The Zeitgeist

The Zeitgeist

You’re Not Wrong, Walter

The first actual rich person I ever met, I met at Wharton.

Same goes for the second, third and probably 100th, for that matter. At 17, I couldn’t have told you what a trust fund was, described what an investment banker did, or listed a single prestigious preparatory high school in the country. Life, as they say, comes at you fast.

So when this tweet from a Wharton professor went viral over the last 24 hours, I had to chuckle.

Why was this worth a chuckle? Couple of reasons. First, because the narrative that emerged from the tweet’s language – that rich students at an elite university are shockingly out of touch – is entirely consistent with my anecdotal experience. America’s elite universities are overflowing with some of the dumbest smart people you will ever meet. Strong Lucille Bluth guessing at the price of a banana energy.

The second reason I chuckled is that the narrative that emerged from the tweet had very little to do with its actual content. In fact, Dr. Strohminger went on to observe in the thread that she doesn’t think this is an unusual feature of these students at all, but rather the tendency of our individual estimates about population averages to be really, really bad.

What the tweet said is that 25% of students thought the mean income in America was over $100,000. A hundred grand is a really bad guess against the true number of $45-$50,000, but not wildly off relative to the average household income of $70-75,000 that some students probably had in their heads when they read the question. Figure that some of them probably thought they were being particularly clever by estimating greater skewness from income inequality pushing the mean above the more familiar median, and the 25% number giving an outlier answer is sort of worth a yawn in my book.

But what the tweet said doesn’t matter. How did it make us feel?

Even without intent on the part of the author, even without a fact pattern that supported it, the narrative that this was “about out-of-touch rich kids” resonated in all of our brains without a thought.

This, my friends, is our brains on meme and metaverse.

— Rusty Guinn | January 20, 2022

Big Shoes to Fill

I love West Side Story. In every form and in every retelling I love it. Now I could spend a few hours recapping the story, the historical and cultural significance of the 1961 and 2021 films, and the differences between the two. But let’s cut to the chase.

The Golden Globes were last night and Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story won 3 very important awards. Best Musical or Comedy, Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy, and Best Supporting Actress in any Motion Picture. While it is a little ridiculous that West Side Story is in a “comedy” category, the acting awards are really interesting. It sets up Rachel Zegler (Maria) and Ariana DeBose (Anita) as front runners for the upcoming Oscars. Both are in positions to follow in the footsteps of some incredible EGOT women.

If DeBose wins, she will follow Rita Moreno who won Best Supporting Actress for the role of Anita in 1961. Moreno was the first Latina to win an Oscar and went on to win the Triple Crown of Acting and achieve EGOT status. She also appeared in the 2021 film as Valentina and served as an executive producer.

If Zegler wins, she follows Barbra Streisand and Julie Andrews. If you don’t know who they are, you’re lying. This is Zegler’s first film role. Ever. Spielberg cast her when she was just 17. If she wins off of her debut film performance that’ll put her in the same list as Andrews in Mary Poppins (1965) and Streisand in Funny Girl (1969).

So keep an eye on the awards this year. Cause something’s coming….

— Harper Hunt | January 10, 2022|

Everyone and Their Mother

It feels like everyone is coming out with an NFT these days. And I do mean everyone. It’s officially the latest celebrity trend. We’ve got actors, musicians, models and..uhhh…famous people. Seriously, I never thought I’d be looking at a list with Snoop Dogg, Tony Hawk, Paris Hilton, and Emily Ratajkowski on it. And a new contender has entered the field!

Melania Trump recently announced that she will be releasing an NFT called Melania’s Vision. This will be art that “embodies Mrs. Trump’s cobalt blue eyes, providing the collector with an amulet to inspire.” Check out the link below if you want more details. Personally, I’m saving up for the inevitable Ariana Grande NFT.

— Harper Hunt | December 16, 2021|

False Binary Choices

We seem obsessed with false binary choices. What do I mean – choices that aren’t really choices. Sort of like when your mom says do you want orange juice or apple juice? I don’t want juice. I want Soda. But that is not on the menu.

Do you want Brainard or Powell? Seems right in the zip code here. Like does this choice really matter? I don’t think so and the fact that markets are moving on these small binary choices that are meaningless seems like its becoming part of the weaponized narrative arsenal.

Take a look at what I mean.

And btw, we’ve talked about this before.

— Harper Hunt | November 23, 2021|

Olympic Boycott

From the ET Forum ...

President Biden has announced that he’s thinking about a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. What does this mean? Not much.

This boycott would be in protest of the Chinese treatment of Uyghurs and the crackdown of freedoms in Hong Kong. It’s been proposed by international advocacy groups and some members of Congress. Biden saying that he’s seriously considering it is the first major attention the movement has received. Though he’s committing about as much as a contestant on the Bachelorette who could “see himself one day having feelings for you”.

