Review of “Marvel’s Inhumans” (pilot)

  • D

inhumansAfter watching the first episode of “Gifted”, a clone of “Heroes” set in the X-Men universe, which I really enjoyed, I was interested to see how The Inhumans, who are sort of a bargain basement X-Men with a royal family, translated to the screen, especially since the pilot was released in theaters on labour day weekend. Unfortunately, the answer is “terribly”.

The Inhumans are dull. King Blackbolt is a mute. Queen Medusa can use her hair as appendages. Spoiler: She gets a haircut. The other characters are even less interesting. The writing is awful, the acting wooden. The only talent is Iwan (Ramsey) Rheon, and he can’t bear the weight of the entire two hour pilot. The first 45 minutes are incredibly boring. The second half shows slightly more promise, but is still very poor. Frankly, I’ll be surprised if this isn’t cancelled quickly. It is the worst offering from Marvel Studios yet.

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How Helping Women is Hurting Women

Vice has a new article: It’s Not Your Imagination, Single Women: There Literally Aren’t Enough Men Out There.

dateonomicsWriter Jon Birger knew a [woman who] had been dating a guy for a couple years. She was in her late 30s, really wanted to have kids, [and was] “amazing in every way.” They [broke] up. They’d been dating for over two years and he said he ‘just wasn’t ready to settle down.’ How could a man … be so cavalier about casting aside such an amazing woman?

Likely for one of two reasons. Either he did not want to have children, or he did, and was looking for someone younger. Men who want to start a family are instinctively attracted to women who are in their prime child bearing years, not women in their late 30s, no matter how amazing those women are in other ways.

Birger sought out an answer. Conclusion: There simply aren’t enough college-educated men to go around. For every four college-educated women, there are three college-educated men. The result? What Birger calls a “musical chairs” of the heart: As the men pair off with partners, unpartnered straight women are left with fewer and fewer options—and millions of them are eventually left with no options at all.

So men who aren’t college educated are “no option at all”? That sounds a bit misandric.

So, where are all the men? They exist, they’re just not going to college. Last year about 35 percent more women than men graduated from college. The Department of Education projects that by the class of 2023, there will be 47 percent more women than men [graduating from college]. That’s three women for every two men, essentially.

The problem is going to get worse.

Obviously, none of this would matter if we were all a little more open-minded about who we are willing to date and marry. But there have been multiple studies on this and it turns out Americans have become less likely, over the past 50 years, to marry and date across educational lines. So educational intermarriage—I don’t know if that’s a real term, maybe I just made it up—is at its lowest rate in 50 years.

And by ‘we’, the author means women. The reason Americans have become less likely to marry across educational lines is that when there were more educated men than women, men were happy to marry down, but now there are more educated women than, and they are not.

Among non-college-educated singles ages 22 to 29, there are 9.4 million men and 7.1 million women. And if you look at the women in that age group who are non-college-educated, something like 30 percent of the women are married but only 22 percent of the men are married.

Not surprising. This means there are 7.3 million unmarried men and 5.0 million women. If there are 3 unmarried men for every 2 woman, there are going to be men who can’t find a mate.  Notice that no one is saying that anything needs to be done about this problem. When the media bemoan the lack of educated men, its hard to have any sympathy.

Fully-employed, non-college-educated men age 25 to 30 who are married earn 20 percent more than the ones who are not married. In order to get married and attract a wife, you have to earn more and be more entrepreneurial and work harder.

I’d guess that these factors are not purely effect and cause. In other words, marriage causes a man to work harder, too. But yes, women marry for resources.

Women seem less likely to date men less intelligent than themselves. Both men and women are unlikely to date and marry across those lines. It just doesn’t matter for the men because the pool of educated women is so vast that their own classism doesn’t really punish them. But being unwilling to consider working-class guys affects women in ways that it doesn’t affect men. It’s totally unfair, and I get that, but it’s not like only the women are choosy and the men are all open-minded.

I call bullshit on Birger’s claim. I know of no evidence that men are unwilling to marry down. In fact, I’ve seen statistics that indicate the opposite.

