overstretched; they’ve spent more than their yearly budgets just trying to get rid of trash. They can’t hope to hammer every predatory outfit that pops up. Which is why the jackals are pouring in, and hapless locals are taking them up on it because it’s really hard to get anyone reputable to swing by.

          • The Nybbler says:

            When you have a sudden increase in demand, barriers to entry like that mean supply cannot adjust to compensate. If you didn’t have the unlicensed contractors, the prices for the licensed ones would be even higher and rebuilding would be even slower.

          • CatCube says:

            @The Nybbler

            The problem you run into is that for this type of work there is a minimum level of quality below which no work might very well be as good as incompetent work. If the work is done improperly, the owner will be responsible for fixing it on their own dime if there’s no contractor’s bond to claim against.

            This is to say nothing of the financial shenanigans an unscrupulous contractor can get up to. If you pay them, they subcontract, say, the electrical and plumbing (which they will, because it’s standard practice) and don’t pay the subs? You get a lien on the property, and the subcontractors may be able to foreclose to get their pay. If you can find the contractor and claim against his bond, well, it’s not simple per se, but it’s relatively so compared to if he disappeared into the night.

          • methylethyl says:

            If I may chime in here (another disaster-zone resident), there’s economics, and then there’s fraud. What we’re talking about is fraud.

            Locally, the phrase “unlicensed contractors” is basically shorthand for con artists. These guys stick up a bunch of signs around town, maybe have a website, they’ve put together some official-looking paperwork that most of us couldn’t tell from a real license if we tried, and they’ll show up, give you an estimate, tell you they need to be paid up front, and once you do… they’re gone. And right now, in our county, they are legion. And as has been pointed out already, local law enforcement is doing their best, but they’re overwhelmed.

          • The Nybbler says:

            The problem you run into is that for this type of work there is a minimum level of quality below which no work might very well be as good as incompetent work.

            Yes, and I expect many unlicensed contractors do work below that, and many do not — because if they were all that bad, extremely few would go with them.

            But municipalities and states and engineers and architects have spent decades if not centuries building up this edifice of red tape under which no one can bang in a nail or move so much as a spoonful of dirt without years of education, supervision, red tape, licenses, kickbacks, permits, bonds, insurance, etc. And it turns out when a hurricane comes by, it just doesn’t care that there’s no way the approved people can repair that much damage in a reasonable amount of time. Nor do the states, municipalities, engineers, and architects care; the law’s the law and there’s a good reason for every single inch of red tape. The people who have land and structures they can neither live on nor sell, they care, so they’re willing to risk working outside the system. More enforcement might keep them from being screwed one way, but it definitely screws them another.

          • methylethyl says:

            @Nybbler

            There’s plenty of competent and semi-competent unlicensed work going on, too. The thing is, you go about hiring those people differently: you call up your friend who knows a guy, the guy comes and does the job, and you pay the guy in cash. That guy is not pretending to be licensed, everybody knows the score, he doesn’t have a company name, but he does have local connections and gets pretty much 100% of his work through such friend-to-friend referrals, so there are some natural consequences for screwing it up (i.e. fewer referrals).

            The problem we’re having here is not barriers-to-entry. It’s the legions of experienced con-artists who’ve descended on us like locusts, who target old people who are just starting to go a little dotty (like my parents’ neighbor, who just got skunked out of $30k for tree removal, when nothing fell on her house. People who knew what they were doing paid $9k or less for equivalent services).

            Also, plenty of actual, decent, licensed contractors also came to town after the storm. There was certainly enough work to go around. Quite a lot of them have left now– not because work has dried up, but because insurance companies are dragging their feet so much that legit contractors who surged into town in the month after the storm have still not been paid for work they *already did*, six months later. They can’t afford to run on unicorn farts and insurance company promises indefinitely. And these days it takes a lawyer to get your insurance to pay up.

            Related to that problem: In my parents’ neighborhood, roughly a third of the houses are now standing empty (uninhabitable until repairs are made). It’s always been a decent neighborhood, but this situation is inviting crime from the ghetto to the north. It doesn’t have to be this way: most of the houses are repair-able, and were properly insured. But insurance will only pay licensed contractors, licensed contractors are leaving town because insurance *isn’t* paying up, and the remaining local contractors are booked up until the end of time.

            We have radio ads and billboards now for “I’m Lawyer X and I want to sue your homeowners’ insurance! Call today!”

            Meanwhile, our county seat has already spent twice its normal annual tax revenue on debris removal alone. The phrase “Largest debris cleanup in history” keeps popping up. That’s the sort of thing a federal disaster aid package could really help with, but apparently Congress is holding it hostage because Puerto Rico. Deeply frustrating.

      • methylethyl says:

        Well, yes. And this is happening too. There are quite a lot of worksites with mobile bunkhouses parked next to them.

        There are also now RVs, campers, and sheds-with-air-conditioners installed next to about every third house in quite a lot of what used to be nice middle class subdivisions (not to mention the less-fortunate folks still living in tents). Front-yard camping is a big trend this year. The backyard man-cave is now the backyard family-home, until the lawyer can squeeze enough money out of the stalling insurance company to put on a new roof, pay for mold remediation, and get the inside of the house back up to livable: like with walls and ceilings and stuff.

        Code enforcement would normally have something to say about this, but… I estimate it’ll be a year or two before they get around to it. The county can’t afford to chase off more homeowning residents than have already left, and they know it.

    • S_J says:

      Not really a comment on your specific scenario…

      I saw a presentation from someone who volunteered to help with cleaning up the Louisiana area after hurricane Katrina.

      The man showed a picture of a house. It was the only structure standing on a ten-mile long stretch of shoreline. Windows and roof were gone, but walls were made of poured concrete.

      Every time I hear a story about a neighborhood being destroyed by a hurricane, I think about that house.

      Building walls out of poured concrete is expensive. But if you want a structure to survive hurricane-force winds, that is one way to do it.

      • CatCube says:

        The man showed a picture of a house. It was the only structure standing on a ten-mile long stretch of shoreline. Windows and roof were gone, but walls were made of poured concrete.

        Even that matters less than you’d think. The lead structural engineer at our headquarters sent out a slideshow on the damage to Tyndall AFB (prelude to a guidance document to prevent some of the issues seen there in future designs). It pointed out something that I hadn’t realized, even though it’s one of those things that’s blindingly obvious once it’s pointed out to you: even if the structure remains standing, if you get a severe failure of the building envelope you’re going to destroy everything in the interior and render the structure uninhabitable. You’re not even going to save that much time and money rebuilding, since the interior finishings and building contents form a significant enough financial loss themselves that this could total the building.

        • ana53294 says:

          But the electric system, the piping and all that won’t suffer from damage, right, since they are inside the walls? If the electric system was done properly, even cables that were completely fried should be possible to change without breaking walls.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Once the roof is off, everything inside takes damage, even if the walls are standing. The junction and switch boxes are likely to have filled with water, for instance.

          • CatCube says:

            The plumbing system may be able to do all right. The electrical I wouldn’t trust. I don’t know if you’ve got different ways of doing electrical wiring in Spain, but North American practice is generally to use nonmetallic cable (Romex) roughed in prior to the installation of drywall. That picture doesn’t show how vertical runs typically are secured to the studs, but they’re done with special staples that you can’t really pull new wire through; if you’re not opening the walls, you’re abandoning the old wire in place and fishing new cable through or using surface-mount conduit, which will be an obvious retrofit.

            Wall sheathing on interiors is typically gypsum board (“drywall”) which cannot tolerate immersion. It is ruined by relatively small amounts of water, will not dry out, and has to be replaced or it will mold (to say nothing of the unsightliness of wetted drywall).

          • ana53294 says:

            Here is how electrics look in Spain (usually covered in gypsum). You can usually pull electric cables through the tubes. Changing tubes is much more expensive.

            Drywalls are not that expensive.

            Wooden floors would also have to be changed, but otherwise, if it’s only drywalls, floors, windows and roof, that still seems much better than rebuilding.

          • Dack says:

            Well, the 2x4s aren’t all that expensive either…and that might be all that you save doing concrete exterior walls.

          • ana53294 says:

            There is a benefit to having walls standing.

            In Spain, if the new building has at least one wall from the previous building, you can sometimes argue that you are ” fixing” the building, whereas no walls mean you are building a new building. That wall can be tiny, but it has to be a structural wall.

            ” Fixing” a building requires much less paperwork. I am not sure how laws work in the USA, but if you can save a metric to of paperwork and delays by having a more durable building, then it would be justified even if the cost of fixing is the same as rebuilding, if you exclude paperwork.

            Also, redistricting could mean you can ‘t build the same building, whereas a standing building will be grandfathered in.

            So it all depends on your local bureaucracy.

          • The Nybbler says:

            That sort of permit issue is common in the US as well, and is a real horror sometime (“Sorry about the fire, but you’re going to have to rebuild your house half the size because we changed the lot coverage rules since it was built”. Commence 3-way (or more) battle between insurance company, homeowner, and state, which is unlikely to turn out well for the homeowner).

            But for some reason it doesn’t seem to be as much of an issue in major disasters. When Sandy hit, it was the reverse; even homeowners whose homes survived were required to raise them, the new requirements were retroactive to existing structures (that’s NJ for you).

          • ana53294 says:

            I am not sure I understand what ” raise” means.

            Did they have to fear down their homes and build some different building, after they survived a catastrophe? That seems completely ridiculous.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Literally “raise”, as in use jacks to lift the building and build some sort of support under it so it’s higher than it once was. This is quite expensive, but usually cheaper than rebuilding.

  2. actualitems says:

    Anyone have any creative/new/useful methods for companies to authenticate their customers identities in online transactions, be it something you’ve experienced or something you’ve dreamed up?

    The examples that come to mind are secure PINs or secure links for password resets. Or “Y/N” SMS or app push notifications for order confirmations.

    Anyone have other examples or ideas?

    • LesHapablap says:

      For online poker site Pokerstars I used to have a keychain RSA token with a 5-digit number that changed every 60 seconds

    • Mark Atwood says:

      OAUTH TOTP
      FIDO U2F
      WebAuthN FIDO2
      Printed codes receive thru postal mail

      Don’t ever trust SMS. SMS is trash. Companies that stand security on top of SMS are committing malpractice, and the only reason it’s being allowed is regulatory capture of their regulator.

  3. brad says:

    Are there any genuine policy issues at play in the NRA’s civil war, or is just about money and personalities?

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Epistemic status: I don’t pay much attention to what the NRA does, but I see comments and what not in right-wing spaces talking about what the NRA does. This is below the level of knowledge usually acceptable for commenting on SSC, but when has that stopped me before?

      From what I understand, many 2A-concerned people have been upset for awhile that the NRA does not do a good enough job of it’s primary mission: fighting for gun rights or against gun control. Instead they focus on fundraising to line the pockets of their administrators. GOA (Gun Owners of America) are the people doing the proactive things to protect gun rights, like filing lawsuits to overturn overly restrictive laws and regulations.

      So no, there aren’t many policy issues at stake since the NRA isn’t properly focused on policy anyway.

      • John Schilling says:

        I think it would be more accurate to say that the NRA focuses on the legislative branch, maximizing the number of gun-friendly legislators in Congress and occasionally supporting or opposing specific legislation, whereas the GOA focuses on the judicial branch. In particular, the NRA had nothing to do with DC v Heller, and indeed opposed pursuing that case. That was probably the most significant gun control battle of the century (so far). And, looking across the tribal divide, the gay marriage campaign suggests that judicial rather than legislative battlegrounds offer a better path to victory over controversial social/legal issues in the modern era.

        But the NRA’s legislative work isn’t irrelevant, nor is their influence on the makeup of congress in a highly polarized era. It’s just not a subject of policy dispute, because ranking the candidates in any particular congressional election from “most gun-friendly” to “least gun-friendly” and saying “we want the most gun-friendly one to win” is pretty much a no-brainer from the NRA’s perspective. There’s probably a bit of room for debate on exactly how to allocate limited funds towards the practically swingable elections.

        How much money to devote to all of those combined, vs. how much to ensuring that the NRA’s administrators get to live large, is probably a more interesting subject to the NRA’s administrators.

    • S_J says:

      Epistemic status: I’m quoting from a gun-rights authors who has been running his own blog since about 2004…

      The NRA seems to have focused a lot of its budget into things that may not be core-mission stuff…and it may not have prepared properly for the gun-rights battles that are currently happening. The leadership went with what worked for the past decade or two, and didn’t realize that coasting on those strategies would become a weakness.

      There was apparently a set of poorly-thought-out decisions involving generating media content, and other decisions relating to a PR/consultancy firm.

      During the past weekend (and possibly today), the NRA Board and Members had some opportunity to rectify things at the Annual Meeting. The outcome of the Board meeting is still somewhat in doubt, but there is lots of suggestion (and hope) that the NRA is ditching the PR firm that is the focus of a currently-active lawsuit, and hopefully pursuing strategies that will strengthen local/regional clubs and political organizations. There’s also a side-order of Gun Culture 2.0 reminding the old guard that lots of non-hunters, and non-traditional gun owners, are interested in the NRA and in gun rights.

  4. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Inspired by the new Avengers movie:
    If you’ve ever read Orlando Innamorato or it’s superior sequel Orlando Furioso, you know that Western culture had a public domain shared universe including Classical mythology, Arthurian legend, and the chansons de geste (verse historical fiction about Charlemagne’s court, basically). If you haven’t, get started!

    • vV_Vv says:

      Most influential pre-modern art and literature would be considered fanart or fanfiction by modern IP law standards.

      Imagine if The Homer Company and The Jesus of Nazareth Company could sue Dante, Michelangelo or Leonardo for copyright violations.

      • Next time on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles….

      • Deiseach says:

        The Jesus of Nazareth Company could sue Dante, Michelangelo or Leonardo for copyright violations

        The Jesus of Nazareth Company (Western Division; local headquarters – Rome) licensed authorised adaptations by Michaelangelo and Leonardo (Dante was more fanfic) 🙂

        Not to say that all adaptations and re-imaginings passed muster, but there were quality control inspections and the usual penalties for breaking the terms of the contract.

        Veronese had been commissioned to paint a Last Supper for a Dominican friary. The work he turned out was very much not considered in accord with what had been asked for, and the Prior made a formal complaint (and indeed, considering that modern reviews refer to the work as “irreverent”, “jokey” and so on, you can’t blame the Prior for being dissatisfied):

        In Venice, a court of the Inquisition interrogated Veronese about the thematic and theologic content of The Feast in the House of Levi (1573), then called a Last Supper:

        “This day, July eighteenth, 1573. Called to the Holy Office before the sacred tribunal, Paolo Galliari Veronese, residing in the parish of Saint Samuel, and being asked as to his name and surname replied as above.
        Being asked as to his profession:
        Answer. I paint and make figures.
        Question. Do you know the reasons why you have been called here?
        A. No.
        Q. Can you imagine what those reasons may be?
        A. I can well imagine.
        Q. Say what you think about them.
        A. I fancy that it concerns what was said to me by the reverend fathers, or rather by the prior of the monastery of San Giovanni e Paolo, whose name I did not know, but who informed me that he had been here, and that your Most Illustrious Lordships had ordered him to cause to be placed in the picture a Magdalen instead of the dog; and I answered him that very readily I would do all that was needful for my reputation and for the honor of the picture; but that I did not understand what this figure of the Magdalen could be doing here; and this for many reasons, which I will tell, when occasion is granted me to speak.
        Q. What is the picture to which you have been referring?
        A. It is the picture which represents the Last Supper of Jesus Christ with His disciples in the house of Simon.
        Q. Where is this picture?
        A. In the refectory of the monks of San Giovanni e Paolo.
        Q. Is it painted in fresco or on wood or on canvas?
        A. It is on canvas.
        Q. How many feet does it measure in height?
        A. It may measure seventeen feet.
        Q. And in breadth?
        A. About thirty-nine.
        Q. How many have you represented? And what is each one doing?
        A. First there is the innkeeper, Simon; then, under him, a carving squire whom I supposed to have come there for his pleasure, to see how the service of the table is managed. There are many other figures which I cannot remember, however, as it is a long time since I painted that picture.
        Q. Have you painted other Last Suppers besides that one?
        A. Yes.
        Q. How many have you painted? Where are they?
        A. I painted one at Verona for the reverend monks of San Lazzaro; it is in their refectory. Another is in the refectory of the reverend brothers of San Giorgio here in Venice.
        Q. But that one is not a Last Supper, and is not even called the Supper of Our Lord.
        A. I painted another in the refectory of San Sebastiano in Venice, another at Padua for the Fathers of the Maddalena. I do not remember to have made any others.
        Q. In this Supper which you painted for San Giovanni e Paolo, what signifies the figure of him whose nose is bleeding?
        A. He is a servant who has a nose-bleed from some accident.
        Q. What signify those armed men dressed in the fashion of Germany, with halberds in their hands?
        A. It is necessary here that I should say a score of words.
        Q. Say them.
        A. We painters use the same license as poets and madmen, and I represented those halberdiers, the one drinking, the other eating at the foot of the stairs, but both ready to do their duty, because it seemed to me suitable and possible that the master of the house, who as I have been told was rich and magnificent, would have such servants.
        Q. And the one who is dressed as a jester with a parrot on his wrist, why did you put him into the picture?
        A. He is there as an ornament, as it is usual to insert such figures.
        Q. Who are the persons at the table of Our Lord?
        A. The twelve apostles.
        Q. What is Saint Peter doing, who is the first?
        A. He is carving the lamb in order to pass it to the other part of the table.
        Q. What is he doing who comes next?
        A. He holds a plate to see what Saint Peter will give him.
        Q. Tell us what the third is doing.
        A. He is picking his teeth with a fork.
        Q. And who are really the persons whom you admit to have been present at this Supper?
        A. I believe that there was only Christ and His Apostles; but when I have some space left over in a picture I adorn it with figures of my own invention.
        Q. Did some person order you to paint Germans, buffoons, and other similar figures in this picture?
        A. No, but I was commissioned to adorn it as I thought proper; now it is very large and can contain many figures.
        Q. Should not the ornaments which you were accustomed to paint in pictures be suitable and in direct relation to the subject, or are they left to your fancy, quite without discretion or reason?
        A. I paint my pictures with all the considerations which are natural to my intelligence, and according as my intelligence understands them.
        Q. Does it seem suitable to you, in the Last Supper of our Lord, to represent buffoons, drunken Germans, dwarfs, and other such absurdities?
        A. Certainly not.
        Q. Then why have you done it?
        A. I did it on the supposition that those people were outside the room in which the Supper was taking place.
        Q. Do you not know that in Germany and other countries infested by heresy, it is habitual, by means of pictures full of absurdities, to vilify and turn to ridicule the things of the Holy Catholic Church, in order to teach false doctrine to ignorant people who have no common sense?
        A. I agree that it is wrong, but I repeat what I have said, that it is my duty to follow the examples given me by my masters.
        Q. Well, what did your masters paint? Things of this kind, perhaps?
        A. In Rome, in the Pope’s Chapel, Michelangelo has represented Our Lord, His Mother, St. John, St. Peter, and the celestial court; and he has represented all these personages nude, including the Virgin Mary [this last incorrect], and in various attitudes not inspired by the most profound religious feeling.
        Q. Do you not understand that in representing the Last Judgment, in which it is a mistake to suppose that clothes are worn, there was no reason for painting any? But in these figures what is there that is not inspired by the Holy Spirit? There are neither buffoons, dogs, weapons, nor other absurdities. Do you think, therefore, according to this or that view, that you did well in so painting your picture, and will you try to prove that it is a good and decent thing?
        A. No, my most Illustrious Sirs; I do not pretend to prove it, but I had not thought that I was doing wrong; I had never taken so many things into consideration. I had been far from imaging such a great disorder, all the more as I had placed these buffoons outside the room in which Our Lord was sitting.

        These things having been said, the judges pronounced that the aforesaid Paolo should be obliged to correct his picture within the space of three months from the date of the reprimand, according to the judgments and decision of the Sacred Court, and altogether at the expense of the said Paolo.
        Et ita decreverunt omni melius modo. [And so they decided everything for the best!].”

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          “Does it seem suitable to you, in the Last Supper of our Lord, to represent buffoons, drunken Germans, dwarfs, and other such absurdities?”

          Are not drunken Germans a subset of buffoons, and dwarves just a subset of drunken Germans?

    • But don’t expect the Furioso to be entirely ad-free literature. Not unless you have a very high opinion of Lucrezia Borgia.

      Also, Ariosto is a little weak on geography.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Ariosto was following the trope established by Virgil of including an ad for your patron in an epic’s obligatory prophecy, yeah (the context, for those who don’t know, is the female knight Bradamante stumbling into Merlin’s tomb, where his ghost commands her to convert Ruggiero to Christianity so as to make babies that will become the House of Este). It is far more defensible than broadcast TV, which was one-third ads, though we could argue that ad-free streaming TV is superior. 🙂

        I’m trying to remember the weirdness of Ariosto’s geography. I think there’s a reduplication of China (Cathay & Serican), possibly also of Russia, it’s not clear where the islands of King Arthur’s fay sisters are…

    • James Reed says:

      Orlando Furioso is one of the best books ever written. I’d probably advise reading it prior to the Innamorato.

      Tasso’s Gerusaleme Liberata is also outstanding.

  5. Uribe says:

    A psychological phenomenon I believe is real but I don’t know if there’s a name for.

    You’re in a relationship that has lasted at least a year. You love your girlfriend and all, but she wants you to watch this movie. You look at the trailer, it doesn’t really appeal to you, but it isn’t so horrible that you object to watching it. She chose it after all, so let’s watch it.

    Immediately, you hate it. It’s a comedy. She’s laughing, you’re not. You find yourself taking pride in not laughing, because you think it’s dumb. Ideally, you won’t laugh once throughout this whole movie, because you want to prove to her that you didn’t think it was funny.

    Why? Why do I want to show that I despise a movie she liked?

    Is it because she does the same? Whenever I convince her to watch that classic foreign movie, she makes it clear, in few words, that she hated it.

    We used to want to get along so badly and like whatever each other liked. We used to pretend we liked what each other liked even if we didn’t. But now things have gone the opposite way. We don’t want to like what the other likes.

    It isn’t that we don’t love each other anymore. it’s just that we don’t want to like what the other likes. It’s something in my mind that biases me against what she likes and vice versa. Like it’s competitive. A dominance thing. As if there’s points to be scored for not liking the book she thought was great. There isn’t, but there seems to be something in my hindbrain that thinks there is.

    I just spoke with my girlfriend about how I fear this will soon happen, because it seems to happen in every relationship. I’m particularly concerned because it is a long distance relationship, and we spend a lot of time watching movies together. Eventually, I fear, we’ll become less generous with each other about enjoying each others’ tastes, because that is what seems to happen in relationships.

    Is there a name for this phenomenon? My girlfriend and I just spent a long time talking about it. We both agreed the phenomenon is real, the phenomenon of becoming biased against the others’ tastes in things over time. We hope that being aware of this bias will help us snuff it.

    Does anyone else know what I’m talking about?

    • Ouroborobot says:

      Just out of curiosity, is there a political or cultural tribe difference between you that would come into play in matters of taste like this? My wife and I generally like the same stuff, and when there is any doubt we just ask each other if the other is interested in watching something. If the answer is no, we don’t pressure each other to share the experience. The only way I can imagine myself expressing anything like this would be if I forced myself to sit through The West Wing with her or something like that. Even then I guess that woukdn’t be bias against it because she likes it, but rather bias against it for its strong tribal affiliation.

      • Uribe says:

        No, there’s no tribal difference. We mostly like the same stuff. The problem, perhaps, is that our relationship is based on watching A LOT of movies and so almost out of necessity we end up watching some things the other really likes and the other really doesn’t.

        • AG says:

          Seems like a solution might be to stop evaluating each others’ tastes. Turn your conversations into more meta-level discussions of why some storytelling elements work for some people and why they don’t work for other people. It can help you understand your girlfriend more deeply as a person, to know why her taste is the way it is, instead of getting hung up on if her taste is “good” or not.

          That is, if you know you won’t like the movie, stop watching the movie for your own consumption, watch it as a means of interpreting your girlfriend and your relationship.

          For example, I don’t like Prestige Oscarbait type movies, because I rarely like the characters or plotting of such movies. But if I have to watch one, I’ll pay more attention to production aspects, appreciate the acting or the set design, observe the photography decisions, etc. That way I can still discuss the film with someone who likes it, without denigrating their taste.

          Alternatively, start transitioning your primary relationship activity to something else that you do share tastes on. Find a film that will act as a springboard into that other activity. (For example, watch a movie with strong food focus, transition to watching a foodie documentary, and then find restaurants/food festivals to visit in the area. Or, find a sequence of sports films that will transition into you two joining the local league, etc.)

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Pretty sure this is “spite,” and it’s not healthy. It’s one thing to occasionally do something your partner wants to watch, it’s quite another when it’s a regular occurrence. It sounds like you guys just haven’t gotten to the point of accepting that your partner has different interests than you, and it’s okay not to like the same things, and it’s not okay to try to force the other person to like your interests.

      It’s the “forcing the other person to watch this” that’s the problem. Once in a while, fine. Regular occurrence, no good. It’s pretty natural to respond in a spiteful manner when that becomes SOP, but the healthy response is to just put a limit on it.

      • Uribe says:

        Perhaps I exaggerated. I wouldn’t call it spite. It’s leaning in that direction, but it isn’t full blown spite. It’s subtle. I suppose I’m trying to prevent it from turning into a case of full blown spite.

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      We used to want to get along so badly and like whatever each other liked. We used to pretend we liked what each other liked even if we didn’t. But now things have gone the opposite way. We don’t want to like what the other likes.

      This sounds like backlash, and it sounds unhealthy. You built your relationship on unstable footing, and now you need to adjust before the ground beneath you collapses. Give movies a break. You will struggle to find something to replace the lost time with; that’s ok. But don’t continue down this road.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      I just spoke with my girlfriend about how I fear this will soon happen, because it seems to happen in every relationship.

      So, I’m not sure, but I think maybe some people are giving advice based on a misimpression.

      The feeling you are describing is of something that has happened in past relationships? But has not yet happened in this one? Is that correct?

      Let’s talk about how you are conceiving of a relationship, and how your past partners may have.

      Give and take is an important part of any relationship. Jean de La Fontaine famously described the reed’s strength as “I bend and do not break”. Flexibility is a key feature of any relationship. We do things all the time because the will provide more pleasure for our partner than for us. But it is important that both partners are reeds. If one person is rigid, and the other flexible, then you end up more as Bonsai than relationship. That will lead inevitably to something stunted. If that is what has happened in the past, it doesn’t mean that flexibility is a bad thing. It means you were in a bad relationship.

      Another important concept is rootedness. You do, absolutely, have to have your own roots. Without roots, you are chaff and not a reed. There is nothing wrong with having personal preferences and boundaries, they are critical to maintaining a healthy “you” inside the relationship. This is just as true for your partner. Maybe they just really don’t like depressing art films because of … whatever reason. You may have had your fill of insipid comedies for the month, year, or your life. That’s fine. Both of you need to accept that the other one has boundaries where the relationship ends and the individual begins.

      Relationships are not transnational when they are healthy. “I watched this movie because I wanted to make sure you would watch mine” is an attitude that will inevitably curdle and spoil. You need to accept your partner as they are, as a whole, rather than “some parts, but not others”. Your partner needs to do the same for you. That doesn’t mean that you wouldn’t prefer they enjoy an art film, but if they don’t, you simply have to decide whether you accept that … or eventually realize that this not actually a workable relationship. Trying to make them, say, like art films as a condition of the relationship, will result in pain.

    • Viliam says:

      Liking and disliking different things is normal, and probably unavoidable. Even if you would have 100% same preferences now, people change.

      My wife loves opera. In my opinion, it is just pretentious howling about stories that usually involve crazy people hurting each other. I love anime. In her opinion, it is just silly cartoons about people killing each other.

      So what. After a few unsuccessful attempts to show each other the true masterpieces that obviously can’t leave anyone unmoved… only to find out that actually, they can… we accepted that we have different preferences and they are likely not going to change. Therefore today, when I want to watch some movie together, I mentally scratch all anime from my favorites, and choose from the rest. (There still remains something good, e.g. Game of Thrones or Better Call Saul.) She plays opera loudly when I am not at home, or when we are in different rooms.

      It’s okay. We have other things in common, for example reading SSC. Each of us has their own hobbies, and we talk about those hobbies with our friends, or debate them online. We share some interesting bits of our hobbies with each other, but of course we cannot go to the same depth as with a fellow hobbyist.

      Also, we usually don’t fight for dominance. Each of us has strong advantages in different areas; I guess that allows each of us to feel quite okay about themselves.

      Does anyone else know what I’m talking about?

      My armchair psychoanalysis suggests that each of you desire to have a “clone” of themselves for a partner. Then it becomes obvious that it isn’t so, and it makes you frustrated. So you try to change each other by pointing out how horrible the other person’s preferences are. (Spoiler: it’s not going to work either.)

      I would suggest accepting that each of us is, fundamentally, alone. There is no such thing as a “clone” of you, and there will never be. (Not even your children. Most likely not even your literal clones.) And that, in some sense, that’s okay. It makes you godlike, in certain sense. It also makes death a horrible thing. But I digress…

      The most you can have with another person, is to share the trip, be nice to each other, and perhaps do something mutually valuable together (that may include having lots of hot sex). This is a wonderful thing and you should do a lot of it. But expecting anything else is madness.

      Specifically, there is no such thing as a “soul mate”. (According to atheists, souls don’t exist; according to religion, souls don’t mate.) But you can find people who will resonate with you, because you have similar experiences, similar hobbies, similar Big Five traits, etc. That is great, but it always only goes until some point, and beyond that it gets frustrating to expect more. So it all is a matter of degree.

    • Etoile says:

      I think Ouroborobot is onto something.
      It might not be a political thing, but maybe a disgusting thing – maybe the movie manifests itself as something about her you don’t a like, and vice versa? Let’s say you have a tendency she mildly dislikes – maybe you’re not as feminist as she’d like, or like fart jokes, or break the rules more than her comfort level. And you like movies with that type of thing. That movie is a projection of everything she doesn’t like In General, and about you in particular, and she has contempt for you that you like that stuff – an affirmation of all your worst qualities!
      Or for you: maybe you find the way 30 y.o. women in that romantic comedy drink or treat guys or behave like teenagers completely disgusting. But it’s not just that; the fact that she likes that crap highlights something about her that you dislike. Maybe it’s tied to feminism, or prudishness, or partying tendencies….(who knows).

      Now I’m exaggerating above, obviously. If she actually found you disgusting you wouldn’t be together and it’s not necessarily articulated in her own mind… This is more of an emotional “chain of thought”… Thst I’ve experienced with my husband.

      As for working through it: I think when you’re secure in knowing that your partner’s flaws are under control and don’t dominate, and don’t impact you/your relationship negatively, you don’t feel a visceral disgust at them, and can just appreciate them as their quirks.

      Like, my husband is into making mischief. But he knows when not to stir up trouble – e.g. political comments around my parents – and has demonstrated it across years. So I don’t tense up about it anymore, including when we watch movies with those kinds of characters.

      • SamChevre says:

        +1

        This dynamic-choices in recreational reading highlighting differences in personality/values that we disapprove of in the other- is a significant portion of the tension between my wife and I over many things, including recreation.

    • Björn says:

      It could be that you are a rather disagreeable person, and the movie does not appeal to you. The honeymoon period with your girlfriend is wearing off, and now you see stuff that she likes in a more neutral light. This makes me suspect that you don’t like that comedy because of spite, you don’t like it genuinely, and that you are a person who has strong opinions about things you dislike.That you have to watch that comedy with someone close to you maybe exacerbates this dislike, but it is not really the reason.
      I solve this problem for myself by avoiding some topics (Marvel movies, progressive rock, …) with some people, because I know that talking about those topic will just become an hour long discussion about how much I hate thing X. If the topics comes up anyhow, I’ll say that I really don’t like it, but nothing more, else the discussion starts again.

    • AnteriorMotive says:

      1) She insisted you might enjoy it, so the less you enjoy it, the more you retroactively win the argument about how little you would enjoy it. (and can invoke your superior judgement in future such arguments)

      2) If she gets you to watch a movie you don’t like that much, that’s a little annoying. But if you watch a movie you absolutely hate, then she’s beholden to you for the great sacrifice you made on her behalf.

      In both scenarios, if you weren’t going to like the movie anyway, you stand to socially profit by liking it as little as possible.

      Of course, the only victory you’re winning is a victory over her, so it might plausibly be a bad sign that your subconscious is seeing the situation as competitive instead of cooperative.

  6. johan_larson says:

    In what areas of American law do doctrines of Disparate Impact apply? Hiring practices and rental housing are the two that come up most often. Are there others? Are education institutions subject to these rules, either in admission or graduation policies?

    • Dack says:

      Seems like it could apply to just about anything…as long as you have the data to back it up and a persuasive enough lawyer.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      I know sunset clauses are supposed to be bad (though I can’t remember why) but this is exactly the kind of law that has one effect in day 1, another in year 20, and yet another in year 40. Not just different degrees of the same effect either. Oh, and we’re approaching year 60.

      • beleester says:

        I know sunset clauses are supposed to be bad (though I can’t remember why)

        The usual reason to not sunset laws is because it becomes an opportunity for hostage-taking – a party refuses to vote to renew [good law] unless you pass [bad law] in the same bill. And you get this opportunity every time the law comes up for renewal, even if everyone agrees the law is still good. See also, the perennial debt ceiling showdown.

        Because our Congress is biased towards inaction, it’s not good to require action to keep a law in place, unless you actually have a specific time in mind when you think the law might stop being good.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Very much this.

          There are advantages and disadvantages to laws tending to stay on the books. There is a tendency to accrete a kludgocracy.

          But systems that encourage hostage taking are worse. They are overcome by norms, but norms are fragile under stress, and this precisely the time when you need the stability provided by the norms.

          • Radu Floricica says:

            It doesn’t have to be an either/or situation. If sunset mechanisms are introduced on a wide scale, a weaker standard can be set for prolonging them. Even less than a simple majority – mostly you want to gouge 1. if there is enough interest to even have a vote and 2. they aren’t completely out of fashion. But you want this to be done automatically, because you can’t really have a manual system to confirm lack of interest 😀

          • Thomas Jorgensen says:

            One option is to simply set aside a span of time each year for legal reforms – that is, every june congress is in session, but are not allowed to pass new laws, only clean up old ones.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Thomas Jorgensen:

            Having norms around continuity of legal reform seems like it would be much more workable. It fails quite gracefully.

            Getting those norms started in an environment where they have never been seems like a very hard lift, though. Everyone will see it as an opportunity to actually change contentious policy.

        • cassander says:

          This is only true if you have a lot of laws that people are meh enough about that they don’t get angry at a party who tries to hold them hostage. And if you do have a lot of laws like that, maybe you shouldn’t.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Or, maybe, there is a reason we are representative democracy and not a direct one…

  7. Ron says:

    Any recommendations for a few days of a nature/hiking vacation near New York City?
    I’m a traveler from abroad, and realized that my preferences changed from city sightseeing to nature only recently (a couple of months after booking an entire flight plan).
    Any suggestion will be appreciated, thanks in advance!

    • greenwoodjw says:

      If you can rent a car, travel to New England and hit some areas in New Hampshire or Maine if you’ve got time. (I don’t know what country you’re from, but from NYC to southern Maine is only 5 hours and that covers the whole of NE)

      • Ron says:

        Thanks for the suggestions.
        Interesting that Maine is only 5 hours, and more so, that 5 hours is “only”.
        For me, even a 3 hours drive seems extreme, possibly because I’m from Israel and can probably drive anywhere in the country in under 3.5 hours.
        Maybe I need to rethink this constraint.
        Thanks again!

        • greenwoodjw says:

          That’s I asked what country. The US is BIG. There are states in the US where an 8-hour trip doesn’t even cross state borders. It takes a week to go from one coast to the other, and several days between borders. Some people live 45-60 minutes from a grocery store, or only have 1 option within a shorter travel time. Israel itself isn’t much bigger than our smallest states.

          You won’t find much within an hour of NYC for nature-themed vacations, that whole region is one big metropolis. My recommendation is to pick somewhere in New England, get a hotel there, and just drive in and out of NYC for the flights.

          • greenwoodjw says:

            Fair warning if you do go to New England – we’re a very stern people. It might feel like people are giving you a cold shoulder and you may blame that on sounding/looking foreign. Don’t. We’re like that to everyone, even people we know. 🙂

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      Bear Mountain and Harriman, Minnewaska, and Slide Mountain. The Pharaoh Lake wilderness is heartbreakingly beautiful, but probably way too far.

      • meh says:

        +1 to these great suggestions. If you make it to Bear Mt, you can also stop by for a nearby tour of the US Military Academy

      • Ron says:

        Perfect.
        The Pharaoh Lake wilderness seems breathtaking… Probably too far, hopefully I can make it work, otherwise one of the closer options. It is super helpful that your suggestions span the possible distances.
        Thank you so much!

      • The Nybbler says:

        +1 to Bear Mountain and Harriman (haven’t been to the others). The NY/NJ Trail Conference sells maps that are better than the ones the park has online, but they don’t ship internationally unfortunately. There is also the Storm King Art Center (large-scale sculpture, mostly) if you want some culture with your outdoors.

    • SamChevre says:

      How near is near? The Connecticut River Valley is accessible by train/bus and is very outdoors-y. (And I live there.)

      • Ron says:

        Interesting… so the Connecticut River Valley can be a viable alternative without renting a car?
        Thanks for the suggestion!

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          Generally in the US it will be difficult to get to a trailhead without a car. You can usually hire a car to get you there, but it may be difficult to get back out, as there may not be cellular service at the trailhead.

        • SamChevre says:

          You could get close – within 5 miles – of many nice hikes (Mt Tom, Skinner Park, and the other Holyoke Range parks) by public transport. You would need a car, or a friend, to get to the trailhead proper–but there is cell signal at most of the trailheads in that park system.

          It’s 3 hours by train from NYC to Springfield, and it’s a half-hour to either of those trails from there. (You can do it by bus, but it would be a bit tricky.)

    • broblawsky says:

      I would like to second recommendations for either Bear Mountain or Storm King.

    • Tenacious D says:

      Anywhere on the East Coast usually isn’t far from the Appalachian Trail. It’s best known for long distance hikes but there are a lot of access points so it can easily be used for a day hike to a local summit or lookout point. Last month, for example, I hiked a few kilometres on it at the Lehigh Gap near Allentown, Pennsylvania.

  8. Clutzy says:

    My Pixel just bricked. What are some good phone suggestions?

    • greenwoodjw says:

      A $50 Tracphone, if you don’t use it for much.

      • Well... says:

        Or better yet a $15 flip phone. Downgrade your phone, upgrade your life.

        • greenwoodjw says:

          I have the McDonalds app (Coupons) and GPS on my phone, but I almost never use it anyway. (Many days I get home from having it on me for 12+ hours and it’s at 85% battery)

        • Well... says:

          A text-and-talk only plan (no data) for a flip phone can run as little as $10 a month although mine is $30. Still, what’s the cheapest data plan needed to run a smartphone? $50/month? $60? That’s at least a $20/month savings and possibly a lot more if you have a flip phone.

          How much money does the McDonalds app save you?

          Double hypothesis:

          1) Most people who have smartphones don’t really need them. (Let’s say that most people do really need a way to call and text, and an alarm clock and camera. Most flip phones have these features covered and then some.)
          2) Most people subconsciously justify the extra money they spend for smartphones with fears about being seen as weird for not having one, even if they consciously justify it by making up lies about why they personally aren’t captured by hypothesis #1.

