Hiding from the Sun

17 Jun

There’s a reason why they think Arizonans are crazy and it has to do with our summer. As I write this, our high today is going to be 114, and it will get to 120 by August. So imagine being my kids and during their summer break, they can’t run around outside… they have to hide from the sun.

We have the reverse culture of everyone else in the United States (and this includes most of New Mexico and Texas), where we run around outside seven months a year, during our “winter.” From mid-October to mid-May, highs are in the 70-80’s, lows in the 40-50’s, and it’s absolutely gorgeous in the Valley of the Sun. But… come May, ah… we hide from the sun.

However, we don’t change our habits based on our climate – that would make too much sense! Instead, we have our school off in the summer because… that’s how we did it back in Ohio, why wouldn’t we do it here? To be fair, it doesn’t make sense in Ohio anymore, since all the schools have air conditioning. I grew up being told “it’s because back in the day, they needed kids to work the fields.” Except farmers didn’t; you need all hands on deck for harvest time… in October. It was because it was too damn hot in the school during the summer and the kids would melt.

This insanity continues in other areas. Our chain stores all bring out heavy coats in October, even though our climate doesn’t justify it and no one will buy them, but the regional vice president doesn’t get why they wouldn’t sell in Phoenix.

So although this cute pic of a dad running with his daughter and Corgi would make sense anywhere else in the United States during the summer, this is February for us. You could do this in June if you got outside before 8 am, which is generally not a problem, considering that we don’t have daylight savings time here, the sun rises around 5 am. So if my teenage son wants to sleep in, he closes his shutters, puts a blanket over the window, and then a blanket over his head. I don’t get that luxury, because the g-dam cat starts crying the song of his people if he’s out of food before 6 am. Or decides that the perfect time to terrorize our OTHER cat and get into a growling fight in the stairwell, the most echo-y part of the house.

Wow – this post went from being a “isn’t it weird living here” to a bitch-fest. My apologies. I’ll do better next time.

“Literal Interpretation” is still “Pick and Choose”

16 Jun

The pastor of the Stedfast Baptist Church got a lot of press recently by saying the government should execute all gay people. This is based on a literal interpretation of the Bible… but is it? The answer is yes AND no.

First off, by giving this pastor any press, you have a) not discouraged him and b) gained him followers. From their Facebook page, they look like they may have fifty families, tops, attending this Fort Worth, Texas church. No one knew who the hell (pun intended) this guy was before Twitter blew up.

Second, his interpretation of the Bible is based on the King James Version. “Version” = interpretation, in this case “literally” from ancient Hebrew and Greek. This pastor doesn’t expect his followers to read the original languages, but the interpretation that is closest (in his opinion) to God’s will to His people.

Okay, let’s just take that at face value. So in that case, he’s right – Leviticus 18:22 calls homosexuality an abdomination. But verse 6 says not to uncover the nakedness of your family; so no swimming pool? Or next chapter, 19:19, no clothes made of two different materials… Where do you find all wool shirts? Do you wear them in a humid Texas summer? And you better not have any tattoos.

Also, better say goodbye to eating pork or shellfish. Or putting cheese on ANYTHING. Oh, but wait, there’s a line in Acts 10:15 that says, “What God has made clean, let no man call unclean.” Okay, that gets you off the hook for eating kosher, but then you have to ask yourself… Did God make a mistake in the Old Testament? Why would He say to do one thing and then change his mind a thousand years later? Isn’t Christ the same “yesterday, today, and forever?”

A journalist by the name of AJ Jacobs captured this problem best in the book “The Year of Living Biblically.” For a year, he tried a strict interpretation of the Bible. He never cut his beard, wore an all wool robe (with fringes), never ate pork, and at one point, got to “stone” an infidel (with pebbles and with their permission).

As you can imagine, that’s really hard, and completely incompatible with modern American life. So if you choose NOT to live like a Hasidic Jew, you’re picking and choosing what to follow in the Bible. Now it’s perfectly fair to say this is the “correct” or “best” interpretation, but it is by no means “strict.”

