The Alloy of Law [2011]

I was not really much of a fan of the original Mistborn trilogy. The initial premise was to set a fantasy story in a world after the total victory of your classic mega-evil wizard. What’s it like to live in the world ruled by Sauron or Bavmorda or the followers of Naar? The first novel melds a heist plot structure with a bildungsroman (I have to google how to spell that every time), and a fairly innovative take on magic and is pretty much A+ material. All of which is utterly squandered in the second and third books, which abandon the protagonist of the first novel in favour of a bland and privileged Mary Sue, who is sent on your basic plot-coupon fantasy before the big revelation happens that it’s all based on a red herring prophecy anyway, which is a most unsatisfying bait-and-switch. Which is a shaggy-dog story kind of introduction to my reluctance to pick up The Alloy of Law despite having very much enjoyed the first “three” books of the Stormlight archive.

The Alloy of Law attempts a similar reinvention of fantasy – what if technology had advanced to the industrial age in this fantasy world? Furthermore, what if the reclamation of the blasted and remote lands devastated by the reign of the Final Emperor had given rise to a wild-west style frontier (without, of course, those pesky Native Americans whose inclusion always generates problematical questions!). Our story’s protagonist is one of those famous Western lawmen, a fantasy Wyatt Earp or Bat Masterson (don’t read too much history on these guys – fair warning). As I’m wild about Westerns, a devotee of detectives, and marginally a fantasy fan, I’m on board with the premise-mashing/trope-blending. But before we delve into that, I think it’s just worth pausing to ask why not just keep in your lane? What’s the point, abstractly, of genre mixing?I think genre-bending starts to happen in a couple of different cases.

Mostly, I think genres get blended when one or other genre is feeling played-out. The intention is clearly to bootleg some energy from an alternate form of story and generate some new variations and possibilities. This is where the likes of Firefly live – the Western was very quiescent, and the wagon train to the stars was at a hitching post, so Joss Whedon grabbed both to create something new and energetic, able to pull story elements and fabula from two different sources and combine them in ways obvious when writing just one genre. Doing this allows the author to wrong-foot the audience while still basically using a set of tools that they’ve declared in advance, so it doesn’t feel like a deus ex machina when some left-field event happens because it’s within genre for the other genre being used.

This is basically what Blade Runner does when it uses the hard-boiled aesthetic to explore the ideas of human consciousness and the reliability of memory. Dekard is a detective who does almost no detection, uncovers no squalid conspiracy, but who merely looks and sounds the part. The hard-boiled story outline creates the opportunity for the film to use clues as more than a bread-crumb trail to greedy people breaking the law for fun and profit. This is the real function of the photographs that the replicants, and Dekard, are obsessed with. Photographs are used to notionally push Dekard along an investigative path so that the story can keep moving. Their more important function, however, is to act as a verification for the reality of memories held by the replicants. See, this event is real, because I have a photograph of it. I think the strongest argument in favour of Dekard’s status as a replicant is not his unicorn dream, but his own precious collection of photographs. Blending genres here has allowed Scott to repurpose a staple of detection, evidence analysis, to do something else.

The second main reason for genre-mashing is one of extrapolation. It’s taking the basic premise suggested by a kind of magic and pushing it further along its track. For fantasy this essentially inverts Clarke’s law, so that rather than “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” we have “any sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from technology”. This is the route taken by the pseudo-industrial Earth Nation in Avatar: The Last Airbender. It’s an uncommon take because I think what fantasy really means to most authors is protective coloration for their chivalric fantasy of dudes on a horse killing stuff that’s evil. It’s Le Morte d’Arthur with a bigger FX budget typically. There’s now a whole genre of “hard fantasy” which comprises Charlie Stross-style world-building exercises.

The third main strand is as an explicit cross-commentary on the genres. This is basically the thrust of Saruman’s industrialisation of Isengard and then the Shire in The Lord of the Rings. We don’t see so much a structural integration as in the first case, nor a full synthesis  in the second, but a casual cross-contamination. The most frequent adopter of this approach was Terry Pratchett in the Discworld – in fact, the whole series exists almost primarily as a way of pointing of pointing out how ridiculous our modern world is. Twoflower’s camera is the thin edge of the wedge – it’s completely irrelevant to the fabula or the details of the action, but it’s included for comic effect. Later entries such as Going Postal more clearly use the technology for a story purpose, rather than as a commentary beat (from Robin Laws’ story analysis system).