Once upon a time, colleges were discriminating blatantly against female applicants, thinking they only went to college to get their Mrs. degrees. High schools did a particularly wretched job when it came to teaching girls in math and sciences. So there are a whole host of reasons why girls underperformed in high school and were discriminated against when it came to college applications, but Title IX leveled the playing field.

Clearly it has done more that level the playing field.

Claudia Golden, an economist at Harvard, concludes that the [birth-control] pill [is] the big driver of gains in female college enrollment [due to] the expectation of workforce participation. If you’re getting married at 21 or 22 and having kids soon thereafter, the payoff of going to college is very small. If you can plan your life with greater certainty and delay marriage and childbirth, the investment value of college goes up. So she credits the pill.

There is certainly merit to this argument.

Discrimination [against women] obscured a fundamental biological truth: Girls’ brains mature at a faster rate than boys’ brains, girls mature [faster] socially and intellectually. They’re about a year ahead of boys. When it comes to actual schoolwork, girls do their homework better, girls are more organized, they’re less likely to be diagnosed with ADHD, they don’t get put in jail [at the same rates]. So I think girls have a developmental advantage when it comes to college preparation.

There’s less truth to this one. When it comes to intelligence, the developmental advantage for girls peaks at about age 14, and by age 16, boys have caught up. The wider variance in men’s intelligence means that the most intelligent men (presumably the ones going to college) have a significant advantage on average over the most intelligent women. But as more and more people go to college, that average advantage decreases.

A lot of elite private colleges are already engaging in quiet, de-facto, under-the-table affirmative action for boys. I went to Brown. The acceptance rate for boys is 11 percent; for girls it’s 7 percent. The worst example is Vassar. Their acceptance rate for boys is 34 percent and for girls it’s 18 or 19 percent.

I’d like to see some statistics that support these claims.

What’s interesting is that if you look at the top public universities that are bound by Title IX [when it comes to admissions], they all accept girls at a higher rate than boys.

As I said, so much for a level playing field.

Girls are better applicants.

Again, I call bullshit. Applications are subjective, and there are huge disincentives for admitters be fair to men, and huge incentives for bias in favor of women.

Do you think that the attitude of men in their 30s and 40s who don’t feel the need to settle down can be chalked up purely to the way the deck is stacked in their favor?

How ironic that changing things to stack the deck in women’s favor in university admissions has given men the upper hand in the dating market.

It seems obvious that if women are in short supply then you’re going to try harder to hold on to [your wife]. There’s actually a lot of social science [research] on sex ratios that grows out of animal behavior and zoology. What they found is that the male desertion rate, once they made the population overly male, declined from 22 percent to 11 percent.

Another bullshit argument, since two thirds of divorces are instigated by women, not men.

More and more women are deciding to live independent lives and not get married; could that trend actually be the result of there just not being enough men?

No shit.

You can also ask the same question about hookup culture. I’m not the morality police, but at the same time I kind of wonder if men and women—women in particular—would be less enthused about hookup culture if traditional relationships were more available. I don’t know the answer to that, but I wonder.

Hookup culture is one of the big reasons that traditional relationships are less available. Women today are like Mrs. Robinson: They laugh about and shout about while they are young, but when they’ve got to choose, everywhere they look, they lose.

Once everybody knows that guys are acting like pigs or that women are better off expanding their dating pool, the behavior will change.

Telling guys they are acting like pigs is not going to make them more likely to want to marry. If anything, it will make them less inclined. Women will either expand their dating pools, or many will remain single.

[In] the African-American community where there’s almost twice as many women graduating from college as men, these [cross-educational] pairings are far more common. There’s some Pew research data showing that African-American women are more likely to marry men [who are less educated than them.]

Yet statistics show that when women marry down, 75% of such marriages end in divorce.

There are no simple solutions to these problems. Educated women will have to learn to override their hypergamous instincts. Poor men will have to hope that women are able to adjust to the changes they have brought about.

