Amazon’s Lord of the Rings TV show explained. What can they film?

Amazon Chronicles (Tim Carmody) [c]:

In his lifetime, J.R.R. Tolkien published two works of fantasy set in a section of the planet Arda called Middle-Earth: The Hobbit and then its multi-volume sequel The Lord of the Rings. While there are hints of other lands and ages in The Hobbit, it’s really in The Lord of the Rings that it’s decisively revealed that these stories take place at the end of the Third Age of Arda…

Over his life, J.R.R. Tolkien wrote and revised many stories about the First Age. These were collected and edited after his death by his son Christopher, and published in the books The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, Beren and Luthien, The Children of Húrin, The Fall of Gondolin, and others. It’s a rich and full mythology, and a television studio could take years to tell those stories.

Amazon has the rights to none of them. The Tolkien estate didn’t sell those. (And Amazon doesn’t have the Hobbit/Lord of the Rings-era stories either.)

What the Tolkien estate sold was the rights to the Second Age, but reportedly not the parts of those stories told in the books primarily about the First Age (the Silmarillion, etc.) At the same time, Amazon cannot contradict those stories either. Amazon’s series will have to be consistent with the Tolkien canon, while at the same time drawing on the vaguest, least detailed portion of it: genealogies, a few outlines of stories, and not much more.

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‘The Mormon Church Amassed $100 Billion. It Was the Best-Kept Secret in the Investment World. ‘

The Wall Street Journal [c]:

[Ensign Peak’s (The Mormon Church’s investment division)] assets did total roughly $80 billion to $100 billion as of last year, some of the former employees said. That is at least double the size of Harvard University’s endowment and as large as the size of SoftBank’s Vision Fund, the world’s largest tech-investment fund.

[…] Church officials acknowledged the size of the fund is a tightly held secret, which they said was because Ensign Peak depends on donations—known as tithing—from the church’s 16 million world-wide members.

[…] “We don’t know when the next 2008 is going to take place,”… “If something like that were to happen again, we won’t have to stop missionary work.”

During the last financial crisis, they didn’t touch the reserves Ensign Peak had amassed, church officials said. Instead, the church cut the budget.

[…] Whereas university endowments generally subsidize operating costs with investment income, Ensign Peak does the opposite. Annual donations from the church’s members more than covers the church’s budget. The surplus goes to Ensign Peak. Members of the religion must give 10% of their income each year to remain in good standing.

Dean Davies, another member of the ecclesiastical arm that oversees Ensign Peak, said the church doesn’t publicly share its assets because “these funds are sacred” and “we don’t flaunt them for public review and critique.”

Imagine being a Mormon. You’re not allowed to even drink coffee, and you’re required to give 10% of your income to the church. And then you find out your religion has an investment fund worth $100 billion. Although Mormonism has always been a joke of religion, so perhaps it’s fitting.

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‘UK truck driver shortage signals a broken labour market’

Financial Times [c]:

In 2010, the median HGV driver in the UK earned 51 per cent more per hour than the median supermarket cashier. By 2020, the premium was only 27 per cent. They have faced a particular pay squeeze in the past five years: median hourly pay for truck drivers has risen 10 per cent since 2015 to £11.80, compared with 16 per cent for all UK employees. “Why would I want to be a truck driver, with all the responsibility, the long, unpredictable hours, if I can go to Aldi and earn £11.30 an hour stacking shelves?” says Tomasz Oryński.

[…] As a result, the workforce is ageing. In 2000, there was an even split between over-45s and under-45s. Now the over-45s account for 62 per cent.

 

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Landlord Lloyds

The Guardian [c]:

It is already the UK’s largest mortgage lender, and now Lloyds Banking Group aims to become one of its biggest private landlords, with a target of buying 50,000 homes in the next 10 years.

Each year property prices seem to rise, wages seem to stagnate and now Britain moves closer and closer to modern feudalism. (Can you tell I’m trying to get on the property ladder right now?)

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Choose an expert

I think about this quite a lot. I do my best to educate myself on subjects. But I’m no expert. At the end of the day all I’m doing is trusting an actual ‘expert’ and hoping I chose wisely. (via Alexey Guzey)

By the way, as of yesterday, I am now double vaxxed 🙂

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‘Ben Franklin’s bitter regret that he didn’t immunize his 4-year-old son against smallpox’

Washington Post [c]:

Five weeks had passed since the death of Benjamin Franklin’s son, and rumors were swirling. Four-year-old Francis “Franky” Franklin had died after being inoculated for smallpox, the rumor went, and now his pro-inoculation father was trying to hide it.

The gossip reached such a point that on Dec. 30, 1736, the grieving father, then 30, confronted it in the pages of his newspaper, the Pennsylvania Gazette.

