Dracula on Gratitude

I enjoyed the Dracula mini-series on Netflix–it’s smart, stylish and a fresh take. Also, at just three episodes, it’s satisfying without requiring a huge time investment.

Dracula has some pointed commentary on contemporary mores, including economics. After sleeping for a hundred years he finds himself in an ordinary home and speaks to the owner, Kathleen:

D: You’re clearly very wealthy.

K: Wealthy?

D: Yes. Well, look at all this stuff. All this food. The moving picture box. And that thing outside, Bob calls it um, a car. And this treasure trove is your house!

K: It’s a dump.

D: Kathleen, I’ve been a nobleman for 400 years. I’ve lived in castes and palaces among the richest people of any age. Never….never! Have I stood in greater luxury than surrounds me now. This is a chamber of marvels. There isn’t a king, or queen or emperor that I have ever known or eaten who would step into this room and ever agree to leave it again.

I knew the future would bring wonders. I did not know it would make them ordinary.

Comments

But if Dracula was true to form, he'd say that *relative* wealth is what matters, not absolute wealth, and he'd hearken to an age where status was having an servant or slave empty your chamber pot.

You are on to something, but not just the relative income of Dracula 0 vs Dracula +400. Let the King or nobleman actually live in present for long enough to get to know it. He certainly would not want to give up central heating, but what about his commute?

And the noise...

When everyone has everything they need then they struggle to have something to complain about. So they make things up about racism, sexism, and social justice. Some people just need to be unhappy in order to be happy.

"So they make things up about racism, sexism, and social justice."

You wanna cry? You wanna a safe space?

"...but what about his commute?

Do you have any idea how slow and uncomfortable travel was even for royalty? Being king did not make horses go faster or keep your wooden-wheeled, horse-drawn carriage from jolting you for hours. Erasmus Darwin (Charles's grandfather) spent a lot of effort trying to invent a carriage steering and suspension system that would make the rounds visiting his patients less miserable.

Some time ago, a study about the time people took to get to their jobs, whether a corporate executive or a hunter gatherer looking for a hunting ground....it averaged all about an hour. Not sure what all that means, but given that we're all faced with the same length of day and the same human biology...maybe something.

+1 Surprising comment. Consider the level of wealth and the living standards of ordinary people if the wealthy people had not started all those damn wars. On the other hand, it's the wealthy who suffer the most losses in war as the result of the destruction of assets, assets that are/were mostly owned by the wealthy; there's no wealth equalizer like war. Warren's wealth tax would be a piker compared to war.

War also tends to kickstart technology development. Especially modern war. How many urgent treatments were developed due to a pressing need to save injured soldiers?

Peace also tends to kickstart technology development. Facebook, Google, and smartphones were invented by which war?

Well, no. The best you can argue is increased state power for the purpose of defeating rival states contributed to technical, scientific, and social organization advance. Actual wars themselves reduce resources available for advancements, particularly brain power. While the mass of young brains slain has far greater negative effect, one clear example is how the Germans allowed Nobel Prize winner Eduard Buchner to get killed serving as an officer in World War 1 instead of coming up with something better for a chemist to do.

Yeah, totally true re: relative wealth/status. King had far more sexual access than modern-day schlub so whole take here on show is unbelievably dumb.

That’s true, although they would have to worry a lot more about STDs, and we’re only talking about very high-level kings who had access to harems. Your typical lesser nobleman would have quite possibly been more sexually frustrated than the average modern guy with ready access to porn.

Maybe he'd have been a huge bunch less frustrated with less stimulus around in his culture.

It's not hard to project back to when pron was not near as available as it was in the post 90s era, and this is even the state of things for much of the world, still, and there doesn't seem to be too much difference in "frustration". Likely any increase in satisfaction is matched by increase in demand. (This is not an argument for banning pron, simply an observation).

Prostitution was legal, common and generally not socially condemned no matter what starchy clerics had to say. If you had money and weren't overly puritanical you were not sexually frustrated.