          • SamChevre says:

            I don’t NEED a smartphone, but it is very handy–and my plan is only $30 a month. (Cricket) I think I spent about $30 on the phone a couple years ago.

            I used it for call, text, GPS, and occasionally for something else-but there would be workarounds for the other uses. I would miss ankidroid, though–it’s a great flashcard app.

            The key advantages, for me, are that it’s much easier to text with a smartphone keyboard than a numeric only keyboard (I can’t find a slide-out keyboard phone anywhere anymore), that I can use voice-to-text, and the Google maps is very handy when I need directions. The optionality–I can pay for parking, check email, google a phone number–is worth something for option value, even though I use it rarely.

          • ana53294 says:

            A text-and-talk only plan (no data) for a flip phone can run as little as $10 a month although mine is $30.

            American data plans are expensive, but this doesn’t apply to other countries. I have a pay-as-you-go plan, where I pay 1.3 cents per megabyte, and I pay per call. 10$ will last me a couple of months, unless I am travelling. I live abroad, so using Whatsapp with my family instead of international SMS saves me ton of money.

            Most people who have smartphones don’t really need them.

            I use my phone as a satnav, also. Since I have terrible orientation skills, I do use it regularly.

            I also use my phone for photos, and a decent photo camera is worth 200$ or more, so why not get a smartphone for a similar price? And I take photos mostly for my family, ‘coz they like to see my face.

            Also, banking. My bank changed authentication for internet sales, and I have to have a smartphone for online shopping.

          • I can’t find a slide-out keyboard phone anywhere anymore

            You might want to look at the Gemini from Planet Computers. It’s essentially a miniature laptop, with a real keyboard you can actually type on. The old Psion PDA reborn as a modern cell phone.

          • Clutzy says:

            I don’t NEED a smartphone, but I was a slow adapter and I suspect that one time my flipphone cost me a job getting out of school. So. I might.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Still, what’s the cheapest data plan needed to run a smartphone? $50/month? $60? That’s at least a $20/month savings and possibly a lot more if you have a flip phone.

            Our phone bill hovers around $40/mo for 2 people. Though I get the impression we use the mobile data fairly sparingly compared to most. GPS & occasional light browsing. Most apps that want internet access are up to no good, anyway.

          • greenwoodjw says:

            I pay less than $30 and generally less than $20.

    • cassander says:

      I asked this question a couple threads ago. Was told about GSM arena. Settled on a moto g7 power. The notch in the status bar is fairly infuriating, but other than that I do not hate it, which is pretty high praise for me and phones.

    • Theodoric says:

      I’ve been happy with my Pixel 2.

    • lvlln says:

      I’ve been happy with my Pixel 3. But its lack of a 3.5mm headset port is absolutely horrible.

      It’s what I upgraded to after my OG Pixel stopped being able to hold more than 15 minutes’ worth of battery charge after ~1.8 years of abuse from me playing taxing games on it while plugged into the charger.

      Also, it seems a cheaper version of the Pixel 3 is gonna come out soon, so that might be worth looking into.

      • BBA says:

        It’s what I upgraded to after my OG Pixel stopped being able to hold more than 15 minutes’ worth of battery charge after ~1.8 years of abuse from me playing taxing games on it while plugged into the charger.

        Is this actually bad for the battery? My previous laptop developed a bulging battery that made the touchpad float a centimeter above the keyboard and couldn’t hold any charge, and I basically only used it plugged in. So now I’m regularly used my new computer unplugged, in the hope it won’t get misshapen so quickly.

        • lvlln says:

          I have no actual studies to cite, but all the resources online I’ve seen about lithium ion batters tell me that using phones and laptops while they’re charged in isn’t good for the battery. There are multiple factors, including the fact that having the battery at full capacity isn’t good for longevity, and that charging it also raises the heat at the moment, which is also not good for longevity. In my case, since I was also playing taxing phone games, that made my phone even hotter.

          I’ve been keeping my Pixel 3 usage while plugged in to a bare minimum now, just for checking notifications when they come up if I happen to be charging.

          But maybe it’s all hooey like nutrition advice. I don’t know.

        • AG says:

          For my laptop, rather than using the computer unplugged, I run it on the charging cable, with the battery removed. I only put the battery back in if I need to take it somewhere.

        • broblawsky says:

          Discharging a Li-ion battery at very high rates is bad for it, and keeping it at top of charge is also bad for it. Doing both at the same time will reduce its capacity pretty quickly.

          • BBA says:

            I thought most laptops would switch to cord power when they’re plugged in and the battery is fully charged. If instead it’s simultaneously draining and charging that sounds bad. (Both my old laptop and my new one are those newfangled models that don’t let you easily take the battery out.)

            I understand it with phones, because using a plugged-in phone is much less common.

  9. Urstoff says:

    How would I figure out what the most common psychology textbooks were throughout the 19th century? Did university courses in the 19th century have syllabuses (and do some universities have digital repositories of those)? I know it’s a niche research question, but aside from finding a few mentions in books on the history of psychology, I can’t really find any good source of information on the topic.

    • Well... says:

      Was psychology much of a thing throughout the 19th century? I thought it was more of a speculative thing until the latter half of that century when people like Pavlov started doing experiments.

      • Urstoff says:

        There weren’t really independent departments until the last 25 years of the 19th century, but it was considered an “experimental” extension of philosophy before then and did have some books that resemble textbooks (Bain’s “The Senses and the Intellect” from 1855, Spencer’s “Principles of Psychology” from 1855, Porter’s “The Human Intellect” from 1868, the latter of which explicitly called itself a textbook). And there were already several major works in psychophysics, nervous physiology, and phrenology. I just wanted to figure out if I’m missing out on any of the books that were primarily used in those psychology/philosophy courses.

  10. johan_larson says:

    This is the subthread for discussion of the third episode of season eight of Game of Thrones. Since most readers will have moved on to 126.5 by then, you may write freely without worrying about spoilers.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      I came into this episode with really high hopes, got really excited at the first scene where all the Dothraki die, and then just felt massive disappointment for an hour.

      I am trying to rack my brain for good moments, but I can’t think of many. The brief Dragon Fight above the clouds was visually interesting. The feeling of utter desperation was pretty rock-solid.

      I think the entire episode is best summarized by an utterly pointless and gratuitous stealth mission through the library in the middle of a battle.

      • meh says:

        The slow motion ‘we’re losing / we’ve lost’ sequence(s) seemed to go on for way too long

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          Wayyyyyyyy too long. It’s okay to have that as a tone, you just need to DO something with it. There are things you can do to make the battle interesting: for instance, Melisandre’s sortie to light all the trenches. Lyanna going up against Giant. Jon Snow charging an ice dragon.

          A lot of time was spent with just a poorly lit faceless mob fighting poorly lit characters that just swang their swords. And that’s tedious.

    • johan_larson says:

      Well, that was exciting. A better battle than I had been expecting. It leaves team Sansa/Daenerys/Jon down some of their principal fighters, and all of her armies to speak of.

      It seems like a copout that the Night King could survive dragonfire, but not Valyrian steel.

      Among the dead:
      Melisandre
      Lady Mormont
      Jeorah
      Tormund
      Gray Worm (I think?)
      Berion
      Theon

      Among the living:
      Daenerys
      Jon
      Sansa
      Tyrion
      Gilly
      Melisandre
      Samwell
      Varys

      I didn’t see what happened to Ser Brienne.

      • meh says:

        Did I miss something? Why is Melisandre both alive and dead?

      • brad says:

        No first tier character. That’s pandering from the show-runners. This series has gone way downhill since GRRM stopped writing the plot.

        Does anyone think this crew could have in a million years conceived of the Red Wedding? Or Ned Stark’s end? If I wanted to watch a Disney movie, there was that Marvel thing opening the same day.

        • johan_larson says:

          I’m still waiting for one of the principal characters (Jon/Daenarys/Sansa/Tyrion/Arya) to die. That’s what it would take to make the season true to form with the rest of the series. This battle would have been a very opportune moment for Jon, say, to die heroically. But maybe the show-runners have decided not to go that far.

          • meh says:

            would have been a very opportune moment for Jon, say, to die heroically

            that doesn’t seem to be how GRRM does it though. It’s not just ‘killing characters’, he likes to subvert tropes and expectations. Ned and Robb don’t die heroically. The problem though is that you can build and grow a story (plant the seeds) doing this, but as GRRM is finding it is quite difficult to finish a story this way.

          • brad says:

            The Targaryans and Starks die without defeating the NK. A peasant gets off a 1 in a million shot after they all are dead. Out of the ashes, Jamie and Tyrion take what’s left of the armies and defeat Cersei. In the battle Jamie and Cersei kill each other. Tyrion and Varys decide to put Gendry on the throne. The End.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          Jon Snow and Dany should both be dead. If Ser Barristan can fall to a bunch of morons in funny masks, Dany and Jon should both be dead if they are surrounded by hundreds (thousands?) of Wights.

      • vV_Vv says:

        I think Grey Worm and Brienne survived.

    • Gossage Vardebedian says:

      Pretty good. Anyone who didn’t think most of the still-remaining main characters’ lives would be hanging by a thread juuuust before the big bad got it haven’t read a lot of books or watched a lot of TV or movies. That’s how they work, folks. A lot of people are going to see who can be the first to call fan service over it, but how could it be otherwise, really?

      I thought the exhaustion and desperation that occurred when NK brought back all the undead was done well. I also didn’t have much trouble telling where people were, what was going on. Sapotchnik knows how to do these.

      I called Arya killing NK, but I honestly thought there might be some clever subterfuge – maybe putting on an undead face? – but Beric saving her one more time and Melisandre putting a bow on it had me nodding my head: yup, Arya was going to do it.

      Melisandre came to play, gotta give her that. And did Grey Worm bitch out? What was he doing? I agree with ADBG about the library scene. Waste of a couple minutes, and for what?

      Back to mostly politics for the next week, it seems. Still think we’ll get some incipient Madness of Queen Dany.

      • CatCube says:

        I mostly enjoyed it, but complaining is nerd fun so that’s mostly what this post will be.

        I actually lost all spatial awareness of the characters. Like, it was cool and dramatic for Jorah to save Dany, but why was he there, at that spot, at that time? Dany had mobility due to her dragon so she could move anywhere on the battlefield, but how did he get past the army of the undead surrounding Winterfell 12 ranks deep, shoulder-to-shoulder and nuts-to-butt? Does he have psychic powers, too?

        I agree with @John Schilling, below, that all of the scenes, individually and in detail, worked. They don’t quite hang together though.

        I had two complaints. One of which was why Arya was there to save Bran, but you actually answered it by jogging my memory about her scene with Melisandre. After she said “Not today,” and sprinted off, I was like “Baroooo?” but I guess she understood what Melisandre was telling her.

        The other complaint is actually pretty big and actually really, really, really annoys me. Maybe they’ll answer it in the next episode–they’d better. What was the Night King’s/White Walkers’ motivation? A White Walker was literally one of the first characters we saw, and all they’ve done is lumber around and stare at the camera for 9 fucking years. Why are they trying to erase the memory of the world? Were they wronged by all living in addition to the Children of the Forest? Would an eternal winter enable them to get nicer beachfront property? Is it the same reason a goldfish swims in its bowl: it’s just something to do while you wait for oblivion?

      • meh says:

        The most groan worthy parts of the whole episode was after the credits when the showrunners were saying Arya killing the NK was supposed to be unexpected.

        • John Schilling says:

          I missed that, which is probably for the best. I didn’t mind Deus ex Arya, really, though I’d have preferred it be a bit better established and explained. But the idea that it wasn’t telegraphed an episode or so ahead of time, does not reflect well on this crop of writers.

          Admittedly, I only had that one at 60% going into the episode, and I was expecting her to use the dragonglass spear and a Wraith Face for infiltration, but, yeah, thing that was probably going to happen, happens in a slightly different way that expected. Big surprise, that.

          I was expecting a somewhat higher body count among the main characters, including 50% John Snow, 80% Brienne of Tarth, and 50% one but not both of Grey Worm and Missandei. Their survival is the unexpected surprise.

          • meh says:

            https://www.youtube.com/embed/ZJ1yC3yESLQ?start=543

            “She seemed like the best candidate providing we didn’t think about her in that moment”

            …this was not the case with anyone I was watching with.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            The actual unexpected thing is if the NK had killed Arya, and while he was turned, Bran’s warged group of ravens carrying dragonglass dive-bombed into the NK.

          • John Schilling says:

            “She seemed like the best candidate providing we didn’t think about her in that moment”

            OK, but after Chekov’s dragonglass spear in the hands of Arya the Uber-assassin and especially after Melisandre’s wholly un-cryptic “Hey aren’t you supposed to kill someone with blue eyes today?”, there wasn’t going to be a moment the Night King was on stage and in need of assassinating that observant viewers weren’t going to be thinking “I wonder if this will be the part where Arya assassinates the Night King?”

          • vV_Vv says:

            The problem wasn’t Arya killing the NK, it’s just the anime ninja way that she did it that stretches suspension of disbelief: she just teleported behind him out of nowhere in the middle of his army of zombies and wws. I know she’s supposed to be stealth, but still.

            It would have made more sense if all the main characters were mobbing the NK all at once and he was slaughtering them with ease until Arya delivered the killing blow.

    • John Schilling says:

      The detailed execution was superb. I don’t think there were more than a few moments that I didn’t like, and didn’t care about what the characters were experiencing and what the storytelling made me feel about them. And most of those moments were the breaks in the plot where the weakness came through – e.g. and as ADBG notes, the stealth mission through the library. I can care about Arya alone trying to evade an Army of the Dead, but not if I’m wondering what happened to the great battle everyone else was fighting against the Dead, and whether the atmospherically eerie quiet means that battle is somehow lost and they didn’t bother to show us.

      No great surprises, particularly not the bit where Arya takes down the Night King at the very last moment. And no signs of intelligent life in Winterfell; living or dead. At some point I’m going to have to compile a list of tactical blunders made by the protagonists, starting with that incredibly stupid Dothraki frontal charge against an enemy that cannot be demoralized, and going through the complete lack of consideration of known enemy advantages like the ability to literally raise the dead (say, those Dothraki cavalry you gave them) and an Ice Dragon. Of course, if the screenwriters are on your side, you can win in spite of any number of tactical blunders.

      But almost all of the moments were well-crafted and a pleasure of sorts to watch, even if no three of them hold together on examination. Rather like a John Wick movie, but with characters I care abour. And I like John Wick movies, when I’m in the right mood.

      We’re on track for a confrontation with Cersei Lannister in S8E5, which means S8E4 can have interesting people talk to one another. That’s something I can’t get from John Wick. and which GoT usually delivers.

      • johan_larson says:

        Daenerys shouldn’t have more than a hundred or so fighters left at Winterfell. Looks like the fight against Cersei can’t be a big battle.

        • meh says:

          what would you guess the size of the armies were (absolute or ratio), and what the death tolls were (absolute or ratio)?

          EDIT: clarify to pre mid battle resurrection totals.

          • johan_larson says:

            We see quite a bit of the Winterfell forces, as they are arrayed before the castle. I suspect a careful analysis of the video could be used to produce a fairly accurate number. Off-hand, I would guess 10,000. Maybe 2000 managed to retreat into the castle?

            We never really see the army of wights in the same way. They are just a mass. But I got the impression of an overwhelmingly larger force. 100,000, maybe? With 20-30,000 left when they reach the walls of the castle?

            As for survivors, might there be 500 fighters left?

      • Protagoras says:

        Yeah, the cavalry charge really annoyed me as well. Not just unsuited to the particular enemy they faced, but also bizarre given the other forces at their disposal; the defenders had elite infantry, so why replace the classic have your infantry engage their infantry while the cavalry circle around and look for vulnerable places in the flanks and rear? I mean, I suppose nighttime would make such maneuver tactics more difficult to execute, but really it couldn’t have gone worse than their actual plan.

        And why put the siege engines in front of the massed infantry? They weren’t ever going to be much use, so having them lost early in the battle was perhaps not a disaster, but in that case, why build them in the first place? And they were just lucky that the engines weren’t turned against them.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          The cavalry charge was stupid, but it made for one of the best moments in the episode, so it’s hard to fault it.
          I’m more annoyed that the Elite Infantry fell so easily. Wights should have been insufficient to break heavy infantry, instead relying upon White Walker magic to do something. Besides the NK, they did nothing. What even is the point of White Walkers? Just have the NK and an army of Wights.

          • vV_Vv says:

            What even is the point of White Walkers? Just have the NK and an army of Wights.

            They are like the Zerg overlords.

          • Clutzy says:

            They are like the Zerg overlords.

            Like that, plus they are clearly more elite troopers that can raise their own dead. They are like mini Night Kings, in one older episode a White Walker was killed and a whole bunch of wights went down. I think the episode would have benefited greatly if early in the episode both those features of White Walkers had been re-demonstrated. You could have had Jorah or Jaime or any of the other non-Stark important people kill a White Walker and have that big die off go through a line of wights, thus giving the defenders a chance to regroup.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I’m very torn about the episode.

      On the one hand, I really enjoyed it. It was very effective storytelling, and did a good job of keeping an 80 minute battle scene exciting and somewhat unpredictable. It was also very well-made with a lot of excellent practical effects and stuntwork blended near-seamlessly with the CGI.

      On the other hand, this episode cheated a lot with almost every scene breaking an established rule of the Game of Thrones universe. Melissandre suddenly has the power to create tens of thousands of flaming swords, which she has never done in any previous battle despite how incredibly useful that would have been. Wights, who have always gone up in flames like they were soaked in gasoline, can put out the flaming trenches by smothering them. The army of the dead can scale the 80ft high outer walls of Winterfell with no siege engines or dragons just by standing on each other’s shoulders. Jaime can suddenly fight on-par with some of the best surviving swordsmen and women in the seven kingdoms despite having been established as a sub-par fighter at best when using his off-hand. The Night King can no-sell dragonfire, which we have seen melted the stone of Harrenhall to a ruin, but goes down to a single thrust of a Valerian steel dagger.

      So I’m not sure how to feel. I enjoyed it as 80 minutes of television but as the culmination of a plotline that’s existed since the first scene in the entire series it doesn’t work because it has to repeatedly eject series continuity to get to the desired ending.

      • Gossage Vardebedian says:

        Melissandre suddenly has the power to create tens of thousands of flaming swords, which she has never done in any previous battle despite how incredibly useful that would have been.

        Eh, she’s just praying for divine intervention. Like most gods, her god usually says no. Like most gods, her god said yes when it mattered.

        The army of the dead can scale the 80ft high outer walls of Winterfell with no siege engines or dragons just by standing on each other’s shoulders.

        Gotta nerf the castle somehow. It’s pretty bog-standard zombie behavior to climb on top of each other.

        Jaime can suddenly fight on-par with some of the best surviving swordsmen and women in the seven kingdoms despite having been established as a sub-par fighter at best when using his off-hand.

        His opponents are terrible fighters. There are just a lot of them. Also, it’s a show. He’s not supposed to die yet. He has work to do.

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      They’re still struggling to figure out the whole Dragon Tactical Doctrine thing. If you’ve got a weapon that effectively functions as a battlefield nuke, the best time to use it might be before the enemy is in close contact with your own forces.

      • Aapje says:

        Indeed. Just about all the fight scenes seemed tactically absurd. It’s as if they wanted to lose.

    • Doctor Mist says:

      Well, I gotta take my lumps for predicting that we couldn’t possibly finish the war against Winter halfway through the season.

      (Unless there’s more than one Night King? I vaguely remember from years ago that there were three of them. But I see that the Game of Thrones Wiki doesn’t provide any support for that, so I’m probably just mixing him up with some impressive-looking mounted wights.)

      And I thought sure I was seeing the shocking surprise where Dany gets her comeuppance for being too concerned about who’s queen. As others have said, we didn’t lose any first-tier characters! Jorah looks dead, pretty sure about Theon.

      As people other than me predicted, all the talk about the crypt being the safest place foreshadowed it being a death trap. I’m too literal, though; I guessed that it was just a cul-de-sac, not that a crypt would be a bad choice when your enemy can raise the dead.

      I’m obviously going to have to reconsider my notion that the whole point of the Game of Thrones is that the game of thrones is a petty distraction from what Really Matters. If the Winter War is a distraction from the game of thrones, maybe Dany won’t actually be punished for wanting to be queen.

      Hey, though the word is that this is all inspired by the Wars of the Roses, I’m suddenly seeing a parallel with the Normal Conquest — Harold Godwinson is in the north fighting off Harald Hardrada, which depletes his forces enough that they can’t stand up to William when they get back south. Doesn’t really work, since Dany is the obvious analog to William, and she’s already here, but if the big finish is Cersei triumphant, you heard it here first.

      • Doctor Mist says:

        Unless there’s more than one Night King?

        Ah, elsewhere in the thread I see a reference to White Walkers. That’s what I was conflating with the Night King.

    • John Schilling says:

      OK, after thinking about this a bit, I’m ready to start counting the tactical stupidities of the living. Mind you, occasional tactical stupidity is an inevitable thing and can be a dramatically good thing. I’m not going to begrudge anyone the Death Ride of the Dothraki, and the dimly-seen vision of their light literally and figuratively fading from the world, just because it is tactically inefficient. Stories about tactically efficient victories tend to be boring, in a way this wasn’t. We instead got a series of individually superb vignettes about people facing despair, confusion, terror, and death with great resolve and skill and camaraderie, and it mostly worked.

      But when I step back and notice that most of that despair and confusion is coming from foolish stupidity, the whole thing starts to fall apart. So:

      1. Lack of scouting and intelligence. The living have light cavalry, native scouts, dragons, ravens, and a nigh-omniscient psychic, and they would have been taken completely by surprise if Tormund and Beric hadn’t stumbled in at the eleventh hour. They should have been tracking the March of the Dead from the Wall south, in detail.

      2. Lack of any planning for the Night King’s ability to, you know, actually raise the dead. Jon in particular had seen that firsthand at Hardhome. They still did things like send out forlorn cavalry charges and preparing defensive lines from which they expected to retreat, ceding their own men to the enemy’s ranks. And they put all their women and children in a crypt full of the Dead, without sticking a prophylactic sliver of dragonglass into each corpse’s heart. Oops.

      3. Lack of any planning for the Ice Dragon. Neutralizing Viserion should have been at least as high a priority as the Night King himself. As the North can clearly build artillery, some of Cersei’s high-angle scorpions would have been appropriate. Barring that, Drogon and Rhaegal should have been kept on high CAP until Viserion was committed, and then double-teamed him by design rather than by chance. And the Night King should have been encouraged to commit Viserion early, whether by Bran or by a stiff defense at Winterfell.

      4. Lack of any plan to defend Bran from the Night King. I mean, this part of the plan was straight out of “South Park”: step 1 – get the Night King to attack an exposed Bran in the Godswood, step 2 – ???, step 3, Victory! Who was supposed to be actually killing the Night King again, seeing as how Arya was supposed to be an unplanned surprise? There was some mention of the dragons in this role, but that seems to have been rejected as too likely to tip off NK, and the actual Drogon/NK confrontation seems to have been an ineffectual coincidence. So what was the plan?

      5. Misuse of Bran’s Three-Eyed Raven Powers. This mostly goes under #1, above, but if Bran can mindwarp an Ice Dragon that would have been a nice approach to #3 as well. Providing real-time communications in that chaotic battle would also have been quite useful.

      6. Misuse of Draconic Superiority. Using both Dragons to strafe the Army of the Dead in mid-battle was the worst possible use of their capabilities. Even at danger-close, dragonfire cannot be used to engage enemy front-rank forces without causing unacceptable friendly-fire casualties. Engaging the enemy rear is useless because the enemy cannot be demoralized by attacks on his rear and has sufficient numerical superiority that his rear ranks are unlikely to ever be engaged – Dany and Jon are incinerating zombies who will only ever dance on the graves of the living (well, figuratively speaking) or disintegrate when the Night King goes down.

      As noted above, Drogon and Rhaegal needed to be kept available to engage Viserion and/or the Night King. If they were going to be tasked with mere zombie incineration, this should best have been done before contact, preferably during the Zombie Horde’s approach as tracked in #1. Or against the enemy front immediately prior to the Dothraki charge, if we’re doing that. Or during the enemy’s initial charge. Or while the Zombie Horde is at the base of Winterfell’s walls and the living are at the top. And in any event, one dragon at a time while the other is on high guard at the limits of visibility, ready to bounce Viserion when Viserion bounces the strafe-dragon.

      7. Misuse of Cavalry supremacy. The Dothraki frontal assault was simply stupid. Such a charge only ever works in the real world when the enemy panics and breaks, which zombies won’t. But even if we assume it wasn’t certain to fail, it was about the least useful use to which they could be put and the one most likely to give the enemy thousands of fresh troops as per #2.

      The Dothraki are horse archers facing an enemy critically short on both cavalry and missiles; they should have been harrying and attriting the enemy in the open and from a safe distance, ideally starting at dawn the day before the fight (because see #1). If they can’t do that, then dismounting and fighting as archers would have been advisable. If they can somehow only be used as shock cavalry, then they should have been held as a mobile reserve to A: protect Bran because see #4, B: counter any unexpected cleverness in the Night King’s plan, or C: pursue and destroy should the Night King decided to retreat with some portion of his force intact.

      8. Misuse of artillery supremacy. Really, this wasn’t the sort of battle where investing in artillery was likely to help them (nor is any other battle the North is likely to fight, so it’s unlikely the Starks just happened to have an inventory of trebuchets). But if you’re going to have artillery, setting it up ahead of your infantry to launch only a brief barrage during the initial advance is the worst possible use. Artillery belongs in the rear, ideally on or behind the walls of WInterfell, and it should be set to continuously bombard the enemy during periods when his advance is stalled. As an added bonus, this would have called for lighter, shorter-ranged engines, requiring less of an investment in resources.

      9. Poor timing and positioning of the Flame Trench. As used, and even if the enemy hadn’t been able to breach it by sacrificing a rank or two of expendables, I don’t see how it could do more than delay the inevitable by a few hours, and there doesn’t seem to have been any plan as to how to use those hours. Maybe if they were going to have their artillery bombard during that period, but nope. The flame trench would have been more useful if ignited right at first contact of the enemy charge, when their first ranks were standing on it and their rear’s momentum would have prevented the front from falling back. Or to cover the Living’s retreat from their initial lines. Or at the base of the Winterfell walls. Or as a partial barrier to channel the enemy attack into selected kill zones.

      10. Deploying heavy infantry on open ground with at best a slight height advantage. They had the time to prepare ditches and palisades, and see #8 and #9 for things they could have cut if they needed to save resources for this. See #2, #3, and #8 for reasons why they needed to have their infantry hold at the point of contact rather than falling back essentially from the start. And as just noted, this works well in combination with #9.

      11. Lack of planning to defend the castle walls. If they believed the walls of Winterfell could not be breached or stormed, then why are they even worried about this fight? Since they are worried, they need to plan to defend those walls against an enemy potentially capable of taking them – and that means more than just sending some men to those walls at the last minute. There should have been a dedicated force defending the walls at the outset, needing no reinforcement, and lavishly equipped with large rocks, boiling oil, molten lead, etc, for the dropping onto zombies trying to scale said walls. That’s siege defense 101 stuff.

      12. Improper use of Motte-and-Bailey tactics (literally for once). If your soldiers couldn’t defeat the enemy on the open ground outside the castle, they’re not going to be able to defeat them on the open ground inside the castle. That’s why you put them in the keep, and on the unbreached wall segments and towers. Anyone who can’t reach those refuges is lost to you, so go ahead and shoot indiscriminately into the Bailey. Oh, and all those incendiaries that were misdeployed in #9? Guess where would be another good place to have spread those around. The last time we saw Winterfell burning, it was a bad thing, but it doesn’t have to be.

      13. Lack of Wildfire. Probably the greatest weapon the (non-Draconic) living have against the dead, conspicuous by its absence. OK, maybe they didn’t have any, but why not? If the idea is that nobody ever uses the stuff in civilized warfare, then the Starks (and really all the Seven Kingdoms) should be keeping at least a modest strategic stockpile for deterrence and existential threat response. If the formula is a lost or forbidden secret, then Sam should certainly have stolen that book on his way out of the Citadel.

      14. Misuse of Jamie Lannister. An offhand swordsman without a shield is not a front-line fighting man, as has been made clear on many occasions. But Jamie is still a superbly talented tactician, commander, and leader of men. He should have been one of Brienne’s lieutenants, not her bodyguard. Also, he should have pointed out at least half the other items on this list to Jon and Dany.

      15. Improper deployment of Arya Stark. A waifish assassin is also not a front-line fighting man. So if the plan depends on the enemy commander being assassinated, and you’ve got the finest assassin in Westeros doubly armed with Walker-killing blades, why was it ever the plan for her to be in Winterfell where the Night King was never going to be, rather than lurking from the start in the shadows of the Godswood? Plus, you know, the bit where Bran is still sort of her brother.

      16. Complete lack of any chain of command. Seriously, who was actually in charge during any part of this battle? Jon and Dany are the highest-ranking officers present, but they’re pretty much completely out of contact for the duration. And perhaps necessarily so insofar as the dragons are really really useful and won’t take orders from anyone else. So who is giving orders at Winterfell? Brienne explicitly commands only a single flank; Grey Worm appears to command only the center. This is something Tyrion would actually have been good for, but pick someone and make it clear who that is.

      • meh says:

        Yeah, heavy reliance on idiot plots.

        Some explanation of (4) though, I think after the show they said Dany broke the plan in rage after she saw the Dothraki killed. That did not come across on screen though.

        Anyway, I hope Arya kills the entire Lannister family next week by poisoning their feast

        • dick says:

          That did not come across on screen though.

          There was a very brief exchange between Jon and Dany that I think was supposed to suggest that the plan was for Jon and Dany to hang back and keep their dragons in reserve until either the NK or zombie dragon or both appeared. Also, to JS’s analysis, I would only add that I believe the Night King’s magic ice storm was intended to be the answer to any and all “Why didn’t the dragons do X” complaints.

          Overall I also enjoyed the episode and thought it was pretty dumb. Most especially the library scene in the middle, which felt like gratuitous filler. High notes:

          * Melisandre dying. It made me recall the tired, almost bored resignation that she has been evincing throughout the series. In her unguarded moments, she has acted like a janitor waiting for a party to end so she can clean up and go home, and her “…Finally!” approach to death was perfect.

          * Theon’s death was very satisfying despite being totally predictable. His whole arc of treason and redemption, played out through both of his families, was about as epic as it gets.

          * Two separate opportunities for a florid, heart-wrenching speech by a thoroughly-stabbed-but-not-quite-dead character were not taken! Let’s try to keep that record going.

      • Doctor Mist says:

        A masterly analysis. I think at least two thirds of these points bothered me at the time, without me being able to articulate them.

        Some of this could be forgiven by the fact that they are having to wrap things up so quickly (though I don’t have any meta-knowledge to suggest that HBO was running out of patience): We could have heard a more thorough exposition of how they intended to exploit the dangling of Bran as bait. (Though, shoot, what could it have been? It looked like the plan was to surround Bran with a guilt-ridden eunuch and a half-dozen spear carriers.)

        Dramatically, it had to be Arya; lots of people noticed “Chekhov’s spear” last episode. I was surprised that she did it in her own face, though it’s not clear what alternate face would have been helpful. (I’m hazy about how the face-changing works, but I think she would not have had the power to impersonate, say, a White Walker.) And maybe that wouldn’t have seemed too repetitive after her revenge on the Freys.

        Lots of people, even here, have talked about what a stunning battle scene it was, but I just kept waiting for it to be over — to me it was 100 minutes of dark, foggy action in which I could hardly ever tell who I was looking at or what they were doing. Perhaps that was the point — fog of war and all that — but I found it quite unsatisfying.

      • paulharvey165 says:

        Thank you for putting so much sense down in this post. I was quite disappointed by the episode because the tactical choices kept taking me out of immersion. For a series that made its name from inverting genre tropes by lethally punishing incompetence and foolishness, it’s frustrating to see bad decision making providing the main dramatic tension in a pivotal battle.

        The Dothraki charge is probably what bugs me more than anything else. On a human level, I feel for the Dothraki who gave up everything, sailed across great seas, became a part of the greatest fighting force ever assembled, and then were tossed away in two minutes in an action that did more to strengthen the enemy than weaken it. They would have been better off hanging out at Riverrun until the battle was over. As a viewer I feel genuinely cheated, even though the image of the lights going out was powerful in a vacuum.

        The Unsullied got a raw deal as well, especially considering all the lore around them makes them seem like a perfect choice to fight hordes of the undead. Diverting the dead into chokepoints were the Unsullied could face them in manageable numbers would have made the most sense.

        If I were in charge of the artillery, aside from putting it inside the castle, why not toss all the broken chunks of dragon glass in there? Or failing that just use smaller projectiles that break apart in the air.

        The common medieval tactic of dropping boiling pitch from the walls and lighting it on fire could not have made more sense in this battle. The inconsistency of how easily the dead catch on fire was confusing as well, especially as a fan of the books.

        The Arya library scene was exciting, and well shot, but as noted elsewhere all it did was raise questions about the rest of the battle. I feel like a lot of artistic ability went into this episode in service of half baked ideas.

  11. Clutzy says:

    I have gone back in time. Are there any reactionaries remaining here?

    • Kestrellius says:

      You’ve gone back in time, or you’ve come back in time? If you’ve gone back in time, how are you still here in the present?

      (I assume what you actually mean is that you had — at a recent point — gone back in time, and then returned. And I assume that by “gone back in time” you mean that you visited the old archives. But I’m not sure about either point.)

    • Plumber says:

      @Clutzy,
      I suspect thar most people are all at once reactionaries (think there’s some elements of the past that were better), conservatives (don’t want things to get worse), and progressives (want things to be better), but that may be projection on my part, and I’ve made no secret that I think in many ways the median American was better off in 1973 and 1999 (though I concede thar we’re probably better off now than in 2009), and that a “Left leaning reactionary” would probably be an accurate label for myself.

      I think that both the increased social acceptance of parents getting divorced that occurred in the 1970’s and the tax cuts of the 1980’s, plus the “End of welfare as we know it” of the ’90’s were all mistakes, I regard the “S J” movement as mostly “annoying but not that dangerous”, regard both Scandinavia and Utah, as societies that do better for “the least among us” than California, and will probably vote for Biden in the Democratic Party primary, and whoever is the Democrat in the general election but I sympathize with the former Democrats who voted for Trump and regard just labelling them “deplorables” as wrong, I wouldn’t support a nationwide ban on abortion, but letting the States ban or not ban it as they will seems fine to me on (small “d”) democratic principles, in balance I think letting gays get legally married probably made more people happy than made people unhappy so is a good thing (though I still think that it should have been enacted by plebiscite instead of judicial fiat), but if “the Right” said “If you let us ban it and in return all health care for children will be covered by Medicare (or even Medicaid)” I’d make that trade.

      So you tell me, am I more of a “reactionary”, “conservative”, or “progressive”?

      • RamblinDash says:

        As a relatively invested Democratic primary voter, and someone who has read your posts here, I’m legit shocked to see that you plan to support Biden. He has a long record of supporting things like the Iraq War and big banks over regular people. I would have thought that, based on your stated views, you’d prefer someone like Warren who has thought a lot and written a book on the challenges of raising a family in a two-income economy and how our society hasn’t really adjusted to the fact that two-income families are the new normal. She also fought against Biden in the 2000s on a bankruptcy bill that transferred a huge amount of power from regular people to banks and credit card companies.

        Check it out

        • Plumber says:

          @RamblinDash,
          I readily concede that Biden is flawed, and while its been over ten years since I read Water’s (and her daughteer’s) The Two Income Trap, I remember that I was impressed, and I probably would like how she governed. ..

          …but I don’t think she’d win.
          Her margin of victory in Massachusetts (!) was too narrow, and how she responded to the “Pocahontas” quip didn’t show her to be that effective of a campaigner.
          I think she’s well positioned to get votes from educated liberal Democrats – but that’s not the majority, and (this is cynical) I fully expect the other primary candidates to attack Biden from the Left and bring up decades old statements of his that are no longer Party orthodoxy and that even though he’ll say “my position had evolved since them” I expect those attacks to filter through to the general electorate and actually help him win some swing voters.

          Ultimately how I plan to vote is more based on my fears of things getting worse than my hopes of things getting better, and I’m a “single issue voter” that takes Republicans at their word about “limited government” and I want to preserve what’s left of the welfare state.

          Would I mind a Warren or Sanders getting in and actually expanding what government does for people? As long as they didn’t cause a backlash that ultimately reduced welfare programs I’d be fine with it, but I think that their odds of winning the general election are too slim to risk. I just plain don’t know the other candidates besides Harris well enough to make a judgement, and I don’t think Harris’ odds are good either, if Sherrod Brown was running I’d probably support him, as he’s shown himself to be pretty pro-union which I like, but if he’s odds were long maybe not.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            Warren strikes me — this is probably projecting based on way too little evidence — as having expected to be much more of a major candidate in the democratic primaries, and as now thrashing around wildly to just try to get into the news.

            Like, I feel like she was expecting to be up with Harris, Biden, Sanders, and so forth, and is not dealing well with being down a tier or two from the front-runners.

          • cassander says:

            Would I mind a Warren or Sanders getting in and actually expanding what government does for people?

            Given the efficacy with which the government usually conducts its business, I am genuinely curious why you think that an expansion of government will achieve much for the people, as opposed to for the people that run it?

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            @cassander I can’t of course speak for Plumber, but I think that liberals usually have object-level disagreement with libertarians and small-government conservatives about how efficient the government is.

          • Plumber says:

            @cassander,

            Efficacy?

            I wouldn’t expect anything extremely efficient (unless maybe if the Mormons were put in charge, they seem to do social work well), but I would expect something to trickle down, at least until a backlash and it got taken away.

            I think I’ve posted this before, but I’ve worked both for the government (as I do now) and in private industry, and I’ll fully credit private industry with the best places to work for, but the worse places to work were also in private industry, and they were so bad, and so numerous, that I think more government jobs for people to work in instead of those places is good despite any inefficiency.

            @sandoratthezoo,

            Probably so, but in my case it’s more about what thire motives are, and also that government and private industry just do different things and do them differently, as a parent I was pretty impressed with the City of Alameda’s Saturday before Easter event for kids compared to the same day kids event in a nearby shopping mall, despite being a hard pressed city the playgrounds in Oakland parks are genuinely good (when they don’t have tents in them) and the Mechanics Institute’s members only private library doesn’t seem better than many public libraries.

            I can’t imagine a government book store being any better than most private one’s, and the restaurant that the Coast Guard operates on Treasure Island, while good for what they charge, isn’t the best restaurant meal though.

          • cassander says:

            @sandoratthezoo

            I asked plumber the question because (as I think his response below indicates) a libertarian-esque cynicism towards government and I find the contrast between that and his attitude towards expanding that government interesting.

            @plumber

            I wouldn’t expect anything extremely efficient (unless maybe if the Mormons were put in charge, they seem to do social work well), but I would expect something to trickle down, at least until a backlash and it got taken away.

            “Something to trickle down” perhaps, but will it exceed the cost to those people in higher taxes? Especially considering how often the things you seem to like (like more regulation of baking) can make things worse.

            I think more government jobs for people to work in instead of those places is good despite the inefficiency.

            This was, effectively, the full employment policy of great britain post ww2. It was a disaster that resulted in the UK literally being unable to keep the lights on, and the end a 3 century long tradition of the UK being much richer than the other big european countries. It’s one thing to re-distribute a little cash around, that’s not disruptive, but the sorts of things you’re talking about, accepting a permanently lower level of productivity, will be enormously costly for the people you want to help. And more government control over the economy will only make the social distinctions you’ve complained about in the past worse.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            @cassander I think you’re misunderstanding an admission that efficiency is far-from-perfect into a belief that it’s extremely low, such that many programs are actively counterproductive.

