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Archive Monthly Archives: May 2017

5 Things ‘Star Wars’ Fans Don’t Understand About ‘Star Wars’

Does it seem like your world is split between people who are irrationally hyped for Star Wars: The Force Awakens and those who are irrationally angry about said hype? Well, there’s a reason for that. It has to do with nostalgia, cynicism, and our very complicated relationship with this franchise.

See, all human attitudes are subject to something I call the Belief In Santa Claus Cynicism Progression, or if you prefer, the Human Santapede. It works like this:

From birth to early childhood, you believe Santa Claus is real and magical;

In late childhood, you find out Santa isn’t real;

In your teens, you find out your parents sometimes can’t afford Christmas gifts;

In your college years, you hear that Santa was created by Coca-Cola for an ad campaign and decide the whole thing is commercialized bullshit;

In adulthood, you see the glow on a child’s face on Christmas morning and decide that Santa is real and magical after all.

Star Wars is like that — the more you dig into it, the uglier it looks, until eventually it … isn’t. What do I mean? Well, it starts with the day you realize …

#5. Star Wars Was A Cynical Mashup Of What Worked Before

Luke, Han, and Darth Vader were literally among the first names I ever knew. George Lucas was writing the first draft of Star Wars at the exact same time my parents were entering the pre-production phase on me — spring of 1974. When my little growing brain was figuring out the names of things a few years later, Star Wars was everywhere — my tiny little universe was Mommy, Daddy, Big Brother, Grandma, Grandpa, Luke Skywalker. I spent more of my childhood imagining how I would live in the Star Wars universe than I did imagining being an adult in ours. This is why I have no idea how to manage my life today, but I can guarantee every exhaust vent on this house has a fucking screen on it.

Toilets, too. Just to be safe.

When I was old enough to understand what a “movie” was — that it was just a thing people made up and not an actual alternate universe I was viewing through a rectangular portal — I was even more amazed. How can a human brain even conceive of something like Darth Vader, or The Force or … any of it? Yeah, I knew pretty early I wanted to create things, too — it seemed like a form of magic.

“Seemed” is in past tense for a reason — these days I know that the roots of Star Wars go back to 1912, when Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote a novel about a human having a swashbuckling space adventure called A Princess of Mars. It was the first mainstream hit that featured a now-familiar formula: spaceships, sword fighting, and magical fantasy shit like telepathy. A decade and a half later, this inspired a writer named Philip Francis Nowlan to create the swashbuckling space adventure Buck Rogers, which launched a wildly successful franchise that spanned radio, TV, film, novels, toys … you name it. The bad guys were called “The Han” and the main villain was a flamboyant dictator in a cape named Killer Kane:

And under the cape, what appears to be a polo shirt.

Seeing the success of Buck Rogers, a comic strip publisher called King Features Syndicate went to one of its writers and said, “Write us something like that. And we mean exactly fucking like it. Make it rain money up in this shit!” The writer, Alex Raymond, came back with Flash Gordon, a shamefully identical comic strip that debuted in 1934 and launched its own lucrative media empire. Flash’s swashbuckling space adventures involved fighting a flamboyant dictator in a red and gold robe with a long mustache named Ming the Merciless:

Merciless to his enemies, merciless to fashion.

Oh, and the live action Flash Gordon episodes would open with a slanted crawl, stating the “Chapter” and giving some backstory:

This is what George Lucas grew up watching. Flash Gordon was his Star Wars. An adult George Lucas, hot off the enormously successful American Graffiti, tried to buy the rights to Flash Gordon to turn it into a big-budget film franchise. They couldn’t come to terms on a deal, so Lucas just decided to just write his own version. That’s all it was.

I mean, you can’t feel bad for King Features Syndicate — it’s the exact process by which they created Flash. In Lucas’ knockoff, the hero was to be called Kane Starkiller, his friend was Han, the villain was to be an emperor with a long mustache and a red cape with gold trim. Lucas was just copying and pasting shit, later changing enough to avoid getting sued.

The rough draft of Star Wars was an incoherent rambling mess, borrowing entire scenes from other movies, mostly Akira Kurosawa samurai films (then again, Kurosawa had borrowed his from American Westerns). This is probably why Darth Vader looks a lot like he’s wearing samurai armor …

It’d be such a different movie with the antlers.

