Money and Power

The Prequel Boom

The Prequel Boom

Why do studios keep doing prequels if fans hate them? And why do fans hate them so much in the first place?

In other words, though the term is recent, the narrative technique of the prequel is not as new as it may appear. What is new, it seems, in modern prequels is their much lower ideological stakes. People were willing to kill and die over the legitimacy of Julius Caesar’s consolidation of imperial power in Rome, and despite the heated rhetoric of online debate, it is difficult to imagine anyone working up as much real-world fervor over George Lucas’s decision to posit a racial-biological basis for susceptibility to the Force in The Phantom Menace. Yet as the debates over diversity in casting and the portrayal of female leadership in the recent Star Wars films shows, story-telling decisions do carry a political-ideological charge, which is presumably not unrelated to their ability to provide the foundation for community and identity among particularly enthusiastic fans.

Sordid, Predictable, Doomed

Sordid, Predictable, Doomed

Italian election preview

Today’s demented circus, a reality show whose rivals compete for the title of most insensate and most nihilistic, is the result of a crisis more than twenty-five years in the making. At the start of the 1990s, when Italy was preparing to enter the eurozone, the downturn in productivity was already evident, the backwardness of the economic system as undeniable as the total corruption of our political class. The crisis of 2008 and the semi-recent collapse of Europe’s core were only the icing on a rotten cake.

The Party Had Been Perfectly Correct on Every Issue

The Party Had Been Perfectly Correct on Every Issue

The end of the Zuma years

The global scandal of Donald Trump, like Zuma highly promiscuous and a figure of the grotesque and the laughable, has yielded much useful reflection on democracy, including the fact that the problem of love in politics is more complicated than it had seemed. The unattractiveness of Zuma and Trump is inscribed in everything from their ungainly physical presence to their ugly habits of casual lying and worse. Zuma’s rise was hindered neither by his having driven a wife to suicide nor by the charge of having raped the daughter of one of his close friends. The ruling party’s Women’s League demonstrated outside his friend’s daughter’s rape trial under a singular banner—“Burn the Bitch”—and, by some stroke of fortune, the victim’s house was indeed burnt down and she was forced into exile: one of the many occasions on which sections of the public have made clear their identification with the abuser. He bankrupted the country while reducing his party to a criminal enterprise. Yet he had no apparent charisma on Robben Island where, during the ten years of his imprisonment, he received not a single visitor.

Feel Something Again

Feel Something Again

On Superbowl LIII

When it looked like the aging Brady might make good on the automaker’s threat, Artemis smiled, picked up her bow, and sent Brandon Graham to restore order to the universe. After the fumble, Brady still got the ball back once more, now down by eight with a little over a minute left and no time outs, but it was too much, even for him, and Pats fans watching knew it. Still I will always cherish the absolute reticence of the Eagles fans to declare it over when it was. The shot of Philly waiting in disbelief to start celebrating that they had, in fact, beaten Tom Brady and won the Super Bowl will go down in my mind as one of the highest compliments ever paid to a competitor. When Brady was on the field, it wasn’t over until it was over and sometimes not even then.

Allegations and Counter-Allegations

Allegations and Counter-Allegations

The propagation of allegations is now taking place under the pretense of official congressional business, and without apology.

Hurricane Nunes is the latest weather system to fill the radar screen. It takes its name from Congressman Devin Nunes, a Republican from California and chair of the House Intelligence Committee. Over the first year of the Trump administration, Nunes has repeatedly made himself a useful arms-length proxy for the White House. Last March he cast some young White House national security staffers who complained about the “unmasking” of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn as being in the mold of Edward Snowden. His other services to the Republican Party include leading the fruitless two-year Benghazi investigation and repeatedly characterizing proponents of environmental regulation and universal health care as communists. In a Monday morning tweet, Trump called him “a man of tremendous courage and grit . . . a Great American hero.”

Unsatisfactory Closure

Unsatisfactory Closure

After Jacob Zuma

Cyril Ramaphosa’s triumph makes for unsatisfactory closure, given his long silence as Zuma’s deputy, and the holdovers elected along with him to run the ruling party, not to say the dual centers of power in the party and the presidency which will likely persist until the 2019 general election. Ramaphosa lacks (or seems to lack) the psychological strangeness of his predecessors, Zuma and before him Thabo Mbeki, who were often in the grip of destructive and self-destructive political passions. He nevertheless embodies the contradictions of the society, being at once the most successful trade unionist on the continent and, as a mining executive, the face most associated with the police killing of mineworkers at Marikana on August 16, 2012.

You're the Real Job Creator

You're the Real Job Creator

An interview with Stephanie Kelton

It is absolutely true that states, municipalities, and local governments depend on tax revenue in order to fund themselves. It is absolutely untrue that the federal government of the United States depends on tax revenue to fund itself. The United States government is the issuer of our currency—the US dollar. It has to spend dollars before the rest of us can get any. Households, local governments, private businesses, state governments—they are all users of the dollar. They have to get dollars in order to spend them. That’s the big difference.

Pirates and Traders

Pirates and Traders

A sack of oat flour was mysteriously displayed on the front desk.

The traffic in Lagos is famously bad. The local driving culture dictates tailgating, honking, flashing of brights, left turns into oncoming traffic, passing on the right, and shouting (but no cursing or lewd gestures—not in such a religious country). It isn’t rare to see a car casually reversing down an on-ramp, a motorcycle scattering pedestrians on a sidewalk, or a truck inching over a highway median to make an improbable u-turn.

Not Every Kid-Bond Matures

Not Every Kid-Bond Matures

Millennial habits so often mocked and belittled in the press are the survival strategies of a demographic “born into captivity.”

The summation Kids These Days gives us is harrowing: here is a generation hurrying to give in to the unremitting, unforgiving commodification of the self. Malcolm Harris predicts a future of debt servitude, confinement for the “malfunctioning,” worsening misogyny (though his gender analysis is less coherent than the rest of his argument), and total surveillance. Millennials, that is, are the first generation to live in the dystopia to come.

Desperately Seeking Cities

Desperately Seeking Cities

Amazon has bankrupted the ideology it claimed to appeal to: the ideology of “urbanism.”

Most city dwellers, it turns out, live lives of quiet desperation for Amazon. What was happening to Philadelphia disclosed the emptiness not just of this city, but of what people all over the country had learned to think cities were good for.