Fred Quimby and ancient evils

Friday, 04 April, Year 6 d.Tr. | Author: Mircea Popescu

There's an ancienti Romanian article on this blog entitledii "Recunoasterea meritelor". I will translate it for you :

The Recognition of Merits

Does the name Fred Quimby ring any bells ?

No ?

Are you sure ?

Let's see, how about if I put it like thisiii :

fred_quimby Hmm... slowly starting to emerge from the fogs of memory. Good music, focused attention, rapid heartbeat, the savour of childhood...

Could it be Tom and Jerry ? Why yes, it could. It is.

Frederick C. Quimby won no less than 7 Academy Awards as a producer, in the cartoons section. Seven pieces. How many other men can you name who keep at home in a closet 60 lbs of Oscar ?iv

Such ample recognition must necessarily rest on some colossal merits. Common sense imposes some pretty high expectations, the guy must have been at the very least a great genius. And yet, in the case of Quimby, things aren't exactly that simple.

Fred Quimby was the producer not just for Tom and Jerry, but for the entire Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer cartoon division. Starting in 1937, he led a herd of nutty animators, whom he understood rarely and with great difficulty, not having, unfortunately as that may seem for a cartoon producer, even the slightest twinge of a sense of humor.

The prevaling sentiment in the studio was that the man had earned the title of producer as the result of a lengthy career as a top salesman in New York, whence he came to MGM without even the vaguest hint of an idea about animation and, as Irv Spence recalls, cartoons being "a strange thing to him". In 1939, when William Hanna and Joseph Barbera presented him their idea for a cartoon series following the adventures of a cat and a mouse, Quimby approved, the result being "Puss Gets The Boot”, and a first Oscar.

Cast as a highschool principal against the teenaged enthusiasms of the animators, he mostly played a ligature between them and management, a role which mostly consisted in denying their requests for larger budgets, bonuses and corporate expense accounts. Shortly put, a square in the purest sense of the term, not running the slightest risk of being suspected of any sort of artistic or creative merit. How was it that they hung 7 statuettes on a completely flat forehead ?

Looky that they did.

But it's not fair! It's not just, it's not equitable, I can hear you thinking. It's a clear example of the manner in which world is broken, of the unfortunate oppression under which belabour the creative, the intelligent, the valuable (such as we are) under the merciless boot, the dull comprehension of all sorts of scap metal salesmen.

Could one write an entire novel on this premise ? Definitely. Would it come out as a social fresco to put Balzac to shame ? No doubt, if you care what the New York Times thinks about it - they've never read Balzac after all.

Okay. Then, let me just say that the man retired in 1955, after about 20 years of oppressing the talented, the valuable and the creative. Which talented, valuable and creative took over the studio, which studio was filing for bankruptcy in 1957. Two years, you see, not twenty. Two years during which they didn't get fourteen awards, nor seven, nor three and not even one. None at all.

So explain this thing about "exaggerated salaries" to me then, but you know, slowly, so my dim mind and knee high boots can follow.

And now on that basis, let us dig into the wonders of the marketplace, yesterday.

cads Wow I just read Mircea completely demolish some logic, and then make an unfounded claim. An anonymous kid attacked the claim, to which Mircea finally admitted the claim was true because he was the elder and does not have to give an explanation and take it or leave it. Then the kid actually kowtows and apologizes for being treated this way and even _thanks Mircea for replying at all_ I laughed mightily.

He never answered the follow-upv, so I have no idea which instance this is. Because there are so many of them, that's why.

Why shouldn't there be, many of them ? An infinity of them ? The common law system, as broken as many see it, knows the institution of the expert witness. That's someone whose statements do not need to be defended to the level of the random muppet. Because he knows and the random muppet doesn't, which translates to the expert being superior, and the muppet inferior. Not voir dire, not facon de parler, point of fact. The expert is, humanly, personally, intellectually, in all respects that conceivably matter better than the random muppet, the average Joe, the man on the street/reddit/whatever. Not a little better. Not even a lot better. Infinitely better, categorically better. A different story.

How unfair, huh ? How inequitable, how unprogressive.

