Elf Demographics in LOTR

Although nowhere mentioned or implied, directly, in Tolkein’s Middle Earth stories, elvish society should be female-majority by a tremendous margin, owing to basic demographic facts.

The elves don’t age beyond maturity. Violent injury in combat appears to be the leading cause of death among elves, by far. This means a much higher mortality rate for male elves than female elves. Millennia-long lives, compounding this disparity, would result by the late Third Age in a ratio of female to male elves entirely opposite the ratio found among Tolkein’s identifiable characters.

In this essay I will belabor this point at considerable length.

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Twenty Years

I missed the 20-year anniversary of my college graduation by a day, but under the circumstances, you know. You’ll have that.

Twenty years ago I got a graduation ceremony—in fact I got two of them, one for the College of Design and one for Iowa State University Class of 2000 as a whole—whereas this year’s graduates get a webcast.

Halfway between then and now, I wrote about assorted life lessons at another blog.

Now we are living through a greater unraveling, and, yeah.

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Ghost Rider, 2099, and futures past

It occurred to me, recently, that when Marvel launched their 2099 comics in the early 1990s, the setting’s distance in time was twice that of the “Marvel universe’s” origin. The fictional world’s pre-war beginnings lay a little more than 50 years in the past; 2099 lay more than 100 years in the future. Now, as of 2020, the present has moved to a point midway between both.

Taking stock, I feel that 2099 has aged well beneath accumulating dust. The original line, at least, may be approaching the threshold of “old/obscure comics.” The 25-issue Ghost Rider 2099 series written by Len Kaminski is probably there, and worth more appreciation than it probably has, or than at first glance it probably appears to deserve.

The series’s strong start accounts for much of its worth after a quarter-century. Nothing about Ghost Rider 2099 was really groundbreaking; realistically all of the pieces had been used before. But during the first dozen issues they were chosen and assembled very, very well.

The artwork helps a lot. Chris Bachalo‘s drawings are pretty to look at, and gifted the series with a few truly memorable designs, particularly the bizarre “Ghostworks.” The storytelling also feels perfectly timed and balanced, though. Plenty of settings and characters are introduced, but things happen every issue. There’s a sense of “openness” and freedom to how widely Ghost Rider ranges, at will, from a gang encampment to the C-suite to a round-trip errand from the Midwest to New York.

The Ghost Rider is not there to “play in a sandbox,” the Ghost Rider is there to make big, hands-on changes to a world filled with things he doesn’t like.

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The Paper Goeth into the Night

Within the past week, corporate ownership basically delivered the deathblow to traditional journalism in Cleveland. The skeleton staff of alternative weekly Scene has covered these events quite well, but in brief, owners pushed out most reporters still employed at the metro’s last remaining print daily newspaper.

I comment, here, mostly to connect the obvious dots that both broad industry trends and the specific policies of said owners have been pointing toward this outcome for years, so the stunned reaction is rather frustrating.

I grant that the past week’s actions by Plain Dealer owners, Advance Publications, pushed the familiar pace a bit. The past week’s brazen dishonesty and dickishness from Advance, and their minion Chris Quinn, also justify some measure of surprise.

But the approach of this substantive outcome has been perfectly visible for years, as has a means which was fundamentally dishonest and dickish.

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Reality Check: DeWine, Trump, and the GOP

Taking reassurance from Governor Mike DeWine is a terrible mistake.

It’s understandable to want reassurance right now. There’s a pandemic, everything is closed, life has been transformed in a matter of weeks and things are going to get worse.

But there’s a reason this is happening. COVID-19 itself is a natural phenomenon, but human choices shape its impact dramatically. America has literally done the worst job in the world of managing this pandemic:

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2020 Primary: Plus ça change…

I tried watching one of the Democratic Primary Debates, some months ago. It was basically unwatchable.

