Quotulatiousness

September 23, 2017

Roger Scruton – On ‘Harry Potter’

Filed under: Books, Britain, Media, Politics, Religion — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Conservatism Archive
Published on Sep 4, 2017

August 4, 2017

Harry Potter and the Economic Segregation of Muggles

Filed under: Books, Economics, Liberty, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 06:00

Published on 3 Aug 2017

Harry Potter contains a ton of incredible lessons about society, authoritarianism, and the power of love and individualism in the face of people who would exclude others based on group identity. But something people don’t think about as much are some of the economic lessons that we can draw from a world segregated into wizards and muggles.

On this episode of Out of Frame, we take a look at what the world might look like if magic and non-magic people were actually allowed to trade and interact with each other without the Ministry of Magic obliviating and arresting people for it.

For a transcript of this episode and more engaging content, visit:
www.FEE.org

July 9, 2017

Historical ignorance

Filed under: Education, History, Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Jonah Goldberg laments the constant displays of historical ignorance in the media and on social media:

Ideological and political polarization is a big concern these days, and commentators on the right and left have chewed the topic to masticated pulp. But it occurs to me that one unappreciated factor is widespread historical ignorance, and the arrogant impatience of reaching conclusions before thinking. The instantaneity of TV and Twitter only amplifies the problem.

For instance, on the Fourth of July, NPR’s Morning Edition tweeted out the text of the Declaration of Independence, 140 characters at a time. The angry responses, from left and right, were a thing to behold. “Are you drunk?” “So, NPR is calling for revolution,” “Glad you’re being defunded, your show was never balanced,” and so on.

World War II and the Cold War, particularly Vietnam, used to define the intellectual framework for how we understood many events. For people in their 30s, that framework changed to the Iraq War and the War on Terror. In my more curmudgeonly moments, it seems like the new paradigm for millennials (and the journalists and politicians who pander to them) isn’t some major geopolitical test or moment but the adventures of Harry Potter. Having never read the series, I also don’t read the countless articles using the books to explain the political climate, but I do marvel at their ubiquity.

It should go without saying that a children’s book about a magical boarding school for wizards is of limited utility in understanding, well, just about anything in a world without wizards.

I once heard a story second-hand of a general who was talking to an audience full of 20-somethings. He was explaining how the War on Terror challenged his generation’s mindset. “I spent most of my career worrying about the Fulda Gap,” he said. To which one “educated” fellow reportedly replied, “I know that Gap! It’s in a mall near my house.”

The Fulda Gap is the location in the German lowlands where the Soviets were most likely to launch an invasion of Europe.

Today, we face a multitude of challenges, at home and abroad, that can only be met by people with a modicum of historical literacy. If only Harry Potter could cast a spell to give it to us.

April 10, 2017

Audit Hollywood!

Filed under: Business, Law, Media, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Harry Shearer has launched a suit against the owners of the movie Spinal Tap after he and his co-stars earned a pitiful sum on merchandise and music royalties, despite the film’s continuing popularity. Movie studios and music conglomerates use impenetrable and complex accounting “rules” to hide any profits (as profits need to be shared with actors, directors, musicians, and writers):

Behind the ambitious, creative talent that is Hollywood lies a darker side of the entertainment industry little appreciated by the ordinary moviegoer. It’s an opaque world of film financing, revenue accretion and minimal profit share. If exposed, as our Spinal Tap lawsuit against Vivendi aims to do, fans will no doubt be horrified at the shameful gravy train that rolls for corporate rights holders at the expense of creators. So far, challenges to media conglomerates’ comfortable status quo provoke little more than derision, since the power balance is so skewed in their favor. But, for how much longer?

Spinal Tap began as a mock rock band that we four – Rob Reiner, Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and myself – developed for an appearance on a TV pilot at the end of the 1970s. On our own initiative, we wrote and recorded most of the songs and performed them live in several music clubs around L.A. before any cameras rolled. The ultimate movie was truly, in the words of Michael McKean, “the result of four very stubborn guys working very hard to create something new under the sun.”

[…]

Unfortunately, “Hollywood accounting” isn’t a practice confined to California. Within the success story that is the European film and television industry, which generated €122 billion in 2013, less than one-third of 1 percent was shared with the writers and directors of the works created. A peculiar definition of “fairness,” you might say.

