Playpen

Welcome to the Playpen, our space for ferrety banter and whimsical snippets of things that aren't quite long enough for articles (although they might be) but that caught your eye anyway.

at 10:10 on 21-02-2014, Andy G
Just a mathematical quibble, but does it make sense to compare the average income of the 1% of Americans with the average income of the 100% of Americans? Doesn't the $50,000 average itself incorporate the incomes of the 1%?
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at 02:07 on 21-02-2014, Cheriola
Yeah, I've been missing them as well.

Also: Hi, sorry for dropping off the radar so suddenly. I did indeed get very sick, the morning after my last appearance here. And while I was lying in bed that day, too feverish to bother going online, an integral part of my telephone system experienced planned obsolence failure. I didn't get well enough to leave the house until January, so it took a while to fix that. And since then, my depression has been acting up (lack of sunlight, birthday, etc.), so I wouldn't exactly have been good company. But I'm through the birthday sinkhole now and the weather has been sunny and ridiculously balmy, so I could start gardening very early this year, and so now I'm feeling somewhat better.

I hope you guys aren't flooded/freezing/drought-stricken/heat-wave-plagued too badly. Apparently Germany is the only major Western country that got lucky these last few months. We've had all of 10 days of frost this winter where I live, and that's in the northeast, which is just on the edge of the maritime/continental climate border and thus sometimes gets Russian winters. Last year, the snow stayed straight through from January till early April (that's a month longer than average).

I don't have anything to add to the 1% discussion - other than to agree with Dan. During the Occupy happening, I kept reading comments by POC, working class Americans going basically "What, now that you white middle class kids get a taste of what this society is like for the rest of us, NOW you suddenly want a revolution?"
Relatedly, I've been listening lately to a few interesting talks on climate change, food security and the politics thereof, and in the back of my head, I'm always thinking: "You're clearly very, very aware of how damaging and frankly ethically problematic for example flying is, and yet you're going on a world tour with your book?" I mean, with people like Lester Brown, he at least makes an impact into foreign governments with his face time, and Rob Hopkins had to be talked into doing his US tour last year specifically because he refused to fly for years. But Gwynne Dyer relating an annecdote about going to Teneriffa "for a bit of sun" in the middle of a radio series on the horrifying likely political results of climate change, does make me scratch my head at the lack of self-awareness. At least Kevin Anderson has the grace to point out that when he says that only relatively small percentage of Western rich people really have to change their lifestyle to avoid catastrophic consequences for most of the world's poorest people, he means people like himself and other climate scientists, i.e. middle class and upwards. (Nevertheless, if the weather keeps you in this weekend, I highly recommend watching all of these. The one by Rob Hopkins last, and there's a more recent update too. Oh, and maybe this documentary by John D. Liu as well, even if he does have a bit of a tendency towards self-adulation. And perhaps this one about Cuba. Just as an antidote to the paralyzing hopelessness.)
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at 00:24 on 21-02-2014, Melanie
I liked them, too! And really over a year? Time flies, I guess.
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at 23:18 on 20-02-2014, Daniel F
It has been over a year since the last one, hasn't it? Not that we have any right to make demands, and I might be fed up with Shakespeare in your place as well, but I was enjoying listening to them...
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at 14:44 on 20-02-2014, Tamara
Apropos of nothing, are you guys planning to carry on with you Shakespeare podcasts project? Those were fun, and I ask completely because they were totally a wonderful and necessary addition to the slim field Shakespearian criticism, not because I've gotten back to swimming and something about the rhythm of them was just perfect for breaststroke. ;-)
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at 14:41 on 20-02-2014, Tamara
Oh, I don't think it's weird because of the questions of income. I think it's a weird sentence because of the utterly original use of the word "politics" in it. It's not that he thinks it's fine that he makes whatever amount - it's the way he frames the defence of it.

I actually unionize people in my spare time, and yes, i'm familiar with the conceptual hammering a worldview needs to take to stop assuming that whatever the wage ladder is at company X was not created at the moment of the Big Bang itself as a fundamental physical law. Of course, most managers and owners don't stop assuming it, it's just that they're overpowered :-)
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at 13:39 on 20-02-2014, Dan H
Tamara: What a completely bizarre, oblivious world view that could possibly allow a person to utter that sentence.

To play devil's advocate for a moment, you could argue that it's exactly the same bizarre, oblivious worldview that allows people to self-define as "the 99%" in the first place.

The difference between the average income of a 1%er and the income of the average American is about a factor of 15 ($717,000 compared to $50,000). By contrast, the difference between the income of the average American ($50,000 p/a) and the 3 billion poorest people in the world (approximately $2.50 a day adjusted for purchasing power parity, for a total of just under $1000 a year) is a factor of *fifty*.

