05 May 2023

It's Money That Matters

…and, in particular, to whom the money is going. It's one thing entirely to question "ridiculous" amounts of money going to those (often, but not always, from disadvantaged communities) getting paid ridiculous amounts of money to play a child's game; it's another entirely to question sport franchises as an investment by the… ethically, intellectually, and emotionally disadvantaged. Application of this contrast to the context of the WGA strike is simply not being attempted — especially concerning the sums going not to the investors but to the brilliant minds (and warped tastes) that gave us this and cancelled this.

  • One of the problems with sport — or anything else in the entertainment industry — is that failure at one's first effort far more often than not leads to exclusion and loss of future chances. The obsessive preparation epitomized in sport — but far from unique to it; consider what those "talented" artists and musicians you knew in high school and college are doing today in the arts (or otherwise) — sucks away the opportunity to develop competence in anything else. So, too, does the overemphasis on immediate appreciation and profit built into the funding system that fails to acknowledge that "intellectual property from individual creativity" is a capital investment just as much as "a stack of dead presidents." In the end, it's both the arts and the audience who ends up suffering in both higher prices and bad movies and the rise of artificial distinctions in creativity, although frankly I think most chatbots would have done a better job with the Quantum of Solace script than did the nonwriters and scabs who worked on it (and the writers under inordinate time and budget pressure to fix the mess).
  • This problem is epitomized in the "why do they need to strike?" inquiry that no one is making. The contrast with a third-generation banker's clash with reality is not all that surprising when (a) one considers the pronunciation of his name and whispers "out-of-control Maxwell" in the background and (b) realizes that the bank he just bought is a long-established Bay Area institution whose ad campaigns all sought Undesireables — old, inherited money seeking to avoid paying a fair share of taxes through various "estate-planning" and "wealth-management" efforts — as its customer base.
  • The WGA strike also sheds some rather unwelcome light (difracted through a fun-house prism) on art forgery and the perverse incentives that make it profitable — primarily that "a faithful reproduction can't ever be good enough." It's the magic of the arts — the irreplaceability of the original combined with the original's ability to grant the viewer some deeper connection to the artist (which, for some artists, may not be a good thing at all).
  • The converse — the purported rule by a different variety of elites — is heavily exposed by how "elite" is measured. With extraordinarily rare exceptions (the Trent Alexander-Arnolds and Marcus Rashfords of the world, and by the way they're also "elite" under these measures now) the "elites" are those who can afford to unduly influence Supreme Court justices. There's plenty of guilt/blame to go around; Justice Thomas shouldn't have accepted these benefits, but even more so they never should have been offered. But elites gonna elite… the only way they know how, because with rare exceptions they're actually undereducated (the diploma is not the education, just as the map is not the territory — and I've got them, so no sour grapes).
  • But the judgment of the elites is also reflected in purportedly dropping civics scores, which would be a lot more worrisome if the "civics scores" demonstrated by the actual behavior of the elites were not already asymptotically approaching 2.3K. Of course, those elites are so "elite" that they won't be able to decode the preceding clause (notwithstanding the fancy diplomas)… or question whether the received wisdom being measured actually has all that much to do with "civic virtue" (and it's worth recalling that… individual's… purportedly libertarian-elite education).