(1) I don’t agree with the view of NRx that monarchy is better than democracy. I suspect the people who think that are comparing the sordid reality of democracy to the radiant vision of the best theoretical monarchy. That’s not a valid comparison; we must compare the sordid reality of democracy to the sordid reality of monarchy.
It looks like we don’t have a choice anyway. Apparently history says either we’re going to get totalitarianism, which as a practical matter is going to be led by one person a la Stalin, or we’re going to get a Caesar, who is going to destroy our current totalitarianism and replace it with a non-totalitarian monarchy. In other words, in the long run it looks like our only choices are one kind of monarchy or another kind of monarchy.
If it is true that those are the only two possibilities, then it indeed makes sense to think about how to bend the coming monarchy, if we get one, into its best-case scenario.
(2) Director Eats Too Many Finger Paints in Art Class, Tries to Make TV Show Trailer
“Drama is people doing amazing things for good reasons; melodrama is people doing amazing things for no reason.” —Dictum of fiction writers.
Via Blind Prison of the Mind
There’s a desperately sad trailer for an upcoming Wheel of Time vidya series. The Wheel of Time books are a fantasy series I haven’t read, but they’re well known among fantasy fans.
The trailer goes like this. A bunch of people – suitably racially diverse for Current Year – are sitting around in an old-timey tavern and inn. It’s definitely not a pub, let alone a bar or club, but a tavern. There’s no electricity, everything’s made of wood, etc. There’s a massive fireplace, the fireplace equivalent of a walk-in closet. That bad-ass fireplace turns out to be the best thing about this moronic trailer. We get enough shots of the clientele laughing to get that this is a laid back/party environment where everyone is having a good time. In fact, there’s enough unexplained acausal laughing that I started to wonder what the fucking joke was. But okay, whatever.
There’s a moment of two dudes having some dumb beta orbiter talk about the barmaid.
Then the stupidity really kicks in. The tavern door opens and we see a pair of boots. The camera is on the floor, lingering on this pair of boots. We cut away to some reaction shots of the tavern’s customers. They’re all appalled, or shocked, or just stunned into silence. My God, what is it? Back to the floor-level camera, showing us the boots walking a bit. “This is weird,” I thought, “what’s with the boots?” Then another couple of reaction shots of the stunned clientele. What is it, a dude with two heads or something? Then another floor-cam shot of the boots, walking. At this point I blurted, “What the hell? Is the director of this a foot fetishist?”
Then the camera pulls back and we see what has caused the tense hush among the people. It’s… a man! This is what has shocked the tavern’s customers into speechlessness. Or maybe it’s the fact that he left the door open behind him – on this rainy winter night – and they’re all thinking, “What a douche!”
You: “A guy walks into a bar.”
People you’re telling the joke to: “Yeah, then what?”
You: “I can’t tell you; I’m shocked into silence by a guy walking into a bar.”)
Challenged by the barmaid to identify himself, he dramatically pulls back the hood of his cloak and introduces himself as “Joe Shmoe, moron who was raised in a barn,” or whatever, I wasn’t really paying attention. Then we jump to a flashback or dream sequence or hallucination or something. It’s a severely out-of-focus shot of a figure walking toward the camera. What does it mean? The focus resolves and wait, nope, it’s not a dream sequence; it’s just a woman walking into the tavern, out of focus for absolutely no reason whatsoever. In she walks, and she also leaves the door open, even though there is no one else coming in after her. What a fucking twat!
The man introduces her and she orders a stable for their horses and a room for the night, a move that is so unexpected in this tavern and inn that everyone is still speechless. Finally the tavern owner is like “No prob; I’ll sesh you,” and… that’s the scene.
As one YouTube commenter asks:
“How do you reckon that conversation went? ‘Okay, so here’s the plan. I’ll walk in alone while you stay out in the rain and wait for people to stop what they’re doing to notice me before announcing myself. Then when I announce you you dramatically walk out of the downpour, and we leave the door open.’”
There also is a thread of commenters who have read the books wondering why these two people, who apparently need to be traveling incognito, are doing everything possible to draw attention to themselves short of setting their hair on fire.
