The dated conversation

People are shocked! “Shocked” at gas prices. How long have we been having this conversation? Corollary – how long have we been avoiding this conversation?

Obviously, everyone and their mother is mad, mad, mad about the high price of gas, in part because Americans now are back to driving just about as much as they did before the pandemic. We’re not going to the office, but we’re not staying home. From Virginia to Colorado, drivers are liable to pull up to the pump and be greeted with a sticker of Joe Biden, pointing at their total: “I DID THAT!”

A look back at 2011 suggests an interesting counterfactual: What if, facing those high prices, we had made changes on the demand side instead? Believe it or not, this was what some people thought might happen. President Barack Obama took that moment (and the conditions created by the auto bailout) to set new Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards, known as CAFE, which put in place ambitious fuel efficiency goals for automakers. “Slowly but surely Detroit is shifting its attention from SUVs to cars,” All Things Considered reported in March of that year.

You won’t believe what happened next! It’s all ugh. I don’t wish anybody ill on this point. It’s certainly not enjoyable to being filling up on $4.39 per gallon multiple times in a week, but come on. The conversation about more roads all-the-time, living rilly rilly far from work, school, shopping goes back quite a bit farther than 2011. It’s not just smaller cars but a whole suite of living conditions that continue to be – ta-da! – unworkable, which should be the new unsustainable. The larger unworkable situation – sprawl, mostly non-existent public transit, and yes, gigantic vehicles – makes $4 gas that much more painful, as well as Groundhog Day all over and over again.

[You] Make it stop.

Making Light

Jean Cocteau said, “Film will only become art when it’s materials are as inexpensive as pencil and paper.”

Well, at least we know what direction we’re going.

As I’ve been recently reading about taste, and thinking about plays… here’s part of Andrey Tarkovsky’s journal from 1970:

Playwrights often overdo the clever line or turn as the curtain’s about to fall. It shows lack of taste, You don’t find it in good plays.

The strange thing is that when people come together in a community for the purpose, simply, of production, or for reasons of geography, they start to hate each other and do one another down. Because each one only loves himself. Community is an illusion, as a result of which sooner or later there will rise over the contoinents evil, deadly, mushroom clouds.

An agglomeration of people aiming at one thing – filling their stomachs – is doomed to destruction, decay, hostility.

‘Not by bread alone.’

Man is made up of opposing characteristics. History demonstrates vividly the fact that it always moves in the worst possible direction. Either man is not capable directing history, or else he does direct it, but by pushing it down the most terrible, wrong path there is.

There is not a single example to prove the opposite. People are not capable of governing others. They are only capable of destroying. And materialism – naked and cynical – is going to complete the destruction.

Despite the fact that god lives in every soul, that every soul has the capacity to accumulate what is eternal and good, as a mass people can do nothing but destroy. For they have come together not in the name of an ideal, but simply for the sake of a material notion.

Mankind has hurried to protect the body (perhaps on the strength of that natural and unconscious gesture which served as the beginning what is called progress) and has given no thought to protecting the soul.

And here, from January 12, 1972:

Yesterday Sizov dictated comments and criticisms of Solaris collected from various bodies – the cultural department of the Central Committee and the governing board.

I have mad a note of some thirty-three observations. Here they are. There are a great many of them, and if I were to comply with them (which is not actually possible) the whole basis of the film would be destroyed. In other words, it’s even more absurd than it was with Rublyov.

The comments go like this:

1. There ought to be a clearer image of the earth of the future. The film doesn’t make it clear what it’s going to be like (the future, that is).

2. There ought to be some landscapes of the planet of the future.

3. What form of society was the starting-point for Kelvin’s flight – Socialism, Communism or Capitalism?

4. Snaut ought not to speak of the inexpediency (?!) of studying space. It leads to a dead-end situation.

5. Cut out the concept of God. (?!)

6. The encephalograph ought to be run to the end.

7. Cut out the concept of Christianity. (?!)

8. The Conference: cut out the foreign executives.

9. The Finale.