For the space dogfight that would mark the climactic battle at the end of the film, Lucas literally stitched together footage from war movies and documentaries, then just re-filmed them with spaceship models, shot for shot.

In other words, Santa Claus isn’t real. The wondrous fantasy universe I spent every spare moment daydreaming about as a kid turns out to be a young director’s crass, hacky grab for fame and fortune. Lucas had remixed two enormously popular franchises, tossing in the coolest moments from several other movies he liked, to create something that everyone in the industry agreed was a piece of shit. Oh, you didn’t know that part? Yeah, Lucas delayed the movie for six months so they could do emergency re-shoots, and even then most theaters were refusing to show Star Wars until studio arm-twisting and early box office returns changed their mind.

Of course, it defied the odds and became a phenomenon. At which point …

#4. It Soon Became A Vehicle To Sell Action Figures

George Lucas took a massive pay cut in his director’s salary in exchange for all rights to Star Wars merchandise and future sequels. The studio happily complied, saving a cool $350,000 against what they were sure would be purely imaginary merchandise sales (movie merchandise wasn’t a huge business at the time, and remember they thought the movie would bomb).

But George Lucas knew exactly what he was doing: Star Wars toys would wind up generating $27 billion(!) in revenue over the next few decades. Lucas knew that he was, in part, making a series of toy commercials. This is the reason Han Solo didn’t die in the middle of Return of the Jedi, as originally planned — in the words of Harrison Ford, “George didn’t think there was any future in dead Han toys.” Even though these stories took place a “long, long ago” and all of these people are surely dead anyway.

It got to the point that Kenner was cranking out action figures of every single extra seen in the background of every shot (over 100 separate action figures for just the three movies). These were characters who didn’t even have names in the script — George Lucas quickly came up with their names and backstory when it came time to make the toys.

IG-88 was in one scene and had no lines. His original action figure has an eBay bid of 200 dollars.

This is Stage Two of my cynicism cycle. Not only is Santa not real, but behind Santa is a whole bunch of grown-up money concerns. (“So that’s why ‘Santa’ always gave the rich kids nicer clothes!”) See, today no movie studio would make that deal with a young director — merchandising is too important to the bottom line. And I mean, to the point that the merchandising now shapes the movie.

It turns out that one of the several thousand reasons Batman & Robin sucked is the studio forced Joel Schumacher to cram in as many vehicles and costumes as he could, so they could be turned into toys (the studio famously told him the movie should be “toyetic,” a word that should instantly give you a seizure). This is why today big movie franchises get so, well, crowded.

Want to buy everything Avengers: Age of Ultron-related from Toys R Us? That’ll be $1,025.32. Still no Black Widow stuff though.

This is why you need three or four villains in every superhero movie, and like two dozen Transformers designs for each of their sequels. It’s why the third Iron Man movie needed 10 different Iron Man suits …

You remember Sonic Blasting Iron Man, right?

All of those movies needed bloated, convoluted plots to accommodate all of these characters/vehicles/costumes. You can thank George Lucas for that. Because …

#3. George Lucas Created A New Business Model, And Hollywood Would Never Go Back

The question, “Why are all of the most popular movies big-budget special effects spectacles?” seems like a no-brainer. It’s all exciting, dazzling, light-hearted stuff that anybody can enjoy, right? Of course that’s what will rise to the top. But check this out: Here’s a list of the highest-grossing movies for each of the 10 years before Star Wars came along in 1977. I’m putting the genre first; you’ll see why:

1976 – Inspirational sports drama (Rocky)
1975 – Horror/Monster movie (Jaws)
1974 – Screwball parody (Blazing Saddles)
1973 – Heist movie (The Sting)
1972 – Serious gangster drama (The Godfather)
1971 – Musical (Fiddler on the Roof)
1970 – Romance drama (Love Story)
1969 – Action/Western (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid)
1968 – Serious sci-fi drama (2001: A Space Odyssey)
1967 – Comedy/Drama (The Graduate)

Now compare that to the last 10 years:

2015 – Action/Sci-fi (Jurassic World)
2014 – War drama (American Sniper)
2013 – Action/Sci-fi (The Hunger Games: Catching Fire)
2012 – Action/Sci-fi (The Avengers)
2011 – Action/Fantasy (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2)
2010 – Animated comedy (Toy Story 3)
2009 – Action/Sci-fi (Avatar)
2008 – Action/Fantasy (The Dark Knight)
2007 – Action/Fantasy (Spider-Man 3)
2006 – Action/Fantasy (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest)
2005 – Action/Sci-fi (Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith)

Not that I have any problem with sci-fi/fantasy action — that’s my genre, too! I’ll let them make action figures out of all this shit.

