Friday, December 18, 2015

The Sound of Money

"God-Money's not looking for the cure
God-Money's not concerned about the sick among the pure
God-Money let's go dancing on the backs of the bruised
God-Money's not one to choose"

NIN - Head Like a Hole

I'd like to take this chance to recommend one of the few things to wring belly-laughs out of sour-tempered big bad lupine me over the years, the far-east re-imagining of a beloved "classic" known as The Backstroke of the West.
Now with 300% more Presbyterian elephants per galaxy far away. I bring this up specifically because I fired up Prime World a couple days ago to find Nival attempting to out-Engrish Chinese amateur translators:
Buy! Buy the arised awaken! It is a big.
Ah, traduttore, traditore.

Well, yes, it is in fact a big. Fuck the Middle-East and drowning polar bears. Babelfished translations aside, this weekend there's no other news to talk about except the awaken of The Force, by which I mean
by which I mean Disney's mind control apparatus. If we're to believe Wikipedia, over half of the most expensive movie in history's budget went into marketing. Two hundred and twenty-three million dollars our of four hundred and twenty-three. That's a quarter billion dollars spent on nothing.

I don't say that lightly.
First it might serve, as a thought-exercise, to translate that amount into something relatable like several thousand houses but I'll leave it up to my readers' imaginations to figure out what they could do with a quarter billion dollies. We cannot properly treat this as a comparison with other products, because it was not spent on producing anything.

Interlude: Nasreddin Hodja and the sound of money.

Once upon a time, Nasrudin came upon a hard-working wood-cutter going about his labors while another man lounged nearby clapping and yelling praise and encouragements. Confused, he asked the meaning of such a sight. The idle man said he's entitled to a third of the worker's income for providing support. The worker bitterly denied this, but Nostradin nevertheless demanded his coin-purse because it's only fair to provide an appropriate reimbursement for such a service. Taking out a metal dish, the Hogia loudly dropped a few coins onto it then handed all the money back to the wood-cutter saying "the sound of money is the proper payment for the sound of work."

In another version, Nasr ud-Din Ependi is himself lounging around the outside of an inn, delighting in the aromas of dinner wafting from the kitchen. The owner steps out and angrily demands payment. Payment for what? Why, consuming the scent of food, of course. Nastratin dutifully takes out his coin purse, holds it by the inn-keeper's ear and shakes it, saying "the sound of money is the proper payment for the smell of food."

Anyway, what I was
Ahem, what I was getting at was that Disney sank a quarter billion dollars (that we know of) into market manipulation for a single movie. This is money which adds nothing to the quality of the product. It can't render the explosions explodier or the hams hammier, the Yoda-ling more cryptic or the force any more forceful. Marketing doesn't cut wood. What burning the equivalent GDP of Micronesia can do is starve out the competition, make you
the latest Star War instead of many other perhaps more deserving space-age reincarnations of the swashbuckling mystical hero routine. You don't know what you don't know, and the obscenity of the sums involved in keeping it that way grows every day.

Economists faithful to the fundamentalist dogma of the invisible hand (flipping the public the all-too-visible finger) routinely slam any mention of socialism by citing the legendary inefficiency of old Eastern Bloc Communist economies. The free market, you see, is supposed to be efficient. Of course everybody who's anybody does their darndest to un-free the market as soon as they get the capital to do so, which is where the monstrous inefficiency of capitalism comes in. Over half of Disney's investment in The Force has gone not into out-competing other movies as per the naive interpretation of competition by offering a product for the public's evaluation and comparison with competitors, but in limiting the public's knowledge of available choices. They do this because of course they expect a huge
return on same investment, to the tune of half a billion dollars just in the first weekend, and ever more ridiculous sums over the weeks and months to come. How many different movies could have been funded with a quarter billion dollars? How many Primers in a Force? How many Primers in a Force's Twitter budget alone?

Of course in another week Americans will remember there's a still bigger circus in town and everyone will go back to watching Donald Trump calling Mexicans rapists and Ben Carson's homoerotic Jesus fanfic and Sanders' goofy hair and hopeless appeals to reason and Hillary Clinton cackling maniacally and telling Obama to clear out his office and don't let the door hit your scrawny black ass on your way out. Wanna talk marketing? Estimates for this two-year campaign now seem to be exceeding ten billion dollars. The Clinton dynasty's brand name alone comes with a two or two-and-a-half billion dollar price tag attached.


Buy what? Stock markets and mass-media have reversed Nasreddin's lesson. This is capitalist "efficiency" throwing greater effort into telling the public which food smells better than into actually cooking or eating anything, and it's all paid out of that wood-cutter's money because the Koch brothers sure as hell aren't manning the spigots on an oil rig themselves. Ten or twenty billion or however many Primers' worth of your money spent to decide which dog eats which, spent to tell you which product is superior instead of allowing you to decide for yourself. Two billion dollars' worth of Walker and Clinton's plastic smiles tacked onto every billboard and every TV channel and every online video ad day-in and day-out for the next year, all because the fatcats are expecting a HUGE return on their investment. Sounds like money to me.

The leas-
Sorry, the least she
I said the least she could do-
The least she could do is wave a lightsaber around.

Oh, will you shut the fuck up already?

"Bow down before the one you serve
You're going to get what you deserve"

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