With that bird’s eye view of the storytelling strategies in play, we can now turn to the novel itself and ask what genre elements it’s using for its juxtapositions and what effect that creates. We obviously can’t do that without spoiling the novel, so from here I’m going to be fairly specific about what happens and the interpretation I place on that.

Continue reading

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The paradox of political correctness

I’m on Twitter, and I follow a number of fairly radical left-wing agitators, who I really only realised were agitators fairly recently. I blame Anita Sarkeesian in a way, because I found a few of them through her Feminist Frequency platform, but then, she post-dated my readership of Go Make me a Sandwich, so maybe that’s just a matter of relative profiles. When I first encountered Tropes v. Women I was deeply impressed by the critical rigour applied to what is (from a Criticism/Theory perspective) a nascent genre of art, the Computer Game. It only occurred to me later, when the backlash started, that Sarkseesian’s critical work was also political work. Which is a very round-about way of saying that I’ve been watching a lot of comedy recently and reflecting on its role as a critical medium that is therefore also a political platform, which should be a hugely familiar problem to anyone who’s ever read any Aristophanes – especially, say, Lysistrata. Which is an even more round-about way of saying that whenever I worry about the value of a liberal arts education, I realise that they probably don’t teach economists this stuff, which is fundamental to navigating the human experience.

I think Sarkeesian is an absolute genius, who does what all great critics do, which is having an emotional reaction to something and then interpolating a logical framework to explore and deconstruct that emotional response. In doing so, the great critics re-write the rules of the game, starting from that original reactionary curmudgeon, Aristotle, who found one particular kind of tragedy satisfying and by persuasively writing The Poetics to articulate that enjoyment dominated how everyone else thinks about tragedy for the last two and a half millennia. Sarkeesian saw objectification of women in video games and decided that instead of simply saying “the objectification of women is wrong”, she’d really build a case for how those structures functioned. She got inside the meta-game and exploded it, and I think a lot of men were unhappy that they had a different emotional reaction to those works and were uncomfortable in seeing the full implications of that enjoyment laid out in front of them. Because objecting to objectification is really totally insufficient if it doesn’t address the problem. Continue reading

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The Highwaymen [2019]

In some of his junket interviews, Kevin Costner has described this film as a Western, joining other recent Westerns like Hell or High Water in a kind of genre revival that’s really an identification that’s probably more interesting than either of those movies in and of themselves. My understanding of the Western genre is derives pretty solidly from consuming Spaghetti Westerns and their derivatives in bulk when I was a kid, which is to say that my genre experienced missed out on virtually the whole of the “Cowboys versus Indians” or even the “Pioneers versus Wilderness” tropes that are main strands in genre surveys like the Six Gun Mystique [Cawelti] and There Must Be a Lone Ranger [Calder]. The “original” fiction for me was A Fistful of Dollars, which is arguably not a Western at all, since it’s a close remake of Yojimbo, which is itself an adaptation of Red Harvest, a genre-busting “Detective” novel. Which rather brings us full-circle to the likes of criminal-hunting Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson in The Highwaymen. For good reason the subtitles on my editions of Leone’s iconic trilogy use the term “bounty killer” for their characters.

The question for me is really what Costner (or anyone else) has to gain from using this very amorphous term that’s far more evocative than descriptive. I think that what’s slowly happened to the genre is High NoonHigh Noon is nothing more or less than the specific struggle between good and evil personified into the righteous gunfighter and the hellion. When we invoke Westerns now, I think that’s the sense we’re blindly gesturing toward. Or perhaps I’m just fumbling for evidence myself that the genre derives from its perfect original, The Iliad. What Costner did in that interview, albeit obliquely, was to legitimise and valorise what is effectively a murder by ambush as a confrontation on equal terms typified and exemplified by Marshal Cane [Gary Cooper] facing off alone against Frank Miller [Ian MacDonald], and endlessly replayed in the gunfight as a morality tale ever since. If the reactionary Western like Unforgiven challenges that basic logic, because there are no good guys in Unforgiven, and then a post-reactionary Western like Seraphim Falls challenges this logic by having no bad guys… The Highwaymen is again coming full circle to say that sometimes the only way you can beat evil is by shooting it in the face.