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Review of “Star Trek Discovery Pilot” (spoilers)

discovery* * * B

I’ve seen a few reviews of the Star Trek Discovery pilot, and all of them have been highly negative. I agree with some of the criticism, but overall, I thought the pilot showed some potential. Though I heard about some of the virtue signalling and hamfisted political posturing by the producers and cast–the Klingons represent Trump supporters, and other such nonsense–I judge the show based on it’s merits.

The show looks good. The pilot is a sort of prequel to the series. The main character, a woman annoyingly called Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green), a name which grates each time it’s spoken, is a human raised by Spock’s father Sarek (James Frain) and trained at the Vulcan Science Academy. Her backstory is told in a series of flashbacks which are jarringly interjected into the story.

In the present, Burnham is the second officer to Captain Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh). They encounter the Klingon Warlord T’Kuvma (Chris Obi) who is bent on uniting his people in war against the Federation. Burnham gives him the excuse he needs when she kills one of his men in space. The Captain prevents Burnham, who mutinies, from attacking the Klingon ship. The Klingon fleet show up, followed by the Federation fleet. In the ensuing battle, the Captain is killed and Burnham kills T’Kuvma.

Frain is excellent as Sarek, as is Doug Jones as the cowardly Lieutenant Saru. Michelle Yeoh is solid as Captain Georgiou. The weak link is Martin-Green. Making her the central character made sense, but her character is very unlikeable. Perhaps this is setting her up to be an underdog, a character who must come back from adversity, in the remainder of the series. In making her so unlikable, the writers have made this a tough job.

There has been harsh criticism of the redesigned Klingons, who end up looking like monsters in this incarnation. People who complain they aren’t like the Klingons in The Next Generation and after probably don’t remember how jarring the redesign that occurred in Star Trek the Motion Picture was, or the surprise at Warf, a Klingon serving on a Federation ship. The original Klingons were ruthless (e.g. punishing failure in agony booths), and lived under constant surveillance by their superiors (even the ship’s Captains). Having Klingons become, once more, implacable enemies, is arguably a good thing for the series.

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Book Review: “The Hob’s Bargain”

* * C

hobs-bargainPatricia Briggs’ stand alone novel “The Hob’s Bargain” is a fantasy set in what seems to be an alternate reality. It’s hard to say for sure, as the world the story takes place in is a bit of a thumbnail sketch. The setting is the village of Fallbrook and the lands and two other villages that surround it.

The main character, Aren, is a woman with second sight. Her husband is (predictably) killed by raiders, which just happens to occur right before a nearby mountain collapses and wild magic, which has been held in check for an unspecified time (a century, at least?) by human blood magic, is suddenly freed. A powerful wildling (magical creature), the Hob, allies with Aren and the village to help them against the raiders and the other wildlings, in exchange for one small favor. To know what it is, read the book.

The pacing and build up of tension in the story are good. The characters are solid. I liked the ending, but felt the book wrapped up a bit too quickly after the climax. Several other elements of the plot seemed rushed. What I disliked most was the truncated nature of the world. Since this book was a stand alone novel, it necessarily needed to spend less time world building than a series would, but there was so little that the setting felt constructed.

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New York Times Lies About Marriage

of The New York Times ask the question How Did Marriage Become a Mark of Privilege? Let’s see if she can determine the answer.

Fewer Americans are marrying over all, and whether they do so is more tied to socioeconomic status than ever before. In recent years, marriage has sharply declined among people without college degrees, while staying steady among college graduates with higher incomes.

Since the welfare state has made it economically beneficial for single mothers to remain single unless they find a husband with a significant income, this is unsurprising.

Currently, 26 percent of poor adults, 39 percent of working-class adults and 56 percent of middle- and upper-class adults ages 18 to 55 are married, according to a research brief published from two think tanks, the American Enterprise Institute and Opportunity America.

The more you make, the bigger the difference you can make over what the government will pay you in welfare. Is it any surprise that the poor have such a low percentage of marriages, when often, marrying will mean a single mother has less income?

In 1990, more than half of adults were married, with much less difference based on class and education: 51 percent of poor adults, 57 percent of working-class adults and 65 percent of middle- and upper-class adults were married. A big reason for the decline: Unemployed men are less likely to be seen as marriage material.