          • dick says:

            My two cents: while I think some people overestimate the difference in efficiency between the public and private sector, in general I agree government is less efficient. However, it’s also more fair*. Deciding whether some particular industry or function should be public or private is equivalent to deciding whether you’d rather have it be more efficient or more fair.

            That’s why it bugs me when people offer up “but governments are inefficient” as an all-purpose argument, without any specific application tot he context. That sounds as obviously dumb to me as telling someone they should build something out of wood instead of ceramic, because wood is less brittle. Sure, that’s great advice if you’re building a treehouse; but if you’re making a teapot, not so much. By the same token, I think that usually when people argue whether something should be public or private, it’s a dispute over whether “fairness” should be an important goal in that context, not about who can do it cheaper/better.

            * “fair” in the sense that it puts abstract goals (like “equally accessible” or “includes feedback from all stakeholders”) above profit, which is a big part of why it’s less efficient. A good example of what I mean would be stuff like rural electrification, in which the government told electric utilities that they can’t charge rural customers more than urban customers. That was the government using regulation to trade some efficiency for some fairness. If you think that was actually unfair, that means you should try to elect leaders who agree with you, not that this model is wrong. Please don’t respond with examples of things some government did one time that you think are unfair!

          • Mark Atwood says:

            I’m interested in seeing a concrete list of specific implementable to-replace-the-private-market to-be-used-by-all-citizens new services that Plumber et al want some taxpayer funded agencies to start providing.

            (Except for “a UK NHS or a CA Medicare”, because the resulting comments will be boring and uninformative.)

          • Plumber says:

            @Mark Atwood wrote:

            "I’m interested in seeing a concrete list of specific implementable to-replace-the-private-market to-be-used-by-all-citizens new services that Plumber et al want some taxpayer funded agencies to start providing"

            The British seem to feel that switching to their National Health Service was a good thing and keep it, but they changed their minds about the mines.

            As to what I’d want of the to be replaced in “the-private-market-to-be-used-by-all”, not a lot, there’s lots of complaints about P, G & E, but I’m pretty happy with them, and I’ve little desire to see them municipalized (and I’m also fine with my water purveyor and I don’t desire that they be privatized).

            @dick’s example of rural electrification is more in line with what I’d like more of, services and subsidized for those that aren’t served by the market because it isn’t profitable to do so (usually because those ‘customers’ just don’t have much money).

            But come to think of it, all the replacement plumbing parts that are increasingly no longer manufactured, such as for many of the court holding cells, since the market no longer provides them, sure if the county or state set up manufacturing that be great, also fuel tanks, side covers, exhausts, and emblems for 1960’s motorcycles, for that matter I’d like a brand new 1964 Dodge Polara please, also the replacement parts for my old shavers that my local brick and mortar stores tell me they don’t stock (either because they’re not made anymore or “We can’t compete with Amazon”) and since some of my favorite bookstores aren’t in business anymore because they couldn’t compete as well, just tax Amazon to pay for my wishlist and bring back the 20th century dammit! 

            Come to think of it, the Soviets kept making a copy of a 1937 German motorcycle into the ’90’s (I think the Russians may still make it!), and the Indians were still making Enfield’s and Morris Oxford’s as well, as socialism seems to really stifle technological progress – what if we picked a better year to stop progress?

            I’m thinking 1965, and have more bands that sound like the Kinks, and the Yardbirds today instead of all those lousy songs broadcast on the radio now. 

            Oh! Have Doctor Who and Star Trek broadcast again!

            Sure, I’ll miss Game of Thrones, but once those DVD’s come to the library and I watch them, they’ll be nothing left anyway.

            Okay maybe we advance the year to 1967 and we get a band like the Amboy Dukes as well.

            The Dungeons & Dragons game really was mostly set right with the Greyhawk supplement in ’75, so if we could squeeze that in, that might be good

            A lousy year in most every other way, but I liked the Pendragon rules from 1985, but after that? 

            Well while it’s cool that I can communicate with you like this, but I’m not convinced it’s worth what’s lost.

            When I first read your post my initial thought was “Leave the private market mostly alone, just help the poor a bit more”, but the more I think about it this stifle progress and subsidize what’s lost idea appeals to me. 

            Thanks!

          • Mark Atwood says:

            You’re kidding. Your idea is that you want a nationalized heavy manufacturing factory making obsolete parts out of steel and copper, for your own personal nostalgia and convenience, instead of any broad based or systemic public good. I honestly can’t tell if you’re kidding or not.

            All those old parts you mourn, or molds for them, can be made in any local machine shop by a trades trained machinist (many of them already union), and paying machinists to do them as occasional once offs will get more hard money to more skilled trades blue collar workers than a nationalized factory ever will, as well as costing less and making higher quality parts. That you want someone else to pay those machinists for the parts YOU want instead of the parts that the people already willing to pay said machinists want, does not a working man’s social democracy utopia make.

            That your workplaces won’t do that straightforward and obvious thing to source the parts you say they desperately need, is in itself an illuminating example of why a nationalized parts factory is a crappy idea.

            All the machine shop tools of that era are available pretty much for the cost of hauling, or you can go buy a set of books for cheap that will walk you and your friends into building your own 1940s level tech machine shop out of a literal pile of garbage.

            As for “old shavers”, go get a piece of spring steel from a junkyard, and then file an edge on it, and then hone the edge on a whetstone, make your own razor, and shave yourself. I’ve done it. It’s not difficult. To inconvenient? No sympathy, it was the drive to convenience that closed down those old shops you mourn.

            You can already watch all the old Who and Star Trek, and even watch new classics ones. (Let me strongly recommended “Fairest of them All”, a sequel to “Mirror Mirror”, and is now in my headcanon.)

            You can still play all the old D&D rules, just find players willing to play with you. All the old rulesets are more available now in online scans than they have been since they were actually in print. Unless you want a government service to provide you with RPG friends?

            There are dozens of different new bands that sound like any specific older band or genre of every decade past. That you want someone to spend radio spectrum just on your own nostalgia is jaw droppingly selfish.

            Do please try again. What new government service intended-for-all-citizens do you actually think will make the world better?

          • cassander says:

            @dick

            However, it’s also more fair*. Deciding whether some particular industry or function should be public or private is equivalent to deciding whether you’d rather have it be more efficient or more fair.

            I strenuously disagree with this. take the US public education system. There’s nothing fair about it, despite being publicly run. A fair system, by your definition of equal involvement all stakeholders, would be a voucher system, where everyone is equally allowed to go to any school that they wanted, not a system where property owners can keep the riffraff out. Government is manifestly not more fair than private provision, it doles out goodies on the basis of the whims of the politically powerful, and the distribution of political power in the US, or any society, is vastly more unequal than the distribution of money.

            By the same token, I think that usually when people argue whether something should be public or private, it’s a dispute over whether “fairness” should be an important goal in that context, not about who can do it cheaper/better.

            A world where some people get 5 of thing is a worse world than one where some people get 5 and others get 10. It’s even worse, for almost all things, than a world where some people get 4 and others get 10, and it bugs me when people bring up an abstract fairness without thinking about the overall result and completely ignoring how often the government fails to be fair in practice.

            @plumber

            I have to stand with atwood on this one.

          • dick says:

            If you think that was actually unfair, that means you should try to elect leaders who agree with you, not that this model is wrong. Please don’t respond with examples of things some government did one time that you think are unfair!

            I strenuously disagree with this. take the US public education system…

            *sigh* I tried. In retrospect I should’ve just made up a word.

            So, for Cassander only, the new argument is: if you want something to be efficient more than you want it to be glornian (an ancient Sanskrit word similar to “fair”, but referring to an attempt to conform to society’s preferences generally, not your personal notions of fairness; it doesn’t matter whether you agree with it, the point is, it involves some other goal the voters have apparently expressed a preference for besides efficiency, which, despite your strenuous opposition, is the will of the people, as expressed through the imperfect medium of representatives and elections and bureaucracy), privatize it, and if you care about it being glornian more than you care about it being cheap, put government in charge.

          • cassander says:

            @dick

            I’m not giving you examples, I’m objecting to your basic premise that government institutions conform to society’s preferences generally. I’m using the definition you explicitly gave, not mine, so please, stop being insulting. You don’t get to declare evidence out of bounds.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            A good example of what I mean would be stuff like rural electrification, in which the government told electric utilities that they can’t charge rural customers more than urban customers. That was the government using regulation to trade some efficiency for some fairness. If you think that was actually unfair, that means you should try to elect leaders who agree with you, not that this model is wrong.

            I’m sure this won’t change anyone’s opinion, but I feel compelled to get in my two cents worth. I do indeed feel it is unfair for government to force utilities to charge the same price to rural customers as urban ones. That’s pure welfare for the rural folks, and why do they deserve city people’s money? If they want city conveniences, they should move to the city. The same way that rural folks shouldn’t accept government paid vacations for city folk to go to the country because “it’s unfair” that country people get the fresh air.

            And yes the model IS wrong. The model here is that prices should be set based on politics and the strength of various interest groups, instead of through the free market of producers and consumers each making bilateral agreements for every purchase made. 95% of the time people making their own choices will result in the best results for each consumer and producer. Not to speak of the added freedom that results from people making their own decisions instead of letting the government decide their choices.

            I would like to elect politicians that agree with me, if any were available. I am not anti-democracy. I wish the population at large was smarter, but I am certainly not the first to think that.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            Warren’s latest idea for expanding what government does for people is aimed exclusively at collegians. Not what I’d have expected Plumber to go for.

            ETA: “There’s always a danger in any high-low economic coalition that the agenda gets set by the elite members, and justified by the poor ones.” — Megan McArdle

          • Etoile says:

            @Cassander

            With regards to “more fair”, I agree with you to a point. E.g. I don’t think prisons should be for-profit.
            But that fairness would only seem to be meaningful if the services it provides are actually available. If its mandate and promises far exceed the capacity it can actually deliver, it is a terrible system that leaves many (most?) deprived of services entirely, especially if the law prohibits a private market to fill in.
            Like, VA hospitals may be better than private ones (debatable); sending veterans to private networks might be taking capacity away from VA; etc. But they don’t have the staff or busget or capacity to handle demand. So absent the ability to give them infinite money, you have to cut eligibility or outsource.

            In general, whrn the inefficiency is colossal enough, the fairness aspect becomes pointless to people.

          • AG says:

            @cassander

            But take for example cell phone/internet service. It’s not profitable to build towers out in the country, but there are still manifest advantages for agriculture to have access to such communication technologies, and charging market prices only favors further conglomeration of superfarms, reducing competition.
            Similarly, electricity powers all sorts of useful agricultural technologies.

            Unless you’re arguing that farmers necessarily move farming back into the city? That instead of such a divide between rural and urban, you have a more even distribution of the lands into smaller pockets of each? That brings in a different kind of efficiency tradeoff, but I could get into that.

          • Dack says:

            @ Mark V Anderson

            I do indeed feel it is unfair for government to force utilities to charge the same price to rural customers as urban ones. That’s pure welfare for the rural folks, and why do they deserve city people’s money?

            That’s not pure welfare. The response to a same price mandate is not going to be taking a loss on all rural sales, the response would be finding the profitable rural price and charging that price everywhere. What’s the difference between rural folk getting a discount and city folk being overcharged? The rural folk aren’t getting any of the city folk’s money in any way, shape, or form…so it’s not welfare at all, just extra profit for the utility.

            Now if you wanted an example of pure welfare, you could say:

            I do indeed feel it is unfair for government to force rural folk to pay the same taxes to subsidize public transit as urban ones. That’s pure welfare for the city folks, and why do they deserve rural people’s money?

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            The response to a same price mandate is not going to be taking a loss on all rural sales, the response would be finding the profitable rural price and charging that price everywhere.

            If they were able to get away with jacking up prices like that they would already have done so, and so it would not be a response. The usual way businesses respond to a mandate to charge the same price to high-cost and low-cost customers, is to try to find some way to avoid doing business with the high-cost customers at all.

          • 10240 says:

            @dick Even if we accept the premise that government distributes the services it provides fairly, it’s not actually necessary for the government to provide the service for that purpose. In most cases, we can have private providers provide the service, and have the government tax and redistribute cash to achieve the desired distribution, and provide purchasing power to those who otherwise wouldn’t have it. Taxation causes some inefficiency, but if the government provides the service, that comes with the same inefficiency, and then some more.

            But take for example cell phone/internet service. It’s not profitable to build towers out in the country, but there are still manifest advantages for agriculture to have access to such communication technologies

            If (and only if) the benefit of such communication technologies exceeds the cost of providing them in the countryside, rural people will pay the high prices required to sustain them. To the extent we need a certain number of people to live in the countryside to work in agriculture, the inconveniences of either high prices or lack of coverage, these inconveniences will be factored into food prices, and thus urban people will pay part of them, without the need of government intervention. How so? As long as it’s worse to be a farmer than to live in the city, farmers will move to the city, reducing food supply, and thus increasing food prices, until the increased income of farmers compensates for the inconveniences.

            Under a range of conditions, the free market finds the optimal arrangement, along mechanisms similar to the above.

            and charging market prices only favors further conglomeration of superfarms, reducing competition.

            How? If your answer is along the lines of “they have more money”, once again, the high prices would be factored into farmers” income, whether they are small farmers or work for large companies.

            Anyway, a reduced number of suppliers is only a problem if their number is so small that they can realistically form a cartel or monopoly. That’s not realistic in the case of agricultural suppliers, even with large farms.

          • cassander says:

            @Etoile says:

            With regards to “more fair”, I agree with you to a point. E.g. I don’t think prisons should be for-profit.

            Unless you have a plan to get prison guards to work for free, prisons are going to be run for profit, the only question is whose profit. All institutions are run for the benefit of their members, broadly defined to include the owners, leaders, and workers. The interests of those groups never align directly with those of the general population, but capitalism provides strong incentives for them to care about what their customers want. Government has much weaker incentives, and in the long run government agencies tend to be run substantially for the benefit of the people who work for them, particularly when those agencies have complex goals with lots of tradeoffs. Public prison guard unions are at least as rapacious capitalist prison owners, and tend to have more power.

            @AG says:

            But take for example cell phone/internet service. It’s not profitable to build towers out in the country, but there are still manifest advantages for agriculture to have access to such communication technologies, and charging market prices only favors further conglomeration of superfarms, reducing competition.

            This argument was used, for most of the 20th century, to argue for national telecom monopolies in most countries, which particularly in the developing world, tended to provide serve that was lousy and expensive. Things only started to change when private companies did start building cell phone towers in remote areas, and brought cell phones to places that had never been able to afford landlines, often against the opposition of public telephone companies. if it’s profitable to build cell towers in Somolia, it’s going to be profitable to build them in Kansas.

            But I realize your point isn’t about the particulars of one particular good. It’s about providing the public with goods that aren’t, strictly speaking, public goods. And these arguments get made a lot, and I think they all tend to suffer from the same problem. A proper public good is both non-rivalrous and non-excludable. That is, one person using it doesn’t use it up for someone else, and it’s difficult to exclude one person from using them. National defense is the classic example, if you defend the border, everyone behind it benefits, so there’s a lot of incentive to free-ride, and a strong case for government provision.

            Cell phone service, while desirable, is not a public good. I don’t want to force anyone to live in city, but I also don’t think that cities should be forced to subsidize the country, or vice versa. Should we also subsidize food prices for the city since it costs more to bring it there from the country? And that’s not an absurd hypothetical, it has been US government policy for decades.

            This is not an isolated incident, these problems happen all the time with direct government provision of goods, and it’s why I find Plumber’s suggestions so terrifying. They’re the opposite of the sort of the Hayekian welfare state where a government re-distributes a lot of money but tries to minimizes its interfere with markets. Instead, it intervenes directly, and invariably clumsily, generating enormous hidden costs and market distortions. Plumber’s plans won’t bring us Norway or Switzerland, they’ll bring us British Leyland.

          • Plumber says:

            @Mark Atwood :
            "...Your idea is that you want a nationalized heavy manufacturing factory making obsolete parts out of steel and copper, for your own personal nostalgia and convenience..."

            Wow, when you put it that way it sounds even more appealing!

            instead of any broad based or systemic public good

            Those already exist, in reduced, shrunken, underfunded, and inadequate forms.

            Saving what’s left from the likes of Paul Ryan who are bent on repealing what was gained in the 20th century are my political motives, anything much more is utopian and it’s hard for me to credit with good faith those who fear our government doing more in this age of shuttered bases and post offices, shortened library hours, and crumbling infrastructure, an age of mostly decline (with the sole bright spot of Obamacare – but you said not to ask for healthcare reforms).

            "What new government service intended-for-all-citizens do you actually think will make the world better?"

            If you want my utopian dreams I may as well ask for a pony, but if your serious:

              1): Public school or vouchers for “Shop Classes”, welding classes tops my list, but machinist, and air conditioning repair among other skills would be good, and not the bogus a few months “job training” that sometimes paid for by the E.D.D., instead have actual effective education, which means more time which would be best targeting towards those young enough that they’ll won’t be kicked out by their parents, teenagers could easily learn to weld or other marketable skills if given an opportunity.

              2): A way to earn the equivalent of a “G.I. bill” for those who the military won’t take, so those who weren’t educated with marketable skills in their youths

              3): Re-start the W.P.A.

              4): Make California multiple States. 

              5): If “greenhouse gas emissions” are the danger reported then have done whatever it was the French did to have so much of their electricity generated by nuclear power plants. 

            6): Restore “Welfare as we know it”.

            7): Do more, much more, of what’s already being done.

            @Mark Atwood "...Unless you want a government service to provide you with RPG friends?

            Another great idea! 

            Thanks!

            @cassander
            "..the distribution of political power in the US, or any society, is vastly more unequal than the distribution of money..."

            Are you referring to the disparity between Californians representation and how much more small state residents have? 

            @Paul Zrimsek
            "Warren’s latest idea for expanding what government does for people is aimed exclusively at collegians..." 

            Yet another reason for me to bemoan that Sherrod Brown isn’t running, or would likely be the nomineeif he did. 

            @cassander
            "...Plumber’s plans won’t bring us Norway or Switzerland, they’ll bring us British Leyland"

            I loved driving a MG!

            Being like austerity Britain doesn’t much scare me, I mean just look at it! ……

          • cassander says:

            @plumber

            Those already exist, in reduced, shrunken, underfunded, and inadequate forms.

            You can call them inadequate if you like, but other than welfare, none of of those programs has ever been cut. They have been expanded, under every presidency that has presided over them

            Saving what’s left from the likes of Paul Ryan who are bent on repealing what was gained in the 20th century are my political motives,

            The US government has promised to pay far more money than it will have in the next several decades. That’s not opinion, that’s math. the way to save those programs is precisely what paul ryan is doing, adjusting the upward trend in their expenditure down bit now so that there isn’t a massive crash in 30 years.

            to credit with good faith those who fear our government doing more in this age of shuttered bases and post offices, shortened library hours, and crumbling infrastructure, an age of mostly decline (with the sole bright spot of Obamacare – but you said not to ask for healthcare reforms).

            Our government is spending more money this year than last year, as it did last year, and the year before that, and virtually year before that going back to 1945. Your vision of arch libertarians tearing down government spending is simply not in tune with reality. we spend more and more every year, if you think we’re getting less, the problem isn’t coming from too little money.

            2): A way to earn the equivalent of a “G.I. bill” for those who the military won’t take, so those who weren’t educated with marketable skills in their youths

            We have that, it’s called federal student loans, and almost anyone can get them.

            3): Re-start the W.P.A.

            You live in California. You should know full well that there’s more interest in tearing down dams then building new ones.

            Being like austerity Britain doesn’t much scare me, I mean just look at it! ……

            It should, if you like having electricity. As for MG, becoming part of leyland effectively destroyed it.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            That’s not pure welfare. The response to a same price mandate is not going to be taking a loss on all rural sales, the response would be finding the profitable rural price and charging that price everywhere. What’s the difference between rural folk getting a discount and city folk being overcharged? The rural folk aren’t getting any of the city folk’s money in any way, shape, or form…so it’s not welfare at all, just extra profit for the utility.

            You would be totally wrong if you were talking about how a competitive market works, but we are talking about utilities, so in most places there is only one provider and instead something like a Public Utilities Commission regulates the utilities’ prices.

            But you are still wrong, because the PUC will allow the utility to set prices so they can make a “normal profit.” So if the utility gave evidence that it cost $100 per rural customer to provide service and $50 per urban customer, but the price must be the same for both, then the PUC will allow a weighted average of their costs to set prices. So the cost might be on average $60, and the price allowed would be $70. Thus the price is lower then it costs for the rural customer but about $10 higher per customer for the city customer. Exactly as if the government collected $10 in tax from the city dwellers and sent it off to country people. Pure welfare payments for living out in the fresh air of the country.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Paul Ryan couldn’t even repeal Obamacare.

          • and it’s hard for me to credit with good faith those who fear our government doing more in this age of shuttered bases and post offices, shortened library hours, and crumbling infrastructure,

            Simple question. Is total government spending, measured either per capita and inflation adjusted or as a fraction of GNP, higher or lower than it was thirty years ago? Your rhetoric strongly implies that it is lower.

            You can find the figures through 2012 here. If you want to bring it up to date, another source shows current ratio of government spending to GNP, I think for the most recent quarter, as 38%.

          • Mark Atwood says:

            At least for me @plumber is now Poe’s Law in action.

          • Dack says:

            @ Mark V Anderson

            You would be totally wrong if you were talking about how a competitive market works, but we are talking about utilities, so in most places there is only one provider and instead something like a Public Utilities Commission regulates the utilities’ prices.

            But you are still wrong, because the PUC will allow the utility to set prices so they can make a “normal profit.” So if the utility gave evidence that it cost $100 per rural customer to provide service and $50 per urban customer, but the price must be the same for both, then the PUC will allow a weighted average of their costs to set prices. So the cost might be on average $60, and the price allowed would be $70. Thus the price is lower then it costs for the rural customer but about $10 higher per customer for the city customer. Exactly as if the government collected $10 in tax from the city dwellers and sent it off to country people. Pure welfare payments for living out in the fresh air of the country.

            Okay. So if there is a commission, and if it is not incompetent/corrupt (commissioner is an appointed position after all) a rural person should come out ahead. I question if $60 vs $100 is realistic, but for the sake of the argument, I’ll assume this is true. Rural welfare = $120 per year.

            But then how does it measure up against city welfare? Last time I checked, the US redistributed about 42 billion per year from taxpayers to public transit (which is obviously only in the cities.)

            Shall we start a tally?

          • AG says:

            How? If your answer is along the lines of “they have more money”, once again, the high prices would be factored into farmers” income, whether they are small farmers or work for large companies.
            Anyway, a reduced number of suppliers is only a problem if their number is so small that they can realistically form a cartel or monopoly. That’s not realistic in the case of agricultural suppliers, even with large farms.

            The corn situation is a bad situation.

          • BBA says:

            See, this is the problem with the 50,000 foot perspective.

            Here are the tariffs for Pacific Gas & Electric, the major utility in the northern 2/3 of California, as approved by the California Public Utilities Commission. They’re very long and complicated. In particular the utility territory is divided into ten different rate zones, by urban/rural divisions but also by altitude, and with separate winter and summer rates the cheapest and most expensive areas vary by season. And that’s just from a quick glance at the basic E-1 residential tariff, there are many more possible variations. So good luck figuring out who is subsidizing who and how much, I don’t know if even PG&E can tell.

            There is in fact government support for transit in rural areas. It’s a small fraction of the amount spent on urban transit, but the rural population is a small fraction of the urban population. As I understand it, a large portion is ADA paratransit and things like shared ride vans and taxi/Uber vouchers rather than traditional bus or rail lines. In general FTA funding is keeping a lot of rural and small-city transit afloat, while the big systems get most of their funding from things like local sales taxes and FTA grants are a much smaller slice of the pie.

            Someday when the ancaps have their own slice of the world we’ll see what things look like where market forces can operate totally unfettered and nobody subsidizes anyone else. Until then I don’t think these questions are answerable.

          • Plumber says:

            @Jaskologist
            "Paul Ryan couldn’t even repeal Obamacare"

            I belIeve Paul Ryan’s word that he wanted to eliminate Obamacare and “shrink government”.

            @DavidFriedman "Simple question. Is total government spending, measured either per capita and inflation adjusted or as a fraction of GNP, higher or lower than it was thirty years ago? Your rhetoric strongly implies that it is lower...."

            I strongly suggest that because of an aging population and “cost disease” that spending is up.

            The Federal government has aptly been called “an insurance company with an army”. As for California, I strongly suspect that much of the new spending has gone to the explosion in the prison population, and if we credit the drop in the murder rate to that maybe that’s money well spent. 

            That in most States the highest paid state employees are typically college basketball and football coaches I fail to see a good reason for. 

            Given the crumbling infrastructure I see closely, all the archeological evidence of the government once doing more (my local library branch, many sidewalks, even signs at the zoo stamped “W.P.A.”, the strictures still standing built 60 to 80 years ago – in need of repair but standing still, photos of an American flag on the Moon, the large and crumbling shuttered military bases that were still in use during my youth, the closed post offices, and the word of my parents generation that they went to college tuition free) that more was once done even if less was once spent seems obvious. 

            I strongly suspect that most of the spending goes to the elderly, their physicians and nursing homes, colleges, prisons; and interest on the debt. What spent by the military must go overseas as except that the Coast Guard the bases here are closed. 

            Why do colleges and physicians cost so much more than in decades past? 

            I strongly suspect that the increased cost of housing is the driver.

            Physicians and professors want at least the same standard of living as those professionals had previously including living in the same types of neighborhoods so there’s higher and higher salaries to much the higher housing prices (that those same salaries bid up in a vicious cycle).

            The solution seems obvious to me:
            Sharply progressive income taxes based on lifetime as well as annual income, and cap employee’s salaries, so housing stops getting bid up so much – and stop paying the coaches in the first place! I’d also have less “government by proxy” – there’s way too many contractors and “consultants”, have more bureaucrats sworn to serve the public (Iike 50 years ago), and less “cost cutting” that means more is shoveled to private firms to do what the government once did itself, at ultimately higher cost – this is endemic, the maintenance and repairs crew at my building is less than half of what it was decades ago, but a revolving cavalcade of contractors in ever increasing, and it’s not cheap.

          • Dack says:

            @ Plumber

            No sitting politician has a platform/agenda to “destroy all welfare”.

            People vote against and speak out against welfare not because they oppose welfare in principle, but because they don’t like how it is being done and would rather do it a better/different way.

          • cassander says:

            @plumber

            The Federal government has aptly been called “an insurance company with an army”. As for California, I strongly suspect that much of the new spending has gone to the explosion in the prison population, and if we credit the drop in the murder rate to that maybe that’s money well spent.

            California’s prison population is down about 30% since 2006, the corrections budget is up 50% in nominal terms, about half that in inflation adjusted terms. The problem is poor government stewardship of money. In California in particular, it’s the state paying the prison guard union 50% over the national average before counting their with insanely generous benefits while they run the worst prisons in the country. Contractors are not the only people capable of wasting government money.

            That in most States the highest paid state employees are typically college basketball and football coaches I fail to see a good reason for.

            Those big sports programs almost invariably are one of the few state run operations that are actually profitable.

            Why do colleges and physicians cost so much more than in decades past? I strongly suspect that the increased cost of housing is the driver.

            It’s not. You live in the place in the world where housing costs have risen fastest, you shouldn’t generalize from that experience. the reason healthcare and evacuation cost more is because we consume vastly more of them. the number of people working in higher education and medicine has exploded, and people cost money. Those things have exploded precisely because the government massively subsidizes their consumption.

          • 10240 says:

            The corn situation is a bad situation.

            @AG I get that corn is heavily subsidized due to the corn lobby, but are there so few corn producers that they can form a cartel and jack up the prices? The fact that Americans put corn in everything suggests that it’s cheap, not expensive.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            @Dack

            Shall we start a tally?

            Yes please. And then do our best to eliminate one group of people subsidizing the other. This discussion is about the city subsidizing the country. It seems to me to be a very poor argument that this is justified by finding other places where the country subsidizes the city. I think a much better idea is to try to eliminate any such subsidies instead of pretending we can offset them against each other.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            How about we act like we are all in this together … since, you know, that’s true. Urban areas depend on rural areas, rural areas depend on urban area. This is synergy, not competition….

          • The Nybbler says:

            How about we act like we are all in this together

            Because we aren’t. Even if you assume no antipathy as a starting condition, the people in urban areas are going to make policy based on conditions in the urban areas, and the outnumbered people in the rural areas are going to get upset by the results.

          • abystander says:

            In San Francisco or the Bay area construction for a unit of housing is generally averaging about $750,000.

            A way has to be found to lower construction costs if there are going to be a significant amount of people making under $75,000 a year long term.

            https://www.sfexaminer.com/the-city/funding-gap-plagues-treasure-island-affordable-housing-projects/

          • John Schilling says:

            In San Francisco or the Bay area construction for a unit of housing is generally averaging about $750,000.

            Keep in mind, that’s what constructing a unit of housing does cost, not what it has to cost. It is certainly possible to build a “unit of housing” in my California city for a fifth that price, and probably a tenth, and to the extent that it is possible to build housing in San Francisco at all, it is probably possible to match those costs.

            But, the plot of land the house is built on will cost a million or so dollars, and nobody is going to spend a million-plus to live in the sort of house that can be constructed for $150K. At $150K, you don’t even get granite countertops.

            $1.75 million for a house that cost $750K to build, that you can sell. Most of the people who can afford the $1.15 million house could afford the superior $1.75 million one if they go a bit deeper into debt, which they and their bankers will be willing to arrange because they’ll be much more confident of the resale value in the future.

            A way has to be found to lower construction costs

            Make the land on which housing is built cheaper, say by increasing the supply of land on which people are allowed to build housing or decreasing the amount of land required per “housing unit”, and average construction costs will come down because low-cost construction will start to be actually profitable.

          • 10240 says:

            How about we act like we are all in this together … since, you know, that’s true. Urban areas depend on rural areas, rural areas depend on urban area. This is synergy, not competition….

            The main issue is not fairness. (Fairness would be an issue, but if either rural or urban living was significantly worse, people would move. Though it’s an issue that if we significantly increase the extent to which one is forced to subsidize the other, that unfairly reduces real property values in the former.)

            The main issues is that if either is forced to subsidize the other, it creates a suboptimal number of people to live in the city and the country respectively. Let’s say urbanites subsidize rural people to the tune of $5000/person/year. Let’s say that, absent the subsidy, a person would be better off living in the city to an extent he values as $3000/year. With the subsidy, that person will choose to live in the countryside, even though the benefit he gains from doing so is $3000 less than the amount it costs to subsidize him.

            Of course we need some people to live in the countryside, mainly for the purpose of agriculture. However, to the extent the benefits to society of someone doing so exceeds the costs, people will be motivated to do so by increased incomes, even in the absence of subsidies. (E.g. if too few people choose to be farmers, food prices and thus farmers’ incomes go up, balancing the higher costs or inconveniences of living in the country, and incentivizing more people to become farmers.)

          • HeelBearCub says:

            “Forced to subsidize” is not neutral phrasing, and it’s not clear to me it entirely makes sense.

            Take the discussion of roads elsewhere. The US economy entire depends on a road network. Everyone benefits from it. Certainly roads have costs (not merely monetary) as well, but on net they are beneficial. Trying to assign the federal dollars spent on a single mile of road as a subsidy that goes “urban” or “rural” people ignores the beneficial effect of the network.

            This is not to say that federal highway funding is an unalloyed good, but that seems to me to be an entirely different conversation.

          • albatross11 says:

            The government can be doing too much in some areas and not enough in others, though. Plenty of places have both inadequate public services and scary secret police forces.

          • albatross11 says:

            IMO, the issue with subsidies is that over time, they accumulate into a dense network of cross-subsidies that make it very difficult to know whether any given thing makes economic sense. We can end up spending a ton of money getting things we don’t want (lower population density; too many people staying in dying industries, factories producing stuff nobody really wants due to subsidies). Also, that network of subsidies can choke off innovation, since it’s hard to complete with something that’s both well-established and subsidized unless it’s as crappy as cab service was in many cities before Uber/Lyft.

          • albatross11 says:

            cassander:

            As an aside, I think the big university sports programs are profitable only because they’ve arranged a nationwide cartel to ensure that their employees will never be paid in cash, only in company scrip. If the University of Kentucky had to pay market wages for its basketball players (bidding against other top schools), I doubt they’d be so profitable.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Do these government outlays make sense is, as I said, a different conversation from “are urban taxpayers subsidizing rural ones”.

            subsidized … Uber/Lyft

            Ok, this both just ironic, but also, to my mind, instructive. Uber and Lyft have provided very large subsidies to their riders. That this was the example that came to you strikes me as interesting, as one of things I think people actually tend to dismiss around here is that many problems tend to be hard to solve. Chesterton put that fence up for a reason, darn it.

          • bean says:

            @John

            I’m not sure you could get equal construction costs for the same house, although you’re right that it could get a lot closer. Labor is going to be more expensive, and materials might be, too. (Home Depot in San Francisco has to pay high rents, too, or you pay extra shipping to get the stuff in from a cheaper supplier.) And I also wonder if building on a smaller lot might not be more difficult.

            This isn’t to say I disagree with your central point. Yes, most of the discrepancy is driven by land values.

          • albatross11 says:

            I’m pretty sure Uber anf Lyft don’t subsidize their drivers–the pay the drivers get is less than what the user’s pay. The investment money they’re able to draw in is being used to subsidize Uber/Lyft’s backend operations, expansion, research, etc. This follows the pattern followed by Amazon–using the VC money to get big quickly, in hopes of getting into a strong enough position to be hard to compete with.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @albatross11:
            I don’t think your belief is well founded.

            But the company just posted another quarter of jaw-dropping losses — this time over $1 billion, after $4.5 billion of losses in 2017.

            Comparisons of Uber to other storied tech wunderkinder show Uber is not on the same trajectory. No ultimately successful major technology company has been as deeply unprofitable for anywhere remotely as long as Uber has been. After nine years, Uber isn’t within hailing distance of making money and continues to bleed more red ink than any start-up in history. By contrast, Facebook and Amazon were solidly cash-flow positive by their fifth year.

          • Plumber says:

            @HeelBearCub,
            With all their lawbreaking, and the disruption and increase in traffic that Uber has caused their going out of business couldn’t happen soon enough.

          • @Plumber:

            The piece you linked to gives lots of detailed conclusions, but it isn’t clear to me how they are derived or how well they are supported. Two questions:

            1. Uber and Lyft vehicles substitute for other vehicles providing transport, cabs and private cars. Does the study measure such effects, and how? I can’t tell. The only explanation I see is …

            2. If I correctly understood their methodology, they have a model of congestion as a function of relevant variables fitted to 2010 data, before there were a significant number of TNC’s. They then compare it to a brief period in 2016 and attribute any deviation from the predictions of that model to TNC’s. That seems to assume that nothing else relevant to congestion that was not included in their model has changed over that period.

            It also assumes that the original model was correct. Given enough parameters, you can always fit past data, but that doesn’t tell you whether the model accurately describes the causal relations, hence whether it will successfully predict future data. One test would be whether a version of their model built using only 2004 data successfully predicted 2010 congestion.

          • Mark Atwood says:

            Even if Uber goes out of business, the tech model has been proven, and is not even all that difficult to clone. In the wake of the creation of new TNCs in Austin, the backend tech got one more step easier to clone, and the “driver owned business model” and the “benefit corporation business model” have both proven to be workable. The next obvious and logical step will be the open sourcing of an implementation of the back end, and cloud saas providers that will operate TNC back ends for multiple differently branded and “owned” local muni TNCs.

            They might not be called “Uber”, but they will continue to exist. Sorry. Not.

            What Uber has spent billions of dollars on is smashing the violent dangerous politically incestuous rotten robs-their-drivers dangerous-cars creeps-on-female-passengers driver-yelling-on-their-phone-while-driving-dangerously taxi cartels. And despite every bad or negative thing Uber has ever done, for that one thing, their existence and growth has been a Good Thing that massively outweighed them all.

            The noticeable positive effect that TNCs have had on parking at events and in dense areas, the measurable drop in DUI deaths, and the extremely noticeable reality that Uber will pick up black patrons and will go into black, run down, and blighted neighborhoods that the bus and the taxis refused to service, are more good things on that one big good thing.

          • AG says:

            @10240

            The corn companies aren’t forming a cartel to jack up corn prices. They’ve undercut the usage of non-corn ingredients in a wide swath of products because they can afford to sell corn cheap, thanks to the subsidies. Other nations don’t have such a corn saturation in their markets, so this indicates that the corn industry has used its monopoly power to force a higher demand, which justifies a higher supply, which increases the stakes if they can’t sell all that supply, which just justifies more subsidies…

          • They’ve undercut the usage of non-corn ingredients in a wide swath of products because they can afford to sell corn cheap, thanks to the subsidies.

            I don’t know what or if the subsidies are, but turning a third of the maize crop into alcohol has to push prices up substantially, which is the opposite of what you describe and a policy obviously supported by the maize producers.

          • abystander says:

            @John Schilling @Bean

            The $750,000 unit construction cost was supposed to be for “affordable” housing without granite counter tops. Look at the link. Rebuilding homes from nearby wild fires have put added strains on capacity driving up costs, but regulations have added costs for a long time. There’s a closed market near me that has a sign in it dated 5 years ago about a hearing to covert build an apartment building on the site, an application for a building permit dated a few months later, and then the building permit dated a year later, but no construction after that.

            Building more units per land area reduces total cost cheaper but the cost of construction per unit rises as the height of the building rises when you build on sandy soil in earthquake country which undoubtly was part of how the $750,000 per unit cost was reached.

            7 years ago replacing the outdoor 2 story side stairway cost over $16,000 plus $2000 for permit and engineering fees. The code required fixing the base in concrete and rebar.

          • dick says:

            I’m not giving you examples, I’m objecting to your basic premise that government institutions conform to society’s preferences generally.

            That was not my basic premise. With the labels removed, my post was “if you want something to be X more than you want it to be Y, privatize it, and if you care about it being Y more than you care about it being X, put government in charge.”

            I cannot understand how even an uncharitable reader could make that mistake. Picking semantic nits is very much not what I come here for, but it’s what happens every time I engage in a thread or try to defend even the simplest of near-tautological ideas. I don’t know why every thread I engage in devolves this spectacularly but at this point I should probably just assume the problem is me and give up.

          • 10240 says:

            Other nations don’t have such a corn saturation in their markets, so this indicates that the corn industry has used its monopoly power to force a higher demand

            @AG No, it indicates that the corn industry can sell cheaper because of the subsidies, and naturally there is more demand at low prices than at higher prices. This has nothing to do with monopolies.

            If you are claiming that there is a monopoly in the corn market, can you name the company that controls all (or most) of America’s corn production? Or if no single company controls it, what do you mean when you say it’s a monopoly?

        • Deiseach says:

          RamblinDash, as an outsider it seems to me the Warren of five or so years ago? Had a decent chance.

          The Warren of today? Allowed Trump to get so far under her skin that she went ahead with that silly DNA test; decided to ‘get down with the kids’ with her “look at me drinkin’ beer in my kitchen like normal folks do” video (which would have been only mildly embarrassing in the usual “politician doing Normal Folks Things” way if it hadn’t come hard on the heels of the Democrats losing their lives over “Kavanaugh? Beer? Likes? THE DEVIL’S BUTTERMILK!!!!”); now chasing after whatever the latest idea Ocasio-Cortez floated on Twitter (impeach Trump! free college! universal whatever!)?