Under French law, filmmakers should be paid a fee for their work plus an ongoing remuneration proportionate to the exploitation of their creation. In reality, less than 3 percent of French writers and directors receive anything more than the initial payment of that minimum guarantee. And 70 percent of all European film directors are asked to defer a proportion of their original fees (as we, the creators of This is Spinal Tap, originally agreed to do).

The Europeans are simply following Hollywood’s lead; however, Spinal Tap‘s rights are determined by US law. In fighting for creators’ rights against a French conglomerate, Spinal Tap is simply pursuing a legal path well-trodden by our American creator peers. The well-known science-fiction “flop” of a film, Return of the Jedi, has apparently never gone into profit despite earning almost $500 million worldwide. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, apparently “lost” almost $170 million.

September 13, 2015

Markets in everything, Fan Expo edition

Filed under: Cancon, Economics, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

At The Walrus, Jonathan Kay explains how Ron Weasley (and the whole Fan Expo celebrity photo “experience”) made him both sad and $300 poorer:

Photo by Jonathan Kay. Click to see full-sized image at The Walrus.

Photo by Jonathan Kay. Click to see full-sized image at The Walrus.

Fans of the TV show Entourage will remember the second-season episode in which Johnny Drama (Kevin Dillon) heads to San Diego’s Comic-Con International, dressed in prop-wardrobe Viking costume. Drama, we learn, had appeared in a (fictional) show called Viking Quest, starring as the warrior Tarvold. On the fan-convention circuit, Drama explained, he could rake in big money by signing autographs, and set conventioneers’ hearts aflutter with Tarvold’s signature cry of “Victory!” On Entourage, this seemed funny. In real life, I recently learned, it’s sad.

On Sunday, I took two of my daughters to the 2015 instalment of Fan Expo Canada, billed as “the largest Comics, Sci-fi, Horror, Anime, and Gaming event in Canada.” More than 100,000 fans show up annually for the four-day exhibition, which now sprawls over both buildings of the massive Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Under one roof, I was able to meet a life-size My Little Pony, compete in a Catan tournament, playtest emerging console video games, commission custom panels from famous cartoonists, pose with life-size Futurama characters, buy a fully functional 3D-chess set, and generally revel in all the various subcultures that the rest of society stigmatizes as dorky and juvenile. My girls and I have been to Fan Expo Canada three years in a row, and we always have a good time.

But my daughters are getting older. This year, for the first time, they were after more than just a Harry Potter wand and a Gryffindor T-shirt: They wanted to meet the real-life Harry Potter movie stars appearing at Fan Expo. Expecting to encounter nothing more than a real-life version of Drama’s Viking Quest subplot, I acquiesced, and we wandered over to celebrity row.

I was shockingly naive about how this process works. Before Sunday’s celebrity adventure, I’d assumed that one could mingle about and snap pictures with fan-con celebs for free, taking out your wallet only when you wanted a signed photo.

In fact, the best way to describe Fan Expo’s celebrity protocol is as a sort of Chicago Mercantile Exchange for human beings. Instead of live cattle, lean hogs, skimmed milk powder, cash-settled butter, and softwood pulp, this big board (displayed above) lists prices for Billy Dee Williams, Gillian Anderson, Danny Trejo, Neve Campbell, Norman Reedus, Skeet Ulrich, Zach Galligan, and fifty other stars and quasi-stars. The precision of the numbers suggests a fine-tuned demand-driven adjustment process that any commodities trader would recognize. Williams (Lando Calrissian from Star Wars, but you knew that) was listed at $57. Anderson (X-Files): $91. Danny Trejo (Machete): $74. Neve Campbell (Scream): $97. Norman Reedus (The Walking Dead): $130. Skeet Ulrich (Jericho): $68. Zach Galligan (Gremlins): $63. Just my luck: Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley, Harry Potter’s red-haired sidekick) was listed at $142 — highest on the board. I wanted to bail out. But having made the mistake of getting dragged this far, turning back wasn’t going to be a good-dad move.

