Fancy Train Trips

They should re-do the Ozzy tune with new lyrics and let it become a new bourgeois advertising sensation for the summer. Okay, maybe not. But this sure looks good, even if most of the trips are foreign and everything.

Giving Bad Names A Bad Name

The collection of misogynist, disjointed and just plain lame Super Bowl commercials on display last night were the saddest collection probably since… oh, I don’t know – last year’s edition. It’s like everything else that has gone meta in gorging on its own hype – SB commercials once stood out for audacity and creativity because they were so expensive and had so many eyeballs. Now the ads [seemingly] enjoy iconic status merely by being SB commercials – and hence can be as lame and offensive as any others.

But the steaming pile de la pile, especially around these parts, had to be this “green” one:

Who are these green police? And why buy the audi diesel if eco stormtroopers don’t exist? This was going to convince someone to buy the car or change bulbs or not use plastic or whatever?

Or have we entered the age of reverse advertising? If so, that’s my excuse for the coke trailer above.

Crowd Serfing

Was talking with a friend yesterday about an M. Gladwell article from the 2006. This piece in the current Harper’s seems to be in a similar vein:

The wave of financial calamities that took place in 2008 was cloud-based. No one in the pre–digital-cloud era had the mental capacity to lie to himself in the way we routinely are able to now. The limitations of organic human memory and calculation put a cap on the intricacies of self-delusion. In finance, the rise of computer-assisted hedge funds and similar operations has turned capitalism into a search engine. You tend the engine in the computing cloud, and it searches for money. In the past, an investor had to be able to understand at least something about what an investment would actually accomplish. No longer. There are now so many layers of abstraction between the elite investor and actual events that he no longer has any concept of what is actually being done as a result of his investments…

The Facebook Kid and the Cloud Lord are serf and king of the new order. In each case, human creativity and understanding, especially one’s own creativity and understanding, are treated as worthless. Instead, one trusts in the crowd, in the algorithms that remove the risks of creativity in ways too sophisticated for any mere person to understand. A hedge-fund manager might make money by using the computational power of the cloud to create fantastical financial instruments that make bets on derivatives in such a way as to invent the phony virtual collateral for stupendous risks. This is a subtle form of counterfeiting, and it is precisely the same maneuver a socially competitive teenager makes in accumulating fantastical numbers of “friends” through a service like Facebook. But let’s suppose you disagree that the idea of friendship is being reduced. Even then one must remember that the customers of social networks are not the members of those networks. The real customer is the advertiser of the future, but this creature has yet to appear in any significant way. The whole artifice, the whole idea of fake friendship, is just bait laid by the cloud lords to lure hypothetical advertisers—we might call them messianic advertisers—who could someday show up.

via Annie at Balloon Juice.

Ringing the Ball with the Basket

This is kind of funny, in that name-a-venture-with-a-word-for-something-that-needs-a new-name kind of way:

At, you will find thought-provoking progressive ideas on diverse topics that intersect with technology, business, and life, and matter to the world at large. Whether you are making technology decisions for your business, or eco-conscious decisions for your home, will give you the 360° coverage you need to feel informed and connected to the news and information that matters to you.

via. So maybe we’re past green, or at least that’s what CBS interactive intends. A bit amazing they use the word ‘progressive,’ but at this point it’s pretty bankable that no one remembers Eugene Debs. Which is too bad. But whatever we call it, the self-preservation impulse remains and we’re marooned among our choices. Watching whatever passes for Madison Avenue these days try to get past that (Think: the 2009 IBM campaigns) could be amusing, but for the fact that the joke’s likely on us – as that kind of innovation is what passes for innovation at present. Well, that and Avatar.

Kinda reminds me of a book I once found at a third-hand store. It had been re-covered by a library somewhere at some point, like they do with trade paperbacks, and on the binding instead of the title was just the word TITLE.

Yes, it’s sitting in my house, on board un-labeled SHELF.

Damn you, Gabriel Garcia.

100 Years

So… the Earth is headed for 6C of warming.

Emissions rose by 29% between 2000 and 2008, says the Global Carbon Project.

All of that growth came in developing countries, but a quarter of it came through production of goods for consumption in industrialised nations.

The study comes against a backdrop of mixed messages on the chances of a new deal at next month’s UN climate summit.

According to lead scientist Corinne Le Quere, the new findings should add urgency to the political discussions.

“Based on our knowledge of recent trends and the time it takes to change energy infrastructure, I think that the Copenhagen conference next month is our last chance to stabilise at 2C in a smooth and organised way,” she told BBC News.

But don’t worry about all those nasty emissions that will have led to the increase, or the fact that they are from carbon-based fuels sources,which are finite, because we’ve got a 100-year supply of natural gas to rely on!

I saw the ad last night, and it’s pure amazing with an extra dose of stupid. There’s got to be a link somewhere. But just watch football on Thursday – you’ll see it. The Natural Gas coalition or whatever is really proud of themselves. We’re saved! The mother is telling her baby daughter not to worry, because we’ve got 100 years’ worth of natural gas to burn! The amazing unasked question, about her baby’s children and their children… oh yeah: screw them.

On Buying Green

That sounds a lot like On Golden Pond. And, with a little change of emphasis, it could be… Buying Green, Putting Green… Village Green. I love the village green. Anyway.

Here’s a piece about consumers buying green products, how we’re doing, why we’re doing it, etc. I don’t know how you read it without it reading completely weird. I mean what are we talking about?