          I don’t think so.

          • Plumber says:

            @Deiseach,
            You’re the most convincing advocate for voting Republican of all SSC commenters.

            Frighteningly so!

          • Deiseach says:

            Plumber, it would really depend on your local candidate, and I’m glad not to have to vote in an American election (and I’m sure the United States is very glad that there are not a large proportion of mes out there).

            Speaking of elections, we’ll be having our (1) elections for local councils (2) elections for Members of European Parliament (3) divorce referendum* (another one? we’ve already had one which said ‘no’ then we had a Constitutional amendment in 1995 which legalised it) (4) plebiscite on directly elected mayors in three cities (which, having some inside knowledge of how the sausage is made in one of those areas**, I forecast will mean nothing but frivolity and both inter- and intra-party backstabbing, not any kind of “give the citizenry power to elect someone to directly address their interests”).

            So May 24th is going to be a busy day down the polling station! For the local elections, I have an idea on which candidate(s) I’ll vote for; ditto the European elections (there it’s going to be “hold my nose and vote for the least objectionable”) and it’ll be a resounding “No” from me on the referendum and plebiscite, though those votes will be in the nature of King Canute and the tide, since we’re now a Liberal Modern Nation No Longer Under The Heel of the Church for the one, and politicians love anything that boosts their own (self-)importance for the other.

            *Apparently the restrictions on divorce in the 1995 Act are too onerous or something. Next time someone argues “There’s no such thing as a slippery slope! Passing this law won’t mean that down the line the restrictions put in, which we promise cross our hearts and hope to die will always apply, will be loosened or removed!”, I will laugh hollowly.

            **Long story short, two separate local authorities were merged (this was a national inititiative by the government to do the same for all of Ireland) in order to provide efficiency and all the usual buzzwords and make us all One Big Happy Family. We ended up with three mayors (not elected) since neither of the city mayor or county mayor would resign in favour of the other guy being the Big Cheese (and there was lots of squawking about the historic nature and role yadda yadda yadda of the city mayor) plus the new position of the chairman of the unified (ha!) council who was supposed to be the New Single Big Cheese.

            Right now, it’s been settled that we have two mayors (one for the unified entity, one for the metropolitan area), a deputy mayor (of the unified entity) and two chairpersons of the other two areas that make up our One Big Happy Family. All because nobody wants to give up their little meed of power and they’re all turf-warring. You can imagine what an elected position with any real power covering the entire One Big Happy Family would be like when it comes to a political bloodbath to gain the Iron Throne Mayor’s Chain.

          • albatross11 says:

            The race right now is entirely driven by what media coverage and social media buzz the candidates can get. There’s not much correlation between that and quality of candidate. OTOH, that may not matter–Trump dominated media coverage and social media buzz in 2016, and the rest is history.

          • Plumber says:

            @Deiseach,
            I wonder if our politics would be more or less rancorous if “culture war” issues were decided by plebiscite as in your republic instead of indirectly through presidential and senatorial elections to influence the court of nine Kings and/or Queens that decide these things here.

      • Walter says:

        Using my Walter System…

        No hatred, not conservative.
        No contempt, not progressive.

        I don’t have a category for you. Centrist, I guess? I dunno, I can’t classify people when they are not heated up.

        • Plumber says:

          @Walter,
          Wow that’s pretty flattering, thanks!

          I must admit though that I’m suprised, I thought that I’d come across as cranky.

          I don’t think of myself as much of a “centrist” (which in my lifetime is usually sold as a “social liberal/fiscal conservative”), but I do think that most of the votets of both the Democratic and Republican parties would (if they held the whip hand) could horse trade compromises more readily than their representatives do, and those compromises would look different than would the donors would come up with – but there’s no way to test that.

  12. Douglas Knight says:

    Have you seen any foreign language films that handled the translation of accent, dialect, or speech impediment well?
    Is it usually just dropped?
    (Any examples where the accent was so obvious that you could tell even though you didn’t know the original language?)

    • Tenacious D says:

      “A very secret service / Au service de la France” is a comedy on Netflix about the French intelligence agency in the early 1960s. There’s a part in the second season where a delegation from Québec shows up to ask for help launching the FLQ and the show makes a big deal about the agents finding their accent nearly incomprehensible. The subtitles managed to convey that the accent was a barrier. However, in another scene when a couple of CIA agents come to visit the subtitles don’t really capture the way they sound: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=gczkM8cL2hs

    • onyomi says:

      I forget which it was now, but I recall an English dub of a Japanese anime in which characters who had a Kansai-area accent of some kind in the original Japanese were dubbed with Southern accents (of American English), I guess on the theory that the cultural status or perception of these two accents within their respective larger communities of speakers is, in some ways, analogous. Of course, there are many ways in which Kansai:Japan::the South:USA breaks down, but seemed to work, if I recall.

      • lvlln says:

        Last year, I watched Himouto Umaru-chan, which has a character exactly like that. She’s a country girl who moved into the city to go to high school, and her Japanese voice has a Kansai accent (I think), and her English dub has a Southern accent. I thought it was pretty cleverly done.

    • Ron says:

      “A Silent Voice”, a Japanese anime, where the translated bits of speech impediment transcended the translation barrier. (Though the translation I used was not in English so I’m not sure whether the English translation was done as well.)

      Edit: by the way, I can think of one opposite example where a poor translation of a few words gave away the answer to a central plot line in a major film (again, a non-English translation).

      • dodrian says:

        Similarly, for the Argentine film El Secreto de sus Ojos, the ambiguity means that the secret could be in his eyes, in her eyes, or in their eyes. Near the beginning of the film, there’s a key scene where the protagonist discovers a secret hiding in his (the antagonist’s) eyes, but the English translation of the title makes it clear that there are yet more secrets to be uncovered in other peoples’ eyes.

      • Nick says:

        When the Last Jedi trailer came out, one of my first questions was whether Jedi was plural in the title. We checked, I think, the German title and it was plural, implying it referred to more than just Luke.

    • Deiseach says:

      Not a foreign language film as such, but a rather silly movie from the 80s called Blown Away (it was about the IRA and Irish-Americans and yeah the kind of mess you’d expect) had Tommy Lee Jones doing a surprisingly decent blas in the Irish-speaking bit (well, it impressed me at least).

      Worst scene in the film where everyone in the cinema where I saw it groaned aloud? Jeff Bridges and his da, Lloyd, playing an Irish-American father and son, oohing and ahhing with delight when some bar person brought them out two pints of Guinness – flat pints.

      Flat. Pints.

      I cannot tell you the transgression against Irish drinking this is, and how it immediately ruined whatever few shreds of suspension of disbelief remained 🙂

    • BBA says:

      There’s one scene in Le Dîner de Cons (which was later remade as Dinner for Schmucks) where the “guest of honor” puts on a Belgian accent to talk to someone on the phone. I don’t remember if it was translated in the subtitles, but the accent was so over-the-top it was obvious even to a non-French-speaker.

    • Dack says:

      In The Man in the High Castle one of the Japanese characters is played by Joel de la Fuente.

      At some point they just lampshade it with a line like “You’ve been in the States so long, even your accent has changed.” (I don’t recall the exact words)

      Anyway, I thought that was pretty clever.

  13. Atlas says:

    Random thought:

    There’s a belief/meme on parts of the left today that “representation matters.” (Or rather, “[clapping emoji] REPRESENTATION [clapping emoji] MATTERS [clapping emoji]”.) A big part of the idea is that non-white people and women want to see characters of the same race and/or gender in entertainment media, because they identify with them more.

    Okay, fair enough. But the reciprocal holds true: As an individual consumer who is a white male, I, ceteris paribus, prefer to consume entertainment about white males. Or, more broadly, I tend to prefer entertainment starring People Like Me in various senses as the protagonists/heroes. I have found it surprisingly psychologically liberating to admit this: I like to cheer for my own team. I’m sick of movies like James Cameron’s Avatar where I’m supposed to root for the aliens to beat the humans. Likewise, while it by no means is the, or even a, primary factor in how I feel about a film, all other things equal I do honestly prefer to see white male heroes, and furthermore white males with whom I also share national/regional/ethnic etc. identities.

    It’s also worth noting here that there are some notable contemporary movies like Captain Marvel, Get Out, Crazy Rich Asians, Lady Ghostbusters and Black Panther that are not just movies that happen to have female/black/Asian characters/actors in them. (As opposed to the way that e.g. Men in Black has a lead who happens to be black.) They are, explicitly, marketed as team cheers for Team Women/Blacks/Asians. I’m not necessarily saying that there’s anything wrong with that, but if we’re going to insist on sorting ourselves into teams I’m not going to pretend that I don’t want to root for the team I was placed on. (As opposed to some white males, like Vox dot com critic Todd Vanderwerff, who engage in half-hearted ritual self-flagellation about how much they hate watching white male protagonists.)

    That’s a statement about my individual preference as a consumer, not a prescription for the entertainment industry or society as a whole. Theoretically it’s fairly comparable to e.g. director Jordan Peele’s recent statement—which from my point of view is fairly reasonable!— about how he’d probably never cast a white male as the lead in one of his movies. (I realize that the statements are somewhat different, but I think that, considering the context of Peele’s work, they’re similar enough to be fairly compared.)

    However, if I was a public figure, I obviously could not make this seemingly conceptually valid statement under my True Name without facing serious backlash. (Peele faced backlash, but he also received open support, which I doubt that someone making a reciprocally pro-white male statement would receive.)

    • Lord Nelson says:

      Speaking as someone who is not a man, it’s not that I can’t relate to white male protagonists. I can relate to them just fine in the vast majority of movies. But I grew up watching TV shows where the girls were either princesses or love interests or relegated to token female characters that never did anything useful. Over the years, I internalized the belief that women existed for the male gaze (ie, your value depends on whether men find you attractive), that women were less talented than men, and that women were intrinsically worth less than men. Those beliefs contributed to a fair bit of self-loathing and low self-esteem through my young adult years.

      I think it’s important, especially for kids, to see characters who look like them in a diverse set of fictional roles. Don’t make all the girls princesses or Smurfette; make some of them adventurers, or politicians, or scientists, or the wacky comedic relief character. Thankfully, this does seem to be getting significantly better in recent years, with cartoons like the MLP reboot, AtLA, and The Dragon Prince, just to name a few.

      Granted, in my opinion, quality storytelling always comes first. All the representation in the world doesn’t mean a thing if your show is so boring or mediocre that no one enjoys watching it.

      Edit to add: I’m going to plug The Good Place here, just because I can. It’s an excellent show that happens to have a diverse main cast. The first two seasons are on Netflix.

      • Clutzy says:

        I am here only to say that I am the original The Good Place promoter. No one has ever approached my level of promotion of that show as long as it existed. In my social circle I was always the mover. In many ways I feel that my social group is probably the reason it still exists. Without us, it would be a sitcom that no one noticed.

      • lvlln says:

        Speaking as someone who is not a man, it’s not that I can’t relate to white male protagonists. I can relate to them just fine in the vast majority of movies. But I grew up watching TV shows where the girls were either princesses or love interests or relegated to token female characters that never did anything useful. Over the years, I internalized the belief that women existed for the male gaze (ie, your value depends on whether men find you attractive), that women were less talented than men, and that women were intrinsically worth less than men. Those beliefs contributed to a fair bit of self-loathing and low self-esteem through my young adult years.

        This has always struck me as the best argument for diversity in representation. Unfortunately, I don’t know how good it is. For it to be a good argument, we’d need some strong evidence that token/love interest/princess female characters really are dominant in fictional media AND that such dominance actually causes girls and women to internalize beliefs like the one you did. That 2nd part is the hard part, and as far as I’ve looked, I haven’t seen any actual support for the notion. Personal testimony that they were affected in some way doesn’t help, both because that’s an anecdote and because humans are notoriously bad at determining what caused them to do/believe something.

        It also raises a 2nd question: If we presume that such a depiction of women DOES cause girls and women to internalize these pathological beliefs, then what sorts of pathological beliefs does the depiction of men in fictional media (i.e. as heroes and such) cause boys and men to internalize? And how do those pathological beliefs compare to the pathological beliefs internalized in girls and women? It’s entirely possible that the way men are depicted in fictional media cause more or worse pathological beliefs to be internalized in boys than the reverse situation, and as such pushing for more women to be depicted in starring roles could result in greater suffering for girls and women due to them internalizing even more pathological beliefs.

        If this were like anthropogenic global warming where experts in the field are presenting rigorous studies where they dotted their i’s and crossed their t’s that show that it’s happening, and it enjoys overwhelming support within the scientific field, this stuff would be easy to buy into.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I think you’d also need to pay attention to the poor portrayals of men in media. The sitcom “lazy/fat/dumb husband with the out-of-his-league attractive and smart wife who saves him from his own stupidity every episode” isn’t a good message for anyone involved either.

          And on the gripping hand, I’d really prefer if people did go looking to packaged corporate entertainment for role models anyway.

          • baconbits9 says:

            What specific shows do you have in mind here?

          • lvlln says:

            And on the gripping hand, I’d really prefer if people did go looking to packaged corporate entertainment for role models anyway.

            The supposition is that people aren’t looking to packaged corporate entertainment for role models – rather, it’s that characters in corporate entertainment are inevitably role models to people, whether they want it or not. Even if they go into every movie thinking to themselves consciously, “I will not treat these characters as anything more than lights on a screen,” you will inevitably come out of the theater having been influenced by the characters in some particular way.

            There’s a defensible motte there. You are entirely helpless to prevent your brain from changing as a response to things you see. If you watch Star Wars, your brain will be modified permanently such that the next time you hear “Darth Vader,” you will identify it with something, rather than wondering, “what the heck is that?”

            But the bailey that needs actual empirical evidence for is that we can actually predict how you will be influenced (beside the trivial example above). The supposition isn’t that depictions of girls as helpless princesses causes girls’ brains to be modified in some way. It’s that it causes girls’ brains to be modified in a certain way – specifically that it will cause them to be passive, consider themselves only as eye candy, etc.

            For the “diversity in representation” argument to be correct, that last supposition needs to be correct. It’s just that it looks like there’s about as much reason to believe it’s correct as there’s reason to believe that homeopathy is correct or that vaccines cause autism.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Past edit window, but that was obviously supposed to say “prefer if people did *not* go looking to packaged corporate media…”

            @baconbits9

            King of Queens. The Simpsons. Family Guy. All the way back to The Honeymooners this has been a fairly common trope.

            @lvlln

            It’s quite the rabbit hole, though. You can’t just write entertainment, you have to be aware that you’re sending messages, and “shaping minds,” and then determine what mind shapes you want, and then consider how your characters will shape minds or not shape them or…

          • baconbits9 says:

            The Simpsons was an intentional rejection of the popular trope of highly competent TV dad, which is far more common (ditto Family guy) The most popular shows often, but not always, had competent fathers or father figures (for Fresh Prince of Bel-Air).

            Examples:

            The Cosby Show, Alf, The Wonder Years, Full House, Growing Pains, Happy Days, That 70s show, Fresh Prince.

            There are some in betweens as well- Home Improvement and Fraiser, but I would say the majority to vast majority of shows with a father figure actually use him as a father figure.

          • albatross11 says:

            My intuition is that:

            a. Media images and entertainment probably do have subtle effects on their watchers and ultimately on society.

            b. Those effects are probably not typically obvious straight-line ones like “watching violent movies makes people violent.”

            c. Everyone massively over-discusses these issues because you can get more attention talking about popular entertainment than talking about subtle social science stuff.

          • Nick says:

            @Conrad Honcho
            That trope is ubiquitous in commercials too.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @lvlln:

            The supposition is that people aren’t looking to packaged corporate entertainment for role models – rather, it’s that characters in corporate entertainment are inevitably role models to people, whether they want it or not.

            This is why I’m anti-capitalist when it comes to the media. Our role models should come from religion and folk culture, never a corporation’s intellectual property.

          • Aapje says:

            I think that we should be careful not to simply equate the beliefs that are being spread with role models.

            There are all kinds of pathological beliefs that can be spread that don’t result in the media consumer being inspired to follow in the footsteps of the protagonist.

            For example, the comment below where Mark talks about a very idealistic model of a man, might convince a short, ugly, nerdy kid that he is unlovable, rather than inspire him to grow taller, become prettier and stop being a nerd.

            Similarly, certain supposedly positive messages aimed at girls/women, might not have the intended effect.

          • mdet says:

            Whenever anyone talks about what makes art good and important, they emphasize how a certain story resonated with them, impacted them emotionally, changed the way they see the world, etc. If art has the power to change people for the better, then it must also have the power to change people for the worse. We can’t say “Don’t go looking to some packaged corporate entertainment for role models” without necessarily belittling the movies and tv shows that do move us.

            I agree with lvlln that predicting which particular messages and themes in a work will influence who and how is very difficult and complicated — if it was easy, then every movie and show would be great (in terms of “deeply moves its audience”).

          • lvlln says:

            @mdet

            Whenever anyone talks about what makes art good and important, they emphasize how a certain story resonated with them, impacted them emotionally, changed the way they see the world, etc. If art has the power to change people for the better, then it must also have the power to change people for the worse. We can’t say “Don’t go looking to some packaged corporate entertainment for role models” without necessarily belittling the movies and tv shows that do move us.

            (bolding mien)

            You sort of touch upon this in your 2nd paragraph, but just because someone claims that some work of art changed the way they see the world, it doesn’t follow that it actually did change the way they see the world. From what I know about psychological research, humans are notoriously bad at figuring out why they do things, and I don’t see why this would be an exception.

            I know this is a minor point, since we all agree already that art can influence people for good or for bad. I’m just pointing out that someone’s personal experience doesn’t prove to us that the conditional in that if clause is true.

          • onyomi says:

            Regarding the buffoonish, rather than competent dad, I think it’s rather like the ass-kicking female, e.g. originally a rebellion against type that has now become so ubiquitous it would actually be more surprising for a 2019 movie or tv show to feature a happy homemaker female character. Which is why I couldn’t understand the fuss over Captain Marvel (haven’t seen it; am officially suffering superhero film exhaustion): like, wow! a powerful female superhero!? How revolutionary!

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ lvlln:

            For the “diversity in representation” argument to be correct, that last supposition needs to be correct. It’s just that it looks like there’s about as much reason to believe it’s correct as there’s reason to believe that homeopathy is correct or that vaccines cause autism.

            I think the idea’s more plausible than you’re giving it credit for. A large part of our behaviour is influenced by the norms of the society in which we grow up, and a large part of societal norms are influenced by the kinds of stories people tell each other, the kinds of behaviour they depict as normal or admirable, and so on. If media keeps portraying women as acting passively and waiting for men to solve all their problems, this contributes to a societal norm of “women should act passively and wait for men to solve all their problems”, which in turn encourages actual women in that society to act passively.

        • Mark Atwood says:

          then what sorts of pathological beliefs does the depiction of men in fictional media (i.e. as heroes and such) cause boys and men to internalize

          Well, going by how Disney portrays young men, in order to be an actual person who matters at all, a young man has to be tall, good looking, rich, and politically connected. (Or be good at lying about it, thank you Aladdin.) Otherwise he is either the villain, the villains’ lackeys, the comic relief or else invisible background grunts, less important that the animated paving stones under the girls’ feet.

          • lvlln says:

            This seems like a reasonable just-so story, but you’re still making the same leap that the “diversity in representation matters” crowd is making. Which is that you can actually predict, just from looking at the piece of media, what sort of influence it will have on someone.

            Of course, there are trivial cases where this is easy; a video with a jump scare will tend to cause the audience to jolt in the moment, Star Wars will tend to cause the audience to be able to identify “Darth Vader” as a word that refers to a character rather than just a string of 11 characters where the 6th is a space, and pornography will tend to cause the audience to be aroused (presuming it’s what they’re into).

            But when you get down to depictions of characters in fiction influencing someone’s self-image and model of the social universe IRL, that’s not so easy. You can’t just claim “Of course people who watch [media that glorifies characters who behave like X] will think [behaving like X] is good IRL!” You have to demonstrate it empirically.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Disney gets a terrible rap for their princesses. Major Disney princesses from my era.

            1. Ariel, guess who saves the princes life in the first act. Guess who isn’t just eye candy as the prince doesn’t love her for her looks, without her voice (a metaphor) the pretty face on its own isn’t enough.

            2. Jasmine, who is independent minded, assertive and brave. She totally overlooks the fact that Aladdin is homeless for his inner beauty and doesn’t care for his outer beauty on its own.

            3. Megera, saves Hercules’ life by giving her own, saves her first love’s life by giving up her soul. Not a princess in the tower one bit throughout the movie.

            4. Mulan + Pocahontas – didn’t see these two, but they are generally not the shrinking violet types.

            5. Nala – doesn’t wait to be rescued, goes out seeking help for her people.

          • Aapje says:

            @baconbits9

            without her voice (a metaphor) the pretty face on its own isn’t enough.

            A metaphor for her virginity? 😛

          • Nornagest says:

            Well, going by how Disney portrays young men, in order to be an actual person who matters at all, a young man has to be tall, good looking, rich, and politically connected.

            I don’t think Disney’s done a straight Prince Charming since The Little Mermaid. Beast is a beast. Aladdin is friendless, homeless, penniless, and short. Simba’s an animal, and would be a shiftless teenage slacker for most of the movie if he was human. John Smith is a womanizing adventurer. The Hunchback is… do I even have to say it?

            I could go on, but it’s just more of the same.

          • Mark Atwood says:

            Beast is a beast. is not just a prince, he is probably an Earl or a Duke, and is tall, strong, rich, probably used to be politically connected, can sing and dance, owns a heart-stoppingly expensive private library, has a demonstrated willingness and ability to do extreme violence to protect the Disney Princess, and is good looking for people who are into that sort of thing.

            Aladdin is friendless, homeless, penniless, and short. Is handsome, charming, popular and well known in his social class, athletic, a master of parkour, and possesses only the most valuable magical item on the planet, making him richer all the other Disney princes, combined.

            Simba’s an animal, and would be a shiftless teenage slacker for most of the movie if he was human. Is strong, powerfully built, good looking in the context of the story, and is politically connected. Demonstrating that even the teenage slacker wins, when he’s got good hair, and happens to be the heir to the inheritance.

            John Smith is a womanizing adventurer. You make my case for me there.

            The Hunchback is… not the Disney Prince of the movie. Captain Phoebus is.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Mark

            Can you articulate what a non-princely male Disney protagonist could look like? Because it seems like you’re listing all the redeeming qualities of the people who are definitely not “a straight Prince Charming” and claiming that because they possess them they’re too Prince Charming-ish to count.

          • Mark Atwood says:

            I’m not pointing out that they are “Prince Charmings”, I’m pointing out that they are all combinations of athletic, rich, charming, politically connected, and good looking.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            The major male good guy characters in both Frozen (Sven) and Tangled (Rider/Eugene) are certainly neither rich nor politically connected (unless you mean ultimately, through the princess they meet). I think they’re both meant to be pretty good looking (though Sven apparently smells bad, and is I think supposed to be less handsome than Hans), and athletic but, I mean, “The protagonist and their love interest are conventionally attractive” is pretty universal, certainly not a particular strange Disney thing.

        • Lord Nelson says:

          Although I understand your point, I feel like this is a case where we can’t empirically prove anything, for two reasons.
          1. Media is one of many factors that can influence a person’s self-worth, consciously or sub-consciously, and you can’t control for every other variable.
          2. People, especially children, don’t always realize when or how something contributes to their self-esteem. It took me many years to put into words why I thought women were inferior. All I knew as a kid was that “all the interesting characters are boys”.

          Anecdotal evidence is the best we have for this theory… but there’s enough anecdotal evidence that I think the theory has merit.

          As for the second question, I’m sure there are also men who internalized pathological beliefs due to media. Since I have no first-hand experience with that, the best I can do is make an educated guess about the details. Men do have one advantage, however: there are a wider variety of male characters in media (with respect to physical appearance and personality and role in the story). This was especially true in the past, but holds true even today.

          pushing for more women to be depicted in starring roles could result in greater suffering for girls and women due to them internalizing even more pathological beliefs

          I don’t really understand this argument. Yes, if we go from “all female characters are tokens/love interests/princesses” to “all female characters are Action Girls” (just to pick an example), that could cause some different pathological beliefs. But I’m not arguing for that, and I don’t think other people requesting “more female representation” are either. We want women to be represented in a variety of roles… including Action Girls and princesses, but not just limited to Action Girls and princesses.

          • AG says:

            The most persuasive case of the power of representation is probably in the case of sexuality, since we’ve seen the most significant changes within our lifetimes.

            Related, a couple of studies that role models play a significant role in girls’ interest in STEM: 1, 2
            They show that direct role models (someone you can interact with) are the most effective, but in the absence of that, celebrities and media characters would be secondary role models. There have definitely been cases of minority demographic people joining the industry in various roles because of seeing a barrier-breaking progenitor do it, so at the least that’s one career area that media representation impacts.

          • baconbits9 says:

            I don’t believe that your first link supports this position at all, it appears to be referring to a survey about interest in stem, and the conclusions are basically that most girls, even with role models, don’t want to go into STEM fields at all. About half who have role models don’t envision themselves as doing so and 62% of the remaining half don’t work in STEM fieds, so ~19% of girls with STEM role models work in STEM fields. Given the likely con-founders of girls who are interested seeing out role models in some way, and those not interested not noticing potential role models this is likely a weak effect.

          • AG says:

            It’s still nonetheless an increase to the counterfactual of not having a role model.

            Like, you can’t argue that just because most Asian Americans still don’t become actors after Crazy Rich Asians came out means that an increase in Asian American actors afterwards doesn’t matter.

            However, I do admit that those studies are weak evidence, insofar that I could only find two of them.

      • baconbits9 says:

        But I grew up watching TV shows where the girls were either princesses or love interests or relegated to token female characters that never did anything useful. Over the years, I internalized the belief that women existed for the male gaze (ie, your value depends on whether men find you attractive), that women were less talented than men, and that women were intrinsically worth less than men. Those beliefs contributed to a fair bit of self-loathing and low self-esteem through my young adult years.

        Would you mind letting us know your rough age and where you lived (country)?

        • Lord Nelson says:

          I’m 30, and grew up in the USA (midwest).

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            You’re 30, female, grew up in the Midwest, and have taken hormonal birth control for mental health reasons?
            … That’s me.

          • Lord Nelson says:

            @Le Maistre Chat
            For physical health reasons, actually. But otherwise yes.

            So… now what? We find three more 30-year-old Midwestern women and form Voltron?

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Exactly! (Except we can find them anywhere; I’m on the west coast.)

          • baconbits9 says:

            Popular TV shows from the 90s that have at a minimum 1 prominent female character that doesn’t fit your description.

            Saved by the Bell
            Buffy
            Full House
            X-Files
            Family Matters
            ER
            Sabrina
            Roseanne
            Blossom

            I’m about 10 years older than you and grew up in the mid-west and I’m less familiar with the shows in the 2000s which were probably more formative for you, but I think your characterization is a significant exaggeration of how media treated girls during this period.

          • AG says:

            @baconbits9 –
            Are you seriously serious with that kind of argument?
            Just because Captain Marvel exists as a film now doesn’t negate that 21 other films do not feature ladies as the solo lead role.
            Just because Buffy and Xena were indeed influential on women doesn’t mean that women weren’t also influenced by the fact that the huge majority of the rest of media they saw were centered on men.

            Having some lettuce, pickles, onions, and tomato slices on a burger doesn’t make it into a magically healthy dish.

            It’s always boggled my mind that this community could ever have an issue with representation, given that it only exists because a significant number of people thought that there was a dearth of fiction featuring a protagonist (and supporting characters) who thought like them, and so latched on when Eliezer Yudkowsky wrote one. I mean, clearly the existence of Sherlock Holmes means that these people had all they needed out of fiction, right? Clearly they have no grounds for disliking Big Bang Theory or Urkel.

          • John Schilling says:

            Are you seriously serious with that kind of argument?
            Just because Captain Marvel exists as a film now doesn’t negate that 21 other films do not feature ladies as the solo lead role.

            So, victory cannot be declared until all but 20 movies in an era are about solo female protagonists?

          • baconbits9 says:

            Just because Captain Marvel exists as a film now doesn’t negate that 21 other films do not feature ladies as the solo lead role.

            The claim being made is that there is a dominant and pathological portrayal of women that is causing issues. The existence of 1 or two female lead super heros doesn’t negate the other dozen marvel leads, but those dozen marvel leads don’t negate the women represented across broader media. This was one of the original quotes

            opps, hit post, editing.

            Don’t make all the girls princesses or Smurfette; make some of them adventurers, or politicians, or scientists, or the wacky comedic relief character.

            This is not remotely close to an accurate depiction of broad media from the 80s through the 2000s, it is an accurate depiction of a narrow selection of shows/movies during that period. The most popular legal shows like the Law and Order series, had cops, lawyers, police chiefs and politicians as successful, prominent female cast members. The most popular medical shows had prominent female doctors, nurses and lawyers. Several of the most popular sitcoms had leading ladies that didn’t fit this description at all (Roseanne, Grace under Fire). There are numerous kids shows, teen shows, cult shows (Kim Possible, Sabrina, Buffy) during this period as well.

            The long and the short of it is that you can make media look awful by selecting a subset and holding it up as representative, ie Michael Bay movies, but consuming those movies says more about you than it says about broad media.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @AG

            So far we have nine examples of shows which do not fit the mold “where the girls were either princesses or love interests or relegated to token female characters that never did anything useful.” And zero examples which do. Looking at the Paste Magazine list of 90’s shows, it appears shows fitting the mold are few and far between.

          • Lord Nelson says:

            @baconbits9

            I’m about 10 years older than you and grew up in the mid-west and I’m less familiar with the shows in the 2000s which were probably more formative for you, but I think your characterization is a significant exaggeration of how media treated girls during this period.

            I don’t think my characterization was an exaggeration. However, I probably didn’t make it clear enough that I was referring specifically to childrens movies/TV shows when talking about my own experience. I’ll take your word that the shows you listed do have good female representation, but the problem is that most of them are shows for adults. My parents would not have allowed me to watch them as a child, even had I desired to.

            I grew up watching classic Disney movies and cartoons from the 80s and early 90s. I can’t think of much from that era with what I would consider “good female representation”. I can think of several from the late 90s and early 2000s with better representation, but those weren’t formative for me. And even those still had some problems by today’s standards.

          • AG says:

            @ John Schilling

            Victory is declared when we’re somewhere in the vicinity of 50%. Where are we now?
            2.25 men to 1 woman. Nice! TV does a little better at….a whopping 40% female speaking characters.

            I do think we’ve mostly achieved victory on Bechdel. However, there can still be an asymmetry indicated by the ratio of Bechdel pass to reverse-Bechdel passes. (See the third answer on this page.) For example, 100% of MCU and Star Wars films pass reverse Bechdel, so even if 50% of them passed Bechdel (which I highly doubt, but have not counted), that’s not great, either, even if Captain Marvel exists. Or, say, you can argue that a women-centric romcom can fail Bechdel because they’re always talking about a man as per the romance genre, but I guarantee you that the closest equivalent, the male teen sex comedy, most all pass reverse Bechdel.

            Gender is the most egregious case because the reality is near 50/50, whereas other minority demographic cases that appear underrepresented are actually at population rates.

            @baconbits9
            Pathological portrayal of women? How about this?

            In cartoons only:

            Of the 175 cartoons, 110 had identifiable copyright years ranging from 1935 to 1992. Overall, there was a total of 106 lead and 127 minor female characters across all the cartoons, and a total of 326 lead and 587 minor male characters. Of the 175 cartoons 45% had no female leads, 50 had one female lead, 4% had two, and 1% had three. These cartoons included 1% with no male leads, 47% with one, 33% with two, 8% with three, 9% with four and 2% with five. There were no cartoons with gender-neutral leads.

    • Machine Interface says:

      Do you feel like you have any trouble finding material with white male protagonists though?

      It is true that Jordan Peele’s all-black-cast horror ventures or Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria, with its large female cast, have been quite strongly praised, but so was John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place, starring himself, or Jeremy Saulnier’s Green Room with the late Anton Yelchin opposite Patrick Stewart, or Panos Cosmatos’ Mandy, starring Nicolas Cage.

      When I think of modern serious actors with a respectable career both in big budget films and in more art house productions, I think first of Daniel Day Lewis, Joaquin Phoenix, Jake Gyllenhaal, Christian Bale or Ryan Gosling.

      Certainly, Captain Marvel was praised a bit too zealously for its (supposed) wokeness, but the most popular on-screen portrayal of Marvel characters are still Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man and Chris Hemsworth’s Thor.

      It’s also worth mentionning that the movies selected for being cheered on by the woke-team tend to oscillate between “adequate in a non-threatening way” (Black Panther, which within the normal range of Marvel movie blandness) and “mediocre if you’re really charitable” (the Ghostbusters remake), but they are also only a small minority of the movies that star non-white and/or non-male protagonist. Arrival and Annihilation were both praised as really good movies on their own right, with the fact that they’re about women scientists only mentionned in passing.

      • Mark Atwood says:

        but the most popular on-screen portrayal of Marvel characters are still Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man and Chris Hemsworth’s Thor.

        I raise you one Nick Fury, who is the thread that binds the whole franchise together, and who was race changed so well that as near as I can tell, absolutely zero people have complained.

        It was done so well that when I remember the Nick Fury I read about when I was a 12yo reading Marvel comic books, it causes weird disassociation in my head, in that “that’s not what Nick Fury looks like!”.

        • acymetric says:

          I think there are maybe three categories with this kind of thing (caveat, I don’t really have a problem with “woke” casting, even when done intentionally, unless the casting was also bad).

          1) Plain old good casting, race is not used as a factor

          2) “Woke” casting where a race/gender swap is the explicit intent, but where the selected actor is a good choice

          3) “Woke” casting where the purpose is to be “woke” but results in a terrible choice

          I think Samuel L. as Fury falls into item #1 which is why it doesn’t receive as many complaints. My intuition tells me complaints initially started about #3, but as they gained traction and became a major point of contention people started noticing #2 and complaining about that as well, and then started lumping in examples of #1 in with 2/3 because they can be hard to distinguish, especially if you are explicitly looking for/expecting that kind of “grievance”.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            I made the mistake of praising my local theatre company for its “race-blind” casting. I didn’t realize this marked me as an unwoke reactionary. The response was, “Yes, we do get letters from people who feel that way.”

          • greenwoodjw says:

            Nick Fury’s race does not, to my knowledge, impact his character in any real way. He just needs to be a badass, so Sam L. is perfect for that role.

          • baconbits9 says:

            I don’t think there is anything that marks me as anti mainstream as much as my dislike of SLJ.

          • Mark Atwood says:

            Nick Fury’s race does not, to my knowledge, impact his character in any real way.

            I disagree. The Ultimate’s Nick Fury back story was very heavily colored by his race, and his race influenced his joining the military and his career in it.

            The MCU Nick Fury, which is derived from the Ultimates one, presumably has much the same back story, plus the race of his family was a big part of his the story for his excuse for why he built Project Insight.

            Plus the awesome scene where he was being pulled over by the fake cops would not have played out the same way if he was white. “Do you want to see my lease?!”

          • Mark Atwood says:

            as my dislike of SLJ

            He is very hit or miss for me. I don’t like his blaxploitation style characters at all, because I don’t like those kind of movies.

            I despised every other moment of Pulp Fiction, but will quote the “Say what again” bit to myself, usually at pretty much exactly the same frustration. “What?” is never an acceptable answer to a question.

            Mace Windu and Nick Fury could not have been played by anyone else.

          • greenwoodjw says:

            @Mark Atwood

            The Ultimate Nick Fury was explicitly based on Sam Jackson with his direct permission and is why he played Fury in the MCU. They worked backwards from SLJ. Fury was originally white, but the writers of Ultimate felt SLJ was a strong model of what made the character. You have causation reversed.

          • Mark Atwood says:

            The Ultimate Nick Fury was explicitly based on Sam Jackson

            It’s more complicated than that. They drew Ultimate Nick Fury to look like SLJ *without* his permission, then his lawyers started making sounds about lawsuits with California’s right of likeness laws, which SLJ then put the cabosh on because he liked the portrayal and make the off-hand mostly in jest demand that he have right of first refusal for the role if there was ever a movie.

            That’s probably one of the most financially rewarding jokes in the history of humanity.

    • brad says:

      That’s a statement about my individual preference as a consumer, not a prescription for the entertainment industry or society as a whole. Theoretically it’s fairly comparable to e.g. director Jordan Peele’s recent statement—which from my point of view is fairly reasonable!— about how he’d probably never cast a white male as the lead in one of his movies. (I realize that the statements are somewhat different, but I think that, considering the context of Peele’s work, they’re similar enough to be fairly compared.)

      However, if I was a public figure, I obviously could not make this seemingly conceptually valid statement under my True Name without facing serious backlash. (Peele faced backlash, but he also received open support, which I doubt that someone making a reciprocally pro-white male statement would receive.)

      Does the point need to be made at all? Everyone in the industry is very very well aware of what works and doesn’t work in terms of box office (etc) sales. If you aren’t going to see these movies that’s being taken into account.

      I’m reminded a bit of a back and forth I had during the puppies kerfuffle. It was my position that it was entirely appropriate for an award to be elitist–there’s already a reward for being popular, it’s called money and (almost) everyone wants to win it.

      • albatross11 says:

        brad:

        If everyone already knows it, why would saying it get a prominent person any grief? I mean, if tomorrow Beto O’Rourke says “The sky is blue,” nobody’s going to get mad at him. But if he says “I enjoy movies with straight white male leads the most,” he would kick off one of those dumb social-media hate-fests that lasted until the next outrage-fest overtook it, and various allegedly serious thinkers in the media would talk about it as a Serious Issue.

        In general, if there are things most people know, but which you say out loud only at your peril, that’s a pointer that something interesting is going on w.r.t. regulation of ideas and thought in the society.

        • brad says:

          In general, if there are things most people know, but which you say out loud only at your peril, that’s a pointer that something interesting is going on w.r.t. regulation of ideas and thought in the society.

          I disagree. It’s entirely healthy for a society to have things that are considered not fit for public discussion. There’s something wrong with people that feel a compulsion to blurt them out.

          • albatross11 says:

            I suspect this is just a difference in values or worldviews. I agree there are topics that are inappropriate in one or another venue, but having stuff the smart, worldly people know but nobody is supposed to say out loud seems fundamentally broken to me.

            Conversation is how we understand things as a group rather than as individuals. Plenty of stuff “everyone knows” turns out to be wrong, but if nobody can talk about it, how will they ever find out?

            How do we ever work out the implications of stuff we all know that is considered unfit for public discussion?

            I’m curious about what facts or widely-understood knowledge other than muggle-realism you would put into this category.

          • brad says:

            How about the, in the grand scheme of things, rather monetary low value we collectively put on a follow citizen’s lives?

            This is something that Beto O’Rourke could also not tweet about either but isn’t in the category of “SJ adjacent” topics that generate so much more heat than light here. Perhaps that makes a better lens to view the pros / cons of having things that are spoken of and things that aren’t.

          • Aapje says:

            We don’t actually put a monetary value on people’s lives in general, just in some ways and then inconsistently.

            Putting a values on life is one of the things people both resist and are in denial about so they can be selfish while not having to face the fact that they could have saved a certain percentage of a person if they skipped a night out, that they want a medical treatment that is beyond what we are willing to pay as a society, etc.

            Whether maximizing cold rationality is better than having a solid dose of denial and pretense is not objectively answerable.

            Whether the (monetary or otherwise) value we put on human life is low or not is then subjectivity squared, IMO.

          • quanta413 says:

            How about the, in the grand scheme of things, rather monetary low value we collectively put on a follow citizen’s lives?

