Sunday, September 28, 2014

Friday, September 26, 2014

Kress Cinema Closed Last Night

Kress Cinema closed last night. It will be renovated into a pace for Church on a Sure Foundation, which is in the Prince Kuhio Plaza across from IHOP. However, Pier 1 Imports is taking over that space and the church has to find a new home.

Kress opened in early December 1995 (5 December, I think, but let me confirm that) as the fanciest theater in town. In context: The Waiakea Kai three-screen theater had been operating since 1981 (again, let me check) and the Prince Kuhio Plaza theater was still a two-screener. The Palace hadn't yet reopened. When the Kress opened, it was a big deal, and for a few years, was the premier theater in Hilo. The Palace reopened to great fanfare in November 1998 as an arthouse, but in late 1999 it was Prince Kuhio theater's renovation and expansion from two to nine screens that turned things upside down. Since its reopening, the Kuhio theater, also known as Prince Kuhio Stadium Cinemas (after its stadium seating inspired by the Palace's own), has enjoyed status as the top cinema in Hilo. Waiakea Kai theater was relegated to bargain showings of second-run movies until it closed in the early 2000s (when exactly, I'm not sure).

That left the Kress: As ticket prices rose over the years, the Kress showed movies for around a dollar. Some of the movies shown were already on video but people went to the Kress to watch films they missed at the Kuhio or to save money. I classified movies to watch as ones to rush out and see, wait till it comes to the Kress, wait till it comes on video, wait till it comes on TV.

The Kress grew shabbier over the years but no one expected it to close.

More later.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Scottish Independence

The struggle for Scottish independence is not over.

I saw one of the Scottish independence spokespeople interviewed on the BBC. A Sikh, he was wearing a powder-blue turban, a blue T-shirt with a Scottish emblem, and a kilt, I think, but it was hard to see.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Kunstler: Barbarism versus Stupidism

Kunstler: Barbarism versus Stupidism.

In my lifetime, the USA has not blundered into a more incoherent, feckless, and unfavorable foreign policy quandary than we see today.

The US-led campaign to tilt Ukraine to Euroland and NATO — and away from the Russian-led Eurasian Customs Union — turned an “intelligence” fiasco into a strategic humiliation for the Obama White House. Notice that the story has vamoosed utterly from the American media headlines, even when the Russian Engineers’ Union issued a report last week asserting that the Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 was most likely shot down by 30mm cannon fire from Ukrainian military aircraft. The USA State Department didn’t deign to refute it because doing so would have drawn attention to the fact that it was the only plausible explanation for what happened.

Likewise, the campaign to paint Vladimir Putin as Stalin-in-a-judo-robe never really reached take-off velocity, since by all appearances he was the most rational and cool-headed actor on the geopolitical stage, following logical and long-established national interests. If the West had just left Ukraine alone, and allowed it to join the Eurasian Customs Union, that basket-case nation would have been Russia’s economic ward. Now the US and the EU have to support it with billions in loans that will never be paid back. Meanwhile, our European allies have been snookered into a set of economic and financial sanctions against Russia that guarantees they’ll be starved for oil and gas supplies in the winter months ahead. Smooth move.

So, the reason that all this has vanished from the news media is that it’s game-over in Ukraine. We busted it up, and can do more with it, and pretty soon the rump Ukraine region run out of Kiev will go crawling back to Russia begging for a little heating fuel.

Does any tattoo-free American adult outside the Kardashian-NFL mass hypnosis matrix feel confident about the trajectory of US policy regarding the so-called Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL)? First, there is the astonishing humiliation that this ragtag band of psychopaths managed to undo ten years, 4,500 US battle deaths, and $1+ trillion worth of nation-building effort in Iraq in a matter of a few weeks this summer. The US public does not seem to have groked the damage to our honor, self-confidence, and international standing in this debacle.

So, now we’re going to just deal “death from above” on the Black Flaggers across that stretch of their captured territory that runs from Iraq into Syria — violating Syria’s sovereignty in the process, of course. My guess is that such an operation will inspire them to bring the action straight to Europe, the USA, and the grand prize, Saudi Arabia. The movement is too broad now, includes too many psychopaths from all over the world (Europe especially) who hold passports that will enable them to travel easily out of the Middle East and export mayhem wherever they want to bring it.

The USA is stuck within so many pathways of systems criticality in this fall of 2014, that is sure to be expressed in our own internal politics very soon. We’re all set up for a classic state of siege with the Pentagon militarizing every Podunk police department in the land, and one can easily imagine a single IS operation aimed at some soft American target shoving us into hysteria.