And hey, it’s not like great original films aren’t still being made — they absolutely are, and some of them are now in the form of TV shows. It’s just that the mega-blockbusters do matter. They’re the cultural touchstones, the shared experiences that bond our childhoods. They’re the movies you can bring up on the playground (and then, the break room) and know that everyone has seen them, the shared references becoming a second language. You know, like how when the Jared Fogle story broke, every single person immediately made the same joke.

But they don’t serve Subway in prison, so … oh, I get it. He’s getting a dick. In the butt.

Well, today if you’re making a movie that can stand at the center of the collective cultural imagination, you’ll need $200 million in production (split between big stars, elaborate stunts, and CGI effects) and another $100 million in promotion. And you’ll need a concept that is a very safe bet — usually a sequel, remake or spinoff. You can thank George Lucas for that, too.

It’s true Lucas didn’t invent the sequel craze (James Bond had already cranked out nine movies before A New Hope came along, even though scientifically Bond’s dick would have fallen off by then). But I do know this: There absolutely was a time when you could look at the top 10 movies of the year and not see a single sequel. That was the case in 1976, the year before Star Wars came out, for instance. But by the time Jedi hit in 1983, sequels had begun to dominate. Raiders of the Lost Ark, Back to the Future, Rambo, Batman, Die Hard, Star Trek … Hollywood was looking for franchises, the promise of a bunch of sequels helped justify the initial investment.

Usually.

And that was crucial, because those initial investments were getting obscene. The average wide-release film budget in the 1960s was $12 million (adjusted for inflation). By the 1980s it had risen to $40 million. Today? Try $140 fucking million. Oh, and the marketing blitz that it takes to get enough people into the theater to make that money back can run an additional $40 million to $200 million on top of that. Just to get people in to a movie they probably already want to see.

I think, at some point, they were won over.

That right there is why they’re scared to make a blockbuster that doesn’t have built-in brand recognition, so they know they have a certain number of fans in the bank. That’s why the top 10 movies of this year (as of the writing of this article) are six sequels, a remake, a spinoff, and two originals. By the time the year is over, it’s likely only four of the top 20 movies will be originals (I’m going to take a wild guess that Episode VII and the last Hunger Games movie will both wind up there).

Now we reach the “Santa is just a crass corporate mascot” level of cynicism, the point at which you decide there is no magic, or wonder. It’s all just a soulless assembly line. You see The Hunger Games become a hit, and then watch the knockoffs flood in (Divergent, The Maze Runner) and you roll your eyes because it’s just so transparent, so cynical. You decide that it was never about trying to give us a fantastical journey that would elevate our imaginations; it was all about a series of buttons they could push to make money shoot out of our little wallets. “Oh, hey, I wonder if the young attractive guy/girl who’s down on their luck in the first scene will turn out to be the Chosen One?” Screenplays that are just fill-in-the-blanks.

And just when you think it can’t get worse …

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12 Financial Planners Share Their Best Tips For Making More Money – Forbes


Forbes

12 Financial Planners Share Their Best Tips For Making More Money
Forbes
While there are plenty of simple ways to earn money on the web, it's possible to earn a sizable side income with your own website. By starting a blog or niche website on any topic you're passionate about, you can start a business that can be monetized

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Women in the Blogging World – Part 1 – WABI


WABI

Women in the Blogging World – Part 1
WABI
Market research company eMarketer says more than 4 million women who blog are moms. Some focus on parenthood – others on completely different topics. For one mom in Hermon, starting a blog was a way to reach out to others like her. Three kids plus …

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ABC revamps streaming app with new digital slate, adds seven new shows

LOS ANGELES ABC is adding throwbacks like My So Called Life and a handful of new digital series to its streaming app as part of a major revamp.

The network announced the launch of seven new digital shows for its app Wednesday (check out an exclusive clip of Modern Family star Ty Burrell’s digital series below).

A look at ABC’s revamped streaming app.

Image: ABC

The app itself will also get a facelift. There will be a redesigned user interface exclusively foriPhone, iPad, iPod touch and Apple TV that improves discovery and navigation, ABC said.

Our team has completely reimagined the digital viewing experience for ABC fans,Karin Gilford, SVP of Digital Media at ABC Television Network, said in a statement.All of this allows us to expand beyond the bounds of our linear schedule and extend ABC storytelling to viewers across screens andplatforms.

Our team has completely reimagined the digital viewing experience for ABC fans.”

Here’s a full list of the new digital programming (plus an exclusive clip of Burrell’s show):

Boondoogle

“After a life of obscurity, Burrell has finally made it big with a starring role in the hit series ‘Wingbot.’ Now he and his non-tourage of best friends Mel, Joel and Johnny get to enjoy some of the perks of being a TV star. Its time for these 40-something husbands and dads to cut loose mostly on weekends and during reasonable hours. Starring: Burrell, Joel Spence, Mel Cowan, Johnny Meeks, all as themselves.”

All My Gay Friends Are Getting Married

“A celebration of gay marriage through the eyes of only mildly bitter single girl, Michelle Collins, whos realizing that everyone is now getting marriedexcept her. Shell sit down with the couples as they recount how they fell in love and relive their epic wedding ceremonies.”

Forever 31

“Comedian Iliza Shlesinger and her friends struggle with the indignities of dead-end jobs, hangovers, dating, infidelity and all the rest of the absurdities of modern adulthood. Created by and starring Shlesinger.”

Tastemades ‘Get Cookin

“Sponsored by Hefty, three popular Tastemakers Erwan Heussaff, Lazarus Lynch, Megan Mitchell – arm viewers with the techniques, tips, and recipes to take their food game to the next level. In addition to showing mouthwatering recipes, these chefs will tell personal stories behind these dishes, why they matter, and why they should be the next things to devour.”

I Can Find $3,000 In Your Home

“eBay millionaire Linda Lightman believes that everyone has at least 52 items totaling at least $3,000 in their homes. Shes going to households around the country to find the treasure in their trash and show you how to make money with insider tips about the online resale value of your stuff.”

Newborn Moms

The comedic story of what its like to be a new parent struggling with sleepless nights, self doubt and swollen boobs. Created by Aurora Browne and Nadine Djoury, the series follows two moms, Rosie and Julia, as they reconcile the kind of mothers they thought they would be with the kind they actually are. Starring Aurora Brown (Rosie) and Nadine Djoury (Julia).”

On The Record

“Provides an intimate ‘story behind the song’ experience where songwriters perform an acoustic version of the song and share the inspiration behind it. The interviews will reveal the songs meaning, personal anecdotes of its evolution, and its impact on the artists life and career. The first installment in the series features Hollywood Records recording artist Shawn Hook discussing his hit singles ‘Wonderful Surprise,’ ‘Million Ways’ and ‘Sound of Your Heart.’ Future artists include Fancy and Yuna.”

Have something to add to this story? Share it in the comments.

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This Is How Much Money Food Bloggers Can Actually Make – Huffington Post


Huffington Post

This Is How Much Money Food Bloggers Can Actually Make
Huffington Post
The Ostroms began posting the blog's earnings in August 2011, when they made a measly $21.97 that month. They began the public project to see if they could make money food blogging (which they called the Food Blogging Money Making Experience).

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How To Be Confident About The Price You Demand For Your Art

Art is everywhere. But for some weird reason, if you talk to any parents, they ask how its a profitable venture.

They will probably ask, Have you considered your future? Art is not something you can do for the rest of your life.

However, in the age of the internet, if you go to Fiverr, youll probably find a lot of jobs relating to design and art. True to its name, people are offering to pay only $5 for works of art and artists are accepting this.

Its considered OK. But quite frankly, thats ridiculous.

Its ridiculous that people believe a job will only net them $5 at the most. Even more ridiculous is the fact that artists believe their work is worth so little.

Talk toJanelle Mone and ask her how much she paid to hire Sam Spratt:the artist who drew the cover for her The Electric Lady album.She definitely did not pay him $5 for his work.

Branding is exactly why artists should be valued. There is a certain level of prestige that comes with high-quality work, and that is paired with high pricing.

Artists are partially responsible for the feel of the coffee mug youre holding right now. Theyre even partly responsible for how your monitor is standing to display this very article to you.

There are a lot of crippling things that we artists tell ourselves. Thats why so many of us still take those $5 jobs, even though they take us forever to complete.

Lets talk about why that is the worst thing to do. It is NOT beneficial to your clients. You need to get out of that mindset in order to truly understand your value:

If you love art, you should ask for the appropriate value for your efforts.

Starving artists believe their suffering makes their creativity better. By extension, they also believe it makes their art better.

These artists are also often the ones who refuse to learn the business side of art. They think their dedication to the creative aspect of art gives them more of an edge over the people whosell their souls in order to make money from their art.

Lets be honest here: Does anyone dare to say Queen had no artistic integrity because of the amount of money they made? What about Leonardo DiCaprio? Andy Warhol? Chase Jarvis? Elizabeth Gilbert?

No. None of them had thisstarving artist mentality. Suffering for your art is not an expected part of life. In fact, Elizabeth Gilbert had a lengthy discussion about this in her newest book, Big Magic.

The point is, suffering for art is a very short-term mindset. In order to really create art in the long term, you have to get something out of it.

So, if you really love your art, ask for your due compensation. It is only fair, and you will create better art for it.

Think about it: Wouldnt you work harder if you were encouraged and recognized, rather than devalued and unappreciated? It all comes together when people have higher value for your work.


The starving artist mentality is toxic to your clients.

Alright, so you may agree that I have a point. But what if the clients refuse your demands?

Who wants to pay more money? Not you, and not your client right?

Wrong.

Assuming youve not asked for something outrageously crazy, it is actually beneficial to your clients for you to ask for a higher price.

By asking them to pay more, you are actually increasing the effectiveness of your services, whether that is drawing a portrait of their dogs or creating an advertisement campaign.

This is actually covered extensively in Dan Arielys book, Predictably Irrational.

In his book, Ariely explains that clients are less inclined to think about money in the practical sense. It is very similar to how we groan at milk that costs us $4 instead of $3, but we quite happily buy $200 business suits for ourselves, all the while sneering at the suits that cost $59.99.

How does all this benefit the artist in question?Its simple.

When youre offering your services for ridiculously low prices (or even for free), you are ultimately labeling yourself as a low-level commodity. People dont respect you for your work, and they dont really expect much from you.

Youre not even given the chance to create results that will be attributed to you before you deliver your workbecause youve already been branded for your service and your service is CHEAP.

When you are priced cheaply, you become generic, non-branded salt. When you value yourself appropriately, you give yourself the opportunity to become Himalayan pink salt instead. Do you know what they say about Himalayan pink salt? People respect its health benefits fervently.

Thats the sort of belief you want to inspire your clients to have in you as well.


You arent selling out if you ask for money.

As artists, there is a lot expected of us.

Whenever we decide to ask for money for our work, we get a lot of backlash from the community. Every artist goes through this.

We do some lovely work, post the work online and just give it away for consumption, like it was easy to make. Butwhen you ask for money, youre suddenly selling out.

But you cant think that of yourself.

First of all, there will always be people who will think youre worth nothing.Its sad, but true.

And you cant please everyone. There will always be people like this.

Suffering doesnt create great art. In fact, it robs you of the ability to create great art in the long term.

A higher price point will improve your clients perception and appreciation of your work.

Forget everyone else.There will always be people who dont appreciate what you do. Thats just the way the world works.

The starving artist mentality is a bunch of bullshit. If youre dreaming of pursuing a career in creativity, GO FOR IT. Your odds are better than ever.

The statisticsare all working in your favor.The only thing you need to do is give yourself the permission to earn that amount.

If you really love your creative pursuit, you need to give yourself the permission to earn the value you are owed. Earning that value will create a much healthier creative environment for both you and your clients.


Celina Wong is a freelance creative consultant. She designs and directsmarketing campaigns for companies in order to help them get the most out of their exposure. She is also the founder of Art of Commissions, a website dedicated to helping artists find their career paths.