Part of this morality tale is the overt Death Wish of the adversaries. The Highwaymen returns to this point again and again as a succession of characters tell our protagonists that Clyde Barker won’t be taken alive. That death is his preference to imprisonment. On the side of the angels, the grisly fate of the law-men who oppose Bonnie and Clyde becomes a major storytelling motif. It’s clear that both sides are resigned to the inevitability of a fatality. Again the echoes of High Noon are strong, since this is the consensus view of every character in that film. The spectre of a Pyrrhic victory such as in Shane or Invitation to a Gunfighter is omnipresent, though ameliorated somewhat by knowledge of the historical events being depicted. And this too comes through strongly in Red Harvest, where the protagonist becomes “Blood Simple”, more an agent of death than of justice – it’s just that everyone in that novel is so hopelessly corrupt that indiscriminate death can do no collateral damage.

Where The Highwaymen excels is in capturing the melancholy that naturally comes from being a meditation on death, on nemesis. It’s a film with almost no joy or exuberance. This is chiefly a function of the low-key performances from Costner and Harrelson, who convey a weariness and a familiarity that feels well-worn and genuine. It’s a film without a relieving strain of humour, which takes every chance to expose the details of the coming confrontation.

I tend to think of the Western as a dead genre, whose glory days ended categorically with Unforgiven, with just the occasional gem like The Quick and the Dead or Seraphim Falls amongst used-up detritus like Dollar for the Dead or horror films like Bone Tomahawk and Brimstone that try to bootleg Western symbolism for other purposes. Probably the truly “authentic” film of a man on a horse chasing a bandit is fairly well dead, but if so, it’s because the core structural principle has jumped hosts into the likes of The Highwaymen, just as the Western itself derives its original energies from the classical tradition of heroic confrontations between Man and Nature (Heracles), Man and Barbarian (Jason, Aeneas, Odysseus), and Man and Man (Achilleus).

It’s hard to think of The Highwaymen as a classic, or as a film deserving BlockBuster status (challenging for a Netflix original in any case), but I found it very satisfying as a reconstitution of a range of familiar story elements given a serious yet not self-important treatment.

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The Role of the Swiper

Something that haunts our culture is whether an Arts education has any tangible or real, or frankly, even intangible value. A bachelor’s degree in Engineering produces a Worker, ready to go forth and Engineer things, similarly for Nurses, Accountants, Lawyers, Doctors… even your Bachelor of Commerce theoretically plugs into the fundamental stuff of our money-grubbing capitalist dystopia; and while actual jobs are vanishingly rare, we do basically acknowledge that we use Science ™ and need therefore need Scientists. These are therefore Useful People ™. Whereas if you have BA (English) or BA (Film), there’s a sense that all you’ve learned is, misquoting Robin D Laws, “How to Write Good”, a skill which is increasingly seen as necessary in all those other degrees too. So just as a little experiment with myself, I thought I’d see whether anything I learned in my many years of studying Classics, English, & Film, could be used to shed any light on a very peculiar experience that was part of my routine for a couple of years – swiping on Tinder.

I’ve posted a few other times and places about the crazy experience of using Tinder, but let me just recap the highlights. You create a profile consisting of between zero and nine photos, with a short biography up to 500 characters. Typically Tinder is accessed as an adjunct to Facebook, so you may also import your “interests” from there, which will show up as “shared interests” while you’re swiping. When you use the app, it pops up with a single picture of each potential match and if you like that picture you can open up the other photos and the text – or you can just swipe left for “no”, right for “yes”, or up for “super-yes”. If both parties swipe some form of yes then you can chat, and after that, who knows, meet? Then date? Then have one-time freaky sex, or marry for life, or join into a polyamorous collective – the app is not restrictive in that way. OK Cupid and Bumble work in fairly similar ways, with an increasing amount of “information” included to help you make the best swiping decisions. Continue reading

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Upgrade [2018] & Polar [2019]

I have twice recently sat down to enjoy a bit of mindless violence in which a Man on a Mission stomps his way through a succession of challenges and obstacles to get some stuff done. It’s the ultra-violent Hero’s Journey and it may not be High Art, but when done well it can be diverting and provide a platform for daring choreography. My favourites of the genre are Get Carter [1971] with its relentless melancholy nihilism and Payback [1999], the more playful version of Point Blank [1967] where the running gag is that nobody will believe the sum of money motivating Porter’s rampage because it’s too small. “Nobody would go through all this for 70 grand” or “my suits are worth more than that!”.

