Piggies, markets

A can of worms, wrapped in a puzzle, buried inside an enigma, with a little pink flag sticking up, the only thing visible, while the sound of one hand clapping faintly echoes in the background


By the time the subject of the movie finally comes up, we’d already spent half an hour discussing the ossification of our own culture. We talk about how New York City, the place in which Gray set his first five films, has changed so drastically since the mid 1990s; Gray says the Brooklyn of Little Odessa “is totally gone,” and that, while the 1920s tenements in The Immigrant are still there, they now tower above John Varvatos boutiques. Gray specifies that he’s less interested in romanticizing the crime-ridden city of the past than questioning what’s led to the kind of environment in which, he says, one of his friends seems to be the only person actually living in his apartment building on Central Park West, not using it as an investment.

The fundamental issue on Gray’s mind when we talk is how capitalism impacts our priorities as human beings. Saddled with student debt from the moment we set foot in a university, our ability to “study for the sake of learning” is over; instead, we’re “forced to become budding capitalists.” It’s a critique that received major airtime during Bernie Sanders’s campaign, and Gray’s clearly given it some serious thought. “We haven’t figured out a way to monetize integrity, and when you can’t monetize integrity, and you can’t incentivize integrity and incentivize individuality, and you pray at the god of the market, you get a very strange beast that almost consumes itself,” Gray says. “It’s almost like everyone is beholden to this market god, and nobody knows what to do.”

All in one place, this short article has it all. Best of luck to Gray with the The Lost City of Z.

The book of life*, a continuing SAGA

“I’ve got kids. There is no certainty,” he said with exasperation not recently occurred to him. “Is that what I explain to them?”

Cover_froese            “Yes,” came the calm reply.

We’ve all seen them, the little openings to nowhere that occasionally slash the side of a new roadway or a newly-widened old one. They’re usually placed in front of cow pastures or other open space, then the bit of formed concrete suddenly gives way to dirt, grass, a ditch then a fence. Many, many of these will now go abandoned, giving a certain circular echo to the once-presumed opportunity in the emptiness. What they are – what they were – are placeholders for a future entrance to a development that is not there yet but one day will be. The one day that’s coming when we will call these relics ‘green markers’ or ‘option stops’ or some such term indicative of the serious moment that crops up when we temporarily get post-irony, again. ‘Starting in the low 300’s’ indeed.

Some might say that one day is here; no one made the announcement but this dog whistle sounds a lot like the trillion-dollar insurance company investment we and our adjacent progeny all just made. These little ciphers in the road to our past should be memorialized as markers for our stupidity, little DOT-sanctioned homages to the greed that once controlled how and where we once lived. I use the past tense because they are over. Finit-O®.

Though this is the end to neither greed nor stupidity. So stipulated. It is only the end of the way this powerful combination once dictated how we lived. Suburbs, gated enclaves only accessible by private vehicle and situated far from an interaction with and vulnerability to other people – also known as life – are things of the past.

Yes, come and play Finit-O®, that fun game where we bid farewell to an entire set of tenets and beliefs predicated on short-term individual comfort but revealed as the path to long-term collective agony, celebrated with curb openings to non-existent suburbs and lionized beneath crumbling gates to exclusivity and literal isolation. And these are not just funparks but monuments to serve as a constant reminder of the greed and stupidity that permitted us to forget our priorities in good times, to elect and re-elect those for whom pillaging earth and man was a preference. Ah, look familiar? That’s because it’s already been different for a while as we’ve entered the end of the beginning of the end… of the beginning. (Almost had you there! Everyone wants to KNOW.) We’re even becoming wise to many of the shades of green.

So… who’s in charge of this grand transition, you might ask? Mobile one to home base – come in, home base.

*I was looking for something from 2008 and found this, which I enjoyed and hope you do, too. I think it’s part of one of the columns, or perhaps clutter form the cutting room floor.

Oh, and RIP (1/20/15) Edgar Froese (the image is from the cover of his 1974 album, Aqua) and Happy Birthday to Virginia Woolf (1/25/1882).


In the Stratosphere of odd news

I certainly don’t know what to make of any of this:

Advisory Board says NSA is ineffective and illegal, should be dismantled.

Public agrees that economic inequality is a problem.

Economic mobility hasn’t decreased in the U.S. – it’s been low for 50 years! It’s just the consequences of that which has gotten worse. Oh, well then.

And, to top it all off, My Fair Lady at le théâtre du Châtelet?

What does it all mean?


Public Financing of Elections

The competition remains open, and fierce, but this has to be the single worst blow to representative government since at least the Iran-Contra scandal, BCCI, the Keating Five, Long Term Capital Management ever:

This, as much as anything else, is why our Congress is both dysfunctional — legislators have no clue what they’re voting for or against most of the time — and so attentive to the priorities of the very wealthy.

Newt Gingrich completely dismantled the internal institutions that used to provide Congress with objective information and research, both because that information frequently contradicted conservative dogma and because he knew that doing so would force Congress to rely on outside (ideological) organizations for information, which would strengthen the corporate-funded policy shops and think tanks that powered the conservative movement. Now nearly everything Congress “knows” about policy comes directly from self-interested, industry-funded groups. Simultaneously, as Lorelei Kelly recently wrote, congressional staff began shrinking, which means expertise was, once again, outsourced — now, increasingly, lobbyists perform the educational function that well-versed staffers used to.