This is bullshit. The unemployment rate in 1990 was higher than it is now:

unemployment-rate

As marriage has declined, though, childbearing has not, which means that more children are living in families without two parents and the resources they bring.

This is more bullshit. The crude birthrate in the US has declined by more than 25% since 1990:

crude-birthrate

Just over half of adolescents in poor and working-class homes live with both their biological parents, compared with 77 percent in middle- and upper-class homes, according to the research brief, by W. Bradford Wilcox and Wendy Wang of the Institute for Family Studies. Thirty-six percent of children born to a working-class mother are born out of wedlock, versus 13 percent of those born to middle- and upper-class mothers.

And children of single mothers are more prone to a host of problems, including criminality.

Evidence shows that the struggles of men without college degrees in recent years have led to a decline in marriage. It has been particularly acute in regions where well-paying jobs in male-dominated fields have disappeared because of automation and trade. In a working paper published in July, three economists studied how the decline in manufacturing jobs from 1990 to 2014, across industries and regions, “contributed to the rapid, simultaneous decline of traditional household structures.”

Which is why, when Trump promised to bring back manufacturing jobs, he was able to steal the rust belt from the Democrats and win election.

Labor market changes made men less marriageable, they concluded. There were fewer available men, because unemployment was associated with a rise in incarceration or mortality from drugs and alcohol. The men who were left were less desirable, because they lacked income and were more likely to drink to excess or use drugs.

But as I mentioned above, unemployment has decreased. The rise in alcohol consumption in the US is more bullshit. It has actually fallen since 1990:

alcohol-use

A bad economy lowers the cost of having bad values — substance abuse, engaging in crime, not looking for a job right away,” said Gordon Hanson, an economist at the University of California, San Diego, who wrote the paper with David Autor of M.I.T. and David Dorn of the University of Zurich.

So if you have less money, you can afford more drugs? Seems unlikely. Maybe the decrease in demand will lower prices, but if you have less money, that won’t help. I can believe that when the economy is bad, crime increases and more people give up looking for work.

Never-married adults cite financial instability as a major reason for being single, especially those who are low-income or under 30, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. Most men feel it’s important for a husband to be a financial provider, especially men without college degrees, according to another new Pew survey.

Men who’s incomes are low have a hard time marrying because of the welfare cliff. Women under 30 are waiting to start families. Men understand that most women are looking for someone who makes more money than they do.

Women, meanwhile, have learned from watching a generation of divorce that they need to be able to support themselves.

And yet 70% of divorces are initiated by women.

In reality, economics and culture both play a role, and influence each other, social scientists say. When well-paying jobs became scarce for less educated men, they became less likely to marry. As a result, the culture changed: Marriage was no longer the norm, and out-of-wedlock childbirth was accepted. Even if jobs returned, an increase in marriage wouldn’t necessarily immediately follow.

The reason that the culture changed is the welfare state. Women became less likely to marry men–not the other way around–because a man without a well-paying job could no longer add to family income, due to the welfare cliff. If women could increase their family incomes by marrying, most would.

Social scientists suggest more routes to good jobs, like through community colleges or apprenticeships. More affordable housing for young people would help, so they don’t move in together simply from economic necessity. Inexpensive and accessible contraception would help, too. Some have suggested expanding the child tax credit, and removing the marriage penalty for benefits like the earned-income tax credit.

College will help those capable of earning a useful advanced degree, though it’s not for everyone. Apprenticeships only help if there are jobs in trades. Affordable housing won’t help men attract women. Contraception is already inexpensive and accessible. Expanding the child tax credit might help to reduce the welfare cliff, but only once income is high enough to be taxed.

It’s clear from research that if relationships progressed more slowly, and childbirth came later, families would be more stable.

Yet women are waiting longer and longer to have children, and marriages are becoming less and less stable.

People with college degrees seem to operate with more of a long-term perspective, social scientists say. They are more likely to take on family responsibilities slowly, and they often benefit from parental resources to do so — like help paying for education, birth control or rent to live on their own. In turn, the young adults prioritize waiting to have children until they are more able to give their children similar opportunities.