Upgrade and Polar are very different films, but I think they fail in a couple of the same basic ways which mean the underlying foundation for the narrative can’t sustain the action very well. Both decide that the way they should motivate their protagonists is a combination of 1. Personal injury, 2. Fridging a girlfriend. I’m not morally opposed to these as narrative strategies in and of themselves, but I think in both these films they’re so extremely rote that they become vestigial, in fact, probably a hinderance, rather than a real motivator for action. They seem to have been adopted because of a real lack of imagination about what else could actually be in play or involved, but with such well-worn story beats you really should only include them if you’ve got a way to refresh them, even if this is as obviously silly as John Wick’s dog.

Spoilers hereafter.

Let’s look first at Upgrade, the Man on a Mission is in fact an elaborate trap for the protagonist. Our protagonist is paralysed and his wife murdered in what appears to be a sophisticated assassination of his wife by a gang of techno-criminals. The film gestures and sketches at this smoke-screen but can’t really make this a logical conclusion, it just trusts that you’ll be so distracted by the action that you don’t ask too many questions. In fact, STEM, the miracle cure for our protagonist’s paralysis, turns out to be the mastermind behind the whole thing and the tropes of murder etc turn out to be done only in order to psychologically torture him to the point where he suffers a complete psychotic break and enters a permanent delusional state. This leaves STEM to ride his body, living the embodied life it craves.

This elaborate plan simply makes no sense. The very simplest version of STEM’s plan is simply to grab Trace and forcibly have itself implanted in him by his highly-trained team of thugs. Making no sense isn’t exactly a problem – Taken is propulsive enough despite its connective tissue having more holes than an episode of Moffatt-era Doctor Who. What’s a problem is that the set-up for the injury, the melancholy response, the seduction to the experimental technology, and the initial experimentation with STEM, takes around 40 minutes and none of it is interesting at all. It’s fairly much dead time while you’re waiting for the premise to begin and there’s a much-improved version of this film where all that stuff is done in two or three 30-second flashbacks once the action begins to unfold. So many possibilities existed for at least exploring the periphery of why we should distrust AI in a way that would have flashed up warning signals to the audience when the miracle cure happens that it’s too good to be true. The key reason STEM has picked this particular sucker is that he’s unaugmented by technology at the outset, but that tension is never explored.

The dead wife then adds insult to injury. She has no distinguishing traits or features, so while she adds notionally to the angst (because merely being paralysed isn’t enough motivation?), she fails to work in her role as a plot decoy. The film’s intent is openly stated as a mis-direction that she is the intended victim, but she is so totally underused that this never makes any sense or seems very interesting.

Upgrade has a few hints of cinematic style – the use of a Go-Pro is fun, even if it’s seriously inferior to things like Hardcore Henry or The Villainess, or even Crank… But without a protagonist you’re interested in the whole thing feels flat and pointless.Basically, watch any episode of Black Mirror instead of this.

If Upgrade felt like a flat souffle, Polar seemed to go out of its way to be obnoxiously offensive with a pornographic sensibility as well as utterly tedious in its predictability. The torture scene where “The Black Kaiser” loses his eye is the most rote ranting-villain piece of garbage I’ve ever seen.

Where Polar tries to be interesting is that it runs the reverse of the murdered girlfriend as motivation. When the big bad boss decides its time to murder the Black Kaiser, he sends his own girlfriend to do it, and when she is killed in the attempt he takes umbrage and decides to kick up his actions a notch. To do so he kidnaps a woman the Black Kaiser has befriended, as a kind of sweetener on his torturous revenge.

The main problem with this is that it’s completely superfluous. The villain’s plan is to murder our “hero”, and after his girlfriend is killed in the attempt that plan changes to murder plus torture. So what? It’s also a very very under-sold romance – two despicable people are imputed to have a sexual connection, but since we can’t care even a little about either of them and both are in absolutely iron-clad story straightjackets there’s no real change as a result of the so-called story moment. It feels absolutely like the film just sort of felt like it had to murder a whole bunch of women in a horrible way because, you know, what else could possibly be in a film? Rather than being any kind of twist or new take, it just feels like they had no ideas at all and fell back on murdering women as an easy story beat – the macaroni-and-cheese of cinema.