But why should I make the argument when others have done it better? Martin Sheen? Take it away…

Adventures in Mass Transit

15 Jun

When two idiots decide they’re going to fistfight on a city bus, you know that something is terribly wrong with mass transit. I’ve had the joy of riding the rails for a year now and I’ve realized that it’s just like working in the emergency department. You see ALL of humanity.

About a month and change ago, some high schooler decided to try and beat me through the intersection. He failed. Mind you, no one was hurt, but it did wreck my twenty year old “salt car,” and left my family with only one ride. But hey, I got in the habit of taking the light rail to my work anyway, what was one more step?

Apparently everything. My home is about five miles from the train stop, and it’s a straight shot down a busy road. However, because it’s on the main run next to the library, it’s the main homeless route through Tempe, a college town that’s rich, liberal, and tolerant. They do a lot of good programs, including free bus passes for kids, and a few neighborhood bus system within the town

The difference between free and cheap can be measured in miles. The free bus service means the homeless can ride it without paying a damn thing, which is important when summer hits here (as it does now), with high temperatures ranging between 100 and 120. “But it’s a dry heat!” We joke, but the lack of humidity makes a huge difference. I can walk around town in triple digits here; forget trying to do that back home in Illinois with 90% humidity.

Now if I’m lucky, I can make a connection between my light rail stop and the main bus line. If not, it’s supposed to be a twenty minute wait. Except frequently, they cancel the bus I need at that moment, or it’s horribly, horribly late. So this simple connection makes an hour commute into an hour and a half… which makes all the difference in the world.

I know, poor baby… but then there’s a bus experience. People ride the bus because they have no other choice. That means they’re either too poor, too cheap (that’s me), or can’t drive. To quote Fiddler on the Roof, “It’s no shame being poor, but it’s no great honor either.” The poor are not the problem, it’s the can’t drive… because usually the reason is because they’re crazy.

The guy who thinks it’s funny to yell into my bus on the way home. The woman who gets into a yelling match because you close a window (in said 100 degree heat). The guys who get into a fist fight because he spilled a beer onto the floor. Think about that for a second. One man was so upset that another made a mess that he went from a shouting match to a fist fight within a minute. Same guy decided to not get off the bus, until he realized the driver was willing to wait for the cops to show up.

So if you want to encourage more public transit, you need to address security above all, and following that, convenience. You need to make them safe and easier than driving. But that would cost too much, so really, who are we fooling?

Now I’m a believer in public transit and I’m complaining. But maybe I’m missing something. Is it the inevitable “tragedy of the commons,” where when it belongs to everyone, no one cares about it? Or is there something deeper at play? Let me know in the comments below!

All (Federation) Politics Are Local

14 Jun

I’ve become a little obsessed about the Star Trek universe lately (not sorry), starting with economics, which leads to volunteer leadership, but that leads us to Federation politics. How do politics work in the 24th Century?

Star Trek stays incredibly silent on this issue, because let’s face it, politics would ruin the entire socialist utopia theme. No one wants to see how the replicator is made. We do see politics within Starfleet, usually with admirals trying to screw each other over, or screw over the captain , but office politics is understandable and expected. But the civilian in the street who didn’t make it to Academy? How are they run?

The easy answer is… they’re not. Or at least, not at a level that is readily apparent. It’s also very clear that in the Federation, the individual member states can run their local politics however they want. So I imagine that the Andorians still have a Queen, the Vulcans probably have the most efficient unelected meritocracy imaginable, and Earth has sloppy, sloppy democracy. Earth doesn’t have much of an administration because they don’t need one. Computers put you instantly in contact with anyone on planet (and probably in the solar system, thanks to nutrinos), and a time delay with your video letter outside of your solar system. However, someone still needs to fix the roads, or at least, the replicator so you can do it yourself.

Even in our modern day, politicians will spend millions to get a job that pays thousands, because the power involved is worth it. So I imagine that Earth has a single local government, because when you can breakfast in San Francisco and immediately teleport for lunch in Paris, why would you have single-member districts? Of course, that’s kinda true today, and we still have them. Regardless, I imagine that there’s elections to become a planetary selectman (select-being?).

