Misc: August 2011 Archives


August 30, 2011

Mrs. G and I watched Watchmen last night. I don't think this is a film I would have really wanted to see without having read the graphic novel, but it's interesting to see how they've adapted it. Like many of the recent films based on comic book graphic novel "classics" (and indeed director Zack Snyder's previous 300) it is visually and thematically a reasonably faithful adaptation. Mostly, it works less well in this format: elements that in the novel are like woah heavy feel more like heavy-handed when transferred to film. The one big exception here is Rorschach's journal: the same inner dialogue that feels gritty when printed on the page comes off totally differently when turned into a pompous Blade Runner-style voiceover that really hammers home what a complete psycho Rorschach is.

Spoilers below. Though, really, if you haven't read Watchmen yet, you're probably not going to and so they're not much in the way of spoilers.


August 22, 2011

The process of turning raw wool into fabric by hand is extremely time consuming. Prior to the Industrial Revolution, the production process operated in a pyramid, with a large number of carders supported a smaller number of spinners, supporting an even smaller number of weavers [Note: weaving is much faster than the other two major technqiues for turning yarn into cloth: knitting and crocheting]. I've heard varying numbers, but Wikipedia claims that the ratio was around 9:3:1.

Isn't it interesting, then, that when you look at the list of common American surnames, which are often associated with occupations, that "Weaver" appears at position 190 (.05% of the population) but "Spinner" appears at 1/50th the rate, at position 7393 (.001%). Carder is at 4255 (.003%); Carter is, I would assume, a different profession. [The first 10 names, btw are: Smith, Johnson, Williams, Jones, Brown, Davis, Miller, Wilson, Moore, Taylor].

I'm not attempting to claim that there's some direct relationship between last name frequency and historical occupation rates, but it's still entertaining to speculate on the cause. My initial suggestion was that carding and spinning were more likely to be women's work and of course in the West women's surnames don't get propagated. Mrs. Guesswork suggests that spinning and carding weren't professionalized the way that weaving was [prior to the invention of the spinning wheel, spinning technology was extremely low-tech], so you might spin or card in your spare time, but weaving requires enough capital equipment that you would expect it to be done professionally and thus be more likely to get a surname attached to it.

Equally likely, of course, is that it's just coincidence, but what fun would that be?