            I’m confused, are you just observing that it’s hard to talk about the topic of how many dollars per human life or are you also saying it’s good that this topic is hard to discuss in public. I.e. is it good that it’s a topic not typically considered fit for public discussion?

            It’s entirely healthy for a society to have things that are considered not fit for public discussion. There’s something wrong with people that feel a compulsion to blurt them out.

          • How about the, in the grand scheme of things, rather monetary low value we collectively put on a follow citizen’s lives?

            I don’t think there is such a number.

            I read a piece many years ago which looked at the value of life implicit in a variety of different government decisions. It varied enormously, I think (but this is by memory) over about two orders of magnitude.

            What is the value you put on your own life?

            How much would you spend for something that you expected to reduce by .1% the chance that you would die in the next year? Multiply that by a thousand and you have at least a rough measure of the value of your life to you.

          • brad says:

            @quanta413

            I think it’s natural and fine. If I were designing human nature from the ground up, might I change it? Maybe. But I don’t think its “a pointer that something interesting is going on w.r.t. regulation of ideas and thought in the society”; I don’t think it’s something that needs to be rebelled against; and I have not admiration, but rather some combination of pity and contempt for people that see themselves as steely eyed realist-heroes and go around deliberately making people uncomfortable by breaking the taboo on talking about it.

            That’s not to say it’s never appropriate to talk about in any context. A conference on the economics of government regulation is pretty much going to be all about that.

            (The part about realist-heroes may not be super kind but it’s truly how I feel and the answer seems incomplete without it.)

        • rlms says:

          If you say something with a blindingly obvious surface meaning, people will reason that since there’s no need to communicate that you probably have some other message. No-one’s going to get mad at “the sky is blue” but people will try to puzzle out what it actually means. And if there’s a controversial political statement close to your claim, it will often be interpreted as that. C.f. JAQing off and Motte/Bailey.

          Although, I don’t think you’re interpreting brad’s comment correctly.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Does the point need to be made at all? Everyone in the industry is very very well aware of what works and doesn’t work in terms of box office (etc) sales. If you aren’t going to see these movies that’s being taken into account.

        If this were true, you’d never have prominent bombs like Ghostbusters 2016 or the Solo movie.

        • baconbits9 says:

          Was Ghostbusters a bomb because it had women in it, or because it was badly written?

          • The Nybbler says:

            It doesn’t matter. Either way it demonstrates that “Everyone in the industry is very very well aware of what works and doesn’t work in terms of box office (etc) sales.” is false. Whether they thought they’d buy their way to success with a bad movie with the coin of wokeness (which is what I think), or if they actually had a good movie and they marketed it so badly it bombed, they clearly weren’t aware of what would work.

          • acymetric says:

            @The Nybbler

            Whether they thought they’d buy their way to success with a bad movie with the coin of wokeness (which is what I think), or if they actually had a good movie and they marketed it so badly it bombed, they clearly weren’t aware of what would work.

            Third option: They thought they had a good movie (AND wokeness) but the movie was actually bad (which also demonstrates that “everyone knows what works” is false).

          • Nornagest says:

            They thought they had a good movie (AND wokeness) but the movie was actually bad

            It’s possible. But the impression I get is that no one involved in a modern movie, outside a very few big-name directors who can get by on auteur power, has enough sway to keep it from being crap if that’s what it wants to be. Even if everyone involved in the production knows it’s turning out poorly, there’s so much money, with so much inertia, involved in making a modern film that its course is pretty much set well before anyone actually starts shooting.

          • abystander says:

            “Nobody knows anything…… Not one person in the entire motion picture field knows for a certainty what’s going to work. Every time out it’s a guess and, if you’re lucky, an educated one.”
            ― William Goldman, Adventures in the Screen Trade

          • Aapje says:

            @Nornagest

            Once they actually start filming, so many costs and commitments have been made that I don’t think that stopping is an option, just for some people having doubts.

        • brad says:

          I mean sure, no one is infallible. But if Woman in Ghostbusters I flops they aren’t going to make WiGII anyway just to annoy you.

    • greenwoodjw says:

      I genuinely do not understand this concept. Why does it matter whether the lead shares characteristics with you? The character matters because of how they deviate from normal people, not how they are the same. How do you “identify” with the character and what does that mean?

      Possibly relevant:

      https://slatestarcodex.com/2014/03/17/what-universal-human-experiences-are-you-missing-without-realizing-it/

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        I don’t really get it when it comes to issues of gender. I don’t have an issue sympathizing with the traditionally female leads of romantic comedies, or the Disney Princesses.

    • Walter says:

      Related but not exactly same thing:

      Anyone else miffed at them recasting Bond as Idris Elba?

      Like, I’m actually onboard with most reimaginings/recastings. Thor as a woman, great, Spiderman is a black kid, sounds rad, Dr. as a woman, long overdue.

      But, like, Bond feels to me more like a Dr. King kind of figure, where if you take him out of his identity he just stops making sense. Like, dude’s power amounts to ‘super strong privilege’, right? I feel like him not being a white guy (while simultaneously being the whitest possible guy), is going to be cringy.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Dr. Who being a woman was, yes, long overdue when the character changes into a new body every other year. And every single time picks “english male.” And it was hilarious they thought they should get Woke Points for that one. No, no it was pretty bad writing to never once bother considering the implications of the Doctor’s reincarnation schtick.

        Thor as a woman is…really disappointing however. First, Thor is not a woman. Second, I can’t buy Thor comics for my kid. Thor is my son’s favorite superhero. Every time we play Lego Marvel Superheroes 2 he’s gotta be Thor. He doesn’t really understand these characters come from comic books, but even if Marvel books hadn’t turned into political trash, I couldn’t buy him one because I think he would be really confused and might start crying if I bought him a Thor book with Jane as the protagonist.

        “Son, who’s your favorite superhero?”

        “Thor!”

        “Here’s a comic book all about Thor for you to read!”

        “Yaaay!!! Wait…what is this…”

        “It’s Thor!”

        “No, dad, I like Thor. Big guy, with long hair and big muscles, has a hammer. Thor. This is some lady.”

        Would not go over well.

        • bean says:

          No, no it was pretty bad writing to never once bother considering the implications of the Doctor’s reincarnation schtick.

          To be slightly fair, gender-swaps during regeneration weren’t even confirmed until 2011, when The Doctor’s Wife aired. Before that, it was rather an open question. We’ve had two new doctors since then, and one has been a woman. (I admit to having not watched the last two seasons of Who. For some reason, it stopped being as interesting. Also, I’ve been busy.)

        • Mark Atwood says:

          I started rooting hard for Carl Creel to kick her teeth in, to teach her that there was more to brawling and more to winning than just having magic strength from holding a magic hammer but having zero experience.

          Jane was neither mighty, nor was she worthy.

        • ana53294 says:

          Thor being a woman is wrong. I mean, if they are going to change the gender of a character, can they at least choose a character who hasn’t been documented male for hundreds of years?

          Why don’t they start writing comics about Freya?

          I was pleasantly surprised by female Dr. Who. I stopped watching after David Tennant left, because I didn’t like the other actors. I quite like Jodie Whittaker.

          • Mark Atwood says:

            I would totally read well written graphic novels about the Freya of the MU 616.

          • Protagoras says:

            In the mythology, changing sex was not beyond the power of the Norse gods. Of course, Loki is the big switch hitter, but there’s at least one story where Thor impersonates Freya, and I don’t believe the story is specific on how far he goes to fool the giants. Since, again, it seems to be within the power of the Norse gods, one might well conclude that he just became female as the best way to guarantee the success of the scheme.

          • Mark Atwood says:

            I thought the point of that part of that story was to demonstrate how stupid those particular Giants were.

          • Protagoras says:

            The stories can usually be interpreted lots of different ways, of course.

          • mdet says:

            “Whosoever holds this hammer, if he shall be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor”

            The premise of Marvel Comic’s Thor is that Thor is both an individual (the son of Odin) and a title that can be passed from person to person. There are times when Odinson loses the hammer and is no longer Thor. There are times when someone else picks up the hammer and becomes Thor. Woman-Thor (Jane Foster) is one example, but other examples include Eric Masterson and Beta-Ray Bill.

            So no, they did not change the gender of the mythological god Thor (although they have shape-shifted Loki into a woman, so as Protagoras says it wouldn’t be out-there). They changed the wielded of Mjolnir because Odinson was unworthy, which is not unusual as far as Thor comics go.

          • The Nybbler says:

            (although they have shape-shifted Loki into a woman, so as Protagoras says it wouldn’t be out-there)

            For Loki, sure. In the Norse myths, Loki shape-shifted into a mare, had sex with a stallion, and gave birth to a rather odd foal. Shifting into a human woman would be kinda vanilla for him.

          • Mark Atwood says:

            The story I would have enjoyed instead is if
            Jane Foster had been taken in by Freyja Freyrdottir and become the third Enchantress. They could have even done the same teasing “she’s someone we know, but who is she?” deal.

          • Nornagest says:

            I don’t believe the story is specific on how far he goes to fool the giants

            Not as such, but it’s pretty clear from the story that Thor looks like, well, Thor in a dress. There’s a sequence where the giants point out Thor’s flashing eyes, tendency to eat entire oxen, etc. and Loki (dressed as a bridesmaid) makes funny excuses for them.

            One translation here.

        • Perico says:

          It’s probably for the best that you haven’t bought your kid any recent Thor comic books – Jason Aaron’s current run in the series, as much as I like it, isn’t really suitable for a young audience. If your kid gets easily upset, the dark tone and gory violence will most likely put him off, even if you stick to the issues (roughly half of them) where the big guy is the main protagonist.

          But that doesn’t mean there aren’t any Thor books that he can’t enjoy! Walter Simonson’s excellent classic run is easy to find, and while I wouldn’t call it exactly light reading, it’s way more kid friendly. You may want to skip the issues where thor is replaced by an alien or becomes a frog, but other than that it’s pretty safe, and lots of fun.

      • The Nybbler says:

        IMO, Bond has to be male (unless you’re doing a parody), but I don’t think he has to be white. Certainly not in a modern setting, where a wealthy and cultured black man wouldn’t be too unusual to work as a spy.

        • acymetric says:

          This sounds right to me. The key ingredients are British and “high class” (or at least behaves high-class in interactions).

          Otherwise at some point you’re just making a generic action movie and slapping Bond on the title (some would be inclined to argue that already happened with Craig).

          • greenwoodjw says:

            Speaking of, a lot of people objected to a blonde Bond as well.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            some would be inclined to argue that already happened with Craig

            Hello yes I would like to argue this please.

          • acymetric says:

            Hello yes I would like to argue this please.

            In favor or against?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Yeah I thought one of the criticisms of Craig as Bond was that he was more street thug brutal than upper class debonair.

            That said, Idris Elba definitely gives me a high class vibe. I don’t think I’d really mind him as Bond.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @acymetric

            In favor. The whole tone of Craig-era bond is one I find horribly bland and uninteresting. Brosnan-era was significantly better, even if there was a lot of ridiculous bullshit in those movies.

          • ana53294 says:

            Idris Elba can totally pull off British and high-class.

            I didn’t watch any of the Daniel Craig movies after the first one, he didn’t seem a good fit.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @acymetric:

            This sounds right to me. The key ingredients are British and “high class” (or at least behaves high-class in interactions).

            “James Bond” is a false name they assign to the current Agent 007. The black one’s real name is Dudley From Street-Fighter III.

          • cassander says:

            @Hoopyfreud

            Agreed. The brosnan movies weren’t particularly good for the most part, but it had nothing to do with him, he got just the right notes as bond.

          • Nornagest says:

            “Goldeneye” was one of the better Bond movies, certainly one of the better modern ones. It’s a shame that all the other Brosnan films were so bad.

          • acymetric says:

            @Le Maistre Chat

            “James Bond” is a false name they assign to the current Agent 007. The black one’s real name is Dudley From Street-Fighter III.

            I’ve never liked the fan theory that James Bond is a code name (I think this is actually explicitly canonically false now, FWIW). Clark Kent wasn’t a code name just because different actors played the role of Superman in different movies.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            acymetric: Yeah, it’s canonically false to the Daniel Craig reboot. But I have zero interest in an Idris Elbow continuation or reboot unless they make him a black Tory who cosplays as a Victorian gentleman boxer.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            Die Another Day is the perfect Bond scenario, but everything else about it is terrible.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Can we all agree that Skyfall was the worst? James Bond flies a space rocket or parachutes or drives a tank into the enemy base to single-handedly kill the bad guy and all his mooks. He does not run away home to hide and set little booby traps like he’s Macaulay Culkin.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            I found Quantum of Solace to be by far the worst.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            It certainly wasn’t good, but at least Bond in QoS acted like Bond, took the fight to the enemy and killed him. He didn’t hide and play defense.

          • mdet says:

            I loved that part of Skyfall for exactly that deconstructionist reason, that the climax turned into a very personal, low-stakes, low-tech fight that contrasts with the usual Bond fare. I’ve only seen the Brosnan and Craig movies though, so I probably don’t have as much attachment to the traditional Bond formula as a more longtime fan.

          • rmtodd says:

            No, no, “James Bond” isn’t the codename MI6 gives to the 007 slot in their set of Agents Licenced to Kill. James Bond is just a renegade Gallifreyan who got a job working for MI6; every time he gets too injured on the job he gets a new appearance.

            Despite his appearance changing several times throughout the movies, however, Ernst Stavros Blofeld is not Gallifreyan. Blofeld is actually the white cat. The random bald guy you see holding the cat is just a puppet under Blofeld’s mental control so he can manage his criminal empire.

          • Mark Atwood says:

            Blofeld is actually the white cat. The random bald guy you see holding the cat is just a puppet under Blofeld’s mental control so he can manage his criminal empire.

            Charles Stross already wrote that novel.

      • greenwoodjw says:

        Bond is supposed to be Traditional English Gentleman x1000 as a mask for violent thuggery. Flipping his race (as separate to his nationality) to “Obviously not English” is just… not Bond. If you want to create a series with a black English spy that is very much like Bond, have at it.

        Superman is supposed to be a Kansas farmboy and never attracted any attention. Kansas is 84% white per most recent numbers. A white couple with a white baby won’t raise any eyebrows beyond “I didn’t know you were pregnant.” Any other combination would either raise red flags or already be the subject of some attention as a natural result of standing out. Kansas/American Midwest is also really important to his character.

        Thor’s a Norse God (That is, Scandinavian) and a specific character, not a powerset. Being Big and Manly is a major part of his character.

        Dealing with modern American society as a black kid is a major part of Static’s story and part of why he isn’t just a knock-off Magneto.

        Black Panther is the leader of an isolationist central-African nation and it would be really stupid to have a non-African leader.

        I don’t like most recastings because 1) It’s done for Woke Points, 2) It’s basically a new character in old branding and 3) It blows past opportunities to create new heroes instead of reusing old ones and 4) It’s lazy.

        • AG says:

          These are all characters marginally set in this world, though.

          Scifi therefore has a whole lot more leeway, such as Starbuck in Battlestar Galactica. A version where Leia wants to escape Tatooine and ends up rescuing Prince Luke of Alderaan is fine, too.

          And the reason why sometimes recasting has more impact than creating a new hero is that breaking into the market with a new hero is increasingly hard, as evidenced by the low success of creating new franchises these days. The new heroes vanish into the obscure abyss.

          This is like saying John Milton should have created a new religion instead of recasting Satan, or that Hamilton should be all white guys. Recasting often opens up new implications for the character that can be explored. Retconning Kitty Pryde as Jewish created new storytelling opportunities. Even within the confines of The Doctor being all white guys, Christopher Eccleston’s casting and accent was deliberately done to provoke some class commentary.
          There’s a delightful Broadway charity concert every year, Miscast, in which famous stage actors perform a number for a role that they could never be cast as, due to their race or gender, and the self-aware contrasts are always fun. (Most of the performances are on Youtube.)

          • Don P. says:

            Minor objection: Kitty Pryde was wearing a Star of David in her first appearance, so it’s not a retcon.

      • Plumber says:

        @Walter

        “….recasting Bond as Idris Elba?…

        …dude’s power amounts to ‘super strong privilege’, right? I feel like him not being a white guy (while simultaneously being the whitest possible guy), is going to be cringy”

        Well it’s not like if it was Eddie Griffin playing Bond (though that’s one I would watch!), but though I’ve only seen Idris Elba in The Wire, and was surprised to find that in watching the DVD extras he spoke with what sounded to me like a “posh” British accent (I’m not British so I may be completely wrong about that, but he didn’t sound to me like most of the cast of The Italian Job, Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels or Shallow Grave, and he sounded more like David Niven than Michael Caine to me), so sure I could believe him as a character with aristocratic tastes.

        For the Bond movies of the ’60’s someone who looked like Elba playing that character would’ve been implausible, but for recent ones?

        For a black man to be the heir of the old family estate in Skyfall would be quite a stretch, but sure I could see him doing the same role that Craig did in Casino Royale or Spectre (Quantum of Solace was too dull of a movie for me to much care who was in the role), into the ’70’s Bond could plausibly still be the WW2 vet character of the books, but after that?

        Sure, if Lazenby could do it, Elba could diffently do Bond, just please don’t have Mike Myers or Matt Damon in the role.

        • Lambert says:

          Definitely not posh.
          He sounds, in descending order:
          Londoner
          Black
          Working to middle class

        • Trofim_Lysenko says:

          Amusingly enough, Plumber, Michael Caine has a very NON-posh accent. His normal stage accent is basically “working class London”, a toned down and cleaned up version of Cockney. Someone actually from the UK feel free to chime in and correct me, but my understanding is that the Cockney dialect has a similar sort of cultural stereotypes attached to it in the UK that a thick Brooklyn/Bronx accent has in the US: Tough, Streetwise, Cynical, what gangsters in movies/TV sound like, etc.

          So, when someone wants to play with the tropes of accent and with James Bond tropes in a scene like this, Eggsy (the young hooligan) is the one who sounds more like Michael Caine.

      • cassander says:

        it reminds me of one of my favorite russian jokes.

        There’s an american who all his life wants to be a spy. He goes to the best schools, learns perfect russia, and applies for the job at the CIA. He gets hired, gets all the best training the CIA has to offer and gets sent to russia. He thinks he’s set but everyone he meets immediately knows he’s an american. He can’t figure out why. He tries to change the accent, how he dresses, how he acts, everything. Finally he breaks down. He runs out the door to the first russian he can find and begs “How? How do you all know I’m an American?”

        The russian replies “You’re black!”

        • AG says:

          On the other hand, in lots of films the exotic locales and nationalist villains have been in Asia, so clearly the next James Bond should follow accordingly, so he can infiltrate the JSDF or whatever. Hey, it would even work for parts of Africa now, given China’s heavy investments there!
          (Or to be more versatile, ambiguously brown. The South/Central Americas? The Middle East? South Asia? Southeast Asia? North Africa? The Mediterranean? He’s got it covered!)

        • Dack says:

          Yeah, the whole premise of James Bond as a super spy doesn’t make sense outside of the context of the Cold War.

          • Clutzy says:

            This is simply the failure of imagination of the writers for the films. Goldfinger was an Brit (via Latvia) conspiring with the Chinese to cripple America. There is no reason a similar plotline involving a Brit/Aussie/American villian conspiring with Chinese/Iranians/NKoreans would not work. Its not like all of Bond is against Russians.

          • Dack says:

            It’s just that you wouldn’t have “one spy to rule them all” unless the world is in a state where the ethnicity of all of the superpowers is visually similar enough that they can all superficially pass for each other.

            In other words the original JB makes sense because the only countries that mattered were, UK, US, USSR, etc. If the work incidentally takes them somewhere else, white guy can still pose as a tourist, but this isn’t ideal since his life and work depend on him standing out as little as possible.

            Now if you uproot all this and transplant it to today where the plots revolve around regional powers of varying ethnicity/appearance….ideally your intelligence agency is going to want agents that can pass as Korean to work in Korea and agents that can pass as Iranian to work in Iran, and so forth. So a superspy that does it all doesn’t make sense. But if you are going to force it to happen anyway, the white guy is still the best bet, because as much as he is going to stand out against Chinese/Iranians/NKoreans, he is going to stand out less than a black guy.

            If anyone is questioning the premise whether agencies really select for the ideal/best-bet details of appearance like this, I would point out that there is a history of the CIA filtering out candidates that were circumcised (because it would be a giveaway.)

          • Clutzy says:

            The first James Bond movie with Sean Connery is literally in the Caribbean. With and Asian villain. And a ton of black people everywhere. And he’s posing as a tourist.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      I wouldn’t say I necessarily prefer a given racial/gender combination for the leads in the media I consume. Only that I’m turned off when the producers go out of their way to race/gender swap characters for Woke Points, because it seems they think there’s a common point pool for Quality Points and Woke Points. No, if you spec into Woke that does not mean you can skip on Quality. Ghostbusters 2016 was bad because it was not funny, and making the characters women did not make up for that but the producers seemed to think it should. I liked Black Panther, but if they had replaced T’Challa with a white guy I’d be wondering what the hell is going on.

      This kind of tokenism I find insulting. Like when they replaced Bruce Banner with Amadeus Cho I can just see some sleazy clueless salesman poking a Korean kid in the chest with an issue saying “hey, hey, kid you like this now? The squinty guy in the book looks like you so you’re gonna buy this now, right?” No. If you think Asian kids need an Asian superhero to identify with, how about you make a new Asian superhero instead of trying to pass them off whitey’s hand-me-downs? If you make a good enough Asian superhero, maybe even white kids will like him, too! Last Halloween the only two Black Panthers who showed up at my door were white kids.

      Aside: I saw Shazam last week and it was the best DC superhero movie. Highly, highly recommended. Very funny, very entertaining, great performances. Really top-notch job.

      • AG says:

        Honestly, though, I think it would be interesting to look at worlds where various superheroes were Asian Americans. There’s opportunity for their characterizations to be filtered through the lens of being model minorities, being The Asian Nerd in their childhoods, the chips on their shoulders stemming from the Third Culture Kid or 1st generation immigrant experience.

        I’ve played with the idea of a world where Bruce Wayne is biracial, and Wayne Industries being the results of his father being a successful tech conglomeration founder a la Jerry Yang.
        Strange especially has interesting intersections with his reaction to the mystical Oriental, probably having resented all of the homeopathic woo his Asian relatives might have favored growing up, and his being proud of his atheism…until he’s smacked in the face with it as an adult. You have the interplay between a secular Asian American who feels like a banana and someone from the home country when Stephen works with Wong.
        All of the subtext and themes and metaphors you could run with if Bruce Banner was Japanese write themselves.
        An Asian Peter Parker puts a whole new spin on how he navigates NYC high school activities, and the expectations of his guardians, and their reaction to his becoming a news photographer.

        Now, I’ll admit that most mainstream racebends haven’t taken advantage of that potential at all , so not that many points on execution, but the concept can be a rich vein of quality fiction.
        The 2010 Nikita reboot cast Maggie Q in the lead, mostly to take advantage of her stunt skills, but it also lended a new credibility to some over her overseas infiltrations, as well as opened door to a backstory where the same kind of corrupt government intervention that she currently fights against also screwed over her Vietnamese mother.

        • Mark Atwood says:

          I think it would be interesting to look at worlds where various superheroes were Asian Americans.

          How about one where they are Japanese, but inspired by American superheros?

          Allow me to suggest “Boku no Hīrō Akademia”.

          • AG says:

            That’s slightly different, in that the entire world is new. It’s like Kurosawa’s Shakespeare adaptations, or the reverse with Magnificent Seven. In addition, My Hero Academia doesn’t deal with the immigrant experience as a core theme. There is a certain amount of representation that immigrants can get by consuming the media of their ethnic home culture, but there are still experiences unique to them that it can be very emotionally moving to see portrayed with authenticity on the screen.

            Sometimes it’s more interesting to only change one variable of an existing fictional ecosystem, and explore the fallout. Such as, “what if Harry Potter’s uncle was a scientist?”

            (That said, I think that the US adaptation of Death Note could indeed have been very interesting if they had gone full-in on the differences the US setting would have wrought! The police and crime culture, the pop idol culture, the likelihood that American Light would have chosen foreign terrorist targets, etc. My Hero Academia’s Japanese elements do make for some cool world-building divergences from the US superhero traditions, as does One Punch Man.)

            There’s a fascinating fanfiction that rotates the DC Trinity and explores the similarities and differences: Bruce washes up as a baby on Themyscira’s shores, the Kents are blessed by the gods with a child from the dirt, and the Waynes find a rocket ship. Those kinds of tweaks are the true appeal of a dramatic recast, not simply one where the actor in the part changes and nothing else.

    • DinoNerd says:

      I’m not a big consumer of media, particularly movies, but I haven’t noticed the number of male protagonist/heroes, or white protagonist/heroes dropping as low as their % in the population.

      So it seems like kind of a non-issue. Also, it’s in the context of groups like the various “Sad Puppies” and analogues, who basically made a giant fuss about how their preferred entertainment should feature only stories about people like them. Not “I don’t like X because I can’t personally identify with its lead characters” which to me – not anything like what SSC refers to as an SJW – seems reasonable.

      So I can understand general eye rolling, not to mention looking at such statements as the tip of the camel’s nose – or sad puppy’s nose – entering the tent.

      In the defence of those wanting more of (whatever) though, just about anyone except white males is much more practiced at identifying with protagonists not like them – because of the above imbalance, and the much more severe imbalances of many of our childhoods. I suspect white males, on average, have much more difficulty identifying with or cheering on those unlike themselves, because they’ve generally had other options.

      [And let me throw in an obligatory deploring of internet mobs of all types, with and without attempts to go after their targets’ employment etc. I switched my handle here after I hears about the SSC/reddit flap, and I’d much prefer not having to do things like that. But people like to pick on others, particularly if they can do so with no risk to themselves.]

      • albatross11 says:

        FWIW, I also don’t particularly care about race/gender of protagonist of a story–I want a good story and characters with whom I can identify, and a story that makes sense. (Making Thor a woman is as silly as making Black Panther a white guy, but having Emerson Ngu or Wili Wachendon or Elizabeth Bennet as the protagonist of the story works just fine for me.)

      • eyeballfrog says:

        That’s not what Sad Puppies was about at all. It was about the exclusion of authors with conservative viewpoints from the awards. Similar to the ants, it was part of a larger pattern of backlash against leftist politics inserting itself into nerdy properties. Naturally it was tarred as wanting only white/straight/male/$OPPRESSOR_CLASS characters by the media.

        • albatross11 says:

          The sad and rabid puppies were distinct groups, and weren’t monolithic. However, I don’t think the sad puppies were well described by this bit:

          who basically made a giant fuss about how their preferred entertainment should feature only stories about people like them. Not “I don’t like X because I can’t personally identify with its lead characters” which to me – not anything like what SSC refers to as an SJW – seems reasonable.

          They were, as I understood it, complaining that they thought that political/social message was trumping quality of story in the Hugos, leading to awards being won by works they didn’t think were all that great because they were sending the right message.

          I don’t pay close enough attention to the Hugos to have a strong opinion of whether their complaint was right or wrong, but it was part of what looked to me, as an outsider to SF fandom (who just reads the stuff), like part of a broad process of SF fandom becoming very politically polarized along SJW/anti-SJW lines, with approximately the dysfunction and collateral damage you’d expect.

          • Aapje says:

            It seems that the awards have basically split into awards for the SJ crowd, being the Hugo’s, and awards for non-SJ people, being the Dragon awards. The nominations and winners seem largely distinct.

            Here are the 2018 Hugo winners and here are the 2018 Dragon awards winners.

            My impression is that the SJ crowd likes much more ‘soft’ scifi and fantasy, while the other crowd likes it harder. For example, The Hugo best novel is a Jemisin novel, while the Dragon winner is Artemis by Weir.

          • DinoNerd says:

            @Aapje

            The most interesting thing about these lists is how few of either list I’ve read, and indeed how few of the authors I’ve even heard of.

            The other interesting thing, given your comment about hard and soft, was that the one of the two authors I recognized from the Dragon list is S.M. Stirling, who’s certainly written hard sci fi. But he got there for The Sea Peoples, part of an interminable series I stopped reading because it was so big on fantasy heroism. (Gods and magic have real world effects, making it fantasy in one sense, and the lead characters get more and more super-human, making it fantasy in the other sense.) What it does have, if true to the series, is lots of combat, all with pre-gunpowder weapons.

          • I recognized most of the winning authors on the Dragon list, and I’ve even read and enjoyed Artemis.

            I’ve read and greatly enjoyed the Bujold books on the Hugo list, and I’ve liked some of LeGuin. The rest of the winning authors and books were unfamiliar to me.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            They were, as I understood it, complaining that they thought that political/social message was trumping quality of story in the Hugos, leading to awards being won by works they didn’t think were all that great because they were sending the right message.

            This is accurate for a broad overview, though there were other claims made as well, such as that part of the reason for the dominance of Wokeness as the main criterion for award worthiness was due to the way a relatively small and incestuous group of fans, editors, and authors organized to dominate the nomination and voting processes.

            The counterpoints were (in my personal subjective ordering of best to worst counter-argument):

            1) The “golden age when sci-fi was real sci-fi and didn’t care about politics” is an illusion. Sci-Fi has, with some exceptions, always been dominated by left-leaning editors and attracted left-leaning authors and been liberal to progressive in its politics on the whole. It’s simply that what was radical leftism in the 30s-60s is stodgy libertarianism/conservatism today. (Eric Flint)

            2) A prestigious industry award will ALWAYS favor the distinct tastes of a group of “insiders” and will NEVER favor mainstream/commercial (within the industry) tastes except when those tastes and the tastes of that insider/elite overlap, or when that elite feels it has to throw a bone to the masses to stay relevant (*cough*Oscarpatterns*cough*). This is true even when the “masses” are as small and insular as SF/F Fandom. (Eric Flint, Kevin Anderson, others). Pretty sure one or two repeated (and Larry Correia agreed) what Brad said above about the mainstream award for Good Fiction being called The Royalty Check.

            3) Sad Puppies just like pulpy trash sci-fi and are bitter they aren’t more successful. (various)

            4) Sad Puppies claims are just a smokescreen for their true sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic feelings. (Irene Gallo, others)

          • Heterosteus says:

            It seems that the awards have basically split into awards for the SJ crowd, being the Hugo’s, and awards for non-SJ people, being the Dragon awards. The nominations and winners seem largely distinct.

            Is anyone outside the group that founded them paying attention to the Dragon awards yet? Hugo and Nebula still have the most name recognition, I think, though of course that could change.

            The Puppy fight has certainly led to a pretty strong backlash among the Hugo voters, with mostly SJ-oriented winners the past few years. I’m hoping this will fade over time, though I could be wrong about that. I wouldn’t be surprised if there have been other political imbroglios with the Hugos in the past – it seems like a publicly-voted award system would be unusually susceptible to that.

            Regarding the actual winners the last few years, I think they have mostly been excellent books regardless of what you think of their politics. N. K. Jemisin doesn’t come across as particularly likeable but The Fifth Season is IMO a very powerful book. The same is true of historical Hugo winners – many are overtly political, most have still been very good. So the Hugos still seem to have the ability to mostly pick very good books.

          • John Schilling says:

            1) The “golden age when sci-fi was real sci-fi and didn’t care about politics” is an illusion.

            I don’t recall anyone claiming otherwise; probably there were a few around the fringes but I don’t believe there were significant. Science Fiction, or more specifically written science fiction fandom, has always cared about politics. It has never, until recently, demanded adherence to a particular political orthodoxy. That was tried briefly in IIRC 1940, rejected as a Really Bad Idea, and avoided until about 2009.

            It also does not refer to itself as “Sci-Fi”, so that’s almost certainly an outside characterization as well as an erroneous one.

            A prestigious industry award will ALWAYS favor the distinct tastes of a group of “insiders” and will NEVER favor mainstream/commercial tastes […] *cough*Oscarpatterns*cough*

            What do “Oscarpatterns” have to do with anything? The SF equivalent of the Oscars are the Nebulas. The Hugo Awards were created as the SF equivalent of the People’s Choice Awards, voted on by fans rather than industry elites/insiders. Is anyone going to claim that the People’s Choice Awards have “ALWAYS been dominated by the tastes of a select group of insiders”?

            3) Sad Puppies just like pulpy trash sci-fi and are bitter they aren’t more successful. (various)

            4) Sad Puppies claims are just a smokescreen for their true sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic feelings. (Irene Gallo, others)

            I am not sure what is being gained by signal-boosting this sort of crap without comment.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            Is anyone outside the group that founded them paying attention to the Dragon awards yet?

            Dunno. DragonCon is a big and rapidly growing convention so I suspect it’s getting at least some traction, but I couldn’t say how much.

            @John_Schilling

            To be clear, this is me paraphrasing the arguments I’ve read in an attempt to be charitable to the “anti-puppy” side of the argument. I am not endorsing them as correct, nor signal-boosting them without comment, since I deliberately ordered them from “best” to “worst”. I’m not saying I think even the -best- of those arguments (the ones made by Eric Flint on his blog) are correct, and I’m certainly not endorsing the ones I deliberately noted are the worst.

            As for Sci-Fi vs. SF vs. Science Fiction, that’s my own word choice. I’m fully aware that some people object to “Sci-Fi” the same way some Star Trek fans object to “Trekkie” vs. “Trekker”, but while I’m very much a fan of science fiction and fantasy (it being the majority of my fiction consumption for most of my life), I’ve never been integrated into the Con scene by dint of a combination of financial and logistical hurdles, so I don’t know if I’d count myself as part of “Fandom” proper, and I’ve never really been concerned with that particular dispute over word choice.

        • DinoNerd says:

          I followed as little of that story as I could manage – which was more than I wanted, as a number of blogs I follow are by people who regularly attend Worldcon (and thus vote for the Hugos), or are aspiring SF authors, or regularly signal boost other blogs in those categories.

          What I see is that the puppies pushed for voting for “slates” selected to appeal to them – which kind of looks like “only one kind is OK” to me. OTOH, the whole mess was as complex as contentious human interactions usually are. E.g. some of the people whose works got onto puppy slates vehemently rejected this, probably pushing the slates to become more monolithic.

          But I think some of the puppies wanted 1950s sci fi – less fantasy, heroines only as love interests, and no exploration of alternate social organizations. Perhaps also human supremacist – non-humans are villains, ineffective foils, etc. etc. And lots and lots of hero-in-space fantasy, mislabelled as “hard sci fi”.

          What proportion I really don’t know.

          Personally, I want more hard sci fi (i.e. involving real science) and less fantasy. Beyond that though, I want more variety of people, not less. And if it must push social message(s), I’d prefer them to be as varied as possible.

          • albatross11 says:

            I’m sure someone somewhere wanted to go back to the 50s, just as someone somewhere could only be happy with an androgynous nonwhite gay hero(ine?) kicking the patriarchy’s ass for 400 pages. For all I know, the sides were all people with that kind of cardboard motivation. But it seems unlikely.

            Looking at the Dragon Awards makes me think that if this is where the Sad/Rabid Puppies went, and they were hoping to relegate everyone but white men to secondary roles, they didn’t manage it too well. The main character of Artemis is an Arab woman (not all that well drawn, IMO); while the main character of A Call to Vengance is male, it’s full of highly competent female space navy/marines. The baddest of the badasses on the good side in The Sea Peoples are women (Orlaith, Heuradys, Thora), and most of the power is in the hands of women.

            [1] This doesn’t make much sense, given that these are all sword-and-spear type battles where size and strength matter for a great deal, but Stirling loves Butt Kicking Babes.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            If by your own admission you avoided the stories as much as possible and only read synopses by one set of partisans in an intra-fandom dispute, then I think you should downgrade your confidence in how well you understand what both sides wanted/didn’t want, did/didn’t do, etc.

            It’s one thing to say “I didn’t follow this story to have a good sense of what really happened and what was said”, and another entirely to say “I didn’t follow this story, BUT here’s how it went down…”

            ETA: The way this whole thing became a clusterfuck was very annoying to watch when both sides in fact had blog posts anyone could actually go to and read! And in a few cases there were even a few back and forths between notable people (George R.R. Martin and Larry Correia, Brad Torgerson and Eric Flint) where it was clear that even when they managed politeness there was a general talking past each other and reading each others’ words only as closely as needed to find the next weak point to attack rather than trying to understand and engage with the others’ positions.

            I expect that shit from pundits and journalists. Seeing the same from authors I generally respected and liked (to say nothing of the way the many of the fans reacted) have made me decide I’ll never attend WorldCon OR LibertyCon, which sucks. DragonCon, maybe…

          • John Schilling says:

            What I see is that the puppies pushed for voting for “slates” selected to appeal to them – which kind of looks like “only one kind is OK” to me.

            Do you consider e.g. the Democratic Party to be pushing “only one kind of politician is OK”, and if so do you find that to be objectionable or worthy of “general eye-rolling”? There is a difference between wanting one of your preferred candidates to win, and asserting that only your preferred candidates are OK.

            I followed as little of that story as I could manage

            That would explain much, except the part where when you needed to cite an arbitrary example of the general phenomenon you picked the one you knew as little about as you could manage. Meanwhile, people who actually followed the issue fairly closely have discussed it here in depth on many occasions; I don’t think we need a repeat performance and I’m certain you can find one of the old ones.

          • albatross11 says:

            I think the slate/bloc nominations gave the puppies an outsized impact on the nominated stories for a cycle or two. I remember the discussion on Making Light where we spent quite awhile discussing ways of structuring voting schemes for nominations to weaken bloc-voting[1]–this notably included a couple of genuine voting-theory experts (including Jameson Quinn, who sometimes posts here), and was much more fascinating to me than Yet Another Iteration of the Culture War. (Also, the idea that we have some problem and solve it by spinning up a new technology seemed very SFnal.)

            [1] This wasn’t just a matter of who was winning–the real concern I heard expressed there was that bloc voting could easily end up making two or three blocs putting out slates the only groups that mattered for deciding Hugo nominations. I don’t know if this actually came to pass, since this isn’t a world I spend much time in. Like I said, I just read the stuff.

          • DinoNerd says:

            @Trofim_Lysenko

            IIRC, this started with me using “puppy’s nose” along with “camel’s nose”. And I was talking about reactions to certain claims. The puppies got themselves a reputation for wanting all sci fi to be suited to their tastes, and organizing voting blocs to sabotage what was supposed to be a fan preference award.

            They may or may not have deserved it, or some or all of them may not have deserved it – but people *also* use metaphors like that which come from outright fiction, not to mention religion and mythology.

            Next came my explanation that this was based on high level, spotty knowledge, along with a strong suggestion that some puppies pretty well matched their stereotype.

            Oops – I’m not one of the handful of world experts on the puppy phenomenon, how dare I have opinions of what went down. I probably shouldn’t mention anything I (only) read about in the news either, etc. etc.

            And yes, I do understand that people who identify with the group with the bad reputation don’t like their identity being used as a metaphor in that way. That was probably unkind of me, but the *reaction* to the puppy phenomenon was exactly what I was trying to invoke – since the context was one that often gets similar reactions, particularly from the same groups of people.

          • Civilis says:

            Your first reference to Puppies is:

            Also, it’s in the context of groups like the various “Sad Puppies” and analogues, who basically made a giant fuss about how their preferred entertainment should feature only stories about people like them. Not “I don’t like X because I can’t personally identify with its lead characters” which to me – not anything like what SSC refers to as an SJW – seems reasonable.

            I was quite glad that someone else corrected what is a totally unfounded uncharitable smear at best, because seeing it makes me angry enough that it’s hard for me to respond rationally. It could also be credibly called outright deliberate slander. That you’re now trying to walk that very specific claim back with “this was based on high level, spotty knowledge, along with a strong suggestion that some puppies pretty well matched their stereotype” doesn’t help; it makes it look worse.