  • “Dark green” consumers tend to be older, more well educated, and more affluent than “light green” consumers
  • They also tend to care more about what is in “green” products (all natural, organic, non-toxic) and how they are made (such as by socially responsible companies)
  • “Dark green” consumers also tend to be more thoughtful about their purchases, often planning them ahead of time. “Light green” consumers tend to be more impulsive, often buying green products out of curiosity

See? Totally weird; important (for me) to remember that this is not what we’ve come to – it’s just where we are now. Companies? Yes we consider them. But what are we buying when we purchase things? Must our achats symbolize our moral purity? Wait, before you answer that – one possible scenario:

Are we buying convenience? Durability? There’s a difference between, let’s say, buying cleaning products and jeans. If you’re buying clothes, you’re rifling through a whole number of characteristics, none of which likely have to do with sustainability. Or do they? Better-made clothes last longer. We might buy less of them. It’s a way… wait a minute. We weren’t even trying to be green – we just, hey… there are different ways to accomplish similar goals. Are there other reasons? Ewww. Can we not drive, buy local, eat well or hang out clothes to dry just because we like to do these things?

Even or especially with clothing, we don’t have to call it green or anything. But we do. Because the choice will help the environment and that’s why we would buy it… well no, it isn’t. The environment isn’t the only reason we would buy things that last longer, or buy less of them. Or shop in our downtown instead of W*lmart, or from farmers at a market. We do these things because we like to do them. They are meaningful in their own right. It’s a corporate world and we need the slogans. But our needs here in the 1st world are actually quite simple and directly correlated to things we like: we like to do things that are enjoyable. And have gotten off the path to enjoyable things for exactly to demonstrate the power of advertising.

So these things of value, to us, these are the benchmarks. Now, consider all the other stuff that we buy, and whether you think ‘buying green’ is necessary to change any of them.

Concealment of Losses

Because it requires such hearty fortitude, reading Kunstler doesn’t seem to be for everybody. Which, of course, says more about everybody than it does about him. His noteworthy digressions on suburbia and the long, slow car wreck (sorry) that is the American economy are entertaining in that gallows humor sort of way, but enlightening for purposes of seeing into the green, as well. We are all pu**ies in the way in which we need the worst of our worst to be elided from us with dense statistics, acronyms and otherwise artificial routes to happiness, whether they come in the form of adjustable rate mortgages or doctor-prescribed pills. Even honest grappling with this situation would at least put us on the sidewalk to lifestyle changes that would begin to improve some of the worsts (planetary, transportation, communications). But, no; we must continually place ourselves at the mercy of the corporate fantasists who promise us Sweet Baby All in exchange for keeping things humming along, even if, as JHK fears, we’re humming right along into a buzz saw.

For example, take Kunstler’s Happy Motoring non-metaphor. This new battery technology – why is it problematic?

As a part of IBM’s 2-year-old Big Green Innovations program, the Battery 500 Project aims to boost the range of rechargeable batteries for all-electric cars from less than 100 miles today to as far as 500 miles. The consortium’s efforts are being led by the Almaden Lab in collaboration with several U.S. universities and the Department of Energy’s national labs.

“Batteries technology has improved, but is still far inferior to gasoline in terms of how much energy they hold,” said Spike Narayan, a key IBM researcher. “The energy density—which is the amount of energy a lithium-ion battery stores per unit weight—is really not enough to produce a family-sized sedan with a 300- to 500-mile range.”

Being able to continue rely on automobiles similarly to the way we do now… is that really a green innovation? There are four big reasons why plug-ins won’t be better than petrol-fueled cars, but lowly number five is the inference that plug-ins will largely allow most of what we now see/do to stay the same. This is the major plug-in FAIL.

Exhibit Dos: Download the new Visa Black Card commercial to your hairbrush, here.

Being Cool about Warming

The whole idea that some morning arrives when everyone sees the light on climate change is all very… hopeful, especially as we harbor so much know-nothingness in our midst, and ring it with the implicit honor of supporting various points of view when it should rather be ridiculed into the obscurity it more properly deserves. When Inhofe goes to Copenhagen and makes a complete jerk out of himself, will that be the last straw? Will his fellow countrymen (you know, us/them) finally have seen enough of such antics? The question is almost self-refuting. Here’s Krugman today:

But the larger reason we’re ignoring climate change is that Al Gore was right: This truth is just too inconvenient. Responding to climate change with the vigor that the threat deserves would not, contrary to legend, be devastating for the economy as a whole. But it would shuffle the economic deck, hurting some powerful vested interests even as it created new economic opportunities. And the industries of the past have armies of lobbyists in place right now; the industries of the future don’t.

Nor is it just a matter of vested interests. It’s also a matter of vested ideas. For three decades the dominant political ideology in America has extolled private enterprise and denigrated government, but climate change is a problem that can only be addressed through government action. And rather than concede the limits of their philosophy, many on the right have chosen to deny that the problem exists.

It’s a pity that we can’t just drift back into politics on this, and rely on the responsible parties within government to act sensibly, with an eye toward the future. But to do so is to redirect oneself toward the conundrum, to see this is actually where a great amount of the stupidity, cupidity and brazenness is coming from. Our politics allows this to be just another right/left food fight, and so there’s little to avail there – and a great number of Amur’cans do refuse to support anything endorsed by Al Gore. That’s just our dumbness coming through. We’ll have to wait until it shows up on our one actual and true radar – we’ll-believe-it-when-we-see-it-on-TV, in the cool, detached aura of advertising. Unless or until global warming becomes a pitch device for corporate advertising, the one true and knowing entity in our culture remains neutral on the subject. As long as that persists, we can be sure there’s no need to make a decision.

But here’s the thing: what if the big multi-nationals don’t really have our best, long term interests at heart? Is there any history of that? When will they let us know that climate change is real? What is the window of remove, of detachment, on an existential question?

Say it with me: savvy enough to break through the idiocy.