Just like local politics today, the Federation man on the street will have no clue who this person is until you need them. In the volunteer economy of Star Trek, their entire job will be to beg, borrow, or steal people to fix or build stuff. I’m guessing that they do that through the distribution of perks (see previous posts). How many of these people are there? It depends. My town of Phoenix has one council member per 650,000 citizens. Chicago has one alderman per 50,000. New York City has one alderman per 300,000, and they have borough governments as well. So it could be evenly distributed based on region, or multiple selectmen based on population, or possibly both.

Then you’ve got the selectmen’s boss who administer the elected officials. I’m guessing these aren’t elected directly, but rather elected from the officials themselves, like electing a Speaker of the House. They handle the big projects like the “Probably Going to Kill Us Machine ™” that will expand Science! That leaves the Federation itself, which has a Council. But the two times we’ve seen the Council (in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country), it’s like… thirty people, mostly aliens. Which I imply means humans get one seat on the Council, like the United Nations. So somewhere, there’s a Human Assembly (and doesn’t that sound racist) or Convention that meets on local human issues among their colonies. Those are elected from the planetary leadership and they elect their representative on the Council.

In the clips from Star Trek IV & VI, you see Starfleet represented there, but for the most part, Starfleet operates with very little civilian oversight. Like city employees today, sure, I bet the Council decides who to go with war with, but by the time the Romulans cross the Neutral Zone, it’s probably a moot point. So what does the Council do? Probably what the United Nations does now; a lot of speeches about human species rights and not much else.

Side Note: That does make me wonder about the implications of the beginning meeting in Star Trek VI… why would we mothball Starfleet? If there’s no money to count, people are dying (sometimes literally) to get into the Academy, why would we lower our military stance at all?!

So what did I forget? I’m sure there’s a copy of the Federation Charter online, but it is never covered in the shows, so… how canon is it? Let me know what I missed in the comments below!

Veterans of the Dominion War, Post #1701

13 Jun

I’ve had way too much fun talking Star Trek last week – but it did get me to a concept – the volunteer economy. We don’t have to wait for the 24th century, it already exists. So how does it work? Does it work?

I’ve been in many volunteer organizations, often as an officer, so I have a pretty good idea of how they work. It is a perfect example of a world without money functions. So let’s guesstimate what the Star Trek future is like by creating a veterans organization – since I’m a member of one today.

Okay, let’s say that you want to create the local chapter of the Veterans of the Dominion War, and you get the local (Earth) authorities to grant you a meeting hall. You decide to elect officers and have a bar/lounge area where veterans can come together and eat and drink. Officers organize events and decide the rules to the bar.

People LOVE becoming the commander/captain/president of the chapter, few want to do the work. So out of an executive committee of nine, two people do the actual work, whether they have the title or not. But that’s okay in this case because the post kinda runs itself; after all, it’s a building and the drinks are free. Except if something breaks down, which it does even in Star Trek, then you either need to wait for the civilian administration to fix it (which they never explain, but I bet it SUCKS), or you hope you’ve got a retired engineer in your chapter and beg him to fix the replicator. Or climate control. Or the roof. Thankfully, there usually is, and they do it… but it ain’t what you call quick.

Okay, but I’m betting these vets aren’t going to be satisfied with synthahol, and they know how to play the black market game that obviously exists. That means organizing a rotation of bartenders to make sure that Barry doesn’t drink up all the booze. (Yeah, Barry! Leave some for the rest of us!) Plus a system to ensure that Barry doesn’t drink too much at one sitting. Also, although bartenders aren’t supposed to drink while on duty, can you tell the smell difference between synthetic scotch and the real stuff?

So you may have a bartender who drinks all the good stuff or simply takes it home without permission. Even without the allure of money (we had a post commander who embezzled funds), I can think of two bartenders we’ve had at our post who were just BAD, and they were all volunteers. They drove members away, they drove volunteers away, and… you better have a disciplinary system in place. But no one wants to do that, so it’s always too little, too late. Many members will move down the street and found VDW Post… let’s call it 1701-A. 🙂

Removing money does not remove resource scarcity, which means you have to have a system to deal with it, and volunteer officers may or may not have the skills to handle it. I’ve been a chapter president and I lost most of my members because I didn’t tell one to stay home. This is the problem of running things without the authority to back it up.