It’s just deeply awkward and unpleasant, for one thing; not only does it seem much like the collision of noises in a typical ESPN yelling-heads show, it’s worse because in theory the presidential debate is consequential and it certainly imposes this debasement on some genuinely intelligent people.

In a bigger sense, it’s hard to keep watching when it’s fairly obvious, before the debate even begins, that it’s basically a ritualized, desperate waving around of American culture’s absurd decay. The set design would have seemed like a grotesque parody if you showed it to someone a few decades ago. As visual metaphor for a culture trapped in rituals which no longer function, yet so hollow it can manage no response except to tart them up with ever more neon and mirrors, it would be rather hamfisted. Except this is what passes for reality. This reduction of national dialogue to a ridiculous game show, in both function and form, is not critical art but a miserable cynic’s disgusted counsel of despair.

lol, says the debate format, nothing anyone does matters just give up.

The debate content and the larger primary provided a lot of support for that counsel, and some interesting but very limited exceptions to it.

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Strange Days

Things really have not felt “the same” since l’affaire Ukrainienne broke open last September.

That particular scandal broke open in a way that none seemed to have done, before, in this years-long nightmare. The House of Representatives impeached the president. Then not only did one senator from the president’s own party break ranks and vote to remove, for the first time ever, said senator was himself the presidential nominee of said party just several years ago.

The climate crisis is happening now, and can scarcely get a moment’s attention. The Trump administration basically started a war with Iran. Every bulwark against abuse of power is breaking down.

Oh, it’s a Census year, too, and that’s probably going to be severely compromised at best.

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Twitter Jail

Note: two weeks later I finally received a response from Twitter, and after a further round of correspondence the same day, I was freed from jail for reasons which are just as opaque as those which put me there to begin with.

A few thoughts while I cool my heels in Twitter Jail (also known as no-warning, no-explanation suspension) for an indeterminate period:

I have no idea why my account was suspended, and everything I know about Twitter and all such massive algorithm-governed systems indicates that there may not really be any reason, even in the narrow sense of a specific rule (however arbitrary or unjust) violated. According to one article, Twitter has even admitted on occasion that it suspended an account for days, “by mistake.”

As well as the above, I have found relevant articles about Twitter suspension from 2014, 2018 and 2019. I suspect that the 2014 article best sums up every attempt to explain Twitter “rules,” however: “These rules are vague by design in order to prevent reverse engineering…”

The published rules as such certainly are vague, and in the absence of genuinely useful detail, seem to permit suspension for: replying, posting links, retweeting, following, unfollowing, using hashtags, or liking. For basically all actual activity on Twitter, in other words.

Without blowing this entirely out of proportion, social media platforms are a big portion of “public” space at this point. It has become very difficult to participate, without using any of the major platforms. Yet they are not only as opaque and arbitrary as any bureaucracy imagined by Kafka, they are entirely unelected and run by people who are unelected.

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Medicare for All vs Solidarity for Some

Just over four years ago I was writing about the contortions which many Democrats were twisting themselves into, over policies including Medicare for All, seemingly in order to pretend that their feelings toward individual candidates were policy-driven.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

Short version, Bernie Sanders is back running for president again; in the intervening four years his advocacy of Medicare for All has been joined by a small number of top-ranked Democrats, including even one of the other leading candidates for president, Senator Elizabeth Warren; Sanders’s campaign has vigorously framed Medicare for All as a wedge issue to justify disdain for and distrust of Warren, anyway, without any remotely credible basis in policy disagreement.

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The Epistolary Illusion

I experience a lot of voter contact, these days. Texting is high-volume contact, and supervising others for a texting program is even higher-volume. It’s intense—because a lot of people are fairly blunt in this impersonal medium—and it’s also repetitive. Patterns emerge quickly and tend to repeat, repeat, repeat.

The conclusions to which they lead are certainly not encouraging.

The notions that political choices are driven by policies, or issues, or values—or that they are responsive to information—seem increasingly fanciful.

A recent direct exchange with someone I know, personally, may however be even more discouraging.

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