Obviously income inequality is a problem, but I think you can make a reasonable argument that an excessive focus on "the rich" allows the middle classes to completely duck responsibility for that inequality.

To put it another way, most people basically believe that meritocracy works up to their level and no higher. I accept as right and natural that I earn about five times as much money as somebody who flips burgers in McDonalds or stacks shelves in a supermarket, but consider it outrageous that I earn five times less than somebody who works in investment banking.

I should stress that I'm not remotely opposed to progressive taxation, but I'm always a little bit sceptical about people who believe in progressive taxation, but believe that tax increases should only be applied to people who are richer than they are.
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at 04:44 on 20-02-2014, Alasdair Czyrnyj
At this point there's nothing but rumors, hearsay, and libel, but at this point it does not seem like this was entirely Levine's decision to make. My first thought was that this had something to do with Bioshock: Infinite, possibly burnout on Levine's part. Now, though, it's becoming clear that B:I's development had a lot of problems, a number of which can probably be laid at Levine's feet. The game spent about five years in development, cost ~$100 million (not including the marketing campaign, which doubled the budget), and was littered with half-built concepts that were junked and rebuilt from scratch (compare the game we got with the early previews and you'll see what I mean). It even comes through in the final product, which feels like a rush job that's deeply at war with itself on every level.

The story I've heard, and the story I'm sticking with for now, is that this was a mutual decision between Take-Two Interactive and Levine. Take-Two probably saw Irrational as a giant money pit, and after B:I didn't make the truly insane amount of money needed to justify its tortuous development, they were planning on shutting it down anyway. Of course, unanimously shitcanning the subsidiary that made one of your flashiest moneymakers doesn't play well in the papers. At the same time, Levine lost control of B:I's development, got burnt out, and discovered he wasn't making the games he wanted to make anymore. The two came together and an agreement was reached: Take-Two shuts down Irrational and lets Levine stay on with a startup, and Levine releases a statement to the press taking full responsibility, taking the bullet for Take-Two. Everyone wins except the people who work at Irrational.

Leigh Alexander touches delicately on some of these matters.
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at 22:40 on 19-02-2014, Tamara
No, it's not just that. It's the way he frames the idea of what's political, the way he draws a veneer of social justice (!!!) over it. "Political" is, apparently, automatically tentamount to illegitimate, but he's using a technique that is basically a kind of bastardized, idiotic identity politics to make the claim...it's just...nothing to do but shake my head. If this was a line from a novel, i'd have a blast unpacking that character, but this person is apparently...not fictional?
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at 22:30 on 19-02-2014, Robinson L
Tamara: What a completely bizarre, oblivious world view that could possibly allow a person to utter that sentence.

At a guess, the kind that takes the reality of their controlling absurd amounts of resources (far more than they could ever practically need) while millions of others have to scrabble for mere survival, and interprets this state of affairs as not only inevitable, but right and proper, and generally the best of all possible worlds. Or, in other words, what James D said, pretty much.

Speaking of which:

I doubt the super-rich view poor people as anything more than sore losers.

That certainly sounds like a familiar attitude here in the US.
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at 21:36 on 19-02-2014, James D
In a way though, their attitudes make perfect sense - for the vast majority of them, change in income is about the same as change in weather. It might be a shitty, rainy day, but it'll pass soon enough and then things will be sunny and nice again. And in the meantime, they have plenty of shelter. The idea that a downturn in income could result in serious, life-altering consequences is utterly foreign to them - they know about it on an intellectual level I'm sure, but likely lack all ability to empathize with that situation because they've never experienced it and neither has anyone they actually care about. Among their peers, when they complain about money it's because they can't afford that third mansion, or they'll have to wait another month before they buy a Ferrari, not because they're going to be homeless because they can't pay their mortgage.

Money is a game to them, and they're winning. In sports you might feel bad for your opponent if they fall apart on the field and get crushed, but you're not going to share your points with them, that'd be crazy. I doubt the super-rich view poor people as anything more than sore losers.
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at 21:02 on 19-02-2014, Tamara
"The 1% are being picked on for political reasons."

Oh, god, I fell down laughing from that one. What a completely bizarre, oblivious world view that could possibly allow a person to utter that sentence.
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at 20:30 on 19-02-2014, Robinson L
@Dan: Okay, that alone makes having slogged through that book a couple of years ago worthwhile.

Adrienne: She's way too good for both of them, being the only character with any actual brains in the whole series as far as I can tell.

Even though she's now completely turned off Potter, I'm pretty sure ptolemaeus still has a major soft spot for Hermione. (I think she may still be a H/H shipper, though.)


Arthur: US high society: it's fraternities all the way down.

