Friday, February 19, 2016

5 Things on a Friday: Heading to South Carolina

There’s a lot going on this week.  South Carolina chooses its Republican candidate tomorrow while Democrats choose theirs in Nevada.  Besides that, there’s more Daredevil coming and a bunch more movies for geeks.  
Check it out!

Visions, however, can take a while to unpack, and fully understand. So let me tick off three successive arguments. First is an argument of the party elite versus the party base. Second is an argument between Clinton’s market-based, individualist vision, which sits well with elites who overwhelmingly support her, and Sanders’ social democratic vision—universal healthcare, free public college, a minimum $15/hour living wage, etc.—which speaks to the base, women possibly even more than men. Third is an argument between two different conceptions of progress reflecting both those two different constituencies.

Clinton’s elite, individualistic worldview reflects the logic, values and organization of the liberal welfare state model found in English-speaking nations around the world, which primarily aims to remedy market imperfections with minimal interference to the basic market system. Sanders’ base, social democratic worldview reflects the socialist or social democratic welfare state model found in Nordic countries, which is grounded in humanistic values, providing livable social benefits for all, and treating the market as a means, not an end. We’ll return to discuss these worldviews further, below.
Fascinating article.  It’s a deep dive into the differences between the Sanders and Clinton campaigns, with the repeated point that it’s impossible to create fundamental change in a system when you’ve allowed yourself to become a true believer.  This is easier, of course, when the system benefits you.
I’ll be honest and say that I do not think Sanders has much of a chance of pulling off his social revolution--even if he somehow manages to win the election.  However, his is a voice that we need in our national politics, and his message is resonating because people can see its obvious truths.
More from the piece:
Structural money influence doesn’t require an individual to be corrupt, any more than structural racism requires an individual to be racist. In fact, it works even better because no one is consciously doing anything wrong. It’s part of how the system perpetuates and defends itself. But the victims suffer just the same.
Eh.  I’m not exactly trying to convince you here.  I just think that this is an interesting perspective.
I really like that headline.

I love that this trailer is part one of two.  These guys have got a terrific project going here.
Higher education’s critics tend to blame high prices on overpaid professors or fancy climbing walls. At public colleges, lobbyists tend to blame reductions in state support. But a new study places the blame elsewhere: the ready availability of federal student aid...

Over the last few decades, the amount of aid available to students has increased dramatically: Subsidized loans were expanded, while an unsubsidized loan program made its debut. But looking at the big picture, does that money always offset the costs to students?

The researchers say no. Instead, colleges increase tuition even more, because they know financial aid can cover the difference.
This is close, but it confuses cause and effect.  Tuition prices are high because demand is inelastic despite rising prices.  I have quite a few friends whose response to this would be, “Well, you just shouldn’t go to college if you can’t afford it,” but we all know that it’s virtually impossible to get a management-level job without a college degree.  Hell, you can’t get an office job in Manhattan without a Master’s.  This leaves college as a kind of economic gate-keeper, which then becomes a social enforcement mechanism if we keep out the kids who can’t afford to pay out-of-pocket.  
Granted, there are a few workarounds, but the Army’s not big enough to offer ROTC scholarships to everybody.  I would support more service-for-tuition-type programs, but no one has proposed expanding any.
Presented without comment.
A recent USA Today/Rock the Vote survey of millennials shows 80 percent of them support transitioning to “mostly clean” or renewable energy by 2030. Although their hearts may be in the right place, few millennials appear to realize how much energy their lifestyle actually consumes, where this energy comes from, and how much it would cost to transition to a nation that’s powered predominantly by renewables by 2030…
One environmental group estimates U.S. data centers in 2013 consumed an estimated 91 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity, the same as the annual output of 34 large (500-megawatt) coal-fired power plants, and estimates are these data centers will consume the equivalent of 50 coal-fired power plants by 2030.
It’s ironic the generation that will consume more energy in their lifetimes than any before them, one that uses energy-gobbling technology for virtually every aspect of their lives… can be so oblivious to how much energy they consume and where it comes from.
5. Get Stretchy @ Work (ActionJacquelyn)
My favorite yogi Action Jacquelyn published a mini-guide to practicing yoga at work earlier this week, and I’ve spent most of the week using it.  It totally works!  In the course of experimenting with it, I discovered that I really needed to spend more time stretching.  My upper back and shoulders have gotten super-tight due to my recent return to the gym.