Can you come up with better examples? Let me know in the comments below!

The Economics of Star Trek (Voyager)

10 Jun

At first, I didn’t think I’d talk about Voyager – after all, their economics is isolated from the rest of the Federation – but there are several things in that series that tell us a lot of about what I’m calling “the volunteer economy.”

Fair warning, I hate Voyager. I thought Season One combined the worst aspects of TNG, add in middling characters (except Seska) with terrible villains (the Kazon). They refused to touch on the more interesting possibilities of the series. 1) You just absorbed a group of Maquis terrorists/freedom fighters; why are they going to follow Starfleet regulations? 2) You’re 70 years from Earth–why are we pretending Fed morality? 3) Even if you accept the first two, why aren’t you plugging in all the tech you can find in the Delta Quadrant to get home? Nope – “get that crap off my hull.” (sigh) But after years of (not-that-) gritty DS9, the fans wanted gleaming starships, and alien of the week, so that’s what they got.

And yet I watched… so I noticed a couple things. Again, Starfleet is the best of the best; you not only have to volunteer, you have to want it bad. So I understand why Ensign Kim busts his ass and takes a lot of grief (mostly from me). Doctors in the 24th Century fall under the same guidelines, but what about the Federation citizen in the street? The hologram doctor makes perfect sense; let’s face it, being a doctor now is hard work and they at least get money. Now add a hundred more diseases and aliens from a thousand worlds whose anatomy is (okay, not that) different from humans. Do the civilian doctors get perks in Federation? Travel vouchers, better housing… what convinces the doctor in San Francisco to keep dealing with sick folks? Dedication will only take you so far before you say, “you know what? Risa sounds good this time of year.” That leaves thousands of sick folks behind; having automated health care would help immensely.

The folks on Voyager lean heavily on the holodecks, the natural extension of the replicator, for the obvious reason that they can’t go to Risa or Starbase 227 for R&R. But they make it obvious in the show that–just like replicated food–they know it’s fake and that entertainment comes at a mental cost. Not that stops people being addicted to holodecks or falling in love with programmed characters. I would imagine most of the population of Earth is “online” most of the time and that holoaddiction is a serious problem. Do they ration holodeck time for civilians? What convinces the Fed on the street to bother going to work when you can hang out with Leonardo da Vinci?

One of the few sops to this in Voyager is “replicator rations.” Their engines aren’t working great, so there’s limits to what they can replicate. With the amount of coffee Janeway drinks with her rations, is she drinking decaf? You would think that caffeine, like alcohol, would be a banned substance. (Maybe that’s why DS9 was obsessed with Klingon coffee? “A true warrior needs a jolt to make it a good day to die!”)

What about Janeway’s dog from the pilot episode? You would think that Federation Animal Control would be pretty strict. Again, she’s a Starfleet captain, so she get higher consideration, but maybe the benefits of pet ownership would outweigh the “potential sentience” issue of enslaving lesser beings. You’d think the Vulcans would have something to say about that.

Better yet, let’s keep with the pilot episode. Janeway gets Paris out of prison to be her connection with the Maquis; who the hell wants to be a prison guard? Unless that’s the reason they moved it to New Zealand? The San Quentin of the 24th Century? In the real world, that California maximum security prison is on one of the most beautiful and expensive beach-side real estate in the world. (Of course, it wasn’t when they built it…)

Voyager does get better by Season Five, but when you survived in the desert of sci-fi options in the late 90’s (Babylon 5 was over, Firefly was not until 2001), it was a LONG slog. But it brings up a lot more questions than answers about the socialist utopia. Did you notice something in the show that always bugged you? Let me know in the comments below!

The Economics of Star Trek (DS9)

9 Jun

I’ve talked about how the Federation became the socialist utopia it’s shown as, and how there’s a dark side that no one talks about, but what really shows us the economics of Star Trek is my favorite series, Deep Space Nine. There’s nothing like the ass-end of space to show the cracks in the foundation.