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7 Concepts We Totally Take For Granted, Like ‘White People’

Possibly the weirdest thing humans do is come up with something and then immediately act like it’s always been around. Like the guys who started marketing diamond engagement rings by pretending it was an immutable tradition. The reality is that once you start poking around at even the most fundamental realities of life, they reveal themselves to be laughably recent. For example …

7

Teenagers Were Invented Around The Time Of World War II

Depending on who you ask, your teenage years are either the best of your life (says your uncle who still wears his high school class ring, despite his finger looking like a tied-off sausage) or a cringefest that makes us wish the memory eraser from Men In Black were a real thing (says everyone else). If you could ask your great-great-grandpa, though, he’d likely ask you what the hell a “teenager” was, before telling you to get back to tilling that goddamned corn field.

That’s because up until the 1940s, teenagers weren’t really a thing. We don’t mean that people used to time-warp from age 12 to 20. We mean that the cultural concept — this ethereal, not-quite-child-yet-not-quite-adult period in human development — simply wasn’t considered to exist prior to the Great Depression. Up until then, you were either a child or you were an adult.

That all changed with a single spread in the December 1944 issue of Life.

In a historic attempt to quantify this “new” American youth phenomenon, Life excitedly told of the “teen-age” girl — specifically the white, middle-class teen-age girl. They did so maybe a bit too excitedly, as evidenced by their up-close examination of Dorothy’s too-tight sweater:

The expose then went on to paint a picture of American teenagers as we all know them from every teen comedy ever, from their crippling obsession with phones …

… to their insistence on playing their ding-danged music too loud …

… to their tendency to be completely bored with just, like, everything.

Fast forward several years, and the word “teenager” had officially entered the national lexicon, thereby cementing John Hughes’ future career and instilling in all of us the firm belief that everyone else’s teenage years were way better than our own.

6

Beach Vacations Were Invented In The 18th Century

In the U.S. alone, hundreds of millions of people visit the beach each year. It’s clearly the ideal vacation destination — warm sun, toe-welcoming sand, relaxing waves, and Mai Tais that practically find their way to you of their own volition. You’d assume that’s been the case for as long as humans have lived near beaches they could travel to. You’d be wrong

The vast majority of people throughout human history would view all those beachgoers as impeccably tanned lemmings marching toward their inevitable and gory demise. Because for them, the beach was a place not of summer lovin’, but of shipwrecks, pirates, natural disasters, deadly diseases arriving from faraway lands, and sea monsters with an insatiable thirst for human liver smoothies.

Greek Mythology Wiki
Pictured: the beach, circa the 18th century.

Like afternoon tea and existential despair, the origins of the beach as a paradisaical destination — and, in turn, of the vacation itself — can be traced back to England. In the middle of the 18th century, the wealthy elite came to view the working class as healthier than they were, mostly due to their having to, you know, work. The answer to this, of course, was even more relaxation, and thus was born the idea of the “restorative sea.” Doctors prescribed a dip at the beach for everything from leprosy to gout to the veritable holy trinity of Victorian diseases: tuberculosis, hysteria, and melancholy.

The town of Scarborough near York became home to the world’s first seaside resort, and as such establishments spread throughout the 19th century, so did the concept of the pleasurable beach getaway and vacations in general. See, prior to the rise in popularity of the beach, the term “vacation” itself referred to an involuntary and un-pleasurable absence from work, probably due to tuberculosis, hysteria, or melancholy. So when you’re cleaning a small Pacific island’s worth of sand out of your car after your next vacation, stop cursing your fellow vacationers and start cursing uppity Victorians.

5

We Didn’t Have Zero Until The Sixth Century (And It Didn’t Hit Europe Until The 12th)

The value of zero belies its true importance in mathematics. It’s downright impossible to solve complex equations without a numeral to represent zilch. As such, you’d think that even man’s earliest attempts at counting would have accounted for zero — for instance, “I killed precisely one woolly mammoth” pales in importance next to “I have a zero percent chance of outrunning this pissed-off herd of woolly mammoths.” But you’d be several millennia on the side of wrong.

Though humans have been happily mathing since the development of the Sumerian counting system nearly 5,000 years ago, this and the other systems it inspired — including that of the Babylonians — glaringly omitted the all-important zero. When they needed to represent nothing, early mathematicians did so via jotting down a placeholder or … well, nothing. It wasn’t until around 500 CE that the concrete concept of zero was developed in India, and it took yet another century and change for astronomer and mathematician Brahmagupta to create a symbol for it: a dot beneath other numbers.