This notion that we're all equally human and therefore all equally intelligent and equally capable to understand and thus therefore no one should ever be told "shut up, for you are not a person yet, and do not belong in this conversation due to your subhuman nature" is ridiculous. Nobody is born a person, nobody is born with an innate right to speak in the forum. These are acquired, with a great deal of personal effort, after a lot of time. The place of children is to be seen and not heard. The place of children is not at the head of the table, dispensing honors and favors.

antephialtic: I respect you. But I don't see you committing patches and fixing bugs. It's dirty work, but somebody has to do it.

Indeed, he doesn't. I never have. Last time I bitch slapped the "power rangers" the same nonsense was proffered as a defense, "o woe, MP doesn't write code".

It's bunk, a rehash of pure, unadulterated idiocy such as the welder wondering why the president of the welding company is drawing a paycheck at all, seeing how he's never seen said president ever melt metal.

That's right, the president of the welding company isn't out there, pumping rivets pneumatically, or handling acetylene. That's not his place : any random one out of a million idiots could be put through (this means forced) the two week course that qualifies an intellectually inferior monkey into a welder. The president of the welding company is not an intellectually inferior monkey, hopefully. Hopefully, I say, for the troop of intellectually inferior monkeys, the subhuman blue collar employees whose livelihood depends on his clear mind and deft action. That's how this boat goes : if a welder doesn't want to weld anymore, overboard with him and hire another one. Nobody cares, nobody notices, it makes no difference. Welders are fungible.

If, however, on the other hand, the president should get as much as the flu, the boat may just as well run over a cliff. And that's the end of the entire complement of welders, plus their families.

Programmers are fungible too. Not "just as fungible as the welders" : much more fungible than the welders ever were. Politically convenient pretense to the contrary notwithstanding, if a programmer drops dead the replacement is there before the ambulance arrives, and the neon lighting in the false ceiling or the aphids in the plastic matting covering the floors won't miss a beat. The only thing as fungible as "a programmer" these days is perhaps a chicken in a chicken farm.

So, no, you don't see me committing patches. You never will, I don't program. I'm one of those evil rentiers, I live out of exploiting your hard labour, your very creative contributions created with great difficulty out of the sweat of your talented brow. And you are to be thankful for it, because the situation is exactly symmetrical to the boatload of welders : someone capable of exploitation will find many more to exploit than he can imagine what to do with, but someone capable of being exploited rarely has the providential good fortune of matching up with an actual exploiter. Generally, the life of the exploitable goes from waste to waste and from disappointment to disappointment into the final, sad, lonely geek gravevi. Here's a Nazi supporter for you :

You suddenly see that Shakespear, with all his flashes and divinations, never understood virtue and courage, never conceived how any man who was not a fool could, like Bunyan’s hero, look back from the brink of the river of death over the strife and labor of his pilgrimage, and say “yet I do not repent me”; or, with the panache of a millionaire, bequeath “my sword to him that shall succeed me in my pilgrimage, and my courage and skill to him that can get it.”

This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of Nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. And also the only real tragedy in life is the being used by personally minded men for purposes which you recognize to be base. All the rest is at worst mere misfortune or mortality: this alone is misery, slavery, hell on earth; and the revolt against it is the only force that offers a man’s work to the poor artist, whom our personally minded rich people would so willingly employ as pandar, buffoon, beauty monger, sentimentalizer and the like.

There you have it, this is for money, this is for work, this is for women and for anything and everything else. This is all.

And no, this doesn't mean we can all pretend to be me. We can all try to become me, sure, if we want, but for most of us it's about as silly as trying to pretend we're mice or elephants. Whatever the relative perceived merits or dismerits of either mouse or elephant, whatever easement of life one may ascribe them, not any arbitrary goal is equally adequate as any other one. Because goals aren't fungible, even if the programmers are.

PS. Obviously, this piece is in no way directed at the people named. They're just the unfortunate souls that happened to articulate heresy within my earshot. This does not make them heretics any more than writing out "fairy" makes you one.

This piece is instead directed at all the despicable maggots that dared not articulate it, because they're sick, perturbed individuals, and then in a quest to protect their filth from soap and their sickness from healing pretend like what they understood here was that this piece talked to the people named. No, it does not talk to them. It talks to you.