While all this is happening, of course, Wall Street and its hand-maidens rev up the engines of malinvestment and bid up false values of things that will do nothing to get us safely into the economy of real things that awaits us. That economy of real things I speak of does not include many of the comforts and conveniences we’re used to — mass motoring, national chain retail, air-conditioning for all, 24/7 electric service — but it’s where we’re going. As reality drags us kicking and screaming toward it, the likelihood of a domestic political convulsion increases. We’ll look back on these weirdly placid years after the 2008 train wreck with amazement. These are the rudderless years of no leadership, of cowardly dissimulating midgets. A people can only take so much of that.

Finance is the weakest link in the chain of systems that allows us to run the old economy. It’s the system most abstracted from reality and the most easily manipulated into ever-greater abstraction. Hence it’s the system most easily subject to fatal slippage. And all it takes to set off the slipping is a simple loss of faith.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Pictures from the Aftermath of the Scottish Independence Referendum

Here.

The Scottish independence movement has inspired and encouraged similar ones worldwide, including in Okinawa.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Kunstler: The Era of Bad Feeling

This time seems like the late thirties, full of international menace, or the late seventies, with all its oddness.

Kunstler: The Era of Bad Feeling.

There are times when events are in charge, not personalities. [Kunstler doesn't mention the lava flow approaching Pahoa, but that's definitely an event in charge. Iselle, and now this, are giving people a taste of the Long Emergency.--P.Z.] The unseen forces that hold the affairs of nations and economies in equilibrium dissolve, particles fly out of the many centers, and things heat up toward criticality.

Glance in the rear-view mirror and say goodbye to the Era of Wishful Thinking. This was the time when the USA was inspired by its Master Wish: to be able to keep driving to Wal-Mart forever. Looked at closely, the contemporary idea of Utopia was always a shabby package. On one side, all the pointless driving. For most Americans it was nothing like the TV advertising fantasy of a lone luxury car plying a coastal highway in low, golden light. More like being stuck near the junction of I-55 and I-90 in Chicago at rush hour in July in an overheating Dodge Grand Caravan with three screaming ADD kids whose smart phone batteries just died — plus your fiercely over-filled bladder and no empty Snapple bottle to resort to.

On the other side, there’s the Wal-Mart part: the unbelievable cornucopia of insanely cheap plastic goodies, like, somewhere in the 1990s America became one giant loading dock for nearly free stuff. Wasn’t that fun? Now, everybody has got the full rig, from the flatscreen to the salad shooter, but we’re tired of seeing Kim Kardashian’s booty, and nobody really liked salad, even when you could shoot the stuff into a bowl. The thrill is gone, and so is the paycheck that was your ticket to the orgy. It’s especially gloomy over in the food department, where the boxes of Lucky Charms are suddenly half the weight and twice the price. And that was going to be the family dinner! Must be Nature’s way of telling you it’s time for a new tattoo.

In this weird liminal time since the so-called Crash of 2008 leadership has depended on lies and subterfuges to prop up the illusion of resilience. One biggie is the shale oil revolution, kind of a national parlor trick to wow the multitudes for a long enough moment to convince them that their troubles with the national energy supply are over. Even people paid to think were hosed on this one. Wait until they discover that the shale oil producers have never made a buck producing shale oil, only on the sale of leases and real estate to “greater fools” and creaming off the froth of the complex junk financing deals behind their exertions. Expect that mirage to dissipate in the next 24 months, perhaps sooner if the price of oil keeps sinking toward the sub $90-a-barrel level, where there’s no economically rational reason to bother drilling and fracking.

The lies, frauds, and cons run between the axis of Wall Street and Washington had two fatal consequences with still-lagging effects. 1) They destroyed the capacity for markets to establish the real price of anything — rendering markets useless. 2). They disabled capital formation to the degree that we might not have the money to rebuild an economy to replace the “financialized” matrix of rackets that currently pretends to function. A lot of observers like myself have been waiting for the moment when the fog of pretense lifts and exposes all the broken machinery within. We may be so close now that you can smell it.

Change is in the air, literally, as we wake this still-summer morning with the thermometer so low you wish the furnace was prepped and ready to run. Much is in the air, too, where the news of events near and far provoke swirls of transformation in the disposition of people, nations, and affairs. Who would have guessed a few years ago how nervous Scotland would make the whole Western world? The sharpies at the Pentagon, and the White House, and the CIA may be waiting with indigestion and palpitations for the next ISIS decapitation video, but maybe you have to wonder instead which of five thousand shopping malls across this land will be visited by black-flagged desperados armed with automatic rifles and RPG’s.

Finally, there are the people themselves of this sclerotic polity: too dumb and distracted to help themselves, full of inchoate grievance and resentment, tending ever deeper into darkness. Welcome to the season of the witch in the Era of Bad Feeling. Somewhere “out there” there is a light of virtue waiting for us, but we are a long way from finding our way to it.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Scottish Independence Referendum

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/sep/10/scottish-independence-guide-referendum-uk-yes-no">A guide.

(An account of my trip to Sacramento is forthcoming.)