A diplomatic boycott would prohibit an official US delegation from attending the games. Usually some diplomatic figures like the first lady and second gentleman are present at the games and symbolically lead the American contingent into the games. But the athletes would still be able to compete.

Let’s be honest, no one cares about the diplomats at the Olympics. It’s all about the athletes. And the US would still send a massive team to the Olympics. There would still be constant coverage of the games and China would still make money off the tourism and streaming rights. Only change is that we won’t have an article talking about Jill Biden’s fashion choice at the opening ceremony.

I’ve talked before about how the Olympics in general are a complete mess. You can check out our Cursed Knowledge podcast on the topic if you want more information. The TL;DR is that the Olympics put an incredible strain on the most vulnerable citizens in the host country. I’m all for boycotting the Olympics. But you can’t half-ass it. Just removing the diplomatic presence is a copout that achieves nothing and helps no one.

— Harper Hunt | November 19, 2021|

It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas

From the ET Forum ...

Finished your holiday shopping? I hope so or else you’re out of luck. If you wait any longer you might be in for an unpleasant surprise. Retailers around the world have announced their concern with inventory shortage and supply chain delays as we enter the most wonderful time of the year. Most people don’t start holiday shopping until at least September with most taking advantage of the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. This year that might be a problem.

Covid has already wreaked havoc on the supply chain. More people are ordering online instead of going to a store. So the shipping industry has received a massive burden it wasn’t ready to carry. New safety regulations also slow down both production and shipping. And that’s not counting labor shortages that add another spanner in the works. Of course we can’t forget about massive cargo boats getting stuck in canals. That certainly doesn’t help keep things moving.

It’s been like this for awhile, but things are about to get a lot worse.

Most American’s do the bulk of their holiday shopping in November and December. That’s what retailers have been training us to do for years. With special holiday savings events every other weekend, it’s the best time to find that PS5 on sale. These sales have always been … interesting. We all know Black Friday is pretty dang close to the Purge. This year could be less physical pain, more economic turmoil.

If people aren’t out at stores taking doorbusters a bit too literally, then they’ll be doing their shopping online. Imagine everyone who goes out for Black Friday. Double that number. That’s about how many people will be ordering online on that one day. It’ll be chaos.

News outlets have already started to report on our impending doom and you can expect to see more coverage as we get closer to holidays. I highly doubt the articles and segments will encourage people to refrain from buying. More likely the suggestion will be to buy early and expect your shipments to be late.

— Harper Hunt | November 05, 2021|

Pin The Blame On The Scapegoat

From the ET Forum ...

On October 21, there was a tragic shooting on the New Mexico set of the film Rust. The TL:DR is that Alec Baldwin accidentally fired a prop gun that had live ammunition inside. This resulted in the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and injured the director Joel Souza. That’s the basics of what happened. The full story is a bit more complicated.

The investigation is still ongoing, but recent facts have come out that paint a very damning picture. Rust was a film conceived of and produced by Baldwin. Now Baldwin has dabbled in producing since 1994, but hasn’t had any notable success. The project was low budget for modern Hollywood standards, and was considered an independent film. This meant they didn’t have a studio backing the project and instead funding came from individuals. And none of these individuals had much if any experience making movies.

This might explain why there was another big problem with the Rust production. There was a culture of complacency around firearms. Cast and crew would regularly take the prop guns, load them with live ammo, and shoot cans off set. Before October 21st, There were 3 accidental misfires where prop guns were thought to be empty. Several crew members complained to producers about the lack of gun safety.

To add another layer to this tragedy, most of the crew walked off set the day before the accident. I’ve written before about IATSE and their negotiations and possible strike. Well this is a clear example of what they were fighting for. Crew workers had to drive 50 miles to and from set every day. This is after spending 12-13 hours working in the harsh sun. The day of the shooting, members of IATSE packed up and left set. At least one producer forced them to leave. New non-union workers were brought on to replace them. 6 hours later Hutchins was shot.

Oh, and the Assistant Director who gave Baldwin the gun was fired from a set in 2019 after he mishandled a prop gun which misfired and injured someone.

As I said before, the investigation is still ongoing. Hutchins death was a tragedy and an accident. But it was a highly preventable one. And now everyone is scrambling to control the narrative.

The New Mexico Governor is saying that if the film industry doesn’t set stricter regulations to ensure set safety, then the state will. IATSE is blaming the producers and non-union workers who were present. They called the replacement of union with non-union “inexcusable”. In response, the remaining producers have issued a statement that they were “in good standing with all major production unions and guilds”. Then you have the California State Senator calling for the ban of all live ammunition on theatrical productions.