Bingo and TBH that goes for today as well. I don't think I have seen any convincing evidence the supply and demand of sex work has fallen even in the supposed age of the hookup culture. There will always be women looking for easy work and always men looking to provide it.

Modern day economists seem to be immune to understanding the idea of relative wealth and why that matters while preaching the gospel of absolute wealth to an unreceptive audience. It is almost as if their job is dependent on not understanding it to butcher some Upton Sinclair.

There's no denying that relative wealth matters a lot to people. However, when it comes to policy (where this debate usually occurs), I think that the arguments are strong that absolute needs are a more important target than relative disadvantage.

If people lack food, housing, or access to college, for example, that is a much more compelling need to address than "the bottom 20% have a smaller share". Policies targeting the later tend toward dangerous social engineering.

@dan1111 - good point, in theory, but in practice the data show the average Third Worlder deems possessing the latest smartphone more important than having indoor plumbing. That's been my observation too, having lived in several developing countries for at least a year.

That may just be a collective-action problem -- a matter of smartphone infrastructure (towers) being easier to build than plumbing infrastructure (water towers, pipes, and sewers).

I suspect to that information access is key to making a living at the lowest rungs of society (i.e., a question of absolute income) in numerous ways, too.

Indeed. For example, finding out the market price for your harvest so that middlemen can't rip you off, or finding out who's paying the best price among several buyers. Access to weather forecasts and other important news. And social networking has always helped people get ahead, Facebook just makes it a lot easier.

@Captain Slime & Tom T - that's the canonical answer, but I doubt crop harvests are the reason a lot of Third Worlders want the latest iPhone rather than the old Nokia "3-tap" candybar phone. It's likely status and positional goods. My hot girl and lots of others want this year's latest smartphone and will trade in last year's perfectly fine smartphone to get it.

People made fun of Trump for saying that farmers need internet access on their tractors, but it turned out to be a real thing.

Total relative wealth is a zero sum game. What would be the point in concentrating on it?

If forced to play a zero-sum game, would you rather win or lose?

You aren't forced to play a zero sum game. Absolute wealth, well being, standard of living, etc. are not zero sum. By making inequality the measuring stick, one is choosing to construe the game as zero sum.

And modern-day progressives seem immune to grasping the astounding progress that free markets have brought us in (in wealth, health, comfort, education, entertainment, travel, and on and on) over the last couple of centuries (almost as if their jobs depended on not grasping it).

Yes, yes, they might admit, it's all very well that you no longer have to have 8 or 10 children to see a couple of them survive to adulthood, but how can that possibly compare to your neighbor having a new luxury car while you have to make do with a Corolla!?

Progressives seem determined to portray the economy as zero-sum, place envy atop the pyramid of human values, and insist that keeping up with the Joneses is the only thing that will ever truly matter for human well-being.

Humans evolved with the idea of relative wealth since they came down from the trees. We happens when one monkey gets more bananas than all the others? Tribe and group cohesion almost always wins out over the guy who has the most stuff. Like racism and sexism, it's not right but don't expect all that evolutionary programming we've had for hundreds of thousands of years to just disappear. You are more like the progressive that you despise.

Odd that I have to make an appeal to biology, tradition, science, and well common sense on a blog like this but it seems we lose our grounding when it comes to skewering the other side in these Trumpian times.

Humans evolved on the edge of survival. The idea that they care only (or primarily) about relative wealth is not proved by 'science'. In fact, for most of human evolutionary history (up until the dawn of agriculture) becoming wealthy was not even a possibility (you could own only what you could carry with you -- even food storage was a challenge).

"You are more like the progressive that you despise."

In realm of what we are discussing, no I am not. Like virtually all Americans, I am incredibly wealthy by historical and global standards. Compared to Bill Gates, I am incredibly poor (but this does not bother me in the slightest). By American standards, my wife and I are relatively wealthy, but by the standards of our own neighborhood I'd say we are somewhat below average (this also does not bother me). We don't own luxury goods that we could afford because they seem kind of dumb. If this leads others to conclude we are less wealthy than we actually are, we don't care.