      • AG says:

        Of course, in the MCU, white men who are named other than Chris are underrepresented. /s

    • rubberduck says:

      I honestly prefer movies with diverse casts- meaning, a mix of ethnicities (not all one minority), but also ages and appearances. This is not for representation reasons, but simply because I have trouble with faces and it is much easier to keep track of who’s who and enjoy the movie when there’s diversity and you don’t have to keep track of which white guy is which. If the current push for diversity in movies results in more movies I can enjoy, that’s great. It doesn’t matter to me if the protagonist is the white man or anyone else (as long as the cast and plot are good, ofc). Then again, you could make a movie where the cast is 100% white men and have each person dress in one color for the entirety of the movie, and it would be equally effective.

      • DinoNerd says:

        *sigh* I’m old enough to remember a time when the blonder white person was the hero, and the darker one was the villain. This, along with musical cues, allowed me to keep the characters straight in spite of being face blind

        That’s got to have been utterly maddening for actors and actresses continually cast as villains, not to mention viewers who either looked like the villains, or weren’t represented at all. But at least I could follow the movies 🙁

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Face blind always struck me as something that probably really sucks. I’m sure it’s, at the very least, highly annoying for you at times.

          I’m curious, is it strictly visual? Or are audio cues also inscrutable?

          • Lord Nelson says:

            Popping in here because I am also mildly faceblind. I refused to watch live action movies until I was in high school because it took too much mental energy to keep track of the different actors.

            For me, it’s mostly visual, with minor audio problems… which, admittedly, could just be because I’m a bit hard of hearing. If a character is visually indistinguishable from others (ie, they are a white male with short hair who is “Hollywood pretty”), and if they don’t have a unique accent, it’s about 50/50 on whether I can recognize them by voice alone. If I am multitasking while watching the movie, those odds drop to 25% at best.

            For the record, the worst movie for my faceblindness is Inception. I was complaining about it to a friend a few weeks ago, and the conversation went something like this:
            “I never had any idea what was going on. All of the white male leads looked the same, all of them kept changing outfits, and the lone woman’s character arc was so confusing that it was indecipherable.”
            “That’s really funny, because there were two women in that movie,” my friend replied.
            (IMDB backs him up on that fact, but I’m still not sure I believe him.)

          • albatross11 says:

            This applies to me, too–I’m not *unable* to distinguish faces, but it’s not my strong suit. And so, when there are five similar-looking guys interacting, I’m likely to have trouble keeping track of which is which. A distinctive accessory or way of dressing or accent or something makes it easy to keep track of, but without that, I’ll sometimes get lost. Movies very often use tricks to make it easy to keep track of who’s who in a movie, by which I infer that this isn’t all that rare a problem.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            I’m not remotely faceblind, but I’ve seen enough animation to infer that “can’t keep visually similar characters straight” is a common enough problem that visual media compensate for it. This could be a “spectrum disorder” that a ton if people are on.

          • DinoNerd says:

            I’m literally face blind. I cannot distinguish faces (from memory).

            I thought “recognizing faces” was some kind of figure of speech, substituting a part for the whole, until I was approaching middle age, when I first learned that face blindness was a thing – and thus that there really were people who could recognize faces.

            I recognize people by voice, by the way they move, by build, by cues I don’t even consciously know. But it takes me a lot longer than average to learn a new person, and if someone is trying to fool me (e.g. an actor) I’ll probably never associate their characters with each other.

            And if you give me pictures of famous people – ones I’d otherwise recognize – but remove their hair, and everything below the neck – I won’t recognize them. (It’s one of the tests for face blindness.)

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Hmmmm.

            Have any of you ever seen the Jonathan Wu film “Face Off”?

            Just wondering how it translated, because the central plot mechanic is that the leads are literally changing faces with each other, so you have to go off of other cues to figure out which is which. Maybe not having the central mechanic make “sense” just makes it worse though…

    • Viliam says:

      Speaking for myself, I don’t care. Lara Croft is a woman, Mario is Italian, and I have no idea what species Pac Man is, but I enjoy the games without even thinking about this. I watch tons of anime, and I don’t worry about underrepresentation of gaijins. I can play dungeons and dragons despite being neither an elf nor a wizard.

      If I desire to see my exact reflection, I use a mirror.

    • Atlas says:

      Addendum: A few people have made comments along the lines of: “I don’t care about race/gender as long as the writing’s good; what I do mind is when political bias, in this case left-wing SJ bias, comes at the expense of good story.”

      This is a rather easy and sensible argument to make/preference to have, and I agree with it to a certain extent. Mulholland Drive, Spiderman: Into the Spider Verse and Mad Max: Fury Road are three very different films that I all enjoy immensely despite not (exactly) having white male leads. I’d definitely rather see a well-written film with a non-white male lead than a poorly written film with a white male lead.

      Nonetheless, in my OP I was quite consciously taking a more expansive and provocative position, because I’ve come to realize that this “I’m only opposed to the inclusion of identity politics at the expense of story” doesn’t honestly capture the totality of my own feelings. (As well as, I would conjecture, those of some others.) Even if a film with many female or non-white characters is perfectly good, I realize now that I would honestly prefer to watch an equally good film with male and/or white characters; I don’t have to pretend/insist that the lessened interest I feel is because there’s necessarily an inverse relationship between capital-D Diversity and artistic “quality.” (I would also reiterate that this is a positive description of an individual preference, not any sort of normative argument about what society should be like.)

  14. dick says:

    Some of you may be interested in MuseNet, openAI’s foray in to procedurally-generated music.

    • rlms says:

      I think this is really unimpressive. The cherry-picked GPT-2 texts were incredibly convincing, even if the ones people generated later were less so. But to my ear, the examples for MuseNet sound obviously wrong and unmusical, and if you generate some yourself and listen to them I think you’d have to be tone deaf to find them convincing. I’m sure I’ve heard significantly better examples of computer generated music elsewhere (in the style of Mozart specifically) but I can’t seem to find them. Stuff by AIVA sounds way better but I’m not sure how legitimate it is.

      • dick says:

        The difference between this and previous attempts is that, whatever you’re thinking of, it almost certainly had hard-coded music theory in it, e.g. “there should be a four bar intro, and then sixteen bars with a melody and a counter-melody, and to make a melody, first you pick a key…” and this is nothing more than an engine that takes music in one side and spits (hopefully) similar music out the other side.

        The reason (I suspect) that the GPT-2 texts seemed better is because there are so many more unique words than notes, and they are much easier to classify and organize by heuristic. Given the phrase “Frodo stepped on the…”, it’s pretty easy to make an AI that can reliably figure out which words can and can’t come next, compared to looking at four notes and deciding which notes would/wouldn’t sound good as the fifth note. Similarly, the difference in meaning or use between a D-flat quarter note in a Chopin piece and the same D-flat quarter note in a Bon Jovi song is larger than the difference between the word “stepped” in The Hobbit and “stepped” in a news article. So, while (if I understand right) no one is actually writing code to group notes in to phrases or words in to clauses, the emergent behavior of the program has to achieve an equivalent effect, and has a harder task in the musical context than in the written one.

        • rlms says:

          I believe I was thinking of this which does use as similar deep learning approach. However, it appears that Mozart piece sounded so convincing because it was actual Mozart regenerated from the training data… Still, I don’t think the MuseNet pieces sound much better than the other ones on that page when you take into account the different synth quality.

    • quanta413 says:

      It’s eh. It doesn’t seem coherent over a longer span. Some of it could pass as elevator music. And I am extremely lacking in musical ability so I can only imagine what it sounds like to someone with a clue.

      I kind of like the bluegrass prompt one, but I felt frustrated at a certain point because I sort of expected… something? A transition? A conclusion?

      • danridge says:

        The Chopin one is actually quite impressive to me; even with some variations in tempo which are normal for the style, the beat/bar structure seems consistent and readable throughout. I haven’t done a complete harmonic analysis at all, but it at least seemed like the kind of thing you could do an analysis on, and none of the changes sounded ‘incorrect’ on one listen. In fact, I would say that it kept to harmonic principles enough to set up certain expectations, which I could tell because in certain places I found the chord change surprising, but, as I say, not incorrect. There may not have been too much larger structure to it, but I do know that it started and ended in the same key (minor beginning to relative major ending, but that’s not an issue).

  15. Kestrellius says:

    What do you call a directory listing the low speeds of government vehicles?

  16. Theodoric says:

    Here’s an interesting article about Medieval retirement planning. Apparently, it was common for people in their 60s to let people (not necessarily family members) live in their homes in exchange for food and other support (the elderly person would continue to live in a designated area of the home). They also had “hospitals” that amounted to retirement homes-you had to pay to get in (so not for poor people, or at least not just for poor people). Some required work; you could pay to get out of that. I had thought that pre-Social Security retirement planning amounted to “live with children, the workhouse, or sleep on the street”, but that doesn’t seem to have been the case.

    • SamChevre says:

      Another arrangement was a life interest in property, with the inheritance exchanged for care during life. An arrangement like this is an important part of the plot of the Brother Cadfael novel Monk’s Hood.

  17. fion says:

    I recently finished Ursula K Le Guin’s The Dispossessed and was pretty blown away by it. I related to the main character more than I’ve related to just about any other character in fiction. I loved how the author portrayed the good sides and the bad sides of everything, and illustrating different perspectives. I thought the way she imagined an anarchist society was compelling and intriguing. I am simultaneously attracted to and repulsed by it.

    If you’ve not read it and are interested in stories about different kinds of societies and how different kinds of people deal with them then I’d highly recommend it. I have no idea what Le Guin’s political leanings were, even after reading both this and The Left Hand of Darkness (which I also loved, but not as much), which I think is praise.

    I’m interested in hearing the thoughts of other people who read it too, whether positive or negative. Also, does any of her other work compare? Should I read it all or will I be disappointed?

    • johan_larson says:

      I have no idea what Le Guin’s political leanings were, even after reading both this and The Left Hand of Darkness (which I also loved, but not as much), which I think is praise.

      Socialist anarchist, maybe? I’m not well-read in that sort of politics, but she seems to drop the name Kropotkin a lot.

      • Ventrue Capital says:

        Yes, she called herself a “non-libertarian anarchist.”

        You can imagine how I feel about that. 😀

        Jordan Bassior (upon whom be peace!) did a brilliant nasty review of The Dispossessed at https://fantasticworlds-jordan179.blogspot.com/2011/01/retro-review-dispossessed-ursula-k.html.

        The Dispossessed is a good book, but very deeply flawed. Ursula K. LeGuin intended to compare and contrast Anarres with the real world, but did so only by loading the balance scales — the “real world” shown is a combination of the worst of capitalist societies; Anarres is an idealized anarcho-socialist utopia with very managable problems. At the same time, many of the problems are “the planet ate my homework” type problems, supposedly due to the harshness of the environment, but clearly (to me, anyway) due to Anarresti lethargy in exploiting their opportunities.
        […]
        We know that Anarres suffers from severe overpopulation because they have evolved a way of lie (farming on an arid planet vulnerable to years-long droughts) which should require immense food surpluses be laid up in granaries and other storehouses. Instead, everyone can take food as long as there is no extreme shortage. (This is explicitly stated by Shevek in the scene with the laid-up train).

        Thus, the accumulation of large food surpluses is impossible. (Heck it would be “profiteering” to even try!) And, when the drought hits, we witness an atomic-powered industrial civilization suffering from the sort of famine that the Pharaohs of Egypt had managed to avoid with a muscle-powered agricultural one.

        Good going, Odonists. Circle of Life, and all that. *snicker*
        […]
        The Anarresti have and enforce a de facto non-intercourse policy with the rest of the Universe, analogous to that of Shogunate Japan. Their trade with Urras is grudging and restricted to vital items. Information going in and out is censored. They ignore (!) the coming of interstellar aliens (!!!). Shevek is supposedly the first person to travel from Anarres to Urras for over a century, which if true argues that the restrictions used to be even more severe. He has to avoid a rock-throwing mob in order to leave the planet. This is a level of xenophobia the Iranian ayatollahs only *wish* their own people possessed.

        • My reaction to the book was a little less harsh. I thought she played fair with the anarchist society that she obviously preferred, showing some of the problems with it. But the non-anarchist society on the planet that the anarchist society was contrasted to looked like the U.S. in the 1960’s as imagined by a loyal communist who had never been out of the Soviet Union.

    • Nick says:

      I read it a few years ago and liked it quite a bit; unfortunately, I lent it to a friend and never got it back. I liked it a lot more than The Left Hand of Darkness, which was just all right.

      I agree that the anarchist society is compellingly realized and balanced; the worldbuilding there is the best part of the book. The society on the planet not so much, but maybe that’s just because quasi-totalitarian states are, well, bad. 😛

    • Protagoras says:

      You’ve read the best of her stuff. Whether you’ll be disappointed by her other stuff depends on whether you are only interested in something just as good or better (there isn’t anything else like that) or whether good but not as good would still satisfy you (there is some of that; in that case perhaps The Lathe of Heaven would interest you).

      • Nick says:

        Are the later Earthsea books any good? I read the first one a few years ago but wasn’t super interested in continuing.

        • Nornagest says:

          The Tombs of Atuan is on par with A Wizard of Earthsea, The Farthest Shore a step down but still decent. Tenanu is skippable. I haven’t read The Other Wind but haven’t heard anything good about it.

        • Ventrue Capital says:

          I *love* the Earthsea books. (Why do you think I named my planet “Terramar”?)

          • Ventrue Capital says:

            And I also borrowed some ideas from the Hainish universe for one of my sf campaigns.

    • sfoil says:

      LeGuin uses nuance in her portrayal of characters and cultures, but it’s pretty obvious which side she’s on. She’s writing fiction, so she can easily create a world that’s counterfactual to reality; since she’s a good writer, she can do it in a somewhat subtle manner.

      There was an old Overcoming Bias post — old enough that I don’t remember whether Robin Hanson or EY wrote it — that I agree with: The Dispossessed is one of the best portrayals of the romance of communism that exists. I agree. It’s a highly idealistic portrayal of anarcho-communism.

      To me, Anarres looks to be headed towards a Malthusian catastrophe (rapidly growing population, resource-poor autarkic state). This line of thinking doesn’t appear to have entered into Le Guin’s calculus at all; if it had and she didn’t like the implications, she would have had total authorial freedom to form the world she built such that it would no longer be a problem. Also, Anarres is a better place to live than the early Soviet Union because Le Guin wanted the good-faith utopian dreams of the early communists to be true, not because they were actually plausible.

      • albatross11 says:

        I’d stack The Dispossessed against The Probability Broach–both are too kind to their utopias, but do represent actual attempts to think through what those anarchist societies would look like and how they’d deal with various shocks to their system.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      I have a definite love hate relationship with LeGuin. I loved her books Dispossessed, Left Hand of Darkness, and Lathe of Heaven, although I read them so many years ago I no longer remember what they were about. But I picked up “The Telling” about 10 years ago and I just couldn’t finish it because it was so terrible. I always finish books that I start, because I keep thinking bad books will get better by the end, and usually they do. But this one was so bad I gave up.

      So she has great and awful books.

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      I continue to find improbable the anarchists’ preservation, some 160 years on, of the ideological uniformity of the self-selected founding generation. I read Bedap’s complaint that “Kids learn to parrot Odo’s words as if they were laws” and I think, you’re just now noticing this?

    • Nicholas Weininger says:

      I thought _Lavinia_ was very good, and her earlyish short story collections (e.g. The Wind’s Twelve Quarters) are excellent as well, though her later short stories get a little samey. I’d put _The Lathe of Heaven_ in the same category of excellence as _The Left Hand of Darkness_ and _The Dispossessed_.

      I thought it was a measure of her honesty about the tradeoffs that I could at once see that (a) she was pulling for Anarres and (b) on my own scale of values Urras was a clearly superior place to live. A similar thing is true of Kim Stanley Robinson’s Three Californias trilogy, where he is trying hard to make the world of _Pacific Edge_ feel like a utopia, but the warts-and-all future of _The Gold Coast_ comes out obviously preferable anyway.

    • fion says:

      Thanks for your comments everyone. I’ll check out some of those suggestions.

      It seems I’m the only person here who didn’t realise Le Guin was pulling for Anarres. I thought the world she presented was far from a utopia and she admitted it. In fact one of the two story arcs is about Shevek gradually coming to terms with the fact that Anarres is not a utopia, is not free, is not fair.

      I do agree that Urras is a caricature. A-Io is more authoritarian than, say, the USA. It is more objectifying of women, more restricting of women, more harshly divided along class lines and possibly even more imperialistic. But it doesn’t seem like an order of magnitude off of any of those, especially if we go back in time a few decades.

      I agree with much of the Jordan Bassior quote above, but I disagree that Le Guin tried to hide any of that. In fact I think it supports my point that she’s not presenting an idealistic anarcho-communist utopia, but a gritty, flawed, barely-functioning implementation of that ideology. With a little more authoritarianism, Anarres could prepare for droughts, get people doing jobs that need done and perhaps be less close-minded to the rest of the universe.

      Finally, I think the ending of the book is not that optimistic that the Odonian ideal is even logically possible. The settlers set up an almost perfect implementation of Odo’s ideas but after 160 years there is creeping bureaucracy, creeping authoritarianism and political polarisation. All that happened automatically, naturally… inevitably?

    • Mark Atwood says:

      I have been known to print out copies of Jordan’s takedown and stick them into copies of the book in libraries and bookstores.

      I remember when he write the first iteration of that review and posted it to rec.arts.sf.written, back in the day, in the olden times.

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      Oh, one other thing: there are apparently still people on the hard left for whom production meetings like the one in Chapter 12 are a selling point. Imagine coming in from a hard day reforesting the West Tamaenian Littoral and having to sit through that before you can go home to the partner!

  18. johan_larson says:

    Today, in news from the entirely too sedentary:

    10,000 steps is a lot! I measured out a 5 km course and walking it took only 6,200 steps. To walk as much as my doctor advises me, I may have to become semi-nomadic.

    • Walter says:

      I salute you in your new, migratory, life choices.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      My girlfriend and I have had a lot of success with daily morning runs using the Couch to 5K / 10K apps. You can bang out your daily step goal and burn an absurd number of calories in about an hour if you’re willing to get up early. It’s also a good warm up for any weight lifting or body weight exercises you would otherwise do before work.

      Even if you spend the entire rest of your day sitting perfectly still you’re still “active” in theory.

    • Mark Atwood says:

      My solution to that problem is I have a standing desk at work, and I have one of these in front of it.

      https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0016BQFSS
      (the stepper, not the model standing on it).

      It took a few week’s practice to be able to type and mouse while using it, but the counter in it will often count up over 10000 steps in a work day. And then my fitbit will often go over 10000 “normal” steps in a day, just by me deciding that if a trip is less than 3/4 of a mile, I will just walk it. Given that the Amazon campus is maybe two miles in length N-S, I get lots of opportunities to make that decision.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        Do you use the bands, or just the stepping pedals?

      • Walter says:

        Does stepping up and down at your desk get you sweaty and stinky? I’m a big fat guy who is always on the alert for ways to be less sedentary, but it is hard enough for me not to sweat just sitting down.

        • AG says:

          Wouldn’t the key to this be good airflow in the area? I can run without sweating in a sufficient wind.
          Can you set up a desk or office fan?

    • mobile says:

      The word “mile”, from Latin mille meaning thousand, originally represented the distance covered by a Roman soldier in 1,000 paces (2,000 steps). Your own walking seems well calibrated to that, so you can expect 10,000 steps to cover more-or-less five miles (or 8 km for those of you who have forgotten your roots).

  19. HeelBearCub says:

    I saw this mentioned, thought it was a leg-pull or a spoof (come on, this must be from The Onion, right?)

    No, it’s real headline. (The accompanying story is at least a little better) actually worse.

    Good grief, Charlie Brown!

    ——————————

    Yes, there is a point to this.

    • Nick says:

      I saw those, and while the wording (and the apparent coordination between a few high profile folks?) is bizarre, I’m not offended or anything. It’s easy for instance to read it as an attempt to underscore the heinousness of the act, namely that it happened on Easter.

      I laughed at Babylon Bee’s take.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        (and the apparent coordination between a few high profile folks?)

        People, all using common formations in the same language, are, I guess, coordinating:
        Ramadan worshipers
        Eid worshipers
        Synagogue worshipers

        • baconbits9 says:

          The Ramadan worshipers link uses the term Muslim within 2 sentences, and uses Muslim/non-muslim a combined 9 times. Eid link uses Muslim by the 2nd sentence and your 3rd link is the same as the 2nd.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            And a 120 character tweet is evidence of avoiding the term Christian? Somehow?

            Additional is it pretty much a given that anyone in the Western world is far more likely to know that Easter is celebrated by Christians? Than they are that Eid is celebrated by Muslims?

          • acymetric says:

            Yeah, people are thinking way to hard about this. “Easter worshipers” inherently means “Christians” at least to most people (I don’t even think you have to qualify it with “in the Western world” to make that claim true).

            Labeling them as “Easter worshipers” makes it a stronger statement in my eyes, because it carries more weight. “Christians attacked” is to “Easter worshipers attacked” as “I was beaten and robbed” is to “I was beaten and robbed in my own home” (the implication being that while attacking Christians is bad, attacking them while worshiping on one of their most sacred days is even worse.

            That anyone could be offended by the phrasing here is flat out beyond me.

          • baconbits9 says:

            @ HBC

            I’m not making any claims except that your links don’t refute the claims being made.

            @ acymetric

            Then phrasing like ‘Christians attacked while attending Easter Services’ is even more informative.

            Googling Clinton tweets about Ramadan, Eid gives hits like

            As we begin Ramadan, I wish all Muslims a blessed time of reflection, family, and good health. Ramadan Mubarak. -H

            but also

            Wishing a blessed Ramadan to all those who have embarked on the month of fasting.

            So no one quote is meaningful, however if the accusations are functionally that all prominent leftists skipped a specific word in their responses (accurately) I wouldn’t find it unreasonable to point that out.

          • greenwoodjw says:

            @acymetric –

            Assume there’s a belief on one side that the other is trying to pretend that they don’t exist, and then someone speaks either generally (“places of worship”) or really specifically (“Easter worshippers”) in a way that avoid the group they think is being memory-holed.

            It should make sense, then.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            “You could have wordsmithed something even more than you did to reduce the chance of offending [group] so why didn’t you?” is one of the things I hated about the P.C. movement.

          • baconbits9 says:

            There are a few pretty simple ways to demonstrate that the position is bogus/bad faith.

            1. Find a couple of high ranking Democrats who tweeted using the term ‘Christian’

            2. Find a series of tweets from high level Democrats about a similar Muslim event that uses either Mosque or the period of worship that doesn’t use Muslim along with it.

            Either of these is pretty much a slam dunk ‘you guys are blowing this way out of proportion/live in an echo chamber’ response.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @baconbits9:
            My claim was neither more, nor less, than “X worshippers” is a fairly commonly used turn of phrase, thus finding many people using that turn of phrase doesn’t require any coordination. The contextual clues, wherein you are trying to indicate that the attack came against people at a place of worship engaged in a specific ritual of their religion makes the specific phrasing even more useful, and likely.

            If we say “Christians attacked on Easter” we leave out elements that “Easter worshipers” includes, thus it is unremarkable that people would utilize the second, more compact and more accurate, phrase.

          • John Schilling says:

            Then phrasing like ‘Christians attacked while attending Easter Services’ is even more informative.

            But is it actually true? Has anyone proven that even one single victim of the attacks was actually a Christian?

            If the answer is “Duh, they were attending Easter Services, obviously they were Christians”, then no, “Christians attacked while attending Easter Services” conveys no information that isn’t already encoded in “Easter worshippers attacked”, and requires twice as many words. You seem to be either demanding a gratuitous and uninforming name-dropping of “Christians”, or you are suggesting that there is some uncertainty as to whether the people who worship Easter are anything but.

          • Nornagest says:

            Obviously they’re worshipping Easter, the egg-laying rabbit-goddess of spring.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @baconbits9:

            There are a few pretty simple ways to demonstrate that the position is bogus/bad faith.

            Do you agree that the burden of proof is on those making the claim?

            The claim:

            Yet Obama, Clinton, and other Democrats … could not bring themselves to identify the victims of the attacks as “Christians”

            I could point you at Obama or others using the word “Christian” many times, but I don’t think this would satisfy the critics. Rather the fixation is the specific: “S/he didn’t say it exactly this way this time”.

            But … here is an easily searchable example.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Nornagest:

            Obviously they’re worshipping Easter, the egg-laying rabbit-goddess of spring.

            Sounds adorable! I’d take her over that po-faced Eostre we talked about last thread.

          • brad says:

            “You could have wordsmithed something even more than you did to reduce the chance of offending [group] so why didn’t you?” is one of the things I hated about the P.C. movement.

            Anti P.C. always struck me as whose ox is being gored. Every culture and sub-culture that I’ve ever heard of has language taboos.

          • albatross11 says:

            brad:

            Every culture has language taboos, but not every culture has the same range or intensity of language taboos. In the same way, France and Saudi Arabia both have modesty taboos that get enforced on women by law and custom, but that doesn’t mean that there’s no difference between the two. It seems to me that modern SJ-adjacent culture has language taboos that are extremely broad, strongly enforced, and somewhat unpredictable.

            And then there’s the question of whose language taboos, if any, should be imposed on everyone else. SJ-adjacent folks seem to be rather eager to impose their (broad and strict) language taboos not only within their culture, but on everyone in the country. Anti-PC is basically the backlash of that–people from different subcultures with different language taboos saying “no, I don’t think I should have to follow your language taboos.”

          • baconbits9 says:

            My claim was neither more, nor less, than “X worshippers” is a fairly commonly used turn of phrase, thus finding many people using that turn of phrase doesn’t require any coordination

            You were responding to a complaint which was not that a common phrase was used, but that a common phrase was used to the exclusion of other common phrases. You also presented no evidence that it is common to use such phrasing as a stand alone statement, which is likely easy to find, further demonstrating that you don’t understand the basics of the complaint.

          • baconbits9 says:

            You seem to be either demanding a gratuitous and uninforming name-dropping of “Christians”, or you are suggesting that there is some uncertainty as to whether the people who worship Easter are anything but.

            I am demanding no such thing, I am pointing out the logical conclusion of a defense of ‘Easter Worshipers’ somehow carrying more information.

            The rest of the point is misleading, there was a targeted attack, does anyone think that the targets were specifically non Christians who happened to want to observe an Easter celebration, or that specifically the celebration of Easter was being attacked and not the religious people who celebrate Easter?

            Again the complaint being lodged is not that one person used a phrase that was imperfect for some reason, but that a group of people all avoided a word that would commonly be used.

          • baconbits9 says:

            As in its very easy- this would be a start of a refutation

            These acts of terror against Christians in Sri Lanka are unspeakably tragic. Our hearts are with the victims and their families. We owe them our commitment to making our world a place where no family lives in fear of persecution because of how they worship.

          • brad says:

            @albatross
            That analysis strikes me as completely inaccurate. The culture conservative taboo package was and is much more aggressive and totalizing than anything promoted by the “SJ-adjacent”.

            It is still, in 2019, against the law to say shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, or tits on TV.

          • AG says:

            Ahem, I’m sure you actually mean shirt, Pez, fork, cant, corksucker, motherforker, and tots.

          • Plumber says:

            “I’m tired of all these snakes on this Monday to Friday plane!

          • acymetric says:

            @Plumber

            “I’m tired of all these snakes on this Monday to Friday plane!

            One of my absolute favorite TV edits of all time. For full effect, the actual quote is:

            “I’ve had it with these monkey-fighting snakes on this Monday to Friday plane!”

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Monkey-fighting snakes on a Monday-to-Friday flight would have been such an amazing movie. I find it very disappointing that writers think they can substitute swearing for creativity like that.

        • quanta413 says:

          “Ramadan worshipers” is the odd one out. Ramadan is a whole month! Who would say that? It’s like saying “Lent worshipers”.

          • Nick says:

            If anyone says “Lent worshipers” is a thing, beware, they’re trying to pull a fast one on you.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        I think one person’s comms team gets a message out first, and every other comms team sees the first message (it is part of their job) and makes sure to check all the same boxes on their own messaging.

    • The Nybbler says:

      If apophenia is the tendency to see patterns in random events, what’s its counterpart where a pattern is correctly identified but then random events are incorrectly matched to it?

    • albatross11 says:

      Offense archaeology is as dumb when done by the right as when done by the left.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner!

        • Gobbobobble says:

          Less of this sort of flagrant mockery then, please. (Or get yourself a red N, I guess)

          If you see shit on the floor, criticize that; don’t drop trou and proceed to point and laugh and your own leavings

          • HeelBearCub says:

            What exactly is “flagrant mockery” here?

          • Gobbobobble says:

            The whole model of “this post annoyed me so I’m going to copy it verbatim but with my outgroup substituted in, that’ll show ’em!!”

            Yes, there is a point to this.

            And don’t forget to waggle your finger at the end just in case they didn’t get the message

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Gobbobobble:

            Did the original post annoy you?

            Do you think you would have been receptive if I pointed out how annoying it actually should have been?

            Because I have tried many different ways of making this point over the years.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Strictly speaking, yes it does (though I didn’t even see it until you linked it). I’m not going to argue it isn’t overdramatic outgroup-sniping.

            But my general distaste for people dragging shit from one thread into another is the greater annoyance. It just reeks of petty feuding.

        • Nick says:

          Albatross is exactly right, but I want to point out that there’s a perfectly good reason to object to Deiseach’s dumb AP headline: it indicates stunning ignorance on the part of the article writer or the headline writer. The problem with the Breitbart article isn’t this at all, but rather that it’s stupid outrage bait.

          One could certainly treat AP ignorance like outrage bait, which sounds dumb and unproductive to me, but glancing over Deiseach’s thread I don’t see any about the AP story. It wasn’t until Tenacious D shared a completely different outrage story in a subthread that there was any.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Let’s complain about bad media takes … but only if they offend conservatives?

            Not buying it.

            I post something that says “look at how idiotic this is” … and the reaction isn’t to be mad at the media, or criticize how dumb it is.

            And if you want to say it’s my history here, well, let’s just say there is some hot pot and kettle action going on.

          • dick says:

            I want to point out that there’s a perfectly good reason to object to Deiseach’s dumb AP headline: it indicates stunning ignorance on the part of the article writer or the headline writer.

            …as long as you assume it’s impossible for anyone to not know Notre Dame is a Catholic temple. That strikes me as a) certainly false, and b) pretty provincial. By way of comparison, Angkor Wat is a very recognizable tourist attraction, but I thought it was a non-religious monarch’s residence until I looked it up just now, and even if you’d told me it was a temple, I wouldn’t have known which religion it was a temple to*. If it caught fire tomorrow, an AP article explaining its religious significance would be quite helpful to me. Why is the same not true of Notre Dame?

            * Answer: vg’f pbzcyvpngrq

          • Heterosteus says:

            I post something that says “look at how idiotic this is” … and the reaction isn’t to be mad at the media, or criticize how dumb it is.

            I think a big part of that is that most of us recognise that this is a direct attack on a specific post on a previous thread, and so regardless of the content of what you linked it comes across as petty, aggressive and mean.

            Copying the Charlie Brown line was a particularly nasty touch.

            (And I agree with Nick that the original headline Deiseach posted about was hilariously dumb. I enjoyed laughing at it despite being neither offended nor a conservative. I think it was dramatically less culture-war-y than your post, even without the context of Deiseach’s previous post.)

          • brad says:

            Let’s complain about bad media takes … but only if they offend conservatives?

            That’s what it means to be a safe space for those on the right triggered by any positive mention of the current dominant ideologies in economically successful cities (and their associated educational institutions).

            It’s not the worse thing in the world to want, I just wish advocates were more honest about what they are trying to do.

        • quanta413 says:

          Your comparison is unfortunate because the headline Deiseach linked was hilarious. It’d be like a headline “Famous tourist attraction the white house, also address of U.S. President”. And it has an analogy to Mecca in the title for a double whammy of hilarity.

          The Breitbart article is just dumb.

        • Deiseach says:

          It was only reading down this thread that I saw my name mentioned.

          HeelBearCub, please accept this lovely Spring bouquet of (imaginary Internet) blossoms 🙂

          Others, I don’t mind. Thank you for intervening, but while I did notice the deliberate resemblance, I didn’t think it was meant to be mockery. I’m very sorry if HeelBearCub took it that my original comment was meant to be “Boo, outgroup!” or something of that nature; it was genuinely intended to be a “well I suppose that’s one way to describe it” moment of forehead-smacking, not anything pushing conspiracy theories or more mean-spirited than “this is a real ‘Natural disaster abroad, no Britons injured’ level of reporting”.

          As to the whole “Easter worshippers” thing, I thought the phrasing was clunky, it would have been more natural to say “Christians” in this context, but the attacks weren’t just on churches but on hotels as well and it’s plain this was a very politically-motivated and anti-Western act by a small group. While I do think it’s telling that Clinton etc. all used the same phrasing, I don’t think it’s anything more sinister than “excessive caution”. The reaction to it by right-wing sources in America probably has to do with history with the Obama administration and the perceived reluctance of the State Department to get involved in helping admit Christian refugees and asylum seekers who were victims of sectarian violence in majority non-Christian countries (because of a perceived narrative of “Christians can never be persecuted” along the lines of “you can’t be racist against white people because of their privilege”), as contrasted with a perceived eagerness to be publicly in favour of explicitly supporting Muslims as Muslims and sensitive to any appearance of them being persecuted.

          Here, have this free “Good grief, Charlie Brown!” thrown in for nothing 😀

      • Clutzy says:

        I’m more interested in the weirdness aspect of it. Regardless of its accuracy/inaccuracy and the breaking down if it is an efficient turn of phrase better for staying under character limits, its an incredibly weird and unorthodox one. I want to know if Obama (or Hillary which went first) thought of the phrase, or if it was some galaxy-brain intern. Whoever it is their mind needs to be studied.

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      As a Blue Triber myself I’m pretty sure I can feel myself flinch from writing a phrase like “Christians attacked”. Unconscious bias is real, and not only in the places the left likes to talk about. Breitbart found a little piece of it.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      I think it’s in the lane of “Obama/Dems won’t say ‘Islamic terrorism.'” For instance, consider Hillary’s reaction to the Christchurch attack on mosque worshipers:

      My heart breaks for New Zealand & the global Muslim community. We must continue to fight the perpetuation and normalization of Islamophobia and racism in all its forms. White supremacist terrorists must be condemned by leaders everywhere. Their murderous hatred must be stopped.

      Could you see her saying:

      My heart breaks for Sri Lanka & the global Christian community. We must continue to fight the perpetuation and normalization of violent jihad in all its forms. Islamic terrorists must be condemned by leaders everywhere. Their murderous hatred must be stopped.

      She’s capable of strongly identifying the good guys and bad guys in the attack on Muslims by a white supremacist but not when it’s an attack on Christians by extremist Muslims.

      • Civilis says:

        Despite being on the right, I find concerns about the use of the phrase ‘Easter worshipers’ to be overblown. It comes across as people looking for evidence that the political and cultural elites are downplaying the effects of anti-Western sentiment in the Islamic world and seeing something that can be interpreted that way whether or not it’s actually motivated by that sentiment.

        Still, there’s a larger point to be made, illustrated here: a certain section of Western political and cultural elites act far more concerned with Western anti-Islamic sentiment (Islamophobia) than with anti-Western sentiment in the Islamic world. I don’t know if it’s worse that this might be due entirely to political expediency, or that this might be entirely rational.

        The problem is that the response by the Western cultural elites seems to make the problem significantly worse. Playing up Western anti-Islamic sentiments makes Islamic anti-Westerners feel justified in attacking Western culture as a whole, while downplaying the real effects of anti-Western sentiment in the Islamic world has only convinced many in the West that the elites are their enemies.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I find concerns about the use of the phrase ‘Easter worshipers’ to be overblown.

          I think it’s about appropriatelyblown. Nobody’s saying this proves Hillary is a secret Muslim spy. But it does add to my suspicions that, yes, elites like Hillary are more concerned with Muslims than with westerners or Christians.

          Basically if you said, “here are two statements by Hillary Clinton, one about a terrorist attack committed by Islamists one about an attack committed by white supremacists, which is which:”

          [Attacker’s ideology] must be condemned by leaders everywhere. Their murderous hatred must be stopped.

          we must stand united against hatred and violence. I’m praying for everyone affected by today’s horrific attacks

          I don’t think many people would have trouble picking out which statement goes with which set of perpetrators and victims. When the victims are the people she prefers she has no trouble calling for condemnation of the specific, named ideology and calling for the suppression/elimination of the people who adhere to it. When it’s the victims she can’t be assed about, it’s platitudes about generic, nebulous “hatred” and “violence.”

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            I think it’s about appropriatelyblown. Nobody’s saying this proves Hillary is a secret Muslim spy. But it does add to my suspicions that, yes, elites like Hillary are more concerned with Muslims than with westerners or Christians.

            Agreed. This is why I never vote for people like her.

        • dndnrsn says:

          @Civilis

          Is Islamist terrorists in Sri Lanka murdering Sri Lankan Christians “anti-Western” sentiment? Is Christianity inherently a “Western” religion?

          I think part of the issue is that Western Christians and those “culturally Christian” – which includes Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama – tend to have the West as their benchmark. So they don’t see the parts of the world where Christianity is a minority religion as vividly as the places where Islam is. I’m pretty sure that, by numbers of dead, Christianity is the world’s most persecuted religion, and has been for some time. But Clinton and Obama are in a part of the world where anti-Muslim sentiment by Christians is more of an issue than the other way around.

          I don’t think it helps to view Christianity as a “Western” religion – and it’s funny that one finds this idea both on the right and the left. Christianity has been present in multiple cultural spheres for almost as long as it has existed.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Do you think the statements would have been any different if the international network attacks against Easter worshipers had happened in Australia or France?

          • Civilis says:

            Is Islamist terrorists in Sri Lanka murdering Sri Lankan Christians “anti-Western” sentiment? Is Christianity inherently a “Western” religion?

            I think there’s a real case to be made that there’s definitely a correlation between ‘Christianity’ and ‘the West’, especially when viewed from outside. Keep in mind that the attacks in Sri Lanka was specifically in response to the Christchurch attack conducted by a white/Western/European nationalist/supremicist (given the suppression of the attacker’s deliberatly confusing manifesto and the overlapping definitions, I’m not sure which is the most accurate characterization). Further, in addition to churches, hotels were targeted and are frequently targets in other terrorist attacks; while one can make a case that in some cases, most notably Egypt, the attackers are targeting the tourism industry, I’d say that in this case and in the hotel attacks in India and sub-Saharan Africa it’s more likely the attacks are targeting foreigners, mostly Western.

            Related to some of the other discussions in this OT, I think a lot of people do not comprehend how much Western Christians see non-Western Christians as part of their group, and this is something the “culturally Christian” don’t really understand. I can only speak as a Catholic, but I’ve attended a number of masses said by priests from Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa. The priests from sub-Saharan Africa have been very vocal about the persecution their communities face for their faith. As such, Western Christians are far more likely to identify with the Nigerian or Sri Lankan victims than the Christchurch victims.

            Clinton and Obama are in a part of the world where anti-Muslim sentiment by Christians is more of an issue than the other way around.

            And this is part of the problem. The Western elites have a lot in common with the elites of the Islamic world, both the business and government types of Islamic nations as well and the educated Islamic immigrants in their own countries. As such, anti-Islamic sentiment is an issue for them, as it affects their relations with the foreign elites. The vast majority of the public doesn’t have that connection with their own elites, much less the elites of foreign cultures. As such the public, whose votes keep the elite in power, get irritated when their elected representatives act in the interests of foreign elites the voters have nothing in common with as opposed to foreigners that they have identities in common with.

            In part, this is an entirely foreseeable side-effect of modern identity politics. Destroying ‘nation’ and ‘culture’ as socially unifying factors has pushed group identification back onto factors like religion. The Sri Lankan Islamic extremists see ‘Sri Lankan Catholics’ and ‘rich foreign tourists’ as part of the same foreign sociocultural group as the Christchurch shooter. Western Christians don’t see New Zealand Muslims as being as much a part of their sociocultural group as they see Sri Lankan Christians. And it’s perfectly rational that “culturally Christian” Westerners might not identify with Sri Lankan Christians the way devoutly Christian Westerners do.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            I think they might have been; I also think more attention would have been paid, because unfortunately, who is getting killed gets different attention based on who it is… I think that if there had been 321 killed in that way (they weren’t all Easter worshippers, right? Some were hotel attacks, I think) in France, it would be enormous news; had it happened in the US, it would blot everything else out.

            @Civilis

            I don’t think it’s that someone like Hillary Clinton has more in common with Islamic-world elites and wants to get along with them; I think it’s because to Americans, Islam is either an oppressed victim religion making up a little % of the US population, or a scary monolithic thing that’s somewhere else being threatening. Neither is correct – Islam is a major world religion, just as Christianity is; their history isn’t wildly different – both are proselytizing expansionist religions, both have experienced internal strife (I wonder if you could compare which is worse – Catholic vs Protestant or Sunni vs Shia?), both have suffered persecution when/where the minority, both have behaved oppressively when/where the majority.

            I think both Westerners who are positively inclined towards Islam (and are not Muslims themselves) and those who are negatively inclined, both regard it as a fargroup – not as something with nuance and history and weight to it.

          • Civilis says:

            I think both Westerners who are positively inclined towards Islam (and are not Muslims themselves) and those who are negatively inclined, both regard it as a fargroup – not as something with nuance and history and weight to it.

            This is true for Islam taken generically, not necessarily for individual Muslims. Likewise, it’s the same for Sri Lankans; Sri Lankans taken generically are members of a fargroup. Sri Lankan Catholics are regarded differently by other Catholics, especially when the primary reason they’re in the discussion is because they’re Catholics.

            Let’s switch the individual subject of the discussion from Hillary to Trump for a second. As far as the public is concerned, Trump’s hostility to Islam is well “known”, yet he has no problem bumping shoulders with the political and business elites of the Islamic world either. Remember the “Orb“? Trump has extensive business ventures in Dubai as well as properties in Turkey and Indonesia. Taken separately, ‘Muslim’ is a fargroup for Trump, but ‘business partner’ or ‘investor’ (or ‘billionaire’, for that matter) almost certainly overrides that status.

          • Aapje says:

            @dndnrsn

            their history isn’t wildly different

            Only if you squint your eyes and don’t put a lot of importance on the history they are currently making, which a lot of people do.

            Christianity is now in the West literally dying out at a decent pace and has very few true radicals (of the murder and anti-democracy kind). In places where it is spreading, it is a fairly innocent kind that doesn’t impact us much.

            Islam is becoming more radical in many places & the interaction with Western society includes a decent number of shootings and bombings.

            I think both Westerners who are positively inclined towards Islam (and are not Muslims themselves) and those who are negatively inclined, both regard it as a fargroup – not as something with nuance and history and weight to it.

            Downplaying actual differences is also treating them as a fargroup.

          • Clutzy says:

            The Christianity isn’t different than Islam meme has to die. It is rooted in such odd equivalencies. People do understand that the crusades followed Charles Martel’s defense of France and the Islamic occupation of Spain, right? They also followed hundreds of incursions into Greece/Italy from Islamic (mostly north african based) slavers. And about a half dozen attempts to overrun Constantinople. In modern times they would be considered a defensive war, just like Afghanistan is in the US and WWI/WWII in the UK.

          • People do understand that the crusades followed Charles Martel’s defense of France and the Islamic occupation of Spain, right?

            The Christians were there first, so expansion of Islam was largely into Christian (and Zoroastrian) territory. But Charlemagne’s conquest of the Saxons was just as much aggression on behalf of a religion, not a response to a previous Saxon conquest of Christian territory. And Charlemagne, unlike the Muslims, forced those he conquered to convert to his religion.

            The Muslim conquest of Iberia did not involve any attempt at forced conversion or expulsion of Christians and Jews. The reconquista did end up with forced conversion or expulsion of Muslims and Jews. There were religiously tolerant Christian conqueror and intolerant Muslim ones, but those were the exceptions.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Civilis

            Sure. Trump is probably more likely than the normal politician to have plutocrats as his ingroup. He also seems to like strongmen, etc.

            @Aapje

            “History” implies the past. Islam hasn’t seen some developments Christianity has, and is in a different place, but the impression I got back when I was a wee religious studies major, is that the two religions are not wildly different in content or character. Both are proselytizing, expansionistic religions.

            @Clutzy

            Both are expansionistic religions; Islam fighting wars against Christianity in an attempt to expand was doing exactly what expansionistic religions do. As David Friedman notes, there’s plenty of Christian expansionism, historically.

          • ana53294 says:

            Christianity (or at least Catholicism) did justify the conquest of America due to the lack of Christian faith of the Native Americans.

            Jesuits who converted people, just making it much harder to justify enslaving them and killing them, were not very welcome.

          • Aapje says:

            @dndnrsn

            Both are proselytizing, expansionistic religions.

            Sure, but Western Christians are a lot less proselytizing and expansionist than they were in the past. This in turn means that there is less reason for a general phobia of certain Christian branches (like Catholicism) or Christians in general.

            I think that one form of lack of nuance is that fears are often too easily dismissed as irrational, rather than derived from risks that are often no less serious than those that cause the dismisser to fear certain other groups.

          • Civilis says:

            Sure. Trump is probably more likely than the normal politician to have plutocrats as his ingroup. He also seems to like strongmen, etc.

            If you think this is any different for anyone else at the same level, I have a bridge to sell you. Even if they don’t have contacts at that level on assuming the presidency, being an ex-president comes with a set of perks, such as access to groups like the Davos World Economic Forum.

            Saudi Arabia, for example, was a key Clinton benefactor. The oil-producing giant has had a relationship with the Clintons dating back to Bill Clinton’s time as governor of Arkansas.

            In 1992, while running for president, then-Gov. Clinton secured a $3.5 million Saudi donation for a Middle East studies program at the University of Arkansas.

            A few weeks after Clinton was inaugurated president, the Saudis kicked in another $20 million. Both deals were brokered by a close Clinton friend, David Edwards.

            Overall, the Clinton Foundation has received staggering sums from Saudi benefactors — between $18 million and $50 million. (The foundation’s donations are reported in ranges, not specific numbers.)

            [From this article]

            I think what’s also important here is that the political and business elites of the Islamic world are, if anything, more divorced from their own public than ours are. That’s one of the specific complaints Bin Laden had against the Saudi monarchy, that they were too contaminated by outside influences.

            Aapje:

            Sure, but Western Christians are a lot less proselytizing and expansionist than they were in the past. This in turn means that there is less reason for a general phobia of certain Christian branches (like Catholicism) or Christians in general.

            One of the reasons I consider that those Western leaders more concerned about Western anti-Islamic sentiment may have a rational point is that Western religious expansionism was subsumed by nationalist expansionism centuries ago (and the religious part eventually vanished completely); while we can talk about expanding the reach of Catholicism to the heathens of North America, everyone knows that what was really at stake was the power of Spain vs its European rivals. The last major bouts of direct nationalist expansionism pretty much ended with a world war that took tens of millions of lives. Islamic religious expansionists are playing a very dangerous game in poking nations that have for the most part put aside militaries designed for the end of the era of nationalist expansion. The most dangerous of them isn’t Western, it’s China, and for all their bluster of defending Islam for attacks from outside, there’s a reason they get vengence for the victims of Christchurch and not the Uighurs.

          • DinoNerd says:

            @Clutzy

            You write

            The Christianity isn’t different than Islam meme has to die.

            Why? It’s self-evident that that no two things are exactly identical, and both are large complex phenomena. So no one’s really claiming identity here. And depending on context and background, the similarities may be much more salient than the differences. Or the differences may look more like temporary differences of degree, rather than remotely fundamental.

            I see two salient differences relevant to SSC posters/English speakers.

            1) There’s no Christian sect that I know of currently trying to conquer their neighbours, commit terrorist acts, or impose completely religious laws/courts as national policy
            2) Many posters here will have been raised Christian, or among Christians, or be Christian, or otherwise both consider Christians their in group and have more detailed knowledge of Christianity and its variations.

            Christians do currently force non-Christians to participate in religious activities, invoking the power of the government as well as social pressure etc. (Happens in the US, while being technically illegal.) There’s at least one country using government pressure to force non-monotheists to convert – they may become either Christian or Muslim, but nothing else is acceptable. Recent US history demonstrates a long series of attempts to enforce Christian family values legally. US Christians routinely coerce school systems to avoid teaching science where it contradicts their theology – even when that theology isn’t accepted by all Christian sects. And I know too many people disowned and shunned by their parents and the community they grew up in, due to being considered sinful. (Sure, being gay won’t get you executed in Christian countries. That’s not much comfort if you know a child who committed suicide.)

            In summary, plenty of people see only a difference in degree between Christian and Islamic attempts to force their religion and its values on outsiders, and many of them can see a broad range in Islamic as well as Christian behaviour in this area. Some Christians would impose their own equivalents to sharia if they could; the big difference is that those Christians currently have less power than the equivalent strain of Muslims. (There are fewer of them, the societies they are in are more skeptical, and they aren’t as concentrated.)

            Those of you who are Christians can insist all day long that you wouldn’t do such things, and in general I believe you. But you have some co-religionists I regard as dangerous. And there are many perfectly fine upstanding Muslims out there too – I remember, for example, the young lady I met in graduate school, who invited me to visit her mosque.

          • Clutzy says:

            Why? It’s self-evident that that no two things are exactly identical, and both are large complex phenomena. So no one’s really claiming identity here. And depending on context and background, the similarities may be much more salient than the differences. Or the differences may look more like temporary differences of degree, rather than remotely fundamental.

            Because the meme, in the majority, is invoked to justify (or at least equivocate about) Islamic violence in the current era. Its like justifying German terrorists bombing the French because of WWII.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Aapje:

            If you want to talk about certain extremist strains of modern Islam that are, to be granted, quite powerful right now? Sure, bad. I definitely agree with you there. Christianity right now, globally, is fairly chill by some time periods.

            However, I’m taking the long view. I’m no expert on this – but my understanding is that the dominant scary form of extremist Islam is a historical reaction, and a fairly recent one, to getting kicked around by the West for a while. If a religious movement hadn’t filled the niche of “why are these guys we used to go 50-50 with smashing us all of a sudden” – more broadly “why is this happening to us” – and prescribing a particularly radical or extreme solution, a political movement would have.

            If the sudden change where the Christian world had a growing dominance and power over the Muslim world had happened in the same time frame, I imagine a similar movement would have come about in the Christian world somewhere. We can’t say “this is a problem with Islam” unless we also take the view that, say, there’s some special difference why Germany behaved as it did 1933-45 that’s dependent on some element inherent to Germany. Which, admittedly, some people do, but I don’t think they get taken very seriously by the academics.

            @Civilis

            Sure, but why there’s a link is important too. “I rub shoulders with sketchy dictator guys, but it’s OK, because we both have considerable resources” does get you a different outcome, maybe, than “also they get to tell people what to do and they do it; how cool is that” does?

          • Aapje says:

            @dndnrsn

            The independence movements were largely communist and nationalist, not Islamic. The Islamists are mainly revolting against corruption, liberal behavior and their own independent governments. Of course the Islamists object to Western influence, which they see as too liberal, but I don’t think it is reasonable to (merely) see them as (belated) anti-colonialism.

            Even if it was, their strong rise makes it legitimate for those who oppose their values to worry, IMO.

          • Because the meme, in the majority, is invoked to justify (or at least equivocate about) Islamic violence in the current era.

            I don’t think so. I think it is mostly invoked to protect non-violent Muslims from being blamed for the actions of violent Muslims.

            The argument on one side is “Islam is an inherently violent religion–look at the following selected passages from its founding texts and the following description of its history. Hence even Muslims who are not known to be terrorists are inherently dangerous.”

            The counter argument is “Christianity can be shown to be an inherently violent religion by similar standards, so there is no reason to assume that Muslims in general are particularly dangerous.”

          • Doctor Mist says:

            DinoNerd:

            Christians do currently force non-Christians to participate in religious activities, invoking the power of the government as well as social pressure etc. (Happens in the US, while being technically illegal.)

            I’ll assume you actually have an example for the U.S.? In any case, few and far between.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            dndnrsn:

            Both are expansionistic religions; Islam fighting wars against Christianity in an attempt to expand was doing exactly what expansionistic religions do.

            If you sincerely believe you have an inside line to The Truth, and that people toward whom you have no a priori ill-will are going to suffer greatly if you do not convine them of The Truth, what else makes sense.

            The difference is that Christianity was, almost from the start, concerned with the individual’s relationship with God, while Islam was, almost from the start, also fundamentally interested in the Right Way to run a society. It was a political movement every bit as much as a religious movement, and will be incompatible with Western values as long as it is unable to tease those two apart.

          • albatross11 says:

            It seems likely that this fell out of the fact that for its first couple centuries, Christianity was a movement with very little political power and few powerful adherents. The problems of keeping an empire running smoothly or keeping your soldiers’ spears all pointed in the same direction was not one the early church spent a lot of time on. Also, at least according to the gospels, Jesus was pretty explicitly not interested in founding/heading up a political movement.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            albatross11-

            Yup. So Christianity went down the ratholes of “Is Christ God? Or just like God? Or of God? Are there three, or one, or somehow both at once?” while Islam’s first big challenge was literally “Who should be in charge after Mohammed?”

            My Whiggish side says this is why the West invented calculus. (“So, imagine something really really small. No, smaller than that. Arbitrarily small. Now suppose you combine a whole lot of them. No, really, more than that. Arbitrarily many.” It all came out of counting angels on pins.) And we are justly proud of the separation of church and state, but if Jesus’s armies had stormed Rome, it wouldn’t have happened here.

          • It all came out of counting angels on pins.

            The point of the question of how many angels could fit on the head of a pin was that an angel had location but not extension, so the answer was “an unlimited number.”

            Adding up zeros doesn’t give you calculus.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            All right, fair enough. I didn’t mean to be literal; the angels and pins were a perhaps ill-considered exemplar for the sort of deep thinking that the church fathers had to engage in to make sense of the paradoxes they were stuck with.

  20. DinoNerd says:

    I find myself thinking about the costs and benefits of pre-employment tests, particularly those done on the applicant’s own time, on top of the usual phone screen, interview etc. This comes out of a conversation in the last open thread about banning education (and perhaps credentials) as a means of judging between candidates, but goes in a slightly different direction.

    In all my time in software engineering, I’ve had such requests made of me twice. One was an aptitude/intelligence test, administered by the potential employer as part of their interview etc. cycle, when I was a new grad with a non-relevant degree. This didn’t strike me as especially notable.

    The other was a requirement to produce code on my own time as a test required by Amazon after phone interview(s?) and before proceeding to the next stage of their hiring process, which would have involved travelling to Seattle at their expense, even though the position itself was where I lived, not at their HQ. I can come up with all kinds of good reasons for Amazon to want to be sure I was serious, and minimally competent, before that stage. But this is very unusual, especialy with my level of experience, particularly since it was essentially a coding test, and coding skill is not my major value at this stage of my career.

    More interestingly, lots of people suggest such requirements are inherently abusive, as consuming too much of the candidate’s time etc. I’m now wondering whether what they really wanted to know was whether I had good enough boundaries to reject this request, whereupon I would be a bad prospect for the kind of generally abusive work environment Amazon is reputed to have, even among software engineers.

    In my case, I’d been laid off unexpectedly, and was interested in collecting Unemployment Insurance, which required me to report things I’d done each week in search of work, and there was a clear mismatch between the government bureaucrats’ expectations of what a job hunt looks like, and the realities of job hunting for a later career software engineer. I saw this as giving me something to put on the government’s what-I-did-this-week form, and I had plenty of time to do it, given that pavement pounding isn’t a useful strategy in that situation. I saw Amazon itself as a Safety U – not a place I’d ever *want* to work, or stay at longer than I absolutely had to, but a place to go if no other prospects panned out immediately, and money became tight. (I.e. I really wasn’t a good candidate for them :-()

    As it happened, one of my other leads came through with an offer before Amazon got around to inviting me to Seattle, so I turned down Amazon’s invitation. I was quite clear I’d rather work for the boss I’d worked for before, who’d turned out to have openings, than for a company with as bad a rep as Amazon.

    Now in retrospect I’m wondering if Amazon’s requirements and delays were not a result of bureaucratic inertia, but a perhaps unconscious filter for prospective employees who were either desperate, or poor judges of what behaviour is appropriate from potential employers.

    • johan_larson says:

      A company as prestigious as Amazon get vast numbers of applications, many from people who really really want to work there, and many from people who are completely clueless. This leads them to run an interview process that demands a lot of the applicants and verifies even very basic skills.

      Interviewing as a software engineer is a pain. I really wish I didn’t have to prove I can code yet again, after five different jobs and fifteen years in the industry.

      • Walter says:

        At my most recent job, I was sitting down for the interview.

        This is one of those jobs whose credentialling is impeccable. 5+ years with this software, 3+ with this, etc, etc. I have all those pat.

        I’m a senior software X, about to become principal architect Y at place Z. Interviews all day, manager, senior manager, executive, company founder.

        Finally, the code screening. 3 questions. Time to show off my…

        Question 1: What is polymorphism?

        Question 2: What is one difference between a thread and a process?

        Question 3: Did you have any questions for us?

      • Mark Atwood says:

        I work for Amazon, and I sit on those interview loops.

        First, our interviewing process is as hard on the interviewers as it is on the candidates. One of the pieces of friction in hiring is getting Amazonians to be willing to schedule the time and join the interview loops for the constant stream of people who pass the phone screens and the coding test.

        Second, over my career, I have interviewed and then either hired or not-hired and sometimes oh-hell-no-what-was-recruiting-thinking a very large number of software developers, senior software developers, and software architects. It is terrifying how many of them have impeccable resumes with long lists of claimed skills and accomplishments and who have acceptable home coding test examples, but can’t answer utterly basic software design questions or do basic remedial programming problems when asked to do them while I watch.

        (“What is one difference between a thread and a process?” is a question I’ve used myself on candidates, and seen people with 10 years of “experience” on their resume struggle with it and fail.)

        We (and by “we”, I mean the whole industry, not just my particular employer at this particular point in time) have to ask those “stupid questions”, because, well, we have to, and because it works.

        • DinoNerd says:

          What is one difference between a thread and a process?

          In what context? HPUX had the simplest distinction/contrast I’ve ever seen, except for having IIRC, 3 types of threads. Linux has the most complex distinction – and arguably doesn’t have anything you can point at and say unambiguously “this is a thread”.

          • Mark Atwood says:

            You will pass that question, just for that answer, because that shows more understanding then more than half the technical candidates I have ever interviewed. If I was interviewing you, I would then dig in deeper, and ask you for what was the difference on HPUX, the difference on Linux, and how the differences are different from each other. You will probably very quickly demonstrating deeper knowledge than your interviewer, and that is completely fine.

        • AG says:

          As a non-programmer, man I wish interview questions could be like that for my area of jobs. I could rabbit on about a technical question like that, easy.
          Instead, it’s all “tell me about a time when” social anxiety-provoking stuff that never has a nice clean answer, so you’re trying to provide context as to why your answer actually answers the question and hoping it doesn’t come off like bullshitting, because no one thinks about their past experiences in such a way, so they don’t present themselves as nicely as a technical answer to a technical question.

          In fact, I suspect that people who are more qualified might give less satisfactory answers, because what makes them better at dealing with the situations in situ is why it’s more difficult for them to articulate their answers to such wishy-washy questions.
          Bleh.

          • Mark Atwood says:

            I spent three months prepping for Amazon’s “tell me about a time when” interview style, and I guarantee my answers were not bullshit. Much of what makes it hard is digging in to see if the first answer is bullshit or not.

            Yes, it’s hard. It’s there to find out more things than “can you pass a leetcode?”.

            It’s even harder on the other side of the table, let me tell you. It gets harder for me each time I do it, as I self criticize how well I did each time around.

            I’m also taking it with me and adding to to my personal toolbox at such time as I work for a different company.

          • dick says:

            Instead, it’s all “tell me about a time when” social anxiety-provoking stuff that never has a nice clean answer, so you’re trying to provide context as to why your answer actually answers the question and hoping it doesn’t come off like bullshitting, because no one thinks about their past experiences in such a way, so they don’t present themselves as nicely as a technical answer to a technical question.

            As it happens, there is a nice clean solution to this! I do a lot of interviewing, and this is my default advice to new grads and people who find interviewing difficult or stressful (so much so that I may well have posted it here before and forgotten about it):

            Dick’s Secret To Cracking the Behavioral Interview

            1. Make a list of the five best or most impressive things you’ve done at work, the things which best demonstrate your value to a future employer.

            2. Write each of them as a story. They should be structurally similar to a story you’d tell at a party: about 2-3 minutes long, with a setup, a problem, and a solution.

            3. Practice telling them in the mirror or to a friend until it feels natural to rattle them off without effort.

            4. In the interview, when they ask for a time when you did X, pick whichever story comes closest to X and tell it. Possibly with slight alterations (no outright lying!) to make it better fit their question, though this is rarely necessary, since behavioral interview questions are so broad.

            I know this feels like cheating. It’s not! “But wait, they asked for a story about a time when I had a conflict with a coworker -I can’t tell a story about me leading a project that only tangentially involves conflict with a coworker, that would be lying!” That is misplaced scrupulosity, ignore it. It’s a job interview, you selling yourself is the whole point and everyone there knows it. It’s not their fault they don’t know which questions to ask. So help them out, and give them the information they need (what makes you valuable? why should we hire you?) regardless of what they ask.

            Hope that helps!

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Second to everything Dick said.
            It’s generally good practice to review your project and normal work once a quarter and identify any successes or major projects you did. It helps your manager out a lot around performance review, and also helps you create a resume/make stories like this.

            If you don’t, you’ll go through an entire year and ask yourself “uhhh….what exactly did I do this year?”

            Also, behavioral questions will be different between staff, senior staff, and management role. I’ll see if I can find my interview guides for different positions.

            The really important part is being ready with SPECIFICS and follow-up questions. One of the things that landed me my current role despite no industry experience is that I went into great deal on how to find variances in a prior job. Also explain-it-like-I’m-five explanations. Our factory exclusively uses analogies to making cakes in a kitchen.

        • johan_larson says:

          I understand why it is done. But I do wish there were a better way, particularly since these tests are focused on very basic skills. I wish I could prove basic coding fitness once and for all, so interviews could focus on determining whether I am a good fit for *this* job rather than every random coding job in the industry.

          You’d think this could be done, maybe with some sort of exams administered by a trusted third party. This seems like an idea obvious enough that someone must have tried it commercially. I guess they just couldn’t make it work. I wonder what part of the puzzle just wouldn’t fit.

          • Mark Atwood says:

            The problem is the exams get corrupted fast. The incentives for would-be exam corporations are out of alignment with the problem.

            Maybe if the ACM designed and proctored the exams, it would be a thing, but the ACM is currently too deeply captured by the University Industrial Complex.

            (I have the ACM on my mind at the moment, because I just had coffee at the Spheres with a potential candidate and his boyfriend, and told me how he and his college classmates realized that their BS CS curriculum was complete garbage, and that only valuable thing their university was providing was each other’s presence and then the final credential, so they ran their own student-run night-and-weekend classes under the umbrella of their school’s ACM student club.)

          • johan_larson says:

            Sure. If the exam company was answerable to the test takers, they would be tempted to water down the exams. Answerable to investors, their goal would be to make money, so the same is very likely to happen. That leaves some sort of principled independence as a foundation rich enough not to need money, or maybe the employers. If a consortium of major employers were inclined to set up exams like this, they could do it. And it would be in their interest to keep up standards, since they would be using it to make hiring decisions.

            What would the employers be getting out of it? A cheaper hiring process. Given the rejection rates the major companies are running in their processes, and the fact that they use actual engineers to administer the interviews, it must be costing them plenty for each junior hire.

          • Mark Atwood says:

            The hypothetical exam foundation would be sued into closure for because of “disparate impact”. Or it would be infected, converged, poisoned, and then have it’s flayed skin worn by “social justice”. Or it would turn into a guild.

            Or worse, some combination of all three.

          • ana53294 says:

            The exam foundation would need to be something like a guild. A body whose interest is to limit the number of job seekers, while establishing a level of quality.

            Something like the bar exam, or the medical exam, but without the degree requirements.

          • Mark Atwood says:

            something like a guild … whose interest is to limit the number of job seekers

            That is a “cure” orders of magnitude worse than all the disease it’s trying to treat, combined.

            Having the knack and the skills are entirely sufficiently limiting in themselves. The last thing we need is a yet another example of Public Choice Theory fucking it up.

          • johan_larson says:

            The hypothetical exam foundation would be sued into closure for because of “disparate impact”.

            I’m not sure that’s true. The ETS and ACT organizations run large-scale testing programs. And the tests they administer feature perennialy disappointing performance by blacks. Yet ETS and ACT are able to keep doing what they do, and educational institutions are able to keep using their tests. Also, the employers this hypothetical foundation would be service, tech companies, are well known for hiring disproportionately small numbers of blacks going back decades, but no one has forced them to stop. So I’m not sure legal peril would be the greatest threat to this sort of testing organization.

            It I had to guess, the greatest threat would be skepticism on the part of employers. Tech companies seem to sincerely believe that getting the right people is important, and they have found a way to do so that is working. Working at great cost mind you, but working. Selling a novel staffing solution that might possibly lower the quality of new hires would be an uphill battle even if you could point to lower hiring costs.

          • albatross11 says:

            You mean like the College Board? Or the folks who do the various computer/sysadmin certifications?

          • Clutzy says:

            To be honest, I don’t understand why firms don’t just try to get people to do something freelance as an extended interview.

            Like, if I had a law firm, why not pay my top 3 candidates 1k for some work product? If I like it, your hired, if I don’t you made 1k confidentially for 4-8 hours of work.

          • johan_larson says:

            Like, if I had a law firm, why not pay my top 3 candidates 1k for some work product?

            The agreement I signed when starting my current job specifies that i am not allowed to take on outside employment without permission from my current employer. These sorts of clauses seem to be pretty common in this industry.

            I don’t think rules like this are aimed at making hiring more difficult. I think they are more about making sure you focus on your job, and not some side hustle thing. But it does make it somewhat risky to do what you are suggesting. But I suppose it would work fine if the people you are trying to hire are not currently working.

            Some employers do give out small take-home programming projects are part of the screening process. But they are not done for pay, and are done only for assessment purposes.

          • acymetric says:

            @johan_larson

            I’m sure it varies by country (and in the US, even by State), but I wonder how enforceable that clause is?

          • Clutzy says:

            I was mostly thinking about kids coming out of college/law school or leaving entry level positions (or not related, like hiring a person with a BA in Econ who has been working in a sales position for a while).

            But even in actual law practice the poaching tactics are so shady, this would be like 1/10th that level.

    • Nornagest says:

      I’ve gone through the coding exercise you describe, and I didn’t see it as a big deal. It’s done after the exploratory phone interview and in lieu of the usual technical phone screen, so it’s not consuming so much more of the candidate’s time; it did take me an hour and a half or so (out of a limit of two hours), where the technical phone screen would probably have taken me forty minutes to an hour, but that’s counterbalanced by me being able to do it whenever I want and not have to take time out during a workday.

      Of course, this might also have something to do with the fact that I usually do better work when someone gives me a problem and leaves me alone than when I have to talk my solution out in front of a whiteboard.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        It’s not a problem, but I can easily see it getting really crazy.

        Remember, now is the best possible time to be a software developer. If they make candidates do this right now, imagine what they would do if the job market were as bad as it is good today.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Remember, now is the best possible time to be a software developer. If they make candidates do this right now, imagine what they would do if the job market were as bad as it is good today.

          Having been through such periods, the interviews were generally easier (shorter, more “describe your experience” and maybe a few fairly easy coding questions that the particular interviewer liked) but hard to get and you were rather likely to never hear from the company again if you were interviewed. I think if the market turns sour, we won’t see the interviews change.

        • Mark Atwood says:

          Interviewing is easier, both for the employer and for the candidates, when the market isn’t as good.

          When it’s a buyers market, generally the only people applying for swdev jobs are people for whom swdev is their their “calling”, or is otherwise the skill they are best at, and they lack the skills that instead mainly involve being tall and having good hair.

          Right now, because it’s a sellers market, there are a constant stream of enthusiastic candidates with good “emotional skills” who are hoping for those sweet sweet 225K TC starting offers.

          Pity that they can’t code their way out of a paper bag with a copy of a leetcoding cheatsheet in their hand.

    • Jake says:

      As someone who has been on both sides of the software interviewing process, my favorite interview I’ve ever been in was one where I was sent a mockup of a small customer request for a system and asked to create requirements and psuedo-code for a system that would meet the customer request. I think they said don’t take longer than a few hours to work on it, but it was just a concrete test of your thought and design process. Yes, it took a bit of my time to complete, but that filters a bit on serious applicants only, and it still wasn’t more time than a full-day onsite interview would be. It also gave us something concrete to talk about in the interview, discussing why certain decisions were made, almost like an in-depth code review. I’m honestly surprised more companies don’t do interviews like that, since it seems to be a really effective way of seeing how someone will work.

    • dodrian says:

      When I interviewed a few months ago (for junior/mid software developement positions, all of them a good distance from where I lived), that was pretty common.

      For the positions I got far along in, the process was pretty much always:
      HR Screen (questions about the resume, compensation, etc, 15 mins)
      Phone Screen (simple technical questions like “what’s an abstract class” 15-30 min)
      Take-home challenge (1-4 hours, mostly open ended “build this simple app”, though one was a test of “bugfix and then extend this code”)
      Follow up phone interview (30min-1hr, talk about the challenge to make sure I actually did the work and knew what I was doing, culture fit questions).

      I got offers after that, only one company wanted to fly me out for an in person interview, but it sounded more like that was pretty much a culture-fit type interview and more trying to convince me to accept.

  21. DeWitt says:

    Why does doomsday thinking seem to be so popular among humans?

    It seems to have been a thing of all times and ages. It’s not even a religious matter; there are plenty atheists who get terribly scared of AGW or the fallout or other matters. I remember talking about some what-if scenarios with a friend in high school, but I’m not currently at all worried about the world ending anytime soon. Why is it so popular a strain of thought? Surely it’s no coincidence, and there’s a reason a fixed amount of humans seems to believe they live in the end times?

    • albatross11 says:

      I dunno. TEOTWAWKI scenarios are common in fiction, so there’s clearly some kind of appeal. Perhaps because they let us dispense with all the messy tradeoffs and suboptimal equilibria we’ve landed in right now, roll the world back to the year zero, and start over? Alternatively, maybe it’s just the joy of watching the world burn. How many times has Randal Munroe destroyed the world in his What If? comics, by now?

    • baconbits9 says:

      Humans ability to plan for the future is a serious factor in our success, and cultures that only planned well enough to live through 9 out of 10 or 99 out of 100 bad years were deleted from history. Anytime there was a major bottleneck the doomsday preppers of their time came out over represented on the other end.

    • John Schilling says:

      At least part of the answer is that survivable doomsday scenarios offer the survivors freedom from usual social and legal constraints, probably including the ability to gun down hordes of worthless scum without guilt or repercussion, and in some cases proof of their intellectual or moral superiority in having survived in the first place.

      I’ve always liked Niven’s “Inconstant Moon” for including none of that, and turning the end of the world into a simple love story instead.

    • Murphy says:

      it’s likely that we’re disproportionately descended from people who were a little extra prepared for disasters when they happened.

      Humans were knocked down to a few thousand surviving individuals couple of times. (it’s part of why organ donation and blood transfusion works at all in our species.)

      There may be occasional selection for the kind of person who considers “but what if that volcano erupts”, “but what if that river has a flash flood and kills most of the people in the town”, “but what if the crops fail”, especially if they take long term actions which mean they’re among the eventual survivors.

      If a tendency to play “what if” games mean you get to have living descendants while your neighbors did not… well there’s gong to be more people with a tendency to think about the “what if” scenarios.

      • baconbits9 says:

        It’s this and a step more. The time to prepare for the future is during good times, for some creatures this means excess consumption. Bears eat as much as they can during the lush seasons to prepare for the lean, but humans broke out of this cycle by being able to save for distant futures, not just the next few seasons. 10 good years in a row for a bear won’t leave a bear 10x better prepared for a horrible one, but for humans this can be true (and with investment it can now be 100x instead of 10x). I would guess that this has selected for a base level of paranoia in humans when things are going well, without that behaviors suited for one level of productivity would wipe you out when the shift came.

    • cassander says:

      Doomsday pretty much always seems to me to have a message of “we’re doomed because other people are bad”? Thinking other people suck is pretty universally popular. Doomsday thinking is just saying other people are so bad they’re going to destroy everything.

    • Viliam says:

      If the world ends tomorrow, it means I don’t have to clean my room today.

  22. Ventrue Capital says:

    I thought I posted this request months ago, but if I did, I can’t find it.

    I’m running a D&D campaign (actually using GURPS rules, but that’s not important).

    The most powerful nation on the planet is the Agorian Empire, which is what I describe as “anarcho-feudal” — basically anarcho-capitalist, but the judges in the privatized judicial system call themselves “nobles” and the private security firms call themselves mercenary bands, knights, or adventuring companies.

    A plurality, perhaps a majority, of the population are Christian, and consider necromancy and undead to be abominations which should be illegal.

    However, the pagan part of the population doesn’t have a problem with necromancy per se.

    Is it reasonable to assume that there would be one province where necromancy is practiced openly?

    And what would be the relations between those who want to prohibit necromancy and those who want to practice it? Obviously they would be similar to those between those in an anarcho-capitalist society who want to prohibit drug use and those who want to use drugs, as described in The Machinery of Freedom.

    What would the long-term outcome be? Is the status quo stable?

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      David will have a different opinion than I, I’m sure, but for my money, iff the Christians abhor necromancy enough that they refuse to do business with those who use necromantic labor on the same terms as with other Christians, there will probably eventually be a pogrom. Consider that the pro/anti drug sides don’t assume the other to be irredeemably evil in his work. Your model should probably be the historical treatment of Jews.

      • Ventrue Capital says:

        @Hoopyfreud

        To clarify, I assume there is one province or client state where necromancy, including necromantic labor, is legal, and it’s illegal in the rest of the Empire.

        Consider that the pro/anti drug sides don’t assume the other to be irredeemably evil in his work. Your model should probably be the historical treatment of Jews.

        One difference is that Jews in the Middle Ages didn’t have weapons, or hired mercenaries. Necromancers do.

        Another is that it’s more difficult to go on a crusade to somewhere across the continent, than it is to burn a ghetto in one’s own town.

        • John Schilling says:

          Jews in the Middle Ages had as many weapons and mercenaries as A: they could afford and B: they felt would be useful. And most of them were smart enough to figure that “getting ourselves killed fighting enemies that outnumber us fifty to one” was not very useful.

          Can the hypothetical necromancers raise Zombie Hordes that can defeat all the armies of Christendom? If so, that makes for a very different dynamic than suggested by the original question.

          • LHN says:

            There’s a decent argument that that’s a matter of cultural selection after spending late Antiquity getting ourselves killed fighting enemies that outnumber us fifty to one repeatedly over centuries, with Diaspora Rabbinic Judaism coming out of whoever either survived or avoided that.

            That said, minorities which spend a few centuries at such a disadvantage while maintaining practices that the majority oppose and periodically react with violence to aren’t that uncommon. Especially if they’re economically beneficial. (Banditry, say.) If it’s culturally ingrained or even just imputed unfairly by the majority, there’s also likely a certain “as well to be hanged for a sheep as for a lamb” motivation. (If I’m going to get hanged as a dirty necromancer the next time the crops fail even if I’m personally innocent, I might as well get the benefits of necromancy.)

            Getting a province out of that rather than a minority in the hills is another matter, but it may depend on the uses of necromancy. If it includes, e.g., the ability to animate lots of zombie spearmen, then even if the pagans are generally outnumbered, there may be places that it’s too costly to rout them out of at a given military tech level.

            Especially if there’s terrain that’s specifically to their advantage/disadvantage. Maybe there’s too much consecrated ground for them to be a threat near the cathedral city, but out in the Moorlands you’re working against the power of a thousand years of bog burials and your clerics are at serious minuses on their Turn Undead rolls.

          • Andrew Hunter says:

            I wonder if the proper model isn’t closer to Westphalia: both sides consider the other immoral, but a war of eradication would drain everyone dry (something something literal vampires!) And so an uneasy detente arises.

          • LHN says:

            Something like Westphalia probably means that there was a concerted effort at eradication that ended in costly failure. Which isn’t implausible– after the third time the invasion of Necromancia ended with having to put down the army of your own dead, letting them just use their dead might look a lot more appealing. Likewise after the wars of necromantic conquest wind up just producing XP for a bunch of high-level clerics with relics who undo years of painstaking spellwork with flashes of holy light.

            Assuming that military/magical technique is suited to creating reasonably defensible frontiers, maybe everyone takes a breath and reorients. (And then decides that the real thing to fight over is appropriate IP enforcement on magical scrolls.)

          • Ventrue Capital says:

            @John Schilling wrote:

            Can the hypothetical necromancers raise Zombie Hordes that can defeat all the armies of Christendom? If so, that makes for a very different dynamic than suggested by the original question.

            This is what we gamemasters call an “adventure hook.” (Actually it will be part of the historical background of the campaign: a series of crusades by the Church against necromancy, necromancers, and the undead, which crusades were spearheaded by paladins and clerics.)

            Thank you.

            @LHN wrote:

            Getting a province out of that rather than a minority in the hills is another matter, but it may depend on the uses of necromancy. If it includes, e.g., the ability to animate lots of zombie spearmen, then even if the pagans are generally outnumbered, there may be places that it’s too costly to rout them out of at a given military tech level.

            Especially if there’s terrain that’s specifically to their advantage/disadvantage. Maybe there’s too much consecrated ground for them to be a threat near the cathedral city, but out in the Moorlands you’re working against the power of a thousand years of bog burials and your clerics are at serious minuses on their Turn Undead rolls.

            Another adventure hook. Thank you, too.

            To clarify, the province where necromancy is practiced openly is filled with “death-aspected” mana a/k/a Black mana from Magic: the Gathering. Lots of swamps, graveyards, and unhallowed areas.

          • Ventrue Capital says:

            @LHN wrote:

            There’s a decent argument that that’s a matter of cultural selection after spending late Antiquity getting ourselves killed fighting enemies that outnumber us fifty to one repeatedly over centuries, with Diaspora Rabbinic Judaism coming out of whoever either survived or avoided that.

            Harry Turtledove wrote “Last Favor” about that.

            (BTW the Karg tribes of Terramar practice Judaism and consider themselves the Ten Lost Tribes.)

      • Ventrue Capital says:

        @Hoopyfreud wrote:

        Consider that the pro/anti drug sides don’t assume the other to be irredeemably evil in his work.

        I’m not sure that’s true. Remember The Machinery of Freedom was originally written in 1973. I remember anti-drug propaganda from back then (which convinced me at the time) that people who took LSD or heroin would go berserk and attack random innocent people. And don’t you think there are plenty of people who think homosexuals are *irredeemably evil* even today? (I wish I could have gone to Fred Phelps’ funeral with a sign: GOD HATES BIGOTS! But that’s me being intolerant of the outgroup, so it’s not particularly enlightened/Christian of me, is it. “Be angry, but do not sin.” Ephesians 4:26)

      • Ventrue Capital says:

        @Andrew Hunter wrote:

        I wonder if the proper model isn’t closer to Westphalia: both sides consider the other immoral, but a war of eradication would drain everyone dry (something something literal vampires!) And so an uneasy detente arises.

        Right, that’s one interpretation of the model I stole from The Machinery of Freedom came up with.

        Would you be interested in playing in my campaign?

        @LHN wrote:

        Something like Westphalia probably means that there was a concerted effort at eradication that ended in costly failure. Which isn’t implausible– after the third time the invasion of Necromancia ended with having to put down the army of your own dead, letting them just use their dead might look a lot more appealing. Likewise after the wars of necromantic conquest wind up just producing XP for a bunch of high-level clerics with relics who undo years of painstaking spellwork with flashes of holy light.

        Thank you for writing some of the details of my campaign’s history for me. (I hope you’re interested in playing as well!)

        @Pterry Pratchett (God rest his sweet soul!) wrote:

        “…and Brutha said to Simony, ‘Where there is darkness we will make a great light…’”

        “An axe isn’t a holy symbol, you stupid man.” “Oh. Then let’s make it one.”

        “Everywhere I look I see something holy.”

        @LHN wrote:

        Assuming that military/magical technique is suited to creating reasonably defensible frontiers, maybe everyone takes a breath and reorients. (And then decides that the real thing to fight over is appropriate IP enforcement on magical scrolls.)

        Are you familiar with the Dungeonomics blog at Critical-Hits.com?

        Especially this article, about spells as intellectual property?

        • LHN says:

          I wasn’t aware of that– thanks!

          (And thanks very much for the invitation, but I can’t add another game right now.)

          • Ventrue Capital says:

            You (and everyone else here) is welcome to join my game’s Discord server and play by posting, or just chat about gaming.

            I’ve been running my game over 40 years, off and on. I’m pretty bright and fairly clever and I’ve read a *lot* of sf. So there are very few people who can offer me worthwhile advice about GMing, either running the game or creating the world, and probably most of them are either here and/or on the SSC Discord server.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      This may be a dumb question, but have you thought about just lifting the Icelandic Commonwealth directly? Gothi, Thingmen and Lawspeakers already sound like they walked off the pages of a fantasy novel so it’s not really a stretch for D&D.

      Anyway, part of the secret sauce of anarcho-anything is not having laws determined by provincial boundaries. My guess would be that if the Christians hate necromancers and the undead enough to want to kill them and pagans don’t value them enough to vigorously defend them, they’ll have to practice secretly. It’s Nassim Taleb’s principle of “the most intolerant wins” with the twist that it’s the majority of the population and not a small minority.

      • Ventrue Capital says:

        @Nabil ad Dajjal, may his tribe increase, wrote:

        This may be a dumb question, but have you thought about just lifting the Icelandic Commonwealth directly? Gothi, Thingmen and Lawspeakers already sound like they walked off the pages of a fantasy novel so it’s not really a stretch for D&D.

        There are Gothi, Thingmen, and Lawspeakers by those very names in the Northlands on Terramar.

        However, for the main part of the campaign I’m trying for medieval/renaissance European culture.

        Anyway, part of the secret sauce of anarcho-anything is not having laws determined by provincial boundaries. My guess would be that if the Christians hate necromancers and the undead enough to want to kill them and pagans don’t value them enough to vigorously defend them, they’ll have to practice secretly. It’s Nassim Taleb’s principle of “the most intolerant wins” with the twist that it’s the majority of the population and not a small minority.

        True, and in “Is Anarcho-Capitalism Libertarian” (chapter 31 in The Machinery of Freedom) @David Friedman wrote:

        I predict that, if anarcho-capitalist institutions appeared in this country tomorrow, heroin would be legal in New York and illegal in most other places. Marijuana would be legal over most of the country.

        He has seven paragraphs of explanation leading up to this conclusion, and I basically followed his logic, I think.

        • Deiseach says:

          My curiosity is why are the pagans okay with necromancy? Even a society that is happy to communicate with the spirits or have the ghosts of the dead return on the Annual Feast of the Ancestors may not be too happy if instead of Grandpa being raised from the tomb in a dignified manner for the ancestral veneration, some necromancer has Grandpa shuffling around doing zombie labour.

          So who gets turned into zombie labour and how does that fit in with the culture? If the province is okay with “Cousin Laban died of the spotted fever so we had a warlock raise him up and now he slops out the pigs just fine”, other provinces (whether Christian or not) may not be so fine with it because “you can’t just enslave your own family, much less someone unrelated to you, and them being dead doesn’t change that”.

          • Nick says:

            It could be something metaphysical or theological—maybe the Christians think the raised bodies have retained their souls (hence enslavement is wrong) while the pagans think there isn’t a soul/it’s left the body (hence there’s nothing to enslave; it’s a true automaton).

          • Ventrue Capital says:

            @Nick wrote:

            It could be something metaphysical or theological—maybe the Christians think the raised bodies have retained their souls (hence enslavement is wrong)

            The Bible doesn’t really give any reason for opposing necromancy, but it’s d–n clear about it. Leviticus 19:31 and 20:6 and 20:27, Deuteronomy 18:10-12 and 26:14, I Samuel 28:7, I Chronicles 10:13, Isaiah 19:3, and Revelation 21:8.

            The closest there is to a reason seems to be in Isaiah 8:19 (should not a people consult their God? Should they consult the dead on behalf of the living?), I John 4:1 (test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world).

            (The Book of Om says that witches shall not be allowed to live, although this may be a mistranslation since it also says that they may be caught in traps of treacle. This has led some to believe the word may in fact be cockroaches. A theory has also been advanced suggesting that, in a later passage stating they bring lascivious dreams, the word might actually be translated as “boiled lobsters.”)

    • Ms. Morgendorffer says:

      I guess you could go with something like Shadowrun (I’m only familiar with the PC games) with city-states modeled as corporations. One of those state could use necromancy mainly for augur and cheap, low-maintenance slave labour. Other cities having trade agreements with the Necro-friendly to outsource some labour, the stuff being hush-hush as they don’t want their citizen to know that their food / stonework comes from necrolabour, and the necro-city trying to keep the scale of use of necromancy unknown to outsiders to protect the derived income ?
      So you’d have for necro side an old tradition of openly using resurected family members to do grunt work in the farm, with a taboo on using out-of-family corpses for that, the traditional side having disdain for those, the necro-state engaging in more industrial-scale use of necromancy while trying to keep the operation low-profile. Other cities would find them disgusting and evil, but unaware of the fact that a huge part of their materials / food supply is availble at that price due to necroslaves. That could lead to an unstable equilibrium prone to PCs being sent to do stuff for both sides.

      • Ventrue Capital says:

        @Ms. Morgendorffer wrote:

        I guess you could go with something like Shadowrun (I’m only familiar with the PC games) with city-states modeled as corporations.

        The Agorian Empire is a “manapunk” society, kind of a mirror image of Shadowrun: mohawks and magic, but no technology. A fantasy background with a cyberpunk ethos, with magic taking the place of technology, and street wizards tapping into the Spellweave (instead of the Net) in order to accomplish things. Mages aren’t just sages or merchants: they’re hard-edged, alert businessmen. They and their bodyguards have all the magical augmentations that money can buy: Dark Vision instead of IR eyes, and so on.

        So you’d have for necro side an old tradition of openly using resurected family members to do grunt work in the farm, with a taboo on using out-of-family corpses for that, the traditional side having disdain for those, the necro-state engaging in more industrial-scale use of necromancy while trying to keep the operation low-profile. Other cities would find them disgusting and evil, but unaware of the fact that a huge part of their materials / food supply is available at that price due to necroslaves.

        It’s easy for bigots to refuse to hire necromancers, and to refuse to patronize shops owned by necromancers, or which have undead or necromancers visible to the public. It’s a lot more difficult for them to boycott shops which sell goods that were mass-produced on an assembly line by mindless undead (unless there are labeling requirements). And it also hurts the boycotters in the pocketbook.

        That could lead to an unstable equilibrium prone to PCs being sent to do stuff for both sides.

        Another set of adventure hooks. Ka-ching Thank you!

    • John Schilling says:

      It seems very unlikely that the general public’s ideological commitment to anarcho-capitalism is going to override their sincere Christian (or any other religious) faith and their emotional revulsion to necromancy. So I’d expect the fate of necromantic pagans to be approximately that of actual pagans / non-Christians in historic Europe – if the missionaries can’t convert them, they’ll be slowly deprived of their lands from the most valuable/accessible to the least as Crusades and pogroms can be raised (historically, the Romuva held out in Lithuania until ~1400). Or forced into ghettos if they are deemed both useful and tolerable, so the answer will depend on how useful necromancy is, but ghettos give the intolerant majority a “we can kill them all if we need to” peace of mind that sovereign pagan states on their border don’t.

      If necromancy is very useful, the necromantic pagans may be the ruling class of the broader civilization, but they may still find it pragmatically useful to live in isolated enclaves or exclaves. There’s probably a narrow band of possibility in which they pretend to be subject to someone else’s sovereignty.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Also possible is the necromantic pagans keep their power level hidden until they can raise and control an enormous army of the dead, in which case they’re taking over.

        • Ventrue Capital says:

          From every graveyard pour the hordes to strike before the dawn,
          A thousand years of death’s carnage gathered ‘fore the morn.
          Their vengeance turned against mankind’s unsuspecting head,
          There’s no defense, there’s no escape, you cannot kill the dead!

      • LHN says:

        Though slowly is arguably key for an RPG background. You just have to set it early enough in the process that it still has centuries to run, and the ultimate outcome is outside the PCs’ time horizon. So “Norway” is Christian and “Iceland” is mixed and “Lithuania” is pagan, and what happens in a few centuries is Someone Else’s Problem.

        Or if the players are interested, perhaps can hinge on their actions. Historical European paganism was at a clear disadvantage long term against the Abrahamic religions. But there’s nothing stopping things from being different here. Maybe the pagans have a clear material and morale advantage (like access to necromancy, or the player characters’ recovery of powerful pagan artifacts that provide military advantage and inspire the fervor of the populace). Or if the game is less epic and more sociological, maybe they successfully evolve their belief system into something more durable against incursions. (Julian the Apostate may not have managed that, but India certainly did.)

        • Ventrue Capital says:

          @LHN wrote:

          Or if the players are interested, perhaps can hinge on their actions. Historical European paganism was at a clear disadvantage long term against the Abrahamic religions. But there’s nothing stopping things from being different here. Maybe the pagans have a clear material and morale advantage (like access to necromancy, or the player characters’ recovery of powerful pagan artifacts that provide military advantage and inspire the fervor of the populace). Or if the game is less epic and more sociological, maybe they successfully evolve their belief system into something more durable against incursions. (Julian the Apostate may not have managed that, but India certainly did.)

          The characters are very interested. There are four necromancers: one is a lich, the others are still-living: a journeywoman necromancer, her mentor a (NPC) master necromancer, and a Lovecraftian ghoul who is starting her apprenticeship. A fifth character is an undead knight.

        • Ventrue Capital says:

          @LHN wrote:

          Historical European paganism was at a clear disadvantage long term against the Abrahamic religions.

          Yes, and I have no idea why, so I’m assuming that it’s true on Terramar as well.

    • honoredb says:

      Are zombies a profitable slave labor force? If so, you have a few historical parallels, generally ending in the pagan slavers losing either a civil war or a culture war.

      • Ventrue Capital says:

        @honoredb wrote:

        Are zombies a profitable slave labor force?

        As far as I can see, they are, within limits. They’re basically unintelligent automata, physically inferior to humans (except for zombies’ strength), but they can be instructed to perform the same set of motions indefinitely, 24/7, without being paid or requiring any maintenance, except periodic inspections to make sure they haven’t fallen over, or lost any limbs, or turned at a slightly different angle.

        If so, you have a few historical parallels, generally ending in the pagan slavers losing either a civil war or a culture war.

        How do you figure that? Chattel slavery existed continuously in a majority of ancient, classical, and medieval European societies from roughly 3000 B.C. to after 1000 A.D., and for centuries after that in the Ottoman Empire, Africa, the colonial possessions of Spain and Portugal and Britain, and in the United States.

        I try hard to stay a Whig historiographer as I was in my youth (thanks to Asimov, Heinlein, and Robert Anton Wilson), but four thousand or five thousand years is a hellishly long time for the moral arc of the universe to bend towards justice.

    • etheric42 says:

      I think it also depends on what the nobles/judges feel compared to the population. If the Christian plurality sees necromancy as evil, but the nobles see peace as a higher value than piety, then you get a bunch of peasants who talk a mean game against the necromancers, but (usually) don’t do anything out of fear of being outlawed. A group may band together and raise their own noble+knights, but the other nobles may take retributive action the moment anyone crosses a line.

      I’d imagine an anarcho-fuedal society to have a fairly strong NAP in order to be stable in the face of strongmen over the decades/centuries.

      • Ventrue Capital says:

        @etheric42 wrote:

        I think it also depends on what the nobles/judges feel compared to the population.

        If the nobles feel something strongly different from the majority of their clients, maybe it’s time for their clients to swear fealty to some different nobles.

        @Bertholdt Brecht wrote:

        Wäre es da
        Nicht doch einfacher, die Regierung
        Löste das Volk auf und
        Wählte ein anderes?
        (Would it not be better
        for the government
        To dissolve the people
        And elect another?)

        @etheric42 said:

        I’d imagine an anarcho-feudal society to have a fairly strong NAP in order to be stable in the face of strongmen over the decades/centuries.

        Maybe, maybe not. That’s part of what’s discussed in “The Stability Problem” in The Machinery of Freedom.

        Per that chapter, one of the things that keeps the Agorian Empire relatively libertarian is the fact that there are well over 10,000 nobles, warriors, spellcasters, and assassins — in other words, people willing and able to do violence if called upon — rather than 10 or even 100.

        • etheric42 says:

          @Ventrue Capital

          Per that chapter, one of the things that keeps the Agorian Empire relatively libertarian is the fact that there are well over 10,000 nobles, warriors, spellcasters, and assassins — in other words, people willing and able to do violence if called upon — rather than 10 or even 100.

          Yes but without a strong NAP, a aggressive action would strongly reduce that pool of 10,000 professional violencers as each side pulled on their contracted allies, OR the aggressor would immediately face repercussions by a number of houses for being the first one to break the peace.

          If the former, the survivors of said fantasy world war would likely form institutions that resemble the latter, be too weak to stop a regime change, or face repercussions as their people get sick and tired of a draft / their fields being burned / trade being halted (repercussions such as emigration to a more peaceful lord). Meaning the world would either stop looking like it is today, or looking more like one with a stronger NAP.

          If the nobles feel something strongly different from the majority of their clients, maybe it’s time for their clients to swear fealty to some different nobles.

          There’s a range of tolerance. It’s doubtful the peasants (which I guess wouldn’t necessarily be peasants if there isn’t serfdom… so I guess “the people”) would be willing to change lords if there was any disagreement whatsoever. There’s transaction costs in changing lords (probably have to move to a different territory, may have to rebuild your reputation within a new pecking order, possible loss of social or familial contacts).

          If your lord is mostly on your side respective fire elemental taxes, free association of church sacrifices, strong security, and all your family and friends are loyal to this noble… maybe you let some necromancy tolerance slide. Now sure, you still speak out against it on festival day. And you’re sure your lord would never allow necromancy in his territory or to his people as registered in the Christian records and graveyards. But him not going to war on the neighboring province is just something you let uncomfortably slide. After all, war would be hard on the turnip business, and would invalidate the no-Christian-zombie treaty the people in your grandfather’s time worked so hard to establish.

          • Ventrue Capital says:

            @etheric42 wrote:

            without a strong NAP, a aggressive action would strongly reduce that pool of 10,000 professional violencers as each side pulled on their contracted allies, OR the aggressor would immediately face repercussions by a number of houses for being the first one to break the peace.

            If the former, the survivors of said fantasy world war would likely form institutions that resemble the latter, be too weak to stop a regime change, or face repercussions as their people get sick and tired of a draft / their fields being burned / trade being halted (repercussions such as emigration to a more peaceful lord). Meaning the world would either stop looking like it is today, or looking more like one with a stronger NAP.
            […]
            war would be hard on the turnip business, and would invalidate the no-Christian-zombie treaty the people in your grandfather’s time worked so hard to establish.

            Right! In “Police, Courts, and Laws — On the Market” and “The Stability Problem” in The Machinery of Freedom, David Friedman discusses this and gives a convincing (to me) explanation of why this will happen:

            Perhaps the best way to see why anarcho-capitalism would be so much more peaceful than our present system is by analogy. Consider our world as it would be if the cost of moving from one country to another were zero. Everyone lives in a housetrailer and speaks the same language. One day, the resident of France announces that because of troubles with neighboring countries, new military taxes are being levied and conscription will begin shortly. The next morning the president of France finds himself ruling a peaceful but empty landscape, the population having been reduced to himself, three generals, and twenty-seven war correspondents.
            We do not all live in housetrailers. But if we buy our protection from a private firm instead of from a government, we can buy it from a different firm as soon as we think we can get a better deal. We can change protectors without changing countries.

    • Plumber says:

      @Venture Capital,

      I’ve been trying to respond to a question of yours at the “Discord” thing but it’s not taking, so I’ll try here:
      @ John F. >

      “How is your character a fish out of water?”

      My character is a ‘fish out of water’ in such a way that his player (me) can plausibly not remember setting details.

      You know how most Americans can’t find other nations on a map?

      Like that.

      @John F >

      “And what do you mean by “isolated place”?”

      I’m getting the distinct impression that your asking for a back-story out of me! 

      I loath back stories, character concepts beyond “Has sword, wants loot” are a blight on gaming that should be destroyed! 

      But, okay fine, here’s a b.s.:
      “So, once upon a time a spell-caster came to the village of Dorfweitwegvonüberall, and made a grand entrance with his hat and robe with stars and moons, and his wand, and changing reality to fit his will.

      The Spell Caster, being bored decided to look for some action, or make some. In looking around he finally laid eyes on a young lady named Gertrudt. 

      It just so happens that a young lad of the village by the Hans also long had eyes for Gertrudt, and he didn’t like “Mr. High-and-mighty-magic-man” eyeing his girl (or rather the girl whom he’d like to be his girl).

      With Hans was his dog (puppy really) called Fritz.

      Now Fritz didn’t know why, but he could sense that the man in the robe leaning over the fence, talking to the large human women, was angering his boy Hans, and in an instant, Fritz’s little doggie mind made a split decision to bite the robed man.

      Ouch! What the…? Away you miserable cur!”

      …bellowed the spell-caster as he kicked at the little dog, and just when he raised his wand and started an incantation (as testified to by two village men of good reputation, “who saw the whole thing”)…BAM! 

      Hans, defending his dog went right behind the magic-user, and bashed in his skull with a shovel.

      Upon seeing the magician dead (and the size of his coinpurse), the good people of Dorfweitwegvonüberall declared that Hans had rid them of a great evil that had turned several of the regulars at villages tavern (called “The Tavern”) into toads the night before (they got better).

      Hans gloried in the new attention, everyone looked at him differently, especially Gertrudt (who now looked at him at all), and soon it was decided that there was a whole world full of Wizards, Warlocks, and Witches, that had to be met by a hero of Hans stature, and the world couldn’t wait, and he needed to go  right now!

      And so Hans, handed some rations, a bedroll, and an axe, set forth.”

      As to your threads purpose it looks to me that you’re spending far to much effort on “macro” details.

      A name for the fish monger in the village is a good thing, the name of the sea that the fish came from less so!

      Keep it simple “The Witch Woods”, “The Goblin Caves”, “The Tower of the Alchemist”, et cetera. 

      Also, don’t neglect hobo!

      Modern gaming is way too focused on murder saving the world and far too little on the quest for loot as motivation. 

      The Hobbit, The Jewels in the Forest, The Seven Samurai,  and The Tower of the Elephant have great adventure”hooks”, but The Lord of the Rings decidedly doesn’t.

      Now please make with a “Mysterious stranger who has a map to sell that you meet in a tavern“!

      • Nornagest says:

        My character is a ‘fish out of water’ in such a way that his player (me) can plausibly not remember setting details. You know how most Americans can’t find other nations on a map? Like that.

        An underappreciated bonus of having your character be one of epic fantasy’s traditional callow farmboys is that he doesn’t need to know any more about the setting than any other lazy teenage peasant would. Details of the War of Wrath between the Great Western Alliance and the Dark Lord of Urglblurgl? Man, my character doesn’t even know who owns the farm five miles down the road.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          +1
          It’s just the best character type for introducing the setting through.

          • Plumber says:

            @Le Maistre Chat,

            Amen!

            Settings are best explored in play!

            A start like:
            “A shadow passes over you, as you look up you see a Dragon passing overhead”,

            “What do you do?

            That’s about all you need.

            No lengthy setting history essays.

            No big lists of nationalities and social classes 

            PC’s are ignorant/isolated farm kids ala Luke Skywalker/Percival newly arrived from the land of Generica (part of the Nondescriptian Empire),  in an unfamiluar land were they somehow understand the language (except when they don’t!), and have them learn about the world through NPC’s. 

            If there’s backstory, unless it’s a map, journal etc.that a PC finds in play try to not give a handout!

            Oracles, street prophets, and witches will give voice to the setting history in character (hopefully).

            1)Make up or steal find a scene that looks like it will be fun/exciting.
            2) Listen to what the players say.
            3) Have them roll some dice for suspense.
            4) Tell the players what changed in the scene. 
            5) Repeat

            “Your at the entrance of the Tomb of Blaarg what do you do?” If they’re real contrary “Your inside the Tomb of Blaarg, what do you do?”, or “You’re trapped deep inside the Tomb of Blaarg”  etc. Just quickly narrate to the part where the actual adventure begins. They can role-play how they turned tail and ran back to the tavern.

            For a crash course in bad DM/player interaction see DM of the Rings
            While much of the fun of DM’ing is in making a world (the other part is witnessing the PC’s shenanigans), try to keep world building bare bones. It’s usually more fun to imagine up than to play. When the players start to get jaded, then maybe introduce “exotic”, “innovative”, and “weird” elements, but usually at first freaky “Alice in Wonderland on LSD” “adventures” are less fun!

            One of the most successful (i.e. my players liked it) “campaigns” that I DM’d/Keeper’d (I reused the same setup for both Call of Cthullu and Dungeons & Dragons) was a mashup of the plot set-ups of “Conan the Destroyer” and “Young Sherlock Holmes” (cultist, Elder gods, yadda, yadda, yadda), I didn’t map anything out on paper before hand at all! I just imagined “scenes”, described them to my players, and had them roll dice to see if they did whatever they were trying to do, then on to the next scene! 
            As a player I prefer Swords and Sorcery settings, but I can remember some particularly fun sessions of Shadowrun that had no fantasy elements at all. The trick was that a very good gamemaster amped up the roll-playing aspects, and downplayed the role-playing aspects, with lots of action and suspense, resolved by many dice rolls (a chase were you roll at each corner or notable landmark lends itself well with this approach).

            Other times that I’ve had a lot of fun involved lots of described magical elements and dialog, and almost no dice rolls at all. 

            As a player, sure some guidance on what sorts of PC’s will fit the game would be nice, but if the answer starts with: “10,000 years ago a great meeting was held on the continent of….” just nope! 

            Small details help build characters more than big grand “5,000 years ago the armies of Argle-Bargle invaded the lands of Generica” details.

          • Nornagest says:

            I know I talked it up just upthread, but this is getting a little too prescriptive for me. It’s absolutely possible to start your PCs out as illiterate hicks and introduce setting details to the players as they become apparent to the characters. It can even be a pretty compelling approach in some circumstances, especially if you’re introducing a new system or the whole concept of roleplaying to a group or to certain players in it. It’s cliche in lit and in computer games for a reason.

            But it’s not the only way to do it, and, depending on the kind of game you want to play, it can even be a pretty bad one. It basically rules out introducing political gameplay early, for example, and it puts some pretty sharp constraints on characters’ motivations: no knowledge past your village means no attachments past it.

            (As to Shadowrun, the whole orcs-in-Neuromancer schtick always fell flat for me. I’d rather just be playing a straight cyberpunk game.)

          • etheric42 says:

            @Nornagest

            I love Hillfolk and Diaspora’s creation system to get people into a political drama quickly. Heck, Hillfolk’s character creation has been some of the most fun I’ve had in RPGs both times we did it.

            I also am a fan of novels that start in media res, so there’s that. And the games I’ve played run/played by people who were setting wonks were some of the worst games.

            My 4e conquistadors/BSG game had a great start. “As leaders of the expedition to the new world scheduled to set out in the morning, Empress Isabella calls you into her grand throneroom along with your attendants and staff. The room quiets as she ascends the dias, her frail form helped by the lord protector. She smiles wanly at you and says a few quiet words that are mostly swallowed by the room. “Thank you… supplies spain desperately needs… a way to escape the demons…” then you hear the iron clank of the doors to the room being shut and barred. Cloths are pulled back revealing supply crates that you had just spent the past week reviewing and approving. A look into a distant alcove reveals even your horses have been brought into the throneroom. Then the lights go out. Then the empress begins chanting. In your next breath you inhale salty seawater. After a brief struggle to orient yourself you realize it is now daytime. You are a few dozen yards off the coast of some tropical destination. Your crew, your livestock, and crucially, your supplies, lie in disarray on shore and in the surf. There is chaos. People are drowning. Supplies are being swept away. What do you do?”

            Proceed to mini-game where actions are dictated, dice are rolled, hard choices are made, and we establish how many survivors and equipment the colony/expedition starts with.

          • Nornagest says:

            I’m not arguing for handing your players a 200-page setting bible at the beginning of each game — that’s a terrible idea, because they won’t read it and if they do they’ll hate you for it. I’m arguing that there are other ways not to do that.

            Haven’t played Hillfolk or Diaspora, but I might check them out now.

          • etheric42 says:

            @Nornagest

            I’m not a huge fan of FATE, so I’m at odds with some bits of Diaspora, but I’ve stolen the “sector creation” part of it and reused it in a variety of other games.

            @Plumber

            DM of the Rings! Shamus Young is the Scott Alexander of the video game world.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Nornagest:

            I know I talked it up just upthread, but this is getting a little too prescriptive for me. It’s absolutely possible to start your PCs out as illiterate hicks and introduce setting details to the players as they become apparent to the characters. It can even be a pretty compelling approach in some circumstances,

            I think it’s a great approach for one PC. It doesn’t work for anyone who wants to be able to do politics right after chargen, and may kill suspension of disbelief for someone who’s learned magic. Forcing it on all PCs so I don’t have to write a setting handout… no.

          • Nornagest says:

            may kill suspension of disbelief for someone who’s learned magic.

            You could probably make a divine caster a Joan of Arc type, or take a page from anime and make them an attendant at a rural shrine. And sorcerers are easy, of course. Wizards are tough, though — woods witch or apprentice to a hedge wizard is an option, but if you want a more traditional wizard the closest equivalent would probably be to apprentice them to a strict master who’s not interested in politics and who rarely let them out of the tower.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Nornagest: Agreed, that sums up the options nicely (except I find 3-5E Sorcerers intolerable).

        • Plumber says:

          @Nornagest

          “An underappreciated bonus of having your character be one of epic fantasy’s traditional callow farmboys is that he doesn’t need to know any more about the setting than any other lazy teenage peasant would…”

          Damn straight!

          Preach it!

          • Ventrue Capital says:

            @Nornagest, @Le Maistre Chat, @etheric42:

            Put your money where your magic mouth is: Come play in my campaign! 😀

            (Okay, Le Maistre Chat gets a pass because they are running a game themselves. *Maybe* gets a pass.)

            [Note: the next two paragraphs are mostly plagiarized from the article “World Building and Old School Games,” modified for my campaign.]
            My campaign is a crazy, over-the-top, special snowflake of a setting. (I sometimes describe it as “Swords, Sorcery, & Saucers,” and sometimes as “an anarcho-capitalist version of China Mieville’s Bas-Lag stories.”)

            I do high-concept world building in a game that is focused (from the players’ points of view) on hex crawling, gritty dungeon crawling, and faction play, all with total freedom of player choice and emergent story telling.

            One thing I do is allow players extreme freedom of choice in creating characters, including the character’s background — including whether to have any background at all.

            I have one player who is running a woman of a lesser noble house who is basically a spoiled heiress, with the rest of the party being her bodyguards, servants, sycophants, etc. (The noblewoman also happens to be a sorceress with a lot of academic training and zero field experience, which leads to a lot of humorous — to me — incidents involving friendly fire.)

            I have another player who is running a graduate student from the Galactic Empire that is doing field work on Terramar.

            I have another player who is running a murder hobo.

            I do other things, all of which are listed in the article on “World Building and Old School Games.”

            1. I try to start the players with something familiar: something close to a dungeon crawl, in close to a Standard Fantasy Setting.

            2. I give out setting information only as it comes up in-character and/or in-play. (The exception is the handout page; if a player doesn’t know that, I expect they will make a lot of errors that I need to correct by saying “No, in my game there is not a feud between elves and dwarves,” or “No, on Terramar orcs generally live peacefully with their neighbors,” and then we have to rewind time because the player’s character has been doing things which make no sense in that context.)

            3. I reserve the detailed infodumps, like comprehensive lists of races, or languages and language families, or discussions of religions on Terramar, for posts on the campaign wiki at terramar.obsidianportal.com.

          • etheric42 says:

            @Ventrue Capital

            Tempting. I’ve been meaning to do market research on OSR games and I personally have never participated in a hex crawl which fascinates me conceptually. I really want to incorporate something similar (and radically different) in the system I’m developing. But my schedule is currently quite full with two legacy boardgames and an online Divinity 2 group.

            I also get frustrated with being a PC in games that don’t grant PCs some control over the worldbuilding. Which is why I’m usually the local GM. Because that means I’ll usually select games with shared worldbuilding or even if we play 100% GM-created games… well I’m the one doing the creation.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Ventrue: Besides DMing, I’m already playing in a face-to-face D&D 5E game and dealing with a 6-month-old puppy who got spayed yesterday. That’s gotta be the worst time to try to learn GURPS.

          • Ventrue Capital says:

            @etheric42 wrote:

            But my schedule is currently quite full with two legacy boardgames and an online Divinity 2 group.

            What about play-by-posting, which can be done at your convenience? Or simply joining my campaign’s Discord server and chatting about gaming?

            @Le Maistre Chat wrote:

            Besides DMing, I’m already playing in a face-to-face D&D 5E game and dealing with a 6-month-old puppy who got spayed yesterday. That’s gotta be the worst time to try to learn GURPS.

            As I said before, one doesn’t need to learn the rules to create a character nor to play the game.

            However, as I also said before, you (and only you) have a good reason for not joining my game.

            But what happened to the “Soothsayers & Scoundrels” Discord server?

            @Nornagest wrote:

            I’m not arguing for handing your players a 200-page setting bible at the beginning of each game — that’s a terrible idea, because they won’t read it and if they do they’ll hate you for it. I’m arguing that there are other ways not to do that.

            I agree with the “No Homework Manifesto”, “No Homework for the Last-Minute Player” and “Avoiding Homework with Limited Handouts.”

            That’s why I came up with the single-page handout for my campaign.

      • Ventrue Capital says:

        @Plumber wrote:

        @Venture Capital,

        Who is *Venture* Capital? I’m *Ventrue* Capital. Totally different guy.

        @ John F. >

        Another totally different guy!

        My character is a ‘fish out of water’ in such a way that his player (me) can plausibly not remember setting details.

        I agree with the “No Homework Manifesto” at “No Homework” and “No Homework for the Last-Minute Player” and “Avoiding Homework with Limited Handouts.”

        That’s why my campaign is set up so players don’t have to learn or remember setting details.

        The only exception is the stuff I list as “things that everyone on Terramar would know, even if they just arrived from Earth a few days ago,” which is basically “Stuff you would see with your own five senses:
        1. It’s hot and humid (compared to Earth; even if your character can’t make that comparison, you the player need to).
        2. The sun is big and orange, and there are two moons which are *really* big, plus a ring around the planet.
        (The following presume you have interacted with people on Terramar, either because you grew up there, or because you came from elsewhere but have spoken with natives.)
        3. The technological level is pre-industrial (even if your character doesn’t know to call it that).
        4. There are (supposed to be) nonhuman races, and monsters, although you might not have seen any, nor know any details about them.
        5. People believe in magic, although you might not have seen any, nor know anything specific about it.

        I’m getting the distinct impression that your asking for a back-story out of me!

        No, I want to know if your character is from a remote village, or grew up in the woods, or is from a small island (like @dndsrn’s character), or is from off-planet from elsewhere in the Galactic Empire (which is neither galactic, nor an empire), or is from contemporary Earth, or is from a different fantasy world (like the Forgotten Realms, or Middle-Earth, or whatever).

        Keep it simple “The Witch Woods”, “The Goblin Caves”, “The Tower of the Alchemist”, et cetera.

        I already have all of those in my campaign, plus the Ironwood, the Crystal Caverns, Dwarrowheim, and the Tower of the Necromancer, which is in the middle of the West Marshes.
        Fantasy World Map
        Map of Clichea
        Generica – The Realm of Fairly Limited Imagination, showing major Trade Routes

        Now please make with a “Mysterious stranger who has a map to sell that you meet in a tavern“!

        That would be the Spotted Frog tavern, in Frogtown, on the edge of the marshes. Or not. (Most of the active player-characters are in the hiring hall of the Adventurers’ Guild in a large city a few hundred kilometers away, having a remote conversation with a wizard, via scrying crystal.)

        There’s a meter-tall humanoid lizard (with brown scales) trying to sell a “Tweasoo Mapp to Dwagonz Tweasa” to any bwave adventoowa who is interested.

        Also the tavernkeeper is trying to get people to go down and clear the basement out of vermin.

    • Nornagest says:

      The most powerful nation on the planet is the Agorian Empire, which is what I describe as “anarcho-feudal” — basically anarcho-capitalist, but the judges in the privatized judicial system call themselves “nobles” and the private security firms call themselves mercenary bands, knights, or adventuring companies.

      That’s basically just feudalism. A lot of people think of feudal societies as places with a lot of central authority, and that’s kinda true on the village scale, but almost the opposite is true on the macro level — you can only get a feudal society in situations where well-equipped people can locally establish a monopoly on violence, but projecting power is very difficult, and so you need to rely on oaths, cultural norms, and quid-pro-quo arrangements to enforce any relationships between parties that need to persist past a sword’s length. This is very close to an anarchy.

      • Ventrue Capital says:

        @Nornagest wrote:

        That’s basically just feudalism.

        I’m not sure I agree. To me, one of the defining characteristics of feudalism is the existence of serfdom. No one in the Agorian Empire is a serf (unless you count people in debt-bondage).

        To clarify, sometimes I define “anarcho-feudalism” as “feudalism in which every peasant is free to choose their own lord.” (That soon leads to every peasant being free to own their own land, and choose their own occupation.)

        But if you want count the system as feudalism even if it doesn’t have serfdom, then I won’t argue with you, as long as you clarify what the defining characteristics of feudalism are, to you.

        I suppose that makes sense, because Tsarist Russia wasn’t feudal, at least after Peter the Great, even though it had serfdom.

        Anyway, would you like to play in my campaign?

        • Nornagest says:

          The basic unit of social relationships in feudalism as I see it is vassalage, which is at once an oath, a cultural norm, and a quid-pro-quo arrangement. Serfdom can be thought of as a special case, and an important one especially earlier in the European Middle Ages, but I’d still call a system feudal if the lowest-status tenants in it acted as freemen rather than serfs, as long as there was a similar network of vassalage relationships and a similar class-based division of responsibility.

          Your setting sounds cool, but I’m already playing in LMC’s Mycenaean Greece campaign and I only have time for one.

  23. BBA says:

    The other day I took a walking tour of downtown Los Angeles organized by the LA Conservancy, which I highly recommend for anyone who’s going to be in the area. A highlight was a ride on Angels Flight, a roughly 300-foot (90-meter) funicular that’s been rolling up and down Bunker Hill since 1901. I find it interesting how a funicular car is a mode of transportation, meant to move, and yet tied to its particular location – the car is slanted to match the slanted rail it runs on. It can’t run on a flat railway, or even one at a different slope, because then it would be askew. In fact, the railway can’t even be extended, say, to run down the other side of the hill, because the car isn’t suited for it… I don’t know if these ramblings make sense to anyone but me. Anyway.

    Angels Flight claims to be the world’s shortest railway. It’s certainly short, but is it the shortest? It’s complicated. Guinness has awarded the title of “world’s shortest funicular” to one in Bournemouth, England, which at 39 meters is less than half the length of Angels Flight. But Bournemouth calls its funiculars “lifts” (i.e., “elevators” in proper English). And if an inclined elevator counts as a railway there are even shorter ones, like this tiny one by the Millennium Bridge in London. I have a hard time calling that a railway, though I guess it is a car that runs on rails, so maybe it is.

    There is an important sense in which Angels Flight is a railway and those other shorter ones aren’t: financially. Angels Flight was an independent, profitable business for the first 6 decades of its existence, ending only when the entire area was condemned as part of the demolition urban renewal of Bunker Hill. Since then it’s been torn down and rebuilt and is currently run by a nonprofit foundation. Even under city ownership it was never merged into any larger organization, though it does take Metro TAP cards now. Furthermore, it’s regulated by the California Public Utilities Commission as a transit system, like the LA Metro, BART, etc. (Which, incidentally, the tour guide blamed for the rather dismal safety record of the rebuilt Angels Flight, because the regulators don’t know how a funicular works and they treat it like a railroad instead of an elevator… I don’t know nearly enough to have an opinion on this.)

    In any case: shortest railway or not, it sure is cool.

  24. Erusian says:

    UBI came up last thread, so I have a question:
    The Federal government currently spends about $7,500 per person on various forms of welfare, not including things like education, veteran’s benefits, regulatory programs, etc. So, for the UBI crowd: who would trade a Constitutional amendment guaranteeing every citizen an inflation/economic size adjusted $7,500 a year for a Constitutional amendment banning all forms of federal welfare?

    If no, is there a different amount of money you would do it for? Or some forms of welfare you feel absolutely need to be preserved?

    If yes, how do you deal with a fact you’re decreasing targeted subsidies to poorer areas/communities/groups and increasing them to relatively wealthier groups?

    • John Schilling says:

      I would rather target the UBI at $5000/person-year and hold back the remaining $2500 for dealing with the hard cases a UBI can’t help – and none of which will involve giving people money or fungible goods and services.

      But the current federal budget is (adjusted for inflation and economic size) unsustainable in the long run, will absolutely have to be diminished whether by choice or by collapse, and so a Constitutional amendment with a $7500/year (ditto) requirement would be basically an economic suicide pact. So no.

    • quanta413 says:

      It sounds strictly worse than the current system to me. UBI to anyone already paying more than the UBI is equivalent to an adjustment to their tax rates. People who do need welfare may need more than 7500 in value of welfare (for example someone has an expensive mental or physical ailment). A few people on welfare may not be trustworthy to not spend money stupidly and probably shouldn’t receive it in cash or cash equivalent forms. Deiseach posted a link to a sad story recently about someone getting a check from their health insurer to pay for a bill which they promptly spent on street drugs instead and overdosed. It was both sad and the sort of thing you can at least make a little harder by not cutting people big checks.

      I’d prefer not to lock in the current spending levels as a minimum forever and then also lock them in to be distributed ev