Tired dog

2019-09-19

in Photo of the day

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A friend recommended the cartoon “Clone High” so I have gone through the first few episodes. Early on and repeatedly I noticed how the relationships between the characters are a lot like those in Archie comics.

Abraham Lincoln is the straight man or the stand-in for the reader. Like Archie, his main emotional drive is dealing with two different possible romantic or sexual partners. He has humanizing weaknesses which are meant to endear him to the audience and make him a protagonist who they enjoy seeing win. It’s easier to cheer for a down-and-outer (like Bruce Willis’ character in Die Hard or Sarah Connor at the beginning of Terminator) than for a character already recognized within the fictional world as excellent and likely to succeed. For one thing, such characters are less threatening because some aspect of their deficiency is emphasized. For another, there is little drama in a plot where it’s obvious from the outset and never inverted or called into question that particular characters will win out.

Joan of Arc is like Bettty. Her top choice of partner is Abe/Archie, but she is rarely that person’s most desired choice. She’s sometimes morally torn about opportunities to advance her interests in underhanded ways, but chooses the noble option. She’s also obviously the more attractive partner from any caring or generosity perspective, as seen by the audience, but is universally seen in-world as much less attractive than her somewhat sociopathic but glamorous classmate. She’s the sort who does humdrum volunteer work at a soup kitchen or animal shelter and then never tells anyone.

Cleopatra is like Veronica. She’s overwhelmingly interested in herself and romantically most inclined to pursue whoever seems to be socially on top at the moment. Generally she is drawn to JFK/Reggie, being unbothered by his questionable behaviour but drawn to his popularity and stature. She’s happy to lie and scheme to get what she wants, and has the benefit that most of her classmates are too starstruck around her to properly maintain their judgment.

JFK is like Reggie — arrogant and popular, but not necessarily smart. He can usually count on Cleopatra/Veronica to pursue him and is sometimes in rivalry with Archie/Abe. If that happens, it’s likely that Reggie/JFK’s approach will be underhanded in some way, Archie/Abe will probably pursue a less-promising-seeming but more upstanding approach, and as a narrative “surprise” the underdog who played by the rules wins out. It’s not much of a surprise given the narrative structure of the show and comic, but it’s not what the characters in the story expect to see happen during the peak action.

You could say the controversial and obviously somewhat offensive and annoying Gandhi character is the version of Jughead in Clone High, except that here he is desperately desirous of sexual partners but inept at persuading them, as opposed to indifferent or hostile to potential sexual partners but somehow highly attractive (at least to some) as a result. Here’s generally there to be someone with comic quirks who is never a serious contender in any of the recurrent love triangles between Abe-Archie-Betty-Cleopatra-JFK-Joan-Reggie-Veronica.

Perhaps another reason I thought of Archie is because of how all the romantic relationships are about friend-group scheming and not about what the members of the couple actually do directly with each other or alone. It’s more like controlled exposure to the opposite sex in a chaperoned dance held by two boarding schools, and less like the raw emotional and psychological entanglings of real teenage romances. The high school settings and social expectations about comic/cartoon content are sufficient to explain this approach in both cases, but it contributes to the narrative similarity between Archie and Clone High.

I can see why people are big fans of the show. I thoroughly enjoy the pause at the end of each of Mr. Lynn Butlertron’s – the school principal’s robotic butler comic relief character foil – statements where you wait for whether or not there will be a very acoustically pleasing “Wesley” at the end.

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Salvation

2019-09-16

in Photo of the day

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“A lot of people talk about expecting the best but preparing for the worst, but I think that’s a seductively misleading concept. There’s never just one “worst.” Almost always there’s a whole spectrum of bad possibilities. The only thing that would really qualify as the worst would be not having a plan for how to cope.”

Hadfield, Chris. “An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth.” New York; Random House. 2013.

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Geoff Dembicki has a piece out about how Trudeau’s method is to promise substantive reforms to voters, while privately comforting business with the understanding they won’t really be meaningful:

So on climate, for instance, he was presented as this kind of river-paddling environmental Adonis. He promised that fossil fuel projects wouldn’t go ahead without the permission of communities. But the Liberals create these public spectacles of their bold progressiveness while they quietly assure the corporate elite that their interests will be safeguarded. So at the same time Trudeau was going around the country and convincing people that he was this great climate hope, the Liberal party had for years been assuring big oil and gas interests that there would not be any fundamental change to the status quo.

The Liberal climate plan essentially is a reworking of the business plan of Big Oil and the broader corporate lobby. Most Canadians probably wouldn’t realize this because of the nature of coverage in the mainstream media and the polarized political debate about the carbon tax, but overwhelmingly there is an astonishing consensus among the corporate elite in support of a carbon tax.

The plan is to support a carbon tax and to effectively make it a cover for expanded tarsands production and pipelines. That was a plan hatched by the Business Council of Canada back in 2006, 2007. For 20 years oil companies had resisted any kind of regulation or any kind of carbon tax and fought it seriously. But they started to realize that it would be a kind of concession that they would have to make in order to assure stability and their bottom line not being harmed. The climate bargain that Trudeau went on to strike with Alberta of a carbon tax plus expanded tarsands production was precisely the deal that Big Oil had wanted.

For a long time, Canadians prioritizing climate change have had no effective political option. Under first-past-the-post Green and even NDP votes are often counterproductive protests. I’m wary about criticism of the Liberals increasing the odds of a Conservative win, but I don’t think we should lie either.

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I hadn’t heard about this weird distortion in the US medical system, where pharmaceutical companies use tax-exempt charities to manipulate the co-payment system used by health insurers for prescription drugs:

Half of America’s 20 largest charities are affiliated with pharmaceutical companies.

Pharmaceutical companies will often claim that helping patients with their co-payments is a way of making costly drugs more accessible. But it has the fortunate consequence of making their customers price-insensitive, because insurance companies will often use high co-payments to nudge their customers into opting for generics over costlier branded drugs: no co-pay, no incentive to save money.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (sec) is also looking more closely at independent charities that are sometimes sponsored by pharmaceutical firms. One independent charity offered co-pay support only for a specific type of “breakthrough pain” for cancer patients, a condition its sponsor had a 40% market share in treating. An sec probe has already settled claims with some pharmaceutical firms, though none has admitted wrongdoing. United Therapeutics has settled the biggest claim, worth $210m, with the Department of Justice. Lundbeck, a Danish drugmaker, and Pfizer have settled smaller claims. “Pfizer knew that the third-party foundation was using Pfizer’s money to cover the co-pays of patients taking Pfizer drugs,” according to Andrew Lelling, a us attorney, “masking the effect of Pfizer’s price increases.” Johnson & Johnson, Astellas, Gilead Sciences, Celgene, Biogen and others face investigations.

America’s health system is convoluted to the point of being surreal, as well as manipulated by the huge influence of the pharmaceutical industry on legislators.

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