July 16, 2015

A not-so-crazy fan theory about the Harry Potter series

Filed under: Books, Humour — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 05:00

J.M. McNabb makes the case that one particular fan theory explains so much of the J.K. Rowling books:

It always seemed odd that Harry Potter’s aunt and uncle, the Dursleys, would be good enough to take him in and raise him, only to keep him locked in a cupboard under the stairs and generally treat him like a moldering hunk of Hitler’s shit. Why not just dump him in an orphanage if they were planning on treating him like an old boot for the entirety of his childhood? In a series full of magical beings, one of the most fantastic elements is that these completely normal people managed to be so terrible without the use of any spells

… or did they? A theory by Graphic Nerdity claims that the Dursleys were originally a normal, supportive couple, but continued exposure to Harry’s cursed ass turned them into resentful hate beasts.

Why It’s Not That Crazy:

Harry, as we eventually find out, is technically a horcrux. For those of you who aren’t fluent in nerd, horcruxes are cursed objects containing fragments of the evil Voldemort’s soul, and they’ve been known to turn people into assholes. In the second movie, Ginny Weasley is brainwashed by a book that doesn’t even have “Dianetics” in the title, because it’s a horcrux. It contains a piece of the venomous soul of the lord of hate magic and wizard murder. We also see Ron start acting like a total dick after putting on a locket that’s, you guessed it, also a horcrux.

Most importantly, we find out later in the series that Harry himself has a part of Voldemort’s soul trapped inside of him, like Dick Clark and Ryan Seacrest. So if Ron and Ginny turned evil after being exposed to a horcrux over a matter of weeks and months, just imagine how the Dursleys could be affected after living with one for 10 years. Harry Potter was a magical cancer gnawing hungrily away their souls.

This discovery makes the biggest douchebags of the Potter-verse not villains, but victims. Heroes, even. The fact that their adoption of a child who was also a cursed object merely resulted in them turning into emotionally abusive turds instead of a family of secret cannibals is cause for commendation.

December 21, 2014

“Wicca is religion’s answer to the Liberal Democrats”

Filed under: Books, Britain, Humour, Media, Religion — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 00:03

All the British newspapers have apparently decided that it’s worth column-inches devoted to the random Twitter comments of J.K. Rowling:

Of the various insights into the diversity of Hogwarts culture JK Rowling has been sharing on Twitter lately, one in particular caught my eye. It wasn’t the revelation, reported by the Guardian, that the school had Jewish wizards. (So what?) Nor was it that Hogwarts probably had a few poofs in it. (We knew that already, didn’t we?)

No: what tickled me was her remark that the only group she never envisaged in the achingly multi-culti Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry was Wiccans, those faux-druidic attention-seekers and drop-outs obsessed with black candles, lesbianism and velvet gowns.

Wiccans and those oddballs who dress up in bizarro costumes, redolent of cheap seasonal medieval re-enactment camps, who believe in magic (or, as they hilariously insist on spelling it, “magick”) and the mystical forces of mother nature.

[…]

What most fans will have taken from that, I’m guessing, is: “Come off it, even by the standards of my totally invented fantasy-land full of mystical creatures, boy wizards and horcruxes, those people are off their trolleys.”

You can tell rather a lot about those respective newspapers by which details they chose to lead their reports with. The Guardian, with its creepy Jewish obsession, leapt on Rowling’s confirmation that Anthony Goldstein of Ravenclaw was semitic, while the Independent ran with her statement that “of course” Hogwarts would have been an LGBT-friendly place to learn how to magic up enchanted water.

What neither of them saw fit to give due prominence to, though, was the fact that Wiccans, hilariously, are the only group in the Harry Potter universe incapable of performing magic. You’d need a heart of stone not to laugh.

February 16, 2013

Scott Feschuk challenges your detection skills

Filed under: Humour, Randomness — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 13:19

In his Maclean’s column, Scott Feschuk wants to see how perceptive you are:

Looking for a fun getaway? Here are five theme cruises. Four of them you can book right now. The other? I made it up. Try to guess which one. (For the answer, scroll down past the end of the column.)

The Wizard Cruise. “Imagine!” the website says. “Imagine 600 Harry Potter fanatics, dressed in their finest wizard robes and brandishing magic wands, descending upon a modern luxury liner.” Do you have that image in your head? Now imagine all of the other passengers pointing and laughing. Imagine the three female “wizards” on board getting tired of hearing the same pickup line: “Wanna pet my hippogriff?” Imagine quidditch being a letdown because the snitch is a beach ball and a muggle keeps deflating your water wings.

Listen: I’m not saying this cruise is likely to attract a homely group of passengers, but before the voyage there will be a brief pause as the ship is christened the Self-Love Boat.

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