Also worth noting: It astonishes me the way that some of these yoga folks can stand on their heads and wraps their legs around their necks.  In my own practice, I don’t typically think of yoga in terms of standing on my head, but clearly some folks do and Action Jacquelyn is one of them.
Batman Returns is still a favorite.
Today we all (right-thinking folks) hold up the second Batman movie as a near-masterpiece of comic book cinema. But back in 1992 it was pillared for its grim fairy tale mythology, grotesque violence, frank sexual content, and overly adult thematic elements. This was way before the normalization of the so-called R-13, so the film’s borderline R-rated content and pitch-black tone was a huge controversy that summer, especially in light of McDonalds including the film in their Happy Meal promotions. Despite earning $162 million in America and $266m worldwide (compared to $252m/$411m for Batman), it was considered a massive disappointment and we had a number of (hehehe…) “Can this franchise be saved?!” articles from Entertainment Weekly and the like. Three years later, we got the light, more kid-friendly, and altogether less challenging Batman Forever courtesy of a game Joel Schumacher.
There is a history of sequels allowing their directors to dive headfirst into their own id with mixed results. If Batman was 40% studio/60% director (as Burton has often claimed), then Batman Returns was pure unfiltered Tim Burton. And sadly audiences didn’t quite respond to that. Ditto the “we’re in a bad place right now” Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom from a post-divorce George Lucas and a “wanting to go dark” Steven Spielberg. And for that matter, ditto Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. The first film was a Michael Bay film with the guiding hand of executive producer Steven Spielberg, but the sequel was full-blown Bay. Obviously it was a huge $836m-grossing hit (as for that matter was Temple of Doom, with $333m back in 1984), but the third installments all had certain adjustments to make sure the films were either “better” or more conventionally crowd-pleasing. Hence Transformers: Dark of the Moon (a somewhat more serious narrative) and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (lighter, more emotional, somewhat reminiscent of Raiders of the Lost Ark).

Another terrific article.  A couple of points:
1. I hadn’t realized that Batman vs. Superman was generating enough negative buzz that it’d started creating its own self-fulfilling prophecy field, but here we are.  This week saw so many “Warner Brothers is Worried” articles that it’s obviously a ploy by some too-clever-by-half publicist.  That trick’s liable to backfire badly.
2.  Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn also said recently that sequels tend to give their directors more room to dive into their own existential innards.  As we see above, this is a mixed blessing at best.
For what it’s worth, Guardians 2 started principal photography on Wednesday.
3.  I loved Batman Returns.  I didn’t realize until just now that most others didn’t.  I liked Batman Forever as well (for entirely different reasons), but I agree with the author that Batman Returns is one of the best superhero movies ever made.
4.  I also really liked Temple of Doom.  Did others not?  Granted, it’s not the franchise-capping masterpiece that Last Crusade was, but it’s still a terrific sequel, and it’s almost unprecedented for its use of non-Christian belief-systems as its spiritual anchor.  That is in no way a bad thing.
5.  I have no idea how you can say that Transformers: Dark of the Moon was better than Revenge of the Fallen.  Neither is particularly good, but Dark of the Moon is actively terrible.  Revenge of the Fallen may be a mess, especially at the end, but it’s still got an inanimate Deception hiding in the Air & Space Museum, Devastator, and Optimus Prime rising from the dead.  That stuff by itself is worth the price of admission.
That’s all I’ve got, folks.  Have a good weekend!

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