The whole trailer is notably fuckwitted, and it raises a question: What the fuck was the animating idea for this scene? Worse, this is what the producers of this thing think is one of the best scenes in the production, good enough to be featured in an ad for it. It’s clear from watching it that the director had no idea what the fuck he – or she! – was doing. An ad for a new show should make us think “Wow, that looks really cool” or “Hmm, I’m intrigued by the mystery.” Instead we’re thinking either (1) Close the fucking door! or (2) Why did they hire a director of foot fetish porn for this project?
That foot thing is surreal. You have to watch the clip to believe it. The director was just copying some technique he saw somewhere and now he thinks that’s just how you do it: You focus on the feet. This is a textbook example of the cargo-cult mentality: copying techniques without the faintest idea of why and how the techniques were originally used. Presumably this kind of shot originally was used in a way that made sense. One can easily imagine such uses. E.g., it’s from the viewpoint of a character who just got slugged and is lying on the floor. Etc. But this dumb-ass director has never even contemplated the notion that cinematic techniques are used for a reason. He just saw it in a music video once and thought, “I’ll do that.”
(Is western society becoming more idiotic? Or was it always this stupid, and the past seems better because the crap is forgotten over time, leaving mostly the good stuff?)
I tried to come up with a hypothesis of some conscious goal that the producers of this crap had in mind as they tried to string a coherent thought together in the fog of their oxygen-deprived haze. And maybe there is a semi-sentient purpose in this: to name two major characters who will be familiar to the fans of the book series. Thus we get Barn-Boy dramatically pushing his hood back and saying “I’m Barn Boy,” then adding, “And this is Standing-In-The-Rain Girl.” (No, I’m not going to re-watch it to see what their actual names are; I’ve already watched the crap twice, which is more than enough.) But this is done badly; badly enough for the YouTube comments to be overwhelmingly mocking. Do it correctly, asshats.
Off the top of my head: We start with the tavern. Two people enter. They don’t leave the door open, they don’t stand there in the middle of the floor, and they don’t do anything else to call attention to themselves. They unobtrusively go straight to a table and take a seat. They doff their hoods, not melodramatically, but normally, and we see that one is a man, who is sitting with his back to a wall so he can see the whole room, and the other, facing him, is a woman. He says to her, “Why don’t you swing around a bit so you don’t have your back to the room, [Her Name].” And she replies, “I don’t have to worry about that, [His Name]; I have you to watch out for me.” Thus we get their names for the fans, and we also get realistic behavior. We also get some mystery for the non-fans, because we want to know why it’s dangerous for her to be sitting with her back to the room and how/why she has this bodyguard traveling with her. And can the average person afford a bodyguard? Presumably not, so that raises the question of her social position as well. Is this a countess traveling incognito or what? And if so, why?
If that’s not enough there’s her ring, which figures prominently in the actual trailer. I have no idea what its significance is, but that could be worked in as well. Just have a barmaid come over to take their order and have the woman quickly pull her hand under her sleeve, obviously trying to hide the ring. That adds more mystery. And the whole scene, if I say so myself, has an appropriate measure of drama. None of it involves bizarre camera work that pulls the viewer out of the scene with its grating pointlessness, people traveling incognito going out of their way to call attention to themselves, or humanly unrealistic reactions of people being shocked into speechlessness by the once-in-a-lifetime spectacle of a guy walking into a bar.
Now my version doesn’t end on a dramatic note, so if you want, you can then do the standard rapid-fire montage of action shots to let people know that, yes, there is some action, and yes, we have a special effects budget of more than fifty bucks. Fine. It’s been done, but it’s better than trying to whip up drama with a couple of people requesting lodging at a tavern/inn.
Now as I said, I’ve never read the books. Maybe they’re not on some dangerous quest and my bodyguard notion is off. But I’ve heard this is a classic “band of heroes teams up to defeat the bad guy before he destroys the world” fantasy series. So there’s something interesting about them, or there wouldn’t be a series of like ten books devoted to their quest. Whatever that interesting thing is, the dialogue between them can hint at it.