DS9 is a space station run by the Federation, actually owned by the Bajorans, and is a magnet for every troublemaker in two quadrants. As a result, Commander Sisko can’t run his shop like his last posting, the USS Saratoga. (Yes, I looked that up.) He has to deal with troublesome locals with which he has to share his command, crumbling Cardassian technology, and for purposes of this post, local economics.

As Jon Singer (one of the contributors to the ST:TNG Technical Manual) is quoted, “If you could make a starship at the push of a button, you wouldn’t need to…” So there are limits to the replicator. You still need construction workers to make the ships, programmers to get the computers working, and maintenance personnel to keep everything working. I can accept that. I think how the Federation gets people to do this scut work is the perks. Sure, you can live nice in San Francisco, but good luck getting off Earth without a good reason. “Hey, you wanna move to Mars? Well, we need some ships built.”

Sisko’s dad is a chef; is convinced that replicated food sucks… and I can believe that. As the book “The Unincorporated Man” talks about in a similar scenario, he can order Springbank 12-year-old scotch from a working-man’s bar, but it’s replicated. It tastes exactly the same regardless of how you order it. It will always be the same. In the modern world, you can get McDonalds’ French fries the same anywhere in the world, and sometimes you want that, but not all the time. That fake-ness must be rampant in the Federation; you are living in a McUtopia.

That’s why Sisko goes to effort of making meals for him and his son. Sure, the ingredients are replicated, but the final product is not. When we go back to New Orleans to Sisko’s dad’s restaurant, he tells his grandson to peel potatoes. That implies that people still grow potatoes, because you could replicate peeled potatoes. There are waiters… and again, understandable, because it allows you meet different and interesting people. And of course, if you’re into cooking, you would open a restaurant and the local authorities, DESPERATE for something other than replicator food, would grant you business space.

That also explains how Quark is able to keep in business. You see, the Ferengi (Arabic for “foreigner”) only deal in gold-pressed latinum. The gold is worthless, but the latinum can’t be replicated, so it’s a worthy unit of exchange. However, how do Starfleet personnel go to Quark’s if they don’t have money? Well, they must have a deal with Quark. The Ferengi understand rent and charging for utilities, even if the Federation don’t. So in exchange for being in the best spot for black marketeering in the universe, he gives latinum to the Starfleet personnel, Sisko distributes it out (thankfully, there’s not many of them on DS9), and they use it to order Klingon coffee. So really, Quark is paying rent to himself.

Meanwhile, Quark is able to use his bar to his advantage. He can scheme and plot and get more money from non-Federation aliens to get more latinum, building his business empire. The rent from the bar and other stores (including Garak’s tailor shop) allow needed foreign exchange to fix the things that the Federation can’t (or won’t) replicate. Or go down to Bajor for shore leave (which has to be like going to a refugee camp for vacation). Thankfully, Risa is only a couple days away, which is explained away as a cultural/religious resort that is maintained by the locals who love giving away everything, including their bodies. Again, this is only maintained by weather modification that the Federation provides.

What did I forget? Let me know in the comments below!

The Economics of Star Trek (TNG)

8 Jun

“You woke up and found paradise in ashes, your mate dead, your home destroyed. And the midst of this… insanity, you took the only logical action: to remake the universe in your image.” Oh wait… that was a different Roddenberry property. This is the gleaming starships of the 24th Century. Welcome to the socialist utopia of the Federation.

The Wha-or ™ was three generations ago and we have lived without war (a real one), racism, sexism, and other-isms for some time. People work because they want to, pursuing scientific progress, and dealing with the weakest-tea military structure I have ever seen and calling it “rigid discipline.”

Gene Roddenberry should have known better. He was bomber pilot in the Pacific during World War II (that’s a pic of him dead center). But by 1980, he had lived most of his life in Hollywood, and was probably more idealistic than ever. In fact, we know he was, because in the early seasons of TNG, he had strict script control… and most of those episodes SUCKED. Why? Because let’s face it, utopia does not leave a lot of conflict. The Federation is better than us now and Gene was preaching.