Over the next few centuries, zero made its way across China and to the Middle East, where it pigged out on shish kebab, spread from a dot into a circle, and found a new home in the Arabic numeral system. But it wasn’t until the 12th century and the Moorish conquest of Spain that zero found its way onto the worksheets of Italian mathematician Fibonacci, who realized that you sort of need zero to, you know, be a mathematician.

Even still, it took until the dawn of the 13th century to catch on, and an additional four centuries to reach widespread use throughout Europe, thus finally paving the way for calculus. And in case your high school experience has tainted your opinion on the importance of calculus, its study is what in turn paved the way for physics, engineering, computers — that is, your ability to read this right now.

4

National Cuisines Are Modern Political Bullshit

Quick, picture Italian food.

We’re betting you imagined a heaping plate of spaghetti and meatballs heavily doused in tomato sauce. Well, we’ve got some news for you: Spaghetti and meatballs is an American creation dating all the way back to the early 20th century. Not only that, but the same way ordering up a mound of General Tso’s Chicken in China is likely to leave you with an empty plate and a hopelessly rumbling belly, ordering what we Americans tend to think of as the quintessential Italian dish in Italy is likely to get you something with olives, shellfish, or both.

As a matter of fact, seeing as how the tomato was brought to Europe from the Americas, and tomato sauce only found widespread use in Italy in the late 18th century thanks to heavy influence from Spain, it could be reasonably argued that marinara sauce is more of a joint American/Spanish concoction, which Italian immigrants to America later honed to scrumptious perfection.

In other words, almost everything you think of as a traditional “national cuisine” is bullshit. So why do we identify specific types of food with specific countries at all? Simple: Much like wartime propaganda posters or your high school gym teacher, a national cuisine is a tool. Specifically, it’s a tool employed by a government looking to create a unified national identity.

You see, prior to the late 19th century, there was no such thing as “Italian” food — at most, there would have been Sicilian food, Piedmontese food, Sardinian food, and so forth. Hell, even today there are dialects spoken in Italy that are mutually unintelligible, despite sharing the same Latin roots and having developed in the same basic geographic region. Food, however, is a fantastic unifier — something that even people who historically sort of hate the shit out of each other can agree upon.

To look at it from a more personal perspective, many of us experience such “invented traditions” firsthand each year at Christmas. If you’re trying to foster an annual tradition, it helps to pretend that everyone enjoys roasting a large bird with bread shoved up its ass, and always has. So if you’ve ever wondered what propaganda tastes like, wonder no more. Chances are you’ve eaten some this week.

3

The Concept Of Authorship Is Newer Than Shakespeare

For nearly five millennia after humanity discovered that a rock could be used to scratch stuff onto other rocks, there was absolutely no concept of having ownership of said scratches. If you were to write, say, a trilogy detailing the thrilling exploits of Rumble Thrustrod, international spy/archaeologist, some random chucklehead could come along and not only write a fourth volume, but also publish and sell it without acknowledging you whatsoever. Imagine a world in which fan fiction was a legitimate way for people to make money.

Mike Coppola/Staff/Getty Images
*cough*

This was the state of publishing up until the 18th century, which you may recognize as being long after Homer, Shakespeare, Sun-Tzu, and probably a few others wrote their most famous works. As a matter of fact, we’ve mentioned before how Shakespeare flat-out copied some of his most famous plays from earlier writers … and that he wasn’t doing anything that was considered wrong at the time, because it wasn’t until 1710’s Statute of Anne that there was even a legal concept of intellectual property. More importantly, this law had the effect of legally granting the rights to a written idea to the person who came up with it, rather than to whomever had the means to reproduce it.

Prior to the introduction of the idea that a particular arrangement of words was something that could be owned, authors not only didn’t strive for originality; they consciously avoided it. Writers built upon the creations of other writers who came before, and this literary Jenga is how some of history’s most famous works were produced.

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A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Beowulf, The Incredible Hulk, etc.

In fact, there’s a credible theory that Homer — of the Iliad and Odyssey fame, not of the beer and the donuts fame — was not a single prolific poet. Rather, “Homer” might have been entire generations of poets who built onto and streamlined one another’s writings until they had arrived at the epic works that we use to torture middle schoolers to this day, like a version of the infinite monkey theorem in which all the monkeys are plagiarists.