I literally just made this up, and I dare say it does a better job than the version they actually came up with. I’m pretty sure that my version would at least dodge dozens of comments to the effect of “Close the fucking door, asshats,” and might even interest a few people.
(3) Circa November 8, 2021: I read some article about a guy slashing a bunch of people on a train in Germany. They don’t report the perpetrator’s name or any details. So of course I make certain inferences about the attacker.
If you dig around you can, with a little effort, find out the attacker’s salient identity-politics characteristics. He’s a Syrian immigrant. Surprise!
But that’s not my main point. My main point is that it recently hit me:
We now read the news like the citizens of the Soviet Union read their news.
Soviet citizens would read Pravda not because they thought it told them the truth, but because they could infer certain truths from Pravda by analyzing its content. They noted what it said, what it didn’t say, how it said what it said, how the narrative would do a blatant 180 from one week to the next, etc.
All that is stuff we do now, at least those of us with a clue. The newspaper didn’t tell me that the attacker was a Muslim and/or non-white and/or immigrant, but I inferred that with a high degree of confidence from what they didn’t say.
Of course, those of us who aren’t leftist wackos have been reading in a manner somewhat like this for decades, but it’s become different in the last few years. Consider e.g. the media’s simultaneous assertions, starting in late 2016, that subverting US elections is impossible (and anyone who thinks it’s possible is a fascist), and that Trump and Russia subverted a US election. That is a new level of double-think. The media has demanded that its faithful leftist readers abandon all principle, and embrace hypocrisy, for a long time. But
“US elections cannot be subverted and Trump subverted a US election”
is new. It is a leveling-up of the psychological demands made on the ideologically faithful.
Another case from 2016 is the case of Hillary Clinton having a blatant seizure on video, followed by the media saying, “You did not just see her having a seizure.” This was the clearest case of “How many fingers am I holding up, Winston?” that I can think of.
The other major example over the last few years is the new approach to reporting based on racial criteria. The media always reported in ways that helped the leftist party line on race. But lately the deliberate burying of news stories of black-on-white violence, playing up of the opposite stories, etc., has intensified significantly. It has mutated from silence about black-on-white violence to an attempt to convince the population of the opposite of the truth about inter-racial violence. The truth, which one can still learn from official crime statistics— for the time being— is that blacks are several times as likely to attack whites as vice-versa. But the media purposefully report, and don’t report, news stories in such a way as to create the opposite impression. I fear that many young people in the US might believe that whites attacking blacks is more common than the opposite.
Of course we know the media does this, but here’s an interesting case in which they actually admit to doing it. Here’s a piece at a Binghamton NY media outlet in which they lament, in 2019, that a 2009 shooting has all but been forgotten. Gosh, why was it forgotten?
“Not that the community wants to be solely identified by its own active shooter at an immigrant center that claimed the life of 13 victims 10 years ago.”
Goodness, a shooting at an immigrant facility! It must have been a white supremacist!
“But with each subsequent mass shooting, it seems the shocking incident that gripped this community in fear and mourning on a rainy and chilly Friday morning fades further from the nation’s collective memory, creating a double tragedy for the innocent, many of whom were foreign nationals in an English class.”
We read a rather lengthy article filled with woe that this shooting has been forgotten. Strangely, the identity of the shooter is never mentioned. Then we get to an editor’s note at the end:
“Editor’s note: Though the identity of the man who killed 13 people at the American Civic Association in 2009 is public record and has been widely circulated, the Press & Sun-Bulletin has chosen not to include his name or likeness in these articles.”
Yeah, I noticed that. A quick Net search reveals this at Wikipedia:
“Jiverly Antares Wong, a 41-year-old naturalized American citizen from Vietnam, entered the facility and shot 17 people…”
Of course we don’t need the editor’s note or an article identifying the shooter to know why they censored his identity. This is merely a rare case in which they are relatively explicit about their censorship.
(What goes on the minds of people who censor news stories, then wonder why those news stories are forgotten? I can’t even imagine what it’s like to be that stupid.)
Even people who aren’t aware of egregious cases like this know the media does things like this all the time. And so we read and watch the media the way people in North freakin’ Korea read and watch their media.
And so we take another step into the psychology of totalitarianism.