  1. Well, 2009 is five years ago, that's Internet-ancient is it not ? []
  2. Har har :D []
  3. Tom and Jerry cartoons may not constitute much of the cultural and intellectual history of English speaking 30somethings today, but back in 2009 Romania there were maybe five people that didn't immediately recognise that snip, and they were all mongoloids. []
  4. As a completely unrelated strand : you know a society is bankrupt when it can't even afford gold for the ornaments. All sorts of pretenders to the various thrones of various defunct empires all through history had themselves crowned with copies of the long lost golden crowns, pressed out of shit. You don't know their names, but at the time they all claimed they're not doing it for being poor and insignificant. They claimed they're doing it for being enlightened and progressive and whatnot. What else are the poor and insignificant to claim, anyway ?

    So, how much for that plastic "gold" Olympic medal ? And how much for the little girl ? How much for your wife, your children ? []

  5. I tend to read the logs and sometimes follow-up with people. []
  6. This thing :

    your-real-life []

Category: 3 ani experienta
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20 Responses

  1. Interestingly, good programmers aim to be fungible; because the best code is code that others can update, fix, understand, etc. If your thing dies with you, then it's more likely you are bad than irreplaceable.

    The world however is filled with horrible legacy systems no one understands but the original author. So, what's better?

  2. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    Mircea Popescu 
    Friday, 4 April 2014

    There's, you will notice, not much normative verbiage included in that two thousand word article - which is, incidentally, one of my favourite ways to score writing by others : the normative statements count divided by wordcount is one of the better proxies for the author's intelligence as well as culture and experience. The MP number.

    Anywya : there's no "better". There's what is.

  3. This is oddly fitting.

  4. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    Mircea Popescu 
    Friday, 4 April 2014

    So it is.

  5. Before I criticize, I'd like to say "Bravo", this a great article I enjoyed reading. I think the points, which I believe you set out to make, are entirely valid, and valuable to re-iterate, especially to the average human (who has very little understanding of basic economics).

    That said, I think pankkake makes a fair point about the perceivable tone you use to describe fungibility. You describe the orchestrator of a venture, someone indeed more valuable than a common labourer (most likely because of his or her scarcity and high demand), as less fungible than the peon, who is no doubt less valuable(most likely because of his abundance).

    I'm not sure if you meant, specifically, to associate the fungibility of a common worker to that same workers value; as to imply a cause and affect between a particular worker's fungibility their market value.

    While writing this am realizing that their could be some confusion between a particular workers value, to a specific employer and the market at large. A worker, who is given the liberty to develop and or manage some aspect of a venture's production, could purposefully complicate the process used to produce something. His or her understanding of this purposefully deceitful and confusing system could make him less fungible; your average joe won't have a good grasp at how this contrived system works and won't be able to cope with it as well as the designer.

    Does this make the creator of this confusing, and likely inefficient, system more valuable? Maybe, to the company who now depends on this system to continue functioning(workers who understand this overly complicated system are in low supply and thus deserve a higher wage). But I'd argue, that generally speaking, no this worker is less valuable to the economy in general. Because of this worker, equally useful things will be made at a higher cost.

    In other words, it might make sense to hire a programmer, or welder, who is fungible. In fact, it might be economically wise to pay more for a worker, or manager, who is more fungible than their competitors. Fungibility is a valuable characteristic, not a costly one.

    Your article may seem, to an uneducated onlooker, to imply that some prices are set by something other than their supply and demand. Smart managers are in higher demand and lower supply than average workers, and therefore require and deserve a higher wage; I have no argument with that. Just don't confuse a workers supply with their fungibilty; even though they can be related(as I mentioned in my example of the worker who makes a system purposely over complex).

    Anyway, I loved the article. Keep writing awesome stuff, please( I value it).

  6. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    Mircea Popescu 
    Wednesday, 12 August 2015

    A worker, [...], could purposefully complicate the process

    This is not an if, but a certain fact of history, recently touched upon in the logs. The muchly hated (online) IP legal stack mostly exists to try and reduce the incentives for workers to do exactly that, for exactly that reason. It actually worked admirably well, for a couple of centuries.

    Fungibility is a valuable characteristic, not a costly one.

    Yes, it is a valuable characteristic GLOBALLY. Nevertheless, it is costly individually. Just like having a clean house is valuable, especially for any visitors, but costly, especially for those living there, who have to carefully not shit on the floor, greatly inconveniencing themselves to a degree dogs for instance would not, and also pick up papers and dirty clothes and so forth.

    The general heading for this problem is "disaster of commons".


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