It's not an inescapable element of the human condition to be continuously envious to the exclusion of all other concerns. It's amazing that progressives believe that it is. Actually, I don't think they truly believe that. I live in a college town and know a lot of progressives. In their own lives, they don't behave as if they are obsessed by wealth (relative or absolute). But politically, they see encouraging envy and resentment as a route to political power for their team.

Let me ask you -- are you, personally, obsessed with your relative wealth? Or do you assume that you are an exception but that everybody else is obsessed?

Status within one's group has mattered to humans since very ancient times. It even matters to social animals.

Yep. Especially including the great apes: social status is everything.

The invocation of ancient times is also apt: relative status is so important that the Old Testament labels covetousness a sin, and later Christians labelled envy as one of the seven deadly sins.

Indeed. But status within one's group could not have depended on wealth from the beginning, because there was no accumulated wealth until relatively recently in evolutionary terms. Nor does status depend exclusively on wealth today. Who has higher status -- Sonia Sotomayor a successful HVAC business owner from the Quad Cities area who's worth several times as much? And does that (short, bald, pudgy, middle-aged) business owner even have higher status in his town than the handsome star quarterback of the local high-school football team?

Wealth is a status marker. We care about relative wealth because we care about relative status.

Wealth is a status marker

One marker among many -- and one whose importance has declined over time as the distance from the edge of survival steadily increased. In times and places where the lower classes were hungry and malnourished and lived in crowded, badly heated hovels with their livestock, the importance of wealth differences was great. It is much less important now.

Indeed, I suspect The Count, being an old fashioned late 19th century aristocrat, would count wealth by services, land, and original fine art, not "technology" (lots of which is related to putting people into new forms of labour - like cars and screens).

By such standards, modern people receive far more services than the folk of his time, as the great escape from agriculture and then production by technology have allowed that, but are certainly not extraordinarily wealthy beyond what he would know.

This kind of thing is not exactly fatal for the sort-of "Consider yourself lucky duckies that capitalists allow you have to have such nice gizmos and products!" argument that guys like Tabarrok make (hence, "Gratitude" - he's not talking about the gratitude that Bezos owes his employees, right?). People do have more services at their disposal than 100 years ago.

But certainly it's worth taking an extended view of wealth that takes in such facets, beyond a pat, Whiggish one purely looking at consumer durables.

A quibble, but this Dracula was linked to the 15th century too, although they never explicitly identified him as Vlad Tepes the Impaler.

I remember the Agatha Christie quote...
" I never thought I'd be so rich as to have an automobile, or so poor as to not have servants!"

The possibility of experiencing this without "eating people" or otherwise harming them can be found on http://www.cryonics.org

If Dracula was smart, he'd take full advantage of 400 years worth of compound interest. Like the boomer generation or Peter Thiel, he'd have to feast off the blood of the youth to live that long.

This is a urban legend. Abandoned saving accounts are getting closed after a period of 5 to 30 years depending on legislation and proceeds generally transfered to the state. The only way for unmanaged wealth to survive for so long is to set up a tax-exempt foundation (or cult) which is exactly what happened in the series.

--and if he'd converted (say, 100,000 in some 1620-era currency) all of his assets to gold c. 1620, he'd be worth what today?

Assuming 3% interest, his investments would double in 24 years. Over 4 centuries.... that's a 250,000-fold increase, to 25 billion dollars or pounds or whatever. Of course there's been some inflation along the way. I'd estimate prices for comparable commodities have gone up by a factor of 200 roughly since 1800, so that brings the present value of that nest egg to around 5 trillion dollars in current money. Almost enough to retire on!

This ignores the possibility of major wealth destroying events. If you invested your money in Germany, France or Russia it likely wouldn't be there today.

I have a stack of early 1900s bonds issued by Imperial Russia, Austria-Hungary, and Imperial Germany. A great-ancestor was hedging his bets.

