Thursday, May 31, 2012

How I First Heard About Peak Oil

Nearly seven years ago, I saw a movie on fX called Oil Storm. This is how I first heard about peak oil. A few months later Shepherd Bliss gave a presentation on peak oil*. Among the books he had on display was Kunstler's The Long Emergency. Reading that book deepened my interest.

*Rising Gas Prices And
Dwindling Oil Supplies

By Dr. Shepherd Bliss
Sept. 28th Wednesday 12:00pm CC313
Sept. 29th Thursday 7:00pm CC301
This presentation will look beneath this symptom to consider a deeper problem—the rising demand for oil products, and the decreasing supply of the non-renewable fossil fuel petroleum.
Hawaiÿi’s situation within the global economy of oil will be explored, including data on oil company profits. Hurricane Katrina and its devastating impact will be considered, in the context of global warming, the likelihood of more such disasters,
and how they might hit Hawaiÿi. A discussion will follow the presentation.
Information from
Sponsors: Global HOPE

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Esther Phillips: Candy

This is the first time I've heard of Esther Phillips.


Nancy Nall doesn't like steampunk. And techno. Her commenters are either bemused by it or think it interesting. As for techno, many weighed in with rockist comments on its supposed lack of authenticity.

For the record, I've taken an interest in steampunk since the mid-2000s, as it was emerging in the mainstream. As with anything, it can be taken to extremes.

More later.

1 June update: Techno is one of Detroit's homegrown genres. It could be that Nancy Nall and her commenters are confusing techno with other electronic music. But I remember writers in Sassy who spurned techno in favor of alternative rock.

The Rockist Articles of Faith

Has electronic music supplanted rock among young people?

Monday, May 28, 2012

Kunstler: Ponzi's End

Note: Below is Kunstler's latest column. He takes a dim view of what he calls "gender obsessions" and "clichéd notion[s] of "patriarchal oppression", but I don't read him for his views on gender. I read him because he has a very good sense of what everyday life might be in a time of oil scarcity.--P.Z.

Ponzi's End By James Howard Kunstler on May 28, 2012 9:55 AM

Way up here in the heartland, far from the craft beer parlors, Facebook stock bucket shops, and gender obsessions of the mythical Urban Edge People, the detritus of your country is up for sale. The lawns are strewn with the plastic effluvia of lives lived through humankind's weirdest moment: Pee Wee Herman action figures, creeping tot tables, failed kitchen appliances that created more labor than they were designed to save, extruded plastic this-and-that, unidentifiable knick-knacks of forgotten sitcoms, Jimmy Carter Halloween masks, trikes brittle and faded from ultraviolet exposure, artworks conceived in a Zoloft fog, pre-owned cat litter boxes, someone's deceased mother's lawn fanny, the complete works of Jacqueline Susann, a savings bank in the shape of an outhouse....

The puzzling part is that every lawn sale contains exactly the same array of useless and pathetic objects. Is this how a Ponzi culture meets its end: the terminal swap-meet beyond which no horrifying object meets any mystifying desire for acquisition? If this is where consumer culture crawled off to die, then what possible zeitgeist awaits a people left so hopelessly de-cultured on aspiration's lowest ladder-rung?

I dropped by a religious cult commune in the next town over on Saturday. Some of the guys who dwell there have been helping me out on hire with the physical labor of the rather ambitious garden construction here at Clusterfuck Farm, so I was informed about their weekend festival. The group occupies a former "gentleman's estate" built in the 1920s when the economic growth machine operated at full Ponzi steam. The buildings are quite beautiful; the main house is a Greco-Roman beaux arts mansion; a massive horse barn has large and graceful arched windows; and there are other houses and barns on the large property, which occupies a sweetly enfolding dell of land in this county of hills and valleys.

The weather couldn't have been more beautiful and the property was maximally groomed for the festival. There were several tents up, nice ones, decorated with colorful medieval-looking swags. One was a big circular tent set up for the folk-dances that are part of their subculture. You got a very clear picture of the demographic shape of the outfit: at the core of it were vital and healthy-looking young adults, median age around 30, I figured, who were running things, doing most of the work, organizing the daily routines. Then there were the old Boomers turned white-haired grandparents (many times), seekers from the 1970s who had signed on with the outfit long ago, reproduced mightily, and now played a background role in the scheme of things.

There was a costuming motif that was not too intense but allowed for visual self-identification among the members: long skirts for women; beards and pony-tails on the men, who all otherwise dressed in ordinary catalog casuals of the day. It set them apart without making them look too kooky. It also reinforced gender differences (the horror!) in a micro-society not dedicated to erasing and transgressing them. I didn't know much about the group's internal workings, but it seemed to me that the men were in charge, and I got the impression that far from representing some clichéd notion of "patriarchal oppression," it produced a reassuring tone of confidence in clear lines of responsibility - a quality now completely absent in outer America's culture of incessant lying, systematic fraud, and consensual evasion of reality.

I was especially interested to observe the behavior of the children, of which there were very many. For one thing, they appeared fully integrated into their society, not ring-fenced into some special ghetto of juvenile disempowerment palliated with manufactured video power fantasies and endless snacks. They were unperturbed and self-possessed. None were screaming, quarreling or carrying on. They were not hopped up on Big Gulps and Twinkies. They did not require constant monitoring. They danced along with the adults, or circulated confidently on their own, and with their friends, in the crowd.

I was a keen student of religious cults in the 1970s when I was a young newspaper reporter. The blowback from the Age of Aquarius had propelled a lot of lost souls into quests for meaning and especially communion beyond the sordid precincts of the idiotic common culture of the day. They were also seeking structure in chaotic young lives unable to get traction in a bad economy. I was interested in what the cult scene had to say about America generally and, I confess, attracted to the melodrama of fringe lunacy I found there, including a lot of colorful unbalanced personalities among the various founders and poobahs. I poked around a number of religious cults, including some accused of maliciously coercive practices, and I eventually even wrote a novel based on my experience ("Blood Solstice," Doubleday, 1988).

All this is to say that I retain a broad skepticism about organized religion in general and about American Utopian endeavor in particular. But the country and its baleful culture are now in an even more advanced state of entropic degeneration than was the case in the last days of Vietnam and Watergate. Those two awful conditions were at least settled and the nation moved on. The troubles that now afflict us guarantee a much broader systemic collapse that will surely require great changes in everything that we do and everything that we are. The demoralization of the larger American public is so stark and pronounced that you can smell it in the rising heat.

What I saw on Saturday on this farm was a wholly different group demeanor: purposeful, earnest, confident, energetic, and cheerful. It mattered too, I think, that this small community's economy was centered on agriculture and value-added production of common household products (they make soaps and cosmetics for the natural foods market). This was a snapshot of the much smaller-scale and local economy of America's future, techno-narcissistic fantasies aside. I don't know whether these people represent a lifeboat, or if these qualities of character can be enacted in a wider consensual culture, and one not necessarily based on religious doctrine, which I am not so avid about.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Kunstler Video

I might have posted this a long time ago, but if I haven't, here it is.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Paul Fussell, R.I.P.

It's been extremely busy at home and work the past few days, so only now have I learned by a glance at that the great one, Paul Fussell has died. More later.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

"A Senseless Shooting in a Soulless Place"

Some time ago, I had a post on what made Sanford, Florida run and wondered how it would fare in a post-oil world. This CounterPunch essay by Alan Farago examines the would-be exclusