Changing the Story

Probably not the kind of story you were looking for – though it’s flattering, until it isn’t. A.S. Byatt on Ragnarok. The nugget is in there – see if you can find it.

Myth comes from muthos in Greek, something said, as opposed to something done. We think of myths as stories, although, as Heather O’Donoghue says in her book From Asgard to Valhalla, there are myths that are not essentially narratives at all. We think of them loosely as tales that explain, or embody, the origins of our world. Karen Armstrong writes in A Short History of Myths that myths are ways of making things comprehensible and meaningful in human terms (the sun as a chariot driven by a woman through the firmament) and that they are almost all “rooted in death and the fear of extinction”.

Nietzsche, in The Birth of Tragedy, sees myths as dreamlike shapes and tales constructed by the Apollonian principle of order and form to protect humans against the apprehension of the Dionysian states of formlessness, chaos and gleeful destruction. Tragedy controls the primeval force of music by presenting us with beautiful illusory forms of gods, demons, men and women, through whom apprehension is bearable and possible. He wrote: “Every culture that has lost myth has lost, by the same token, its natural healthy creativity. Only a horizon ringed about with myths can unify a culture. The forces of imagination and the Apollonian dream are saved only by myth from indiscriminate rambling. The images of myth must be the daemonic guardians, ubiquitous but unnoticed, presiding over the growth of the child’s mind and interpreting to the mature man his life and struggles.

Cabbage Truck, part CMXXI

As in, just fell off the.

And just as a review:

green (?ri?n)adj immature, unsophisticated, or gullible

If you were wandering how much contextualization is required to understand this, spend some time discussing it with a seventh-grader. Or trying to – it’s difficult but a reminder of just how far you have to back up to bridge the chasm between the (to me) unseemly elation and unnecessary fear the event may have engendered.*

The best thing I’ve read about the events that may have led up to it is here, via atrios.

* Obviously applicable to many events, conditions and situations likely to be encountered.

Get your War Green (On)

I bring this up just to note that we know this is happening and we are doing it.

If the Zephyr can safely return to Earth at that point, it will have smashed the official world record for continuous unmanned flight, now held by Northrop Grumman’s Global Hawk drone. The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, a governing body for aeronautic world records, is observing the flight.

The goal for the project has been to establish the Zephyr as the “world’s first truly eternal plane,” with future designs of the drone expected to provide “low-cost, persistent surveillance capability over months rather than days,” a company statement said. Both the British Defense Ministry and the Pentagon are involved with the development of the drone.

mmm… let’s all say it together: renewable eternal surveillance.

Fete de la Bastille

In honor of the ongoing, worldwide green (zzzzzz…!) revolution, here’s a recipe for my favorite French peasant food, may it forever be the fashion, Cassoulet.

Vive la revolution.

For related background, see these books by Claude Manceron. I’m sure there’s a thing or two in there that would be still instructive.

Everything That Happens

Speaking of the immediate, I spent some time with this music recently – it’s the perfect to antidote to the shallow wondering and lack of civic-mindedness that seems to pervade but which has no actual power behind it.
Thanks, AC.

This Is Not A Plan

This is hope, which everyone seems to agree, is not a plan. So what is hope?

Well, that depends on whether Your Hope is just hoping something happens, or hoping what you are doing will work. Which, again, neither plans, but they do part ways, fundamentally. There’s a difference, one from the other, in tone and tenor.

Research into building a quantum computer, for example. Not much of a plan; hopeful, maybe. Breakthroughs in encryption excites the NSA some people. But I think it is the off-shoot consequences of trying to hit balls into this cup from 90 yards out, day after month after year, that will be the real dividends of this kind of research. Of this kind of hope.

In its way, the same goes for hydrogen storage and electricity storage from wind, sun and wave. In these cases, we’re not hitting around the mark so much as increasing the volume of balls being chipped at the hole.

So, Bill Gates doesn’t care for efficiency, or cap-and-trade, for that matter. Fine. It’s a questionable signal to send, but fine. In a $ green culture, the billionaires get listened to the most. Sigh. You might as well have listened to Warhol about painting. That wasn’t was he was ever talking about – but I’ll save that for another time.

But Gates’ views are no more or less likely to be compromised by conflicted interests than anyone else’s. Just something to keep in mind. Especially of late, when hope is such an easy target for relentless pummeling. Go ahead, take that away and replace it with the best of the best laid plans ever devised.

What would we have?

Sending a Message


I don’t know which image has the worse better portents – an empty parking lot or a full one.