Everyone misses the point. To Dracula, the ultimate wealth is tied to his most cherished asset. His herd, of course. So, over the last 400 years Dracula has seen the size of the human population increase dramatically and become much healthier and larger.

He did earn the benefits of compound interest, to the tune of 7 billion.

So that is it. We must accept plutocrats looting America and whipping its people becaus European peasants used to be whipped more and had less.

I say it is time we take our country back. Break-up banks and tech companies, nationalize utilities, stop all trade with Japan, China and India, bring the troops back - let Saudi Arabia and Israel do their own dirty jobs - , open American market for Brazilian sugar, oranges and meat, nationalize pharmaceutical companies, dismantle all anti-coal policies, rebuild the infrastructure and ban alcohol and nicotine.

How Draconian.

It is not more draconian than it was to draft young boys to die in France, Korea or Vietnam. Quite the opposite.

Is that you, Bernie?

I like how you sneak in that bit about free trade with brazil, in the middle of an otherwise totalitarian socialist agenda. +1

"Dracula has some pointed commentary on contemporary mores, including economics."

...yeah, I often rely upon dopey Hollywood screenwriters for deep insights into social mores & economics.

The juvenile Dracula/vampire theme has been constantly over-exploited in the media for over a century.
Depressing that serious adults now discern any substance in this stuff.

A truly dopey idea being that in 1900, or 1910, or 1920, Dracula would have no idea what a horseless carriage was.

Typical dumb libertarian take. Everyone knows relative wealth is what matters to people, having power over others is important. Having a flat screen TV barely matters if you have no agency in life. It’s always hard to take Alex seriously.

Not everyone can have power over “others,” although people can have more agency over nature through absolute wealth. A TV gives you forms of agencies that kings in the past did not have, and so do other absolute wealth things like cars and modern medicine. People can also be given entertainment that makes them feel like they have control over others.

Everyone knows relative wealth is what matters to people

No, everyone does not 'know' that. It does not even have the benefit of being true.

Having a flat screen TV barely matters if you have no agency in life

But human agency and independence has also expanded dramatically due to increases in wealth. It has been only since industrial revolution that humans stopped living near the edge of starvation. Before then, defying those in power and losing your source of income could truly mean death for you and your family. 'Take this job and shove it' is also a luxury of modern life.

If Liberia was the US's number one tourist and emigration destination I'd find it easier to people's main motivation is relative wealth.

I’ve had similar thoughts (incredible, unprecedented abundance) walking through our neighborhood grocery.

And a few days ago, we were stopped at an intersection to let a funeral pass. About a hundred private cars, most with only one or two passengers. Casual, everyday wealth.

One is reminded of the story of the Soviets showing the movie The Grapes of Wrath to their people to demonstrate how bad life in America was. The primary reaction was “they own a truck!”.

There were similar stories about the Soviets showing American newsreels during the race riots, and needing to stop as the take away was how better America's 'underclass' was dressed compared to the average Soviet.

There were similar stories about the Soviets showing American newsreels during the race riots, and needing to stop as the take away was how better America's 'underclass' was dressed compared to the average Soviet.

As pointed out elsewhere, relative wealth is what really matters. I'd be fine with having several of my children die of cholera if I knew that Jeff Bezos's kids were dying at a similar rate.

I would not be fine with my kid dying because other people’s kids are dying too.

I think this comment was meant to be satirical.

Yet in reality you would be if that was the norm of life. Children have long been disposed of via sales or death to increase relative wealth, even today and even in modern West. Regardless what you feel about abortion, it is solely drive by this fact in practice.