In a way, the practice of representatives unstudied on the issues but nonetheless voting to effect our future circumvents the need for corporate whoring by thoroughly corrupting the entire operation, thereby rendering the need for further duplicity redundant. Efficiency! Kind of.

A Dish best served cold

Well, once you take the lead out, I guess you could use it for serving, or at least a kind of revenge, instead of taking it to the landfill:

“Unless you take apart the dish — which no one ever does — you’re throwing away the circuit board, which means you’re throwing away lead, and that is very bad for the environment,” said Brent Bolton, owner of Dish Disposal in Los Angeles, which removes and recycles satellite dishes.

Lead and other toxic heavy metals from electronic waste like computers and cellphones can pollute the environment, which has prompted 17 states to ban the disposal of e-waste in the household trash.

Yet when a reporter asked customer service representatives at the major providers in Massachusetts, Dish TV and Direct TV, how to properly dispose of an unwanted satellite dish, their advice was to throw it in the garbage. When pressed, a representative for Dish TV did come up with a list of service centers that he said would recycle old dishes, however.

Of course no one ever takes apart the dish, much less recycles them, but I see a potential growth industry. This could be tackling the problem of all the garbage on TV head-on. Talk about your double entendres. Go ahead. Talk about them.

Getting your wish

Haven’t read the Obama interview in Rolling Stone yet, but the teaser at Grist puts an interesting gloss on the climate change debate getting injected into the fall presidential campaign:

He made some remarkable statements, including his belief that the millions of dollars pouring into the anti-science disinformation campaign will drive climate change into the presidential campaign.

Really hard to say about that, but fun to speculate. I would suspect that, as much as the objectively pro-warming crowd prides itself on being aggressive, this is one issue they probably would rather not talk about.

But they won’t be able to help themselves. And so they will call out all the scientists trying to pull the wool over the eyes and get more funding for their research… I actually can’t follow the logic of corruption they project onto scientists. But at some point, if AGW does get some play in the campaign – and it’s more than just about Romney lying about what he used to say (because he will be lying) – will the question become why are hippies trying to stifle job creation? Or will it be why does the government want to force every last American into Manhattan and onto subway trains to get to work? The window is still way, way over on the side of ‘you hippies are crazy.’

This is the level of discourse we’ve come to expect, and to a great extent, deserve. Until the window moves and/or the debate is framed in a way that puts big business on the defensive. Who know; it might be something Romney is able to accomplish all on his own. I would not being above reserving a special place in the history of the survival of the planet for Willard. Would you?

Just think: hippie children might one day be named for the candidate who inadvertently rendered climate change denial inoperative.

Six Less Votes

That’s how many votes the millions Romney spent in Iowa this year (30,015) won him, versus how many he garnered (30,021) in a second place finish in 2008.

Pathetic on many levels, and yet gratifying on some others – the extent to which the Republican candidates cannot move the needle. Again, the inability of the Republican party to put forward a candidate who espouses the tenants of the party AND that people will like/vote for is scandalous. The country needs (at least) two viable governing parties; the Republican party is determined not to be one of them.

Still Away

Your score at… halftime? The end of the third quarter? Going into the seventh inning stretch? After one period of play? With two minutes to go? Yikes:

Old World, 1. New World, Always low prices. Always.

Canal Grande

Also needed, per below: A way.

Let’s Do Nothing

Let’s do nothing! is a children’s book and I have a promotional button for it, some non-currency in which my daughter was ‘paid’ for taking part in a review of the book. The button is stuck up in my office, occasionally catches my eye and is, in general, a good reminder.

And doing nothing, wasting time, is in general a very solid idea. Because, of course, you’re not literally doing nothing – you’re thinking, reflecting, being still… not to mention all of things you’re not doing: driving, talking, watching. And certainly if you’ve avoided these things for any length of time today or any day, it is not time wasted. So generally speaking, doing nothing is the route to all things good, and even green.

But there is such a thing as wasting time, just as there is a time beyond which when doing nothing is advisable. And these are precisely the things in which Republican presidential candidates (no need for a link, because it’s all of them) are telling us they will be engaged in, if any of them is elected:

“Do I think the world’s getting hotter? Yeah, I don’t know that but I think that it is,” Romney told a crowd in New Hampshire Wednesday, according to Reuters. “I don’t know if it’s mostly caused by humans.”

Romney then tilted over and grabbed some of Rick Perry’s Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK)-endorsed ideas on the environment. That is, let’s not spend a time doing anything about it.

“What I’m not willing to do is spend trillions of dollars on something I don’t know the answer to,” Romney said.

We must take them at their word. It seems obtuse to point this out, but when it comes to climate change, ghg emissions, energy and the closely-related issue of jobs, the time for doing nothing is quite past. Even the polluting industries are waiting to see what the new regulations will be so that they can adjust – even they don’t believe they can keep doing things the same way indefinitely – even if someone manages to abolish the EPA. The realities on the ground won’t change, and at some point we’ll see that we’ve truly been wasting time, and not in a good way.