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Owning A Bible Was Nearly Unheard Of For Much Of Its Existence

When it comes to the world’s best-selling book, the Bible handily trounces everyone, with Guinness World Records estimating more than five billion copies sold. And why not? The book itself commands you to buy one — it’s the Word of God that must be continually read and pondered. A faithful follower without a Bible on their nightstand is unthinkable … until you realize that for much of the book’s history, it was practically a sin to own one.

First of all, let’s remember that books are relatively recent, at least in the form of a consumer product the average Joe could buy. You’re only talking about the last 500 years or so.

As for the Bible, let’s rewind a little bit. Okay, a lot bit: Around 400 CE, the Council of Hippo got together and codified what we now think of as the Christian Bible from a big, messy-ass pile of ancient texts. Basically, they decided that some books were canonical and could be added to the existing Old Testament (27, to be exact) and the rest were heretical, thereby creating a single thread of true Christian belief that inexplicably still kept the unicorns in. The church higher-ups didn’t want budding Christians reading any ol’ scroll they stumbled across in the desert — they wanted them reading what they had determined was the Gospel truth.

Actually, scratch that — they didn’t want them reading it at all. For the next thousand years, the official stance of the church was that the average layperson was far too stupid to read the Bible for themselves. To gain a true understanding of the text, the masses needed to come to church and have it read/translated to them in bits, probably from a very expensive hand-printed copy.

The printing press was invented in the 1400s and started cranking out cheaper copies of Bibles. But in 1536, one William Tyndall had the temerity to translate the New Testament from Greek into English (you know, so the average English reader could comprehend the freaking thing), and was promptly burned at the stake for his efforts. Nonetheless, that event was the swan song of the church’s Bible-clutching, and the Reformation soon saw readable, affordable Bibles flowing throughout Europe in the 1600s.

But for most of history, telling Christians they needed to “read their Bible every night” to get on God’s good side was the equivalent of telling them they could only get to Heaven by flying there in their own helicopter.

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The White Race Is A Recent Invention

Somewhere on social media, someone is currently asking, “Why isn’t there a White History Month?” or “Why does every White Pride parade spawn bitter protests?” To understand the problem, we have to explain why the concept of a “white” race is kind of weird to begin with.

First of all, the idea is very recent. The ancient Greeks, for example, noted that there were various lighter-skinned peoples to their north, whom they considered inferior and barbaric. This view, of course, did a horrific 180 as the world changed, but divisions based on culture and geographic location always trumped skin tone (although it did admittedly come in handy for determining who was and was not a filthy Nordic invader).

Then, near the end of the 18th century, German anthropologist Johann Friedrich Blumenbach decided to make racism easier and more accessible for everyone. So he gathered up a shitload of skulls from all over the planet, lined them up, and classified them into five races: Caucasian (or white), Mongolian (or yellow), Malayan (or brown), Ethiopian (or black), and American (or red). Blumenbach was adamant that his work was not meant to signify that one race was inherently better than any other, and he was quick to condemn the earlier work of his contemporaries who had determined that Africans were an inferior race. Then he went ahead and noted that whites were obviously the prettiest.

Great American thinkers such as Thomas Jefferson took Blumenbach’s work and further narrowed it, proclaiming that Anglo-Saxon was the white race to be. This notion of superior and inferior sub-races is clear up through the 19th century. Sure, the Irish were treated better than people of African ancestry, but political cartoons of the time still depicted them as pipe-smoking ogres who couldn’t discern pots from hats. They obviously weren’t “white.”

This ideal morphed again in the late 1910s, when the “Saxon” was dropped because it was no longer cool to be associated with Germany for some reason we can’t quite put our finger on. Finally, in the 1940s, anthropologists declared that there were only three races: White, Black, and Asian … or, since that’s not nearly offensive enough to have been conceived in the ’40s, “one Negroid race, one Mongoloid race, one Caucasoid race.” Suddenly, all of the bitter hatred of the Irish, Italians, etc was set aside long enough to establish one race of somewhat similar-looking people who could be smugly set apart from the others.

In other words, “White” became a label that truly meant “not one of those filthy minorities.” So yes, the enthusiastic embrace of the label is something of a sore spot for many people.

Nathan Kamal lives in Oregon and writes. He co-founded Asymmetry Fiction for all your fiction needs. Jordan Breeding is a part-time writer, full-time lover, and all-the-time guitarist. Check out his band at skywardband.com or on Spotify here.

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