Hume, THN:

"’Tis a quality observable in human nature...that every thing, which is often presented, and to which we have been long accustom’d, loses its value in our eyes, and is in a little time despis’d and neglected. We likewise judge of objects more from comparison than from their real and intrinsic merit; and where we cannot by some contrast enhance their value, we are apt to overlook even what is essentially good in them. These qualities of the mind have an effect upon joy as well as pride; and ’tis remarkable, that goods, which are common to all mankind, and have become familiar to us by custom, give us little satisfaction; tho’ perhaps of a more excellent kind, than those on which, for their singularity, we set a much higher value. But tho’ this circumstance operates on both these passions, it has a much greater influence on vanity. We are rejoic’d for many goods, which, on account of their frequency, give us no pride. Health, when it returns after a long absence, affords us a very sensible satisfaction; but is seldom regarded as a subject of vanity, because ’tis shar’d with such vast numbers."

I enjoyed this scene very much too. I also enjoyed the love affair in the last episode in which Dracula falls in love with a nihilistic atheist epicurian emancipated young woman. This reflects the drastic changes of the life condition of western women. This type of women would surely have captivated a rich Lord like Dracula.

A 400 year old man acting like a twenty-something or a teenager (Twilight) and falling in love is about as realistic as a middle-aged person enthusiastically sitting on the floor all day every day and playing with dolls and toy cars.

Amoral immortals would have jadedness, perfect control of facial features and visible emotional reactions, and near-perfect insight into what makes people tick. They would quickly size up any young person and know exactly what kind of psychological nudges or manipulation to use for every situation. They would be persuasive beyond the level of the best current-day actors, salespeople and politicians. They would especially savor the long con.

Not necessarily. It's not as if people 100 years old always have insight like that, so 400 year olds might not either. A vampire is probably is immune to the types of cognitive decline that seniors often have to deal with, so he might be a bit more mature than them, but on the other hand, he's also probably immune to problems like erectile dysfunction, so I can imagine him acting like a twenty-something.

The more developed vampire tales posit that vampires remain frozen at the age they turned so they may accumulate experiences but never really grow mentally. For that matter a lot of mythologies feature pagan gods who also can be very juvenile. And if you are wholly or mostly invulnerable why not live with abandon?

Lol you need to get out more man. 20, 70, 120, or 400, lust and ego dominates all. Why do you think pensioners can easily get taken, and do, by a pretty young body with a smile. Viagra doesn't exist primary to serve teenagers.

Yes, I wish more people had this view. Emphasizing relative over absolute wealth is behind a lot of the problematic policies we see, both class warfare type policies on the left that try to preserve people’s average status versus the rich and anti-immigration anti-third world development policies on the right that try to preserve people’s average status versus the poor. Relative wealth is a zero-sum game (although you could create simulations of; i.e. it’s impossible to give everyone a harem or command over armies, but you could simulate this through video games that get more and more realistic video games). All progress comes from advancing absolute wealth.

As for whether kings, queens, and emperors would trade their power and status for modern comforts and freedom, I think the answer for a lot of them is yes because a lot of them have actually done so, such as the King of Thailand who lives in Germany and the recent Markle affair. Plus lots of historical royalty did not have great lives, dying violently or of easily preventable diseases, or seeing those close to them so die. If we’re classifying drug overdosing as a “death of despair,” then many historical royalty suffered “deaths of despair” too, from the alcoholic Ogedei Khan to the Opium-addicted Empress Wanrong. I’d probably trade places with some emperors at the height of those empires’ power, but there are lots of historical royalty I would not trade places with and I would definitely not trade places with a lesser lord even if they were in the top 1% of their society.

Except that you made up the part about "anti-immigration policies on the right." There are no such policies, unless you believe that wanting the border to exist is "anti-immigrant."

Show me a moron who says "relative wealth is all that matters" and I will show you a lefty moron. And that's 100% of the time.

@IPA - (India Pale Ale?) - actually the only people who don't care about relative wealth are the really poor...is that you? Sorry to hear that. 1-%ers like me (minimum net worth >= $10M) are indifferent to absolute wealth. As David McRaney puts it in the book "You're Not So Smart", everybody except the working poor (that's you, IPA) are concerned with relative wealth not absolute wealth. Excerpt: "Competition for status is built into the human experience at the biological level. Poor people compete with resources. The middle class competes with selection. The wealthy compete with possessions". (Translation: poor people simply try and survive, hoping to move up a class someday; middle class people crave individuality, hence 'selection' is the relative wealth good they crave, think "collecting weird stuff" or having "unconventional opinions"; while the rich, like me, simply own stuff--in my case I have real property in no less than three different countries, befitting my status). 'Nuff said!