What you’ve got then is a pair of 1-star dumpster-fire movies that fail in very basic methods of storytelling precisely because they don’t bother to think of those methods, they assumed they could just be dropped into place. This is basically the problem with all genre fiction – when treated not as a tool for creating story, but as an empty criterion, it becomes stale and dead. It’s not easy to think that, in particular, Polar could have been a good film, but Upgrade definitely has a range of good ingredients spoiled by being uncritically lumped together with the most boring versions of rote formula elements.

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Films of 2018

This year I’ve seen fewer films than any year for quite a while – 32, which is significantly down from last year’s previous “new low” of 48. You may need to go back to my mid-20s to find such a year of poor attendance. Yet, I think the trade-off for being less motivated and less adventurous is that I’ve seen relatively few absolute stinkers and far more films that I genuinely really liked. Picking a top-5 would be fairly hard this year, so instead I’ve decided to go the route of the MTV Movie awards, and single out incidents and occasions.

Best Scene Stealer

Death of Stalin is a hugely entertaining black comedy; there’s a seething sense of petty resentment and paranoia through the first half of the film, and then suddenly Jason Isaacs bursts into frame as Field Marshal Zhukov and kicks the whole film into another gear. He’s not on screen much, but when he is, you can’t look at anything else.

Best On-Screen Team

Mel and Jen from The Breaker Upperer’s are perhaps only a duo rather than a team, but they go through some stuff in the film and come out stronger than ever.

Best Fight

It’s been a year with big action films a-plenty, so picking a Best Fight is hard. In general though, the best fights advance the story or reveal character – a bit like the songs in a musical. There are some amazing set-pieces in, say, a film that’s otherwise a dumpster fire of ineptitude, The Spy Who Dumped Me, but the fantastic choreography only reveals how poorly they’re integrated into the story. The film which used its fights better than any other was Black Panther, where the titular character goes through some pretty major character growth in key fights.

Best Kiss

Kissing (and sex in general) is bizarrely treated in films – so fetishised and fantasised that it’s often hard to recognise as a human activity. Only one film I saw this year showed any kind of physical affection that I could relate to as a human experience – Paul Rudd and Steve Coogan in Ideal Home.  Their kiss may not have been “sexy”, because it was way better than that.

Best Hero

What is a hero? I’ve met a few people this year confused about that, describing Thanos as the “hero” of Avengers: Infinity War. Is the film sympathetic to a genocidal madman – maybe, but he’s still definitely the villain. So – who came out from behind, did the right thing in the face of overwhelming odds? It’s pretty hard to go past Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther; because he fought the toughest opponent and won – changing his own mind about something, and hence growing as a person. What? Character development in a super hero film, whatever next?

Best Villain

Not picking Eric Killmonger would be pretty crazy this year. I’ve got a few misgivings – such as the film never giving him a real name, and the absolutely unnecessary disposal of a superfluous girlfriend, which was done purely and only to make the audience less sympathetic to him. But, he was the villain whose motivations, methods, and purposes I understood, who was the most sympathetic, and yet who was still irredeemable.

Best Scared-As-Shit Performance & Best Comedic Performance

I couldn’t be bothered looking up their names, but the guys who did this the best were the gangsters in the bar in Game Night. Their utter terror played perfectly against Rachel McAdam’s straight-faced messing around, setting up an early big laugh that really cemented this film as my favourite comedy for some time.

Best Performance in a Movie

My cinematic year was without any Big Performances – you know, the kind of stuff that usually wins this award. The actor who really had to work the hardest though to win the audience over, hold their attention, and sell a range of emotions was probably Josh Brolin as Thanos. That would have been an extremely easy role to completely face-plant and ruin the whole movie, which relied on Thanos holding your attention.

Best Show

I don’t really track TV the way I do film, so just off the top of my head, the show I’ve enjoyed the most this year was probably the latest series of Brooklyn 99.

Best Movie
Time for the big one. If I could only advise you to go see one film this year, what am I picking? Mission Impossible: Fallout, for showing that a franchise this long can still deliver twists, surprises, action, and the portrait of Tom Cruise? No. It’s a best in breed, but not best in show. A Quiet Place, for being so terrifyingly tense that you could hear a pin drop in the cinema? It’s an outstanding achievement in direction and acting, but maybe didn’t explode the human condition enough to be the single top pick. Blackkklansman, an incisive look into institutional racism that’s tense, yet has a light touch? It’s got to be in consideration, though it’s historical inaccuracies are a problem for some. Sorry to Bother You, with its excoriation of consumer/capitalist culture combined with an avante-garde take on race relations? Look – another 5-star all-time classic that’s just not quite as in my wheelhouse as…

The Death of Stalin. That’s my favourite film of the year. I’ve seen it twice, and both times I was completely enthralled.

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Seismic Risk & Resilience

Recently my profession has come under a bit of fire for sub-par performance of buildings and failure to prosecute the engineers behind the CTV building collapse. The main response seems to have been re-branding from “The Institute of Professional Engineers of New Zealand” to “Engineering New Zealand” – perhaps they were concerned that the word “professional” was a bit misleading? They’ve also issued a document called Engineering a Better NZ, with this stunning piece of advice:

If community expectations don’t match what will be delivered, it’s because engineers have failed to accurately convey risk.

This is possibly accurate, but it’s also a somewhat depressing version of “caveat emptor” – you didn’t like what you bought, which isn’t the fault of the seller except inasmuch as they let you buy it. Like all professionals working in the area of seismic retrofitting, I’ve had my share of conversations about why a second, or even third, round of strengthening is needed as seismic codes are refined and our understanding of risk evolves.

The truth is that risk is something that’s fairly heavily buried even for us – I’ve posted on that once or twice in the past. There are layers and layers of probabilistic evaluations that need to be made for every step of the process. The design and evaluation standards we use do their best to summarise the best-guess median values for different key properties, and we take both a detailed and holistic view of the risks. We assess, we evaluate, we rank – we fix the worst risks. But what is risk? How can we understand this word in a useful way and fulfil Engineering NZ’s mandate?

The basic definition of risk is:

Risk = f(Probability of Occurrence, Consequence of Occurrence)

We’ve got to understand probability here not in terms of will it/won’t it, but as a matter of how far into the future the event happens. Seismic activity in Wellington is inevitable, but it’s not inevitable today, or tomorrow, or within the next five years. What we have is a time-bound probability field, where the probability of a minor earthquake within 5 years is X, the probability of a minor earthquake within 50 years is some multiple of X, the probability of a major earthquake within 5 years is some fraction of X, and so on. So we can think of this from the inverse perspective – the average interval between now and a minor earthquake is 1/X, which we could think of as some kind of lifetime.

The “New Building Standard” requirement of 33% is just such a minor earthquake, while the 100% level is a major quake (these being the two most relevant scenarios for practical purposes). Using our inverted way of thinking, 33%NBS represents an average lifespan of 1/X years, while 100%NBS represents a much longer average lifespan before the building is destroyed. Given that a 100%NBS earthquake is based on a 500-year return interval, and buildings are “intended” to survive for 50 years, we roughly think of a 100%NBS building as having a 10% chance of encountering a 100%-level shake. A 33%NBS quake has a correspondingly shorter return interval of 150 years. So we can, extremely roughly, think that a 33%NBS building has a “lifetime” not of 50 years, but of 15 years. I suspect it is not entirely coincidental that the timeframe required for strengthening is 15 years for most buildings, 7.5 for the most critical.

In terms of the consequence of failure, what the “New Building Standard” means is that the building is safe to evacuate, but that the building is probably a write-off afterwards. In engineering-speak we could talk about this as “resilience”, but that’s another topic for another post. If we think that the “lifetime” of a building is 15 (or, indeed, 50) years, then the only sensible thing to do is to depreciate its value over that period with a view to replacing the building entirely when the event happens.

Risk then declines over time, at least in financial terms. In the first year of an Earthquake Prone building’s life, the chances of a >33%NBS earthquake are 1/150, and the consequence is a total financial loss. In the second year, the chance of a >33%NBS earthquake is 1/150, but the consequence is a financial loss of (15-1/15)%. And so on. After 15 years, the consequence has virtually declined to zero, so the risk is zero. What this requires, however, is a 15-year plan with sufficient funding. You could then think of risk instead as a comparison of rates – what if I depreciate the building over 20 years instead of 15, that extends the exposure period by 5 years.

Whereas, what’s happening right now is that owners target 34%NBS and then assume Risk = 0 at that point. If those owners who strengthened to 34%NBS (although it was expressed differently in my youth) had seen that as a deferment or extension of a replacement cost, right now they’d be tearing down those risky hulks and building far more profitable modern buildings. Always assuming, of course, that the mystics in charge of so-called “Heritage” in NZ allow them to do the sensible thing.

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