There is no money, no religion, just a lot of space and excitement out there. Let’s go find it! And the technology that brought it to you? The replicator. Yes, the replicator is the answer to all of life’s problems. World hunger? No problem. Need a bed? Program it in and you’ll have it in a couple minutes. You have eliminated every need, and along with it, the need to work at all! This allows the best of the best to compete to join StarFleet and discover new worlds and new civilizations.

Okay, on the surface that makes sense, and you see this universe from the best of the best’s perspective; after all, the USS Enterprise is the Federation’s flagship, so they’re the best that humanity has to offer. And yet there’s something wrong here and it’s summed up in this picture–there is Data pouring Scotty a shot of Aldebran Whiskey, an alcoholic drink at Ten-Forward, the Enterprise’s equivalent of the “O” Club. They have waiters here, but that doesn’t bother me. If you want to see the universe, but couldn’t get into StarFleet Academy, I’d volunteer to be a bartender on the Enterprise in a second!

No, the problem is synthahol. You see, in this utopia, whoever programmed the replicators realized that if you let people replicate alcohol, you’d have a bunch of serious drunks wandering the streets all the time. The solution? Eliminate cheap booze and drugs.

But they didn’t, did they? Picard’s brother makes his own wine on his family farm. Picard himself gave the Aldebran Whiskey to Guinan… how? Was it a gift from a non-Federation non-enlightened alien? Did he trade for it? Better yet, in the original series (and the movies), they talk about Romulan Ale, which sounds like you’re drinking the blue fluid from barber shops. Where did that come from? It’s very existence indicates that there’s a black market inside the Federation. Somebody’s trading something for it. It could be favors, it could be sex, it could be replicator access for civilizations that don’t have this wonderful device. They never explain that in this series, so for that, we’ll have to go to my favorite series to explain it all tomorrow.

I really should get into the political corruption, what with admirals screwing each other over, and Federation Military Intelligence running quietly amok, but I’ll leave that for others. What else did I miss in Star Trek that doesn’t match the socialist utopia? Let me know in the comments below!

The Economics of Star Trek (TOS)

7 Jun

Okay, after explaining the economic systems of a children’s cartoon, I’m going to tackle the Federation, everyone’s favorite sci-fi socialist utopia. They have evolved past the need for money, everyone lives in a beautiful West Berlin-style apartment (usually in San Francisco), and we’ve eliminated racism, poverty, and… okay, not war. But underneath this cover are black markets and political corruption.

Interestingly enough, the original series does not start with this conceit. Honestly, since they’re almost always on the Enterprise, they don’t need money, so it rarely gets mentioned. But when you put “300 quadloons on the newcomer,” you know that money exists, although perhaps only in the unfashionable parts of the galaxy. In “The Trouble with Tribbles,” Kirk uses credits… which implies that there is still some need for resource rationing.

How did the Federation get there? Well, there was the Wha-or. (As my West Texan friend once said, “There have been many wars, but there has only been one Wha-or.”) World War III, which thankfully was handled conventionally, and led to Cochrane developing warp drive leading to the Vulcans coming in and setting up the setting for the series Enterprise. But… it’s much easier to start with a socialist system when the Earth is devastated from war and no one has any materials to hold onto.

With first contact with (thankfully) the nicest, logical, philanthropic aliens you could have wished for (although smug, condescending, and way, WAY too preachy), Earth rebuilt itself and became the tame alien ally that the Vulcans really, REALLY needed. But as we know from the alternate timeline, it could have (and should have) gone a lot, lot worse.

By the time we reach the movies, money has been eliminated. In Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, our whale scientist jokes with Kirk that, “Let me guess, you don’t have money in the future?” “Well, we don’t!” What made the difference? Was it a post-scarcity society (a la David Weber, albeit a firm capitalist) where technology has taken care of our needs and the only economics are in rare and difficult items? For that, we need to wait until tomorrow and the Next Generation.

