Simon says

Businesses with vested interests tell us what we want. SUVs with abstract names, extra large lattes, suburban barracks with manicured lawns, sugary donuts instead of good bread… whatever it is, beneath the illusions of freedom and choice we labor under the tyrannical hand of focus groups and placebo-addicted control platoons calibrated to adjust even for random reactions to an array of product possibilities. The feedback provides direction; but we should remember, the tests are rigged.

This is not to darken your Wednesday, only to point out that a good deal of reality is circumscribed by conflicted interests, i.e., being made up anyway, only to the advantage of certain parties. What’s keeping you from making it up based on your own set of priorities? Only the minor discomfort of swimming against the tide for a little while. But you’ll get used to this as it makes you stronger, carving your own opinions and putting them into practice. You’ll even lose a few friends. Much of this is quite dangerous, as it puts an enormous responsibility on you to know what you’re doing/buying/eating/reading/taking/saying/believing and otherwise allowing some space inside that head of yours. But look at it this way – Simon says you have that responsibility anyway.

Green means calm in the face of cowardice, turning the good faith paradigm on its head; be skeptical, get critical. Before we internalize truths, be open to lies. Refuse to be mocked; admit when you’re wrong; keep digging when you’re right.


The USGS is a great source for old pictures of a changing world, like this one from Death Valley National Park, California. Fluted badlands in the area of Zabriskie Point. Panamint Mountains in the background. April 1974.

Photo by Harold E. Malde, United States Geological Survey


On another planet, French president Sarkozy announced that admission to all national museums and monuments would be free to those under 25. It’s weird but the French actually connect their art to their national heritage (“le patrimoine”) and think they can attract more visitors by eliminating the entry fee.

At the same time they proposed spending 100 million euros on the renovation of le patrimoine, they also proposed four free nights at the Louvre, the Orsay, the Pompidou and Quai Branly for people 18-25. That was part of an experiment in the first half of 2008 that opened up the permanent collections in 14 national museums totally free.

Why would you want more people going to museums? Who knows? Go figure.

The Painter’s Studio – a Real Allegory by Gustave Courbet, 1855 Musee Orsay

NYT blogger vs. her commenters

Nothing. The former editor of Dwell magazine waxes positive about transforming the suburbs. It’s the paper of record and the record is clear: now that we have expended grand-scale resources for decades building these monuments to isolation and celebrating them in glossy print mags, we need to devote serious thought to unworkable solutions to save said monuments for the sake of… I’m not sure but it starts to resemble the operative rationale for Iraq in that we don’t want the deaths of soldiers in the war to have been in vain so we must… kill some more.

It’s the beauty of the new media paradigm: Grey Lady with blog posts article full of vague pronouncements to re-cast past placement of deck chairs and, (mostly) without rancor, commenters come to the rescue with helpful suggestions. Practice for fire departments is one favorite.

Green Recovery

With the stock market ready to record its biggest annual drop since 1931, conversation automatically advances toward January and what kind of economic recovery investors can look forward to. Pick any of the questionable words/phrases out of that last clause to gauge how out of touch we remain, from a media standpoint, with what is happening to the country, the economy and the planet in concert.

The optimism is hard to overstate; we’re a resilient people, no doubt. The dissonance is amazing. And, truthfully, we shouldn’t be cowering. But we need to put that optimism to the test and face facts. Keeping your head up when things are grim, that’s optimism. Doing the same things over and over and hoping for different results, well, that’s just another way of licking our ears clean.

This future that we’re afraid of is within site; ours is to embrace it, prickly though it be. The assumptions coming back into focus in hopes that this little economic tremor will pass need to be held as suspects for a while longer. Habeas for all – read them their rights, charge them and give them their one phone call. But hold them. We seem to never be able to concentrate on any one problem long enough to get it by the short hairs, if you will, before something conveniently displaces it. I’m not talking conspiracy here. It’s the millions of false equivalences that are a natural outcome of a shallow cultural paradigm we’ve allowed to slip into place, where everyone speaks in the language of commodity but no one understands the slang.

All you money managers out there need to hold your seats for a while. Alternate reality: Figure out something to do with your money within five hundred yards of your driveway as a method to tilt the local tax coffers again. Seriously. Economies of scale have nothing to do with humans.

Recovering the green will mean having people make things for other people. Re-establishing local identities, putting people to work, paying taxes, furthering the public good is the only way to increase the wealth of a wealthy society.