The question will arise, is the lot half full? But worse cases aside, this isn’t about that. The price of diesel fuel continues to hover right at the point of viability for bio-diesel producers, such that they can’t really plan for anything permanent. Except they can. They don’t, and that’s another story. We thought five-dollar-gas would be here by now and that might be in part one of the reasons why it’s not. The shock that a fear of future economic shocks has itself put into the economy. It verges on the vertiginous, which itself makes all this sound like alliterative playtime. Which it isn’t.

There was a report on Marketplace yesterday about the fate of different kinds of malls in the present economy. In between the stats, something stands out a little more:

Hessam Nadji is managing director at Marcus and Millichap Real Estate Investment Services. He says one reason for the difference is an oversupply of strip malls. They’re cheaper and easier to build than great, big gallerias.

HESSAM NADJI: Because of the housing boom, there was a lot more construction of strip malls in reaction to the overheated housing market than there was construction of new malls.

Plus, he says, big shopping malls are more immune to the recession because — thanks to their food courts and movie theaters — they have an entertainment value that strip malls don’t have.

NADJI: You also have to take a look at the tenant mix that makes up a lot of demand for strip centers. And, unfortunately, a lot of them are local, smaller retailers that are under a lot of pressure right now.

Unlike chain stores that you see in a shopping mall, which don’t have to rely on just one location for business.

Sitting in an idling car in a half-empty parking lot as I was, the bigger message is the most obvious – when does the scale of what we do and what we can do slip, maybe accidentally, back into focus? Economies of scale seemed sexy, but they were nearly the opposite – though not just because objects in the mirror appeared to be closer than they actually were. We mistook the distance for something that didn’t matter, when any self-help book will tell you that the journey is the thing that counts. I think Henry Miller wrote it – happiness is not a destination. It’s a kind of dumb truth, a message we’re trying to send ourselves through the most obtuse signals. It’s why TV is so unintentionally funny.

And sometimes, radio.

Real Estate

This is one of those areas where green is green, green meets green, green begets green… however you want to think about it.

It is turning out that the outlook for investments in smart growth real estate are better than for investments in sprawl(!).

“Next-generation projects will ori ent to infill, urbanizing suburbs, and transit-oriented develop ment. Smaller housing units-close to mass transit, work, and 24-hour amenities-gain favor over large houses on big lots at the suburban edge. People will continue to seek greater convenience and want to reduce energy expenses. Shorter commutes and smaller heating bills make up for higher infill real estate costs.”

In the near term, the report advises investors to “buy or hold multifamily” as “the only place with a hint of hope, because of demographic demand” as a large contingent of echo boomers seek their first homes.  In a section titled “markets to watch,” the report also advises investors to favor convenient urban office (see graph), retail, entertainment and recreation districts where there are mass transit alternatives to driving.  Investors are advised to shy away from, among other things, fringe areas “with long car com mutes or where getting a quart of milk means taking a 15- minute drive.”

The report is Emerging Trends in Real Estate 2010 and its conclusions are pretty obvious. What the report signifies is this outlook working its way into the consciousness of real estate developers and investors. Change the diaper, change the landscape.

High-level Complicity

Did something happen in the art world recently? Or more specifically, did everything that appeared to have been happening in the art world over the last thirty five years suddenly just give itself away? British Non Shark-killer Damien Hirst (at least he himself didn’t do the killing) had a show of oil paintings at the Wallace Collection. It turns out they were teh suck:

The fact that he appeared to be attempting to align himself with the other great artists in that gallery, by using Old Master imagery such as the skull, that he employed a dark blue-dominated palette reminiscent of the early works of his hero Francis Bacon, while making reference to Picasso’s Blue Period in the title of the exhibition, merely compounded the offence. Hirst’s presumption in comparison with the technical inadequacy of the work was simply unforgiveable. For once, chutzpah wasn’t enough.

Tom Lubbock, writing in the Independent, felt the need to preface his particularly acerbic remarks by reiterating – in an almost apologetic manner – one of the great mantras of contemporary art, that “skills needn’t matter”. Yet perhaps the great lesson of today’s responses to Hirst’s paintings is that skills most definitely do, should and always will matter.

Skills? What a concept? (sorry, low-hanging word choice). More like the above here, here and here.

To me, we have an easy political comparison. The Republican party has been trying to convince Americans for at least a generation that government just flat does not work. From 2001 to 2009, they attempted to demonstrate this and convince us via indisputable evidence and example.

For the last 35 years or so, the art world has been trying, desperately some might say, to convince us that art does not matter.

So I’d love to think the mask is off. Did Hirst manage to do it, with paintings?

Thanks, AC.