The best things I’ve read recently (22/01/15)

This week Republicans vs Democrats, Trump vs the National Review, and Avatar vs cultural irrelevance.

Against Trump (National Review)

“It is unpopular to say in the year of the “outsider,” but it is not a recommendation that Trump has never held public office. Since 1984, when Jesse Jackson ran for president with no credential other than a great flow of words, both parties have been infested by candidates who have treated the presidency as an entry-level position. They are the excrescences of instant-hit media culture. The burdens and intricacies of leadership are special; experience in other fields is not transferable. That is why all American presidents have been politicians, or generals.”

Five Years Ago, ‘Avatar’ Grossed $2.7 Billion But Left No Pop Culture Footprint by Scott Mendelson (Forbes)

“Avatar crossed $1 billion by the end of its third weekend and topped Titanic‘s $1.8b worldwide cume, or what I used to call the ’Joe DiMaggio 56-game hitting streak’ of box office records, in just 38 days. It went on to earn $760m domestic (compared to Titanic’s $600m haul in 1997/1998, not counting the 2012 3D reissue) and a stunning $2.7b worldwide, topping the (at the time) $1.8b worldwide cume of Titanic by 50%. Even five years later, there are only 22 films that have grossed even half of Avatar’s final $760m domestic cume. Even five years later, only Titanic and The Avengers have earned half of Avatar’s $2.7b gross while just 30 films have earned a third of that worldwide. Avatar is the highest grossing film of all time by such a margin that we may not see anything approach its global cume for a very long time, if ever. Yet for all intents and purposes, the film is all-but-forgotten.

It did not become a cultural touchstone in any real sense. Kids don’t play Avatar on the playground nor with action figures in their homes. There is little-if-any Avatar-themed merchandise in any given store. Most general moviegoers couldn’t tell you the name of a single character from the film, nor could they name any of the actors who appeared in it.  Even its strong showing at the Oscars hurt the film, as the narrative turned into “mean and scary James Cameron” against “weak and helpless Kathryn Bigelow” as if the former Ms. James Cameron needed any sympathy votes as she went on to become the first female Best Director winner for The Hurt Locker. Avatar didn’t inspire a legion of would-be Avatar rip-offs, save perhaps for Walt Disney DIS +2.08%’s disastrous John Carter. It didn’t set the mold for anything that followed save its use of 3D which turned the post-conversion tool into a valuable way to boost box office overseas.”

This is what makes Republicans and Democrats so different by Ezra Klein (Vox)

“I’ve often heard liberals wonder why there’s no Democratic version of the Tea Party. I’ve often heard conservatives complain that their party doesn’t spend enough time coming up with serious policy solutions for issues like health care. And, to be sure, there are some liberals trying to popularize Tea Party–like tactics and some conservatives trying to come up with sweeping new health reforms.

But it’s hard for these initiatives to succeed. There’s a tendency to imagine the parties as mirror images of each other, and thus to believe they can easily follow the other’s strategies. But they can’t. The parties are good at different things because they really are different.

That difference, however, can lead to deep misunderstandings. Democrats tend to project their preference for policymaking onto the Republican Party — and then respond with anger and confusion when Republicans don’t seem interested in making a deal. Republicans tend to assume the Democratic Party is more ideological than it is, and so see various policy initiatives as part of an ideological effort to remake America along more socialistic lines.”

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