Sunday, June 12, 2016

6 Things on a Sunday: On Reaching “Peak Sequel”

I had a draft of this post ready for Friday, but I hated it.  After taking out several of the political articles and adding some other, hopefully lighter fare, I like it better.  
But I still wouldn’t say that I like it.
It seems like all the news is depressing, and sharing depressing news doesn’t do much for me.  However, it’s also true that the stuff that I like is rarely what speaks to others, so who knows?  Maybe you guys will think this is a masterpiece.  That's life sometimes.

China’s industrial overcapacity is “sucking the oxygen out” of its economy, fueling a dangerous buildup in bad loans and now exacerbating trade tensions with the West. Yet although the Communist Party has been aware of the problem for years, it has failed to tackle it.
Those are the findings of a new report by the European Chamber of Commerce in China that blames complacency, a lack of leadership and protectionism by local governments for China’s failure to address the problem…
China’s state-owned heavy industry expanded too far and too fast during the boom years, in a borrowing and investment splurge. Now, as the economy slows, there is too much industrial capacity chasing too little demand. Many plants have been forced to cut back output and are struggling to pay back loans, but, instead of closing down, these “zombie” factories are being kept alive, at a huge cost to the economy and the banking system.
The article above came out in February, but I’m running it now because the United States’ recent anti-dumping tariffs have been in the news quite a lot these last few weeks.  The U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue started last week, with the opening rounds marked by a flurry of American and Chinese officials sniping at one another over trade.  
Bottom line, Chinese economic output grew so fast for so long that it has now far-outstripped demand, but the Chinese aren’t in a position to hold layoffs.  It’s a little hard to put people out of work in an ostensibly Communist dictatorship.  This leaves the Chinese government with little choice but to prop up their industries and hope that global demand eventually increases.  That hurts everyone, however, and here we are.  Governments around the world are very pissed off that the Chinese are dumping finished commodities into the global marketplace, artificially tanking prices and putting people everywhere but China out of work.  Meanwhile, Chinese dumping won’t actually save Chinese industry.  Their situation is anticompetitive and ultimately unsustainable, and both European and American leaders would very much like to avoid going down with the Chinese ship.
Make no mistake: that ship is going down.
The money to build all those now-zombie factories was borrowed.  The recent dumping and increased Chinese protectionism imply that their factories cannot make money on their own, which in turn means that there are now incalculable numbers of bad loans sitting somewhere in the Chinese economic system.  Though it may take a decade for all of this to unwind and hit the open market, the end result is unavoidable.  
Hence the U.S. and European tariffs.  Chinese industry is screwed.  The rest of the world, however, may just possibly shelter itself from the worst of the fallout by acting decisively now.
I found this through Slate and loved every word of it.  A truly epic rant.  I advise reading all of it, but my favorite bits are clipped below:
When you endorsed him, you bought all the problems Trump has with the voters and none of the assets…
I get it. You were terrified of his online horde of low-information whackjobs, neo-Nazi trolls, red-hat jackasses and their endless, febrile demands that you worship at the foot of Agent Orange. Hell, you’re a politician. You want to be loved. He was beating all the people you liked and respected, one after another. The media kept making him the spotlight, the hot focus of attention and you wanted some of that mojo, didn’t you? Bad call.
And this:
You don’t have to give Hillary Clinton a tongue bath to divest yourself of Trump. Quite the opposite; she’s an egregious, amoral horror show, and you should feel free to let it rip. You should start talking about how both major candidates represent everything that’s wrong with politics in this country. Stop talking in the stilted messages of Washington cliches and get home, mentally and physically…
Run as yourself. Run with some passion and iconoclastic fire. Stop trying to run a generic, please-the-base campaign where your political lanes are bounded. Run as a Florida Republican or a Colorado Republican or a Nevada Republican and separate your brand from Trump’s.
You can’t finesse this… Just run.
Love it.  And for what it’s worth, the analysis looks right on.  
Trump had a bad week, entirely self-inflicted, and even his heartiest supporters are now looking for cover.  If his national-level support doesn’t start to crater back into the mid-30s in percentage terms within the next few weeks, I’m going to be seriously concerned about the amount of overt, no-holds-barred racism this country is harboring in its white suburbs.  At this point, Trump’s campaign offers little beyond the overtly racist hope that he’s going to somehow put all the non-white people back in their places.
First, that’s not going to happen.  Second, it’s an evil thing to want.
3. Sunday’s Tune: Scars
YouTube recommended this for some reason.  I suppose that’s good enough for me.  It sounds cool.

[T]he unusually frank admission by the secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, on Thursday that he had essentially been coerced into removing a Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen from an ignoble list of armies that kill and maim children was a rare window into the limits of his moral and political authority — and an object lesson for whoever succeeds Mr. Ban next year.
On Thursday, Mr. Ban told reporters that he had been threatened with the loss of financing for humanitarian operations in the Palestinian territories, South Sudan and Syria if he did not temporarily delete the Saudi-led coalition from the list.
The coalition has been accused of indiscriminately bombing civilian and nonmilitary targets in its battle against Houthi rebels in Yemen for more than a year.
Not surprising, perhaps, but also not real good, either.
Prosecutors said Man was working with an associate in China to buy and export engines made by Pratt & Whitney and General Electric (GE), which are found in a range of top U.S. military aircraft, including the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the F-22 and the F-16 fighter jets. She was also found to have tried to export a General Atomics drone, and technical data for the different hardware items…
The conviction of Man is the latest development in an ongoing saga of corporate espionage between the U.S. and China. Experts say spying has played a role in China's strategy to modernize the country in recent decades. The illicit acquisition of technology has helped China accelerate the process, bypassing problems that would otherwise require years of research and development to resolve, according to analysts.
Studios supposedly like sequels because they’re sure things, but most of this year’s sequels are flops. Some are outright disasters, to the point where both big trades wrote pieces about the state of sequels this weekend. The Hollywood Reporter analyzed Hollywood’s “new problem: Sequels moviegoers don’t want.” And Variety wondered whether Hollywood “has a sequel problem.”
They definitely have a problem with sequels not doing as well as their predecessors…
The highest grossing movies every year tend to be legitimate events: the first Star Wars film to reunite the original cast in 30 yearsthe very last Harry Potter film, the first time the Avengers assembled onscreen. Batman meets (and battles) Superman for the first time? The Avengers are ripped apart, possibly for ever? These are true events. Audiences spent their money accordingly.

Promotional art from DC Comics.
I would like to believe that we’ve reached “peak sequel,” that Hollywood will soon have no choice but to develop new ideas.  A better explanation, though, is that good movies are good, that audiences are getting savvier about that with the advent of sites like Rotten Tomatoes, and that in spite of this—and significant investments in making sure that it never happens—not ever movie is worth watching.  Viewers have gotten a little jaded about crappy so-called franchise movies—thank God—but this doesn’t mean that the studios have figured out exactly what comes next.
That’s all I’ve got beyond noting that we finally made it out to the Boat Club for dinner on Friday, and that was a lot of fun.  Hannah and I then lifted weights together on Saturday morning before we and some of our friends took our kids to last night’s Bridgeport Bluefish game.  
A Bluefish at bat.
There's the pitch!
Bluefish Stadium at Harbor Yards as seen from the Two Roads beer garden.
Last night was “Superhero Night,” and the ‘Fish won on a walk-off solo homer in the 9th, beating the New Britain Bees 3-2.  Then they had fireworks!

That’s all I’ve got.  Enjoy your Sunday!

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