“Inasmuch as some People are, by that [rumor] … deter’d from having that Operation perform’d on their Children,” he wrote, “I do hereby sincerely declare, that he was not inoculated, but receiv’d the Distemper in the common Way of Infection.”

It must have been hard to admit — Franklin had long advocated inoculation as a “safe and beneficial practice” — that his own son had gone unprotected.

“I intended to have my Child inoculated,” he explained, “as soon as he should have recovered sufficient Strength from a Flux [diarrhea] with which he had been long afflicted.”

More than five decades later, in his autobiography published posthumously, he said he had “long regretted bitterly, and still regret” that he had chosen to wait.

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‘How Many Microcovids Would You Spend on a Burrito?’

Wired [c]:

Olsson thinks about risk for a living—she works for a Silicon Valley foundation on projects that seek to mitigate the potentially catastrophic effects of advanced AI—and is in the habit of assessing her daily life with data and models. A few years ago, after a close friend told her about a scare she’d had while cycling, Olsson decided to reevaluate her own bike commute. Was her life span more likely to be cut short by a fatal crash biking to work or by the increased chance of heart disease from sitting idly on the train? She was happier riding her bike than squeezing in with fellow passengers, but sometimes feelings need a fact check. She did the math and was pleased that it validated her choice to cycle.

Olsson had begun applying this approach to living with the new coronavirus. The task was far more comprehensive. Unlike the risk of a bike accident, the risks posed by the virus radiated off of everything, turning the littlest things—a burrito!—into a gamble. At first, managing those risks was easy, if unpleasant. When the pandemic arrived in March, lockdowns constrained life and therefore made decisions simple. It was all of us together, in the interest of keeping hospitals from becoming overrun. But then, gradually, the world reopened, and life got more confusing.

So she and her friends created microCOVID. It’s an amazing site. You enter a bunch of variables about the activity you want to do, and it will tell you how risky it is. I love stuff like this.

And be sure to read the whole Wired piece. It’s certainly my favourite article of the week.

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The Man Who Invited the World Over for Dinner

BBC News [c]:

Jim Haynes was both an icon and a relic of the Swinging Sixties, an American in Paris who was famous for inviting hundreds of thousands of strangers to dinner at his home. He died this month.

[…] During the 1990s, the crowds started to dwindle at the Paris dinners, as the original hippy crowd aged. But then a new wave of younger visitors started to get in touch. The bloggers had discovered him.

[…] He explained that, in the late 1980s, he had founded a guidebook series for countries behind the Iron Curtain. Instead of the standard descriptions of sights and hotel listings, the format was like an address book, including the contact details for hundreds of in-country hosts. The idea was that if people could not easily see the Western world themselves, he would bring it to them via travellers. It was “couchsurfing”, but offline.

Interesting guy. Though he sounds like the total opposite to myself. I couldn’t imagine anything worse than having a dozen strangers over to my house for dinner every week. You can listen to a five minute audio interview with him here [c]. And here’s his Wikipedia.

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‘Their Noses Paid the Bills. Then COVID Took Their Sense of Smell’

Wired UK [c]:

Anxiety about this ailment [loss of smell] is creeping into wine and fine dining. In the wine industry, losing your sense of smell is so taboo that several sommeliers interviewed for this piece did not want to be identified. One sommelier at a top London restaurant likened the symptoms to a star athlete injuring their anterior cruciate ligament – a knee injury used to routinely put an end to professional athletes’ careers. They warned that those with a compromised sense of smell could be branded as “damaged goods” or unfit for work in the eyes of the profession. Others have questioned whether it could be a factor in future hiring decisions. One well-known former wine buyer for high-end restaurants, who is still suffering from parosmia six months on, said they aren’t able to function correctly in the business because they have “lost the way to detect nuance in wine”. They have stopped buying expensive wines for their own enjoyment as a result.

[…] Researchers and medics now think smell loss happens due to the virus damaging what they call the supporting cells of the olfactory epithelium – the area high in the nose where we detect odours. This area contains both the nerve cells, and supporting cells that make the nose work. If damaged by a virus, these have to regenerate and forge new connections to the brain. Some think that parosmia is an indication of nerve cells healing and making new connections to the brain.

Losing your smell is pretty awful. I haven’t checked, but I’m guessing COVID-19 doesn’t actually affect your taste in any way, despite reports. It’s just that scent is such a vital part of taste that it actually feels like you’ve lost your taste.

Here’s a quick fun game for you to try. Get someone to open a random flavour of crisps for you. Close your eyes, pinch your nose and then eat a crisp and try to guess what flavour it is. It’s close to impossible. Your nose is so important for taste.

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