Now as much as I like to rag on Roddenberry being the worst kind of liberal optimist, I’d be the first to agree that I’d much rather live in that universe than the Star Wars. But I didn’t bother watching Discovery after the second season, haven’t seen a second of Lower Decks, and caught one episode of Strange New Worlds. I have seen every new Star Wars film and many of the spin-off series. Because it’s a believable universe; I can see people behaving naturally there, the Star Trek universe is sanitized for your viewing pleasure. It’s only when we toss off that peaceful veneer that the series gets REALLY good.

But what do you think? Do you still salivate for the next Star Trek episode? Would you rather watch gleaming starships than the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy? Let me know in the comments below.

The Economics of Curious George

6 Jun

Have you ever asked where The Man gets his money? Not the man you’re thinking of, the Man in the Yellow Hat, the guy who “owns” Curious George. Where does he get those wonderful toys?

I can’t believe I’ve pontificated on this topic before; when my kids were much younger, I watched a lot of cartoons. The PBS Kids lineup was the best of the bunch; there’s a LOT of crap out there. [The worst was a Portuguese show called “Nutriventures: Quest for the Seven Kingdoms.” Teaching kids about eating a balanced diet–it is the worst written edutainment.] However, despite it being enjoyable, well-written, and teaching kids about math, it had one nagging flaw. The Man seems to have a lot of time on his hands to pursue these hobbies that lead to his monkey getting into trouble. Where does the Man in the Yellow Hat get his money?!

The obvious answer is “Who cares? It’s a kids’ show!” But I watched a LOT of episodes – the Man mentions going to work ONCE. He has an apartment in the City, a car, a house in the country, and he does a lot of volunteer work for Dr. Wiseman at the science museum (who I’m convinced is secretly boning, but they don’t want to explain it to the monkey). Oh, and he takes care of a monkey. None of this cheap.

For those who are fans of the books, the original Curious George (written in 1941) is very dated. Let’s walk right past a white guy going to Africa and stealing a monkey and all that entails, and go right to the Man, the sailors, the cops, and the MONKEY all smoking a pipe. I’m a pipe smoker in 2022 and thought this was a bit oogie. The firemen don’t even have fire trucks; they still use hook-and-ladders! The cops use a party-line windup phone. But the monkey breaks out of a jail that Alexandre Dumas would have considered ridiculous, somehow lands back with the Man, and gets put in a zoo where he has a great time. Subsequent books have the Man taking George out of the zoo on trips for his misadventures.

The PBS Show doesn’t even bother explaining their origin story, because frankly, if you’re watching, you already know. But the first episode has the Man going to work… and never again. Probably because he realized the chaos that one little monkey can get into with him not there. Of course, the Man doesn’t realize his lesson. Then in a following episode, he sells his drawings to a children’s museum in Paris, and that’s when I realized, “Ah ha! He made the big time–he’s independently wealthy!” But still, a freelance artist might be able to afford the apartment, but what about the country house… and the car?

We meet Bill, the (east) Indian boy who thinks George is a “city kid,” and is really, REALLY annoying. Why does The Man put up with this guy? Then we have a flash-back to The Man’s childhood acting just like Bill in the same country house. That’s when two things occur to me. A) Bill reminds the Man of himself, which it why he can away with lines like “magnetism is my favorite invisible force.” Then B) he inherited the country house from his parents, now passed… or living in Florida, but either way, we never EVER see them.

Okay, that covers almost all bases, except for maybe the red-headed niece who plays with George who appears in Season 2. She I can’t figure out, but then again, I haven’t seen the show in six years… maybe more recent episodes explore that deeper. But I doubt it. By the time your cartoon-loving kid cares about such issues, they’re off to WordGirl (also, frickin’ brilliant) so they never have to face these economic questions about their kids’ universe. However, a warning to those parents out there; not all the PBS lineup is brilliant. Arthur is middling, Clifford the Big Red Dog asks more questions than are ever answered, and we must find a way to kill Caillou. Caillou must die! That French-Canadian mother-f#(@*# needs to taste the end of my… (breathe, damn you, breathe)

Whew. Sorry, almost lost it there. Now my son keeps wanting to feed me Family Guy and League of Legends. At least there’s internal consistency there. 🙂 Have you ever had to connect the plot holes of a universe before just to save your sanity? Let me know in the comments below!

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