Smart people are smart.

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Is Having to Working Harder a Good Thing for Women?

The CBC has a new article that talks about Working women bearing more of the breadwinning burden, which oddly seems to say this is a good thing for women in two parent families.

breadwinnersMen and women are each making comparable contributions to the family finances in nearly one-third of all couples, Statistics Canada said Wednesday. In 32 per cent of cases, both incomes were “fairly equal,” or each earning 40 to 60 per cent of the couple’s total income — a marked improvement over 1985, when only 20.6 per cent of couples were each making comparable salaries.

How is 60/40 “fairly equal”? Also, how the fact that more women are having to work hard enough to earn between 66% to 150% of what their partners are making an improvement?

“Many factors have contributed to this advance, led by the increased labour force participation of women,” said Nora Spinks of the Ottawa-based Vanier Institute of the Family.

Again, how is this an advance? Wouldn’t it be better for women if they didn’t have to participate in the labour force?

Men, however, continue to earn an appreciably higher income in fully half of all opposite-sex couples, while women earned the larger share in just 17.3 per cent of cases — a glaring difference, although significantly better than in 1985, when nearly three-quarters of the men made more, compared with just eight per cent of the women.

Is it better for women to have to work harder? Have you asked women about this?

Women are paid less and often choose to leave temporarily in order to have and raise children.

Correct. An if a man chose to leave the workforce to have and raise children, he too would fall behind those in his profession who did not, and would be paid less when he returned. Like most choices, the choice to raise one’s children has both negative and positive consequences.

“The women who are now in their 60s were part of the cohort that lost time in pension-building when their kids were little, because they often had a year or two without benefits and the like,” said Spinks, noting women simply have to work longer to support themselves.

This is one of the benefits of a traditional marriage: married men and women can share their pension income.

What’s more, she added, women aren’t guaranteed more security or spending power just because they’re generating more income.

Nor are men. Security and future spending power are achieved by saving and spending wisely in the present.

“Those women who are in the paid labour force and maybe earning, finally, $100,000 — are they supporting their mothers in another household? Are they sending money back to the Philippines? Are they providing funds for their grandchildren’s childcare? Have they just given their kids a massive down payment for their own Toronto home?”

How is any of this specific to women?

Any growth in men swapping roles with women likely has more to do with the last major economic downturn and a loss of manufacturing jobs than with any great strides forward in pay equity or gender parity. “It’s not that she’s gone up significantly. It’s that he’s gone down.”

Given the fact that more women are now graduating from universities than men, I find it hard to believe this isn’t a gross generalization. Note that this is Spinks’s opinion, and doesn’t appear to be backed up by the census data.

The fact that a woman who wants to work is protected from being discriminated against based on gender is fine by me. The fact that woman have to work in order for couples to make ends meet is not. The number of couples where either partner is able to stay home to raise the children continues to decrease, to the detriment of all of us.

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Review of Dune (the miniseries)

* * * B

duneIn 2000, Dune, the novel by Frank Herbert, which may well be the greatest science fiction novel ever written, was brought to the small screen in a 5 hour miniseries. The 1984 film by David Lynch, while it captured some elements of the book well, was seriously flawed. A remake was a chance to correct the mistakes made by the earlier attempt and to capture the essence of the book. I’d say the miniseries is a partial success.

The greatest flaw of Lynch’s film was its failure to capture the Fremen culture. All of the major events of the middle of the book were faithfully reproduced, but the feeling of this brilliantly realized people was lost. The miniseries, while bungling some of the details (Paul’s seitch name, Usal, is gone; the Fremen phrase “Lisan al Gaib”, the voice from the outer world, is mistranslated as “Mahdi”, which actually means messiah), gets the gestalt much righter.

There were a few things I disliked. The acting was good, but not nearly at the level of the film. The same can be said of the sets and costumes. In the first act, Paul was much more sulky than he is in the book. The princess Irulan was made into a major character (in the book, she is merely the narrator). The music was uninspired, the major action scenes jumbled. Sadly, the film and the miniseries are like the two broken halves of the whole.

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