Hands up, everyone who's not surprised *raises hand*. Great article, Arthur, thanks for sharing.
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at 14:27 on 19-02-2014, Dan H
but the picture of some two old boys who went through boarding school together and are now some über-paramilitary police force bureaucrats sounds a bit sinister


Sinister ... but possibly also *completely awesome*?

"There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of magic. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always — do not forget this, Neville — always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of casting the cruciatus curse on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a wand pointing at a human face — forever."
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at 12:28 on 19-02-2014, Janne Kirjasniemi
Tamara: Yes, I seem to have written it out a bit wrong. The reason or the cause of the boom was no doubt the general boom that can be noticed after the war in several countries. People resuming lives interrupted by the war and all that. That the finnish government tried to encourage it also happened, but what influence this had is usually just assumed, but probably this policy didn't cause it as such.

On contemporary policies, I have read it argued, that generous maternal and parental leave legislation, which gives people the support and opportunity to keep a hold of their job and thus resume their career after the children are larger is behind the relatively stable demographics in the Nordic countries as opposed to Italy for example and Russia, which both suffer from migration as well.

On the Potter thing, the problem does seem to be this weird mixture of childish and serious. Like the matter of Harry and Ron becoming aurors and cleaning the ministry seems to try to be a gesture towards grown-up issues, but the picture of some two old boys who went through boarding school together and are now some über-paramilitary police force bureaucrats sounds a bit sinister, if one wants to be serious about it and childish, when you think that someone's adult life is just becoming something he wanted to become when he was eleven.
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at 08:34 on 19-02-2014, Arthur B
So in book canon, Lily and James had kids around the same time Lily and James did.

I think that's the case in movie-canon too.

But the wiki seems fairly convinced that James and Lily died when they were 21 and cites Half-Blood Prince as saying they got rush-married very soon after they graduated, so I think we do know when they marry.
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at 03:19 on 19-02-2014, Sister Magpie
Marrying someone you knew in school after you've had some years to go out and be an adult and stretch your wings and find yourself and all that jazz is a very different prospect from driving directly from graduation to the wedding chapel...



I suppose we could assume that about all of them since we don't know when they all marry. We get Lucius Malfoy's age in I think OotP and we know he was Prefect-age when MWPP, Lily and Snape started. Lucius wasn't much older than the Trio would have been in the epilogue. So in book canon, Lily and James had kids around the same time Lily and James did.
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at 01:30 on 19-02-2014, Arthur B
Would it really matter exactly when they did it? They meet and fall in love in high school and are together for the rest of their lives just like the protagonists who have kids going to Hogwarts 19 years after graduation.

Marrying someone you knew in school after you've had some years to go out and be an adult and stretch your wings and find yourself and all that jazz is a very different prospect from driving directly from graduation to the wedding chapel...
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at 01:29 on 19-02-2014, Arthur B
US high society: it's fraternities all the way down.
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at 00:57 on 19-02-2014, Sister Magpie
To be fair, I don't remember (but might be forgetting) any suggestion in the early books that James and Lily married immediately on graduating from Hogwarts. It'd make sense that they met there, of course, because so far as I can tell it's the only wizarding school in the UK so if two British wizards happen to marry and are close to each other in age they probably were at Hogwarts at the same time. But there's scope in the early books, before the chronology got more tightly nailed down, that there may have been a substantial gap between them graduating Hogwarts and them getting married and having Harry.


Would it really matter exactly when they did it? They meet and fall in love in high school and are together for the rest of their lives just like the protagonists who have kids going to Hogwarts 19 years after graduation.
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at 19:49 on 18-02-2014, Tamara
I don't know the details in Finland, but i'm a little skeptical of that narrative. Engineering a baby-boom is incredibly difficult. Iran and Russia, amongst others, are trying very hard right now and it's not going too well. Tax breaks and cash don't hurt, per se, but if couples are set against having a child *now*, a tax break isn't going to do much to change their minds, at least that's what all the data i'm familiar with shows. Demographics, what little i've studied of it, seems to be a goofy field. The actual data tends to be obscure, and is often weirdly counterintuitive.
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at 17:24 on 18-02-2014, Janne Kirjasniemi
I guess the post-war boom is much better presented in statistics and is a thing in other places besides the US. And makes some sense too. Of course in Finland, the boom was a deliberate policy, families got significant tax breaks and even cold hard cash from the government for having children.
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at 13:29 on 18-02-2014, Tamara
A *little* - there was a marriage (and birth) boom BEFORE WW2 in the USA (it carried on after, taking a pause for the war.) It's doubtful that it quite matches the image of couples desperately hooking up before he takes off to Germany or whathaveyou though, not statistically. More to do with cohort-wide labour force participation and other incredibly boring stuff.
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