Everyone is trying to add their own two cents and put their spin on it. Placing blame, deflecting blame, and trying to get their 15 minutes of fame. Because the cat’s out of the bag. Film sets are incredibly unsafe and people can die. Now it’s time to see what the investigation finds and which narrative spin comes out on top.

— Harper Hunt | October 29, 2021|

Second Chance

From the ET Forum ...

They made a deal! IATSE was able to reach an agreement with studios and networks just 24 hours before the strike would have gone into effect. Now the deal must be sent to IATSE members for approval. If the majority of IATSE members don’t vote in favor of ratification, the strike is back on. While IATSE was able to get better pay across the board and better working conditions, a lot of members feel it’s not enough.

Meanwhile. A strike did happen somewhere else. At John Deere, more than 10,000 employees walked out of 14 facilities. This is an active strike that’s been going on for over a week now. And I haven’t heard much about it. I’ve heard a lot about the IATSE negotiations from friends, trade journals, and main news coverage. And that was about a potential strike. I’m finding out about an actual strike a week after it started.

John Deere didn’t have missionaries to bring their strike to the public’s attention. IATSE had celebrities like Jane Fonda and Seth Rogen posting in favor of the negotiations. They used the full power of Hollywood to get mass attention. I know what the IATSE strike would involve. I know who would be affected, what they want, and what the ramifications would be. All this with very little effort on my part. I didn’t have to seek out much information and when I did there were dozens of media sources covering it. The John Deere workers don’t have that luxury.

Without a proper missionary they are waiting for people to notice. And the only people who are, are people already affected by the strike. Most news outlets aren’t covering the story or aren’t giving it the same weight and attention IATSE got weeks before they entered negotiations. Without a face to put on the story, it just doesn’t get the same attention.

— Harper Hunt | October 21, 2021|

3 Strikes They’re Out

From the ET Forum ...

If you hadn’t heard about the potential IATSE strike allow me to catch you up to speed. IATSE is the much needed abbreviation for the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees. They’re the thousands of people who make movies and television. All those names in the credits, that’s them.

And they’ve had enough. The crew works horrible hours with no breaks. Imagine your call time to work was 6am. But you have to wake up at 4am to get there in time and set up. Then work continues non stop until 9pm. Go home, get some sleep, and do it all again the next day. That’s not counting overtime. And the pay is not worth it.

Now the IATSE is ready to strike. They’re looking for a few things. One is better pay that accurately reflects the work done for streaming services. Technically shows produced for streaming services like Hulu and Netflix don’t count as a series and workers don’t get the higher pay that entails. So Stranger Things and The Handmaiden’s Tale are TV enough to win Emmys, but not to pay their crew.

IATSE is in the sixth day of talks with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers right now. They hope to come to a resolution, but they also have picket signs ready. And if the strike does happen, Hollywood is in trouble.

Remember how all the movies and shows from 2008 were super delayed, short, and just really bad? That’s because of the writers strike. Now imagine if it’s not just the writers. It’s the lighting tech. The cinematographer. The grip. The boom mic guy. If they go on strike Hollywood is shut down.

The IATSE expects to reach an agreement within days. But just in case, don’t hold your breath for Season 2 of Emily in Paris.

— Harper Hunt | October 12, 2021|

Coming Soon to CBS

From the ET Forum ...

The Activist is an upcoming reality show that really shouldn’t have made it past the “there are no bad ideas” stage of development. It’s the most tone deaf, disconnected concept I’ve ever seen.

The basic idea is that the show will feature six activists from around the world and follow them as they “compete in missions, media stunts, digital campaigns and community events”. Think Shark Tank meets The Apprentice. Contestants will be judged on how much social media engagement they receive, and the grand prize is an opportunity to attend the G20 Summit in Rome.


Contestants will be judged not by quality of their work but by the quality of their Instagram captions.

The show and its marketing campaign present this very shallow idea of supporting activism and getting them mainstream attention. But the show isn’t prepared to follow through on helping create change. The prize isn’t money or manpower. It’s a chance to beg powerful people to pretend to care.

At its core, this show is not about activism and social change. It’s about social media attention. Just look at the judges! Usher, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, and Julianne Hough have no experience in activism aside from Instagram posts and speaking at charity events. They’re not leaders of change. They’re mid-level celebrities who wouldn’t be out of place judging The Masked Singer.

The show has been justly lambasted on social media as literally everyone has a problem with the premise. It’s been called “performance activism personified” and it is. It’s encouraging participants and viewers to see activism not as something meant to enact change, but a way to get attention. It sets a standard that successful activism isn’t making change, it’s getting likes and views. It ignores the small, boring, and thankless work that is done on a grassroots level. The work we need to see more of.

We don’t need more beautiful people talking about how they use metal straws to save the sea turtles. We need more people who are willing to do the work. This show isn’t doing anything to help anyone and I, for one, will not be watching.

— Harper Hunt | September 16, 2021|