By hollygl on Babies As Luxuries
@stuffisthings The fundamental difference here is choice. There are millions of people around the world without access to clean drinking water. This woman had access to healthcare but chose to give that up in order to move to rural Maine- without a backup plan. That was her choice, and while its unfortunate that she is now in this situation she can't pretend to be shocked that the world isn't bending to her needs.
OK so here's the problem, and it's showing up in these comments everywhere: People say "oh I know diamonds are kind of unethically manufactured and aren't worth anything but I/my fiancee just like the symbolism anyway." You know what this is? It's perpetuating a culture! It is creating a world in which not having a diamond ring is considered weird and fucked up. Individual choices are important, but so is making them mindfully - asking why, exactly, your fiancee loves the idea of a diamond ring so much. (Answer: marketing.) Asking who, exactly, will be most affected by buying it. (Answer: Everyone around you who gets married, and also the people who died to mine diamonds in the past and the future.) Basically, acting like it's just a harmless preference is not cool.
@dudeascending http://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_trksid=p5197.m570.l1313&_nkw=macbook&_sacat=0&_from=R40 http://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_trksid=p5197.m570.l1313&_nkw=diamond+ring&_sacat=0&_from=R40
Yeah but do you know how hard it is to live on just $20 billion in Saudi Arabia? I'd say he's pretty much middle class. Wait what were we talking about?
I work in a side alley of the VFX business (motion graphics and commercial production). We share much of the same skills and personnel and we've been going through various financial contortions for the last 10 years or so, just like VFX. I managed to dig my business out of the shitter by adopting some pretty radical (for the industry) business practices. 1) I never, ever flat bid. This shuts me out of certain jobs, but there you go. I bill a per diem rate, or an hourly rate. Or, if it is a project rate, I always include an overages clause in my contract. 2) I stopped chasing the sexier, high profile projects - the margins are almost always crap. I focussed on the less glamorous work that I knew had good margins and a more appreciative client base. 3) I keep my operation as small as humanly possible, I only expand when I'm absolutely sure I have the billables in place to cover it. 4) I bill for everything, and if I'm not getting paid I shut the job down or walk. There's short term damage from creating conflict, but the long term damage from not cutting a bad client off is far worse. 5) I stopped letting my business get treated like a doormat. The strange thing is, once I demanded respect from my clients, I started receiving respect from my clients. I think there's been a certain amount of naivete on the part of the VFX houses, in that they've been expecting somehow to get a fair shake from the studios. Which, really?
I've been working in the VFX industry for close to ten years now, and from the smallest boutique shop to the biggest effects houses in the world, the economics are terrible. As Deepo wrote, the vast, vast majority of effects money pays for labor: it takes an enormous amount of human creativity and effort to make all the things you see on screen come alive. R&D departments work hard to make it easier, but the bar for visual quality keeps going up (compare Ang Lee's 2003 Hulk with the Avenger's Hulk -- same company, 9 years later), so you have to run as fast as you can just to stay in place. In addition, hardware has to be upgraded constantly, software licenses have to bought, etc. Now none of this would be a problem if the studios were dealing with the VFX studios in a mutually beneficial manner. However, they do not and the contracts VFX studios get are terrible. Specifically, one of the standard practices for studios is to force VFX studios to take "flat rate" contracts -- which means a certain number of shots of a certain complexity for a flat fee. If the director or external visual effects supervisor changes his or her mind, the VFX studio eats the cost of the changes. For "Avatar," whose director is infamous for being picky and fickle about his effects work, this resulted in Weta losing in the neighborhood of $50 million. Effectively, Peter Jackson (and eventually the NZ taxpayers) funded the biggest-box office movie ever, and saw none of the profits. Why do Weta (and other studios) sign these type of contracts? Largely because they have no choice. There are effectively only six movie studios (obviously there are more, but only the big six American studios make effects-heavy films), which means that tacitly or no, there is a colluding oligopoly where the studios all offer identical terms, with none of them breaking ranks to be more generous. On the other side of the economic equation, there is an abundance of VFX talent in the world, so the studios can have the VFX shops bid against each other and take the cheapest. The movie studios always win, and everyone else loses. It regularly happens that a VFX studio will take a contract that loses them money because the alternative is having no work at all, and losing even more money (and all your employees). So if you're trying to make a profit, you have to bid against VFX houses like DD who are not even bidding to break even. Good luck! Even worse, this terrible situation is exacerbated by governments around the world offering huge tax incentives for film and effects work to be done in their countries. Most infamously, New Zealand rewrote its damn labor laws in order to help fund Weta (and thus fund American movie studios). It is becoming impossible for American studios to compete in such an unfair market, and the macroeconomic effect of these subsidies is to increase the amount of effects talent in the world, which is the exact opposite of what the market "wants" to happen.
So cheap Corona or pricier Bud? In game theory this is called "the piss-drinker's dilemma."
I guess you can call this a recovery, but it's not really a recovery for prospective first-time home-buyers. They're are getting priced out by the "private equity firms [that] have raised as much as $8 billion to buy as many as 80,000 homes" and will basically be left renting the same houses back from these firms. Right now, in Phoenix 45 PERCENT of houses are being purchased with cash (no mortgage), vs. 10% in 2007. Apparently this is happening mostly due to banks holding on to foreclosures (because to actually foreclose would mess up their balance sheets, so available inventory is limited and rents stay high) and the Fed keeping interest rates low (meaning there aren't too many better places for those firms to invest). Capitalism marches on!
@deepomega I think it's kind of like when you take the leftover bagels from the conference room. "I'm sorry, honey, I only got five bagels this year." Tips: Prepare your spouse beforehand (e.g., start dropping hints like "You don't really like breakfast, do you?"). Seeing actual, physical bagels always makes it look like a greater quantity than the abstract number ("5" vs "O O O O O").
@deepomega Easy: Working class: My grandparents. Middle class: My parents, me. Upper class: People who are wealthier than me. This seems to be the prevailing definition, anyway.