How many countries are currently included under Executive Order 13769?

Who knows, but this information from NPR seems fairly up to date, being from Jan. 22 - "President Trump says he plans to widen a controversial travel ban that prohibits nearly all people from seven countries from traveling or immigrating to the U.S., calling it "a very powerful ban" that's necessary to ensure national security.

"We're adding a couple of countries" to the ban, Trump told reporters at a news conference at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. "We have to be safe. Our country has to be safe. You see what's going on in the world. Our country has to be safe," he said.

The new restrictions are expected to be announced on Monday, a source briefed on the plan told NPR. The scope of the restrictions will vary from country to country, but will apply to Nigeria, Sudan, Tanzania, Eritrea, Myanmar, Kyrgyzstan and Belarus, according to the source."

Unless you wish to argue that Trump is not right wing. Or alternatively, and with a much better chance of success, you could argue that Trump is not able to actually lay out and implement any policy, so Executive Order 13769 does not actually represent a policy, it just represents a president's whim.

Fishy, Executive Order 13769 is about countries where we can't authenticate information about the proposed immigrant, or where the country has been complicit in providing false information about the person. The ban is justified if the ability to authenticate information is required.

Absolute wealth, sure, but measure it by land, services, and other components of wealth and not *goods* alone. (This is perhaps awkward if you take a "Let them eat Playstations" point of view, but it is honest nonetheless).

Taking about the "King of Thailand in Germany" is somewhat undercut by the fact he is actually living in Thailand putting in place a neo-absolutist regime, even though this is either probably not very clearly optimum for his absolute wealth, or is what he is doing because it exactly is.

Megan Markle is somewhat odd example of anyone willingly giving up power for a more luxorious life without it.

She and her husband the prince walked away from public life because they were being constantly held to scrutiny (quite rightly!) by the press, not because "Heavy is head that wears the crown and which must therefore issue constant ridiculous Woke statements".

I think you mean prestige. They certainly got to travel and meet interesting people but there are real limits to what they can do in their personal and professional lives.

Has The Future made "wonders ordinary" or has it only made "luxury shabby"?

Monastic fashions don't change much millennium to millennium: but that is one seedy looking Dracula. If that's what he's come to, he might genuinely want to self-impale or hold his next picnic at mid-day.

It's quite in-keeping with the original Dracula, who admires and seeks to move as fast as possible into egalitarian capitalist England.

An immortal nobleman that lives off of the blood of others. How did such a ridiculous fictional idea become so popular in modern Western culture?

I think it is a metaphor of plutocrats living off America's common citizens.

Syphilis. It's all about the syphilis. That and bad old fear of foreigners.

“We must not look at goblin men,
We must not buy their fruits:
Who knows upon what soil they fed
Their hungry thirsty roots?”

The problems with relative wealth are what made envy to be called out as a sin. I believe we have an obligation to clothe, feed and house the poor, but my obligation does not extend to making them feel good about their position in society. Relative position is a fool's errand, the ultimate zero sum game.

Then they have a right to make themselves fell good about their position in society. Through force if necessary! We, Americans, must take our country back.

Putting aside all the inequality / lack of agency stuff above, which I generally agree with, I share Alex’s (and Dracula’s) sentiment that we ought to retain our sense of gratitude at what modern technology has given us. I mean, antibiotics and Wikipedia and so on, for sure, but for my part I feel this most acutely when I step into a grocery store. Rows of exotic fruits and confections, brought from a world away and available year round for a pittance, such that a pauper can gorge himself on these delicacies any time he wants to. Standing in the produce aisle of any grocery store in the country, it is self evident that we live in a utopia.

A utopia where finding a truly ripe and juicy peach in the produce aisle is no longer possible.

...and then, though ol' Drac is probably beyond such things, the local convenience store. Pain killers, allergy medicines, sun screen, beer by the six pack and sodas, with ice, from the fountain. Even clean, bottled water. And, as he says, all that food, much of it refrigerated, almost all the rest essentially non-perishable.

Riches beyond imagining.

As Mr. Lopez says, though, it's relative--and I expect that within a month, Drac's standards would have re-calibrated.

Still, even today, the wealthy show it by having servants handle the new menial.

I wonder, though, what he would say to the local gun shop selling silver bullets in the caliber of your choosing?

Wealth is not convenience or material riches. Beyond the basics of food, water, and shelter, wealth is the freedom to do as you wish with your time. The tragedy of American capitalism is that we are awash in material riches but still suffering that last form of poverty, the absence of leisure.

@Tony - that's only true for the lower classes. The 1% have plenty of leisure--I myself effectively retired in my 40s--and enjoy life. Even Bill Gates claimed to 'work' after retiring but after a year or two of part time work, same like me, he stopped working and devoted himself full time to having fun (saving Africa from mosquitoes or something like that).

Bonus trivia: more people die worldwide from car accidents than from malaria and HIV combined. Source: The Economist last week.

People seem to think they have leisure time, and discretionary income. Netflix has about 60 million subscribers in the US, 160 million worldwide.

we are awash in material riches but still suffering that last form of poverty, the absence of leisure.

No. The average age when Americans enter the labor force is much higher than in the past and the retirement age is lower (and since longevity has increased, Americans enjoy far more years of retirement leisure than just the age change would suggest). Furthermore, we have become wealthy enough and technology has sufficiently advanced that we spend far less time doing chores and home production than in the past. People cook far less. They rarely spent time mending and patching clothing (or even hanging it on the line to dry). Nobody buys bulk fabric and patterns and sews their own clothing (at least not to save money). Automobiles and appliances need repair far less often. So far more than in the past, our time outside of paid work is leisure rather than more unpaid work at home.

When's the last time you darned a pair of socks or replaced a button on a shirt, changed a flat tire on a car, or butchered a chicken?

Why would someone want to do ANY of those things?

Never got the hang of sewing. I do crochet, which is a useful skill--you can't buy a scarf worth wearing south of Kentucky, and decent winter hats are hard to come by. Plus, easily transportable.

Changing a flat? I drive on construction sites; I do it on a semi-regular basis. Once changed a flat on the side of the 405; my wife said it looked like a pit crew from a NASCAR race. I had ample incentive!

Butchering a chicken? Been a while. Happy days, though. My job was always to pluck the things--dip them in boiling water and pull out the feathers. The women in the family got the gizzards, hearts, and livers. Us men all had our own theory as to why; mine was that they were the best parts of the chicken, and the women did the cooking (yeah, yeah, I know, feminism and whatnot; this was Grandpa's farm, we did things his way), so they got the choice bits. My grandfather always thought it had to do with nutrients women need, due to menstruation. I remember a headless chicken chasing one of my more city-slicker cousins up a tree, which we all thought was hilarious. The farm dog would eat the heads. And Grandma would have someone run for KFC for supper that night. It followed an old tradition in her family (they didn't get chicken often, so fried chicken was a real treat), but I never had much appetite for chicken that day.

Never butchered a chicken, but I've done the other three. Sewing is a "double up" chore- you can do it while watching TV.

I don't think you fully understand the lives of the Middle Ages.

First, the definition of "work" has changed drastically over time. In the Middle Ages right up to the 1900s (WWI, in many cases), "work" and "leisure" were more or less not part of the conversation. "Idle hands are the Devil's workshop" and all that--if you had free time, you did something useful. There were always tools to repair, or animals to feed, or the like. Young women would weave straw into hats and bags just to have a chance to sit and chat with friends. Young men, well, they did what young men do--they showed off, but in carefully directed ways.

Sitting idly for an evening is something only kings and other nobles would do. Being bored is a luxury product, in the past one on par with gingerbread and jewels. (Gingerbread was worth more than its weight in gold, if you don't get the reference.)

Second, most people in the Middle Ages were tied to the land in ways we can't fully comprehend. I've moved across the country three times for work. In the Middle Ages, that put me squarely in the upper class. 90% of humanity at that time was farmers (doesn't really matter which culture, excepting only hunter-gatherers). In the Middle Ages, that meant serfs, who were legally bound to the land, which in turn was owned by a noble. If they packed up and left looking for better work, they'd be killed. The only people who could move around were nobility and skilled tradesmen (masons, carpenters, and the like).

I could go on. But suffice to say, we are NOT impoverished ,by ANY stretch of the imagination, compared to folks in Vlad's time.

Even at tje height of the Middle Ages there were peasant farmers who weren't serfs.

Agreed--the institution of serfdom certainly wasn't universal. There were also free traders and democratic city-states. What we call the "Middle Ages" is in reality a collection of societies, each unique in many ways.

But even if there were a few peasant farmers who weren't serfs, the vast majority of people were NOT mobile. You lived and died where you were born--either by law, or by custom, or by poverty. It's a way of life that's totally alien to us today, due to our affluence.

There was a tendency toward exogamy in many societies- church regulations tended to foster that. But that meant marrying someone from a nearby viillage, not from clear across the country. Forxpeoplecwith any means at all. Religious pilgrimages might take them across some distances as a sort of analog to modern vacations. Also, younger children with no inheritance would have to hit the road to find some place they could establish themselves. And cities right up until the late 19th century generally suffered mortality rates in excess of their birth rates; they sustained population levels only through constant in-migration from the countryside.

Relative wealth is not helpful for describing human behavior. If we were all envious in this way, no one would give to charity.'

Wealth is for future consumption, including bequests, so as with all other good things, the more the better, given the cost of acquiring it.

Even kings had lice in the old days. No thanks. A small cut could become infected and kill you. During the plague, if you survived you would have lost 1/4 of your friends and family.
I was reading about travel in the US in the 1820s or so,just before trains. If you took a wagon trip from NY to DC, it took forever, you had a good chance of having to get off and push it out of the mud, and thousands died being thrown out of wagons or off horses every year. When the first trains appeared, they were open cars (no roof) and the soot got in your face, but so much better than a wagon that people lined up to take the train. We are so spoiled today.

The main reason royal courts moved around so much was that each residence would grow choked with sewage, garbage and be so overrun with vermin that they had to clear out for somewhere fresh.

Fun fact. Prior to the completion of the transcontinental railroad, it was faster to ship goods to San Francisco from Guangzhou than from NYC.

Dentistry (much better now than in the 19th century)

The populism in these comments fills me with gratitude. Trump will indeed see 4 more years. Elites never learn.

Trump is literally elite.

Alex leaves out the fact that Dracula asks first, about her servants because he is obviously appalled by the state of her kitchen.

K: (puts down her hipster pencil)
D: (snatches it and holds it up) And look at this marvel!
K: What do you mean? It's just a pencil.
D: Why, even in its deceptive simplicity I would take it that no single man knows how to produce this humble writing tool. And yet ... it also promotes harmony among the nations and world peace!

Just finished it. I enjoyed it as a Dracula tale—-but struggled with its point. I wanted to find a morality tale. It was basic good versus evil. Per your point on the “dump”——of course it was very familiar, but I had trouble observing why he had that perception. His castle was monstrous and a red herring comparison. Surely, there were great “homes” in England circa 1860 that made the “dump” still a dump. But I nitpick.

As to the story line itself—-can someone explain the very last scene? The two major characters seemed to merge in surrealistic carnal image.

It was an expression of thanatophilia, a love of death. She persuaded Dracula to drink her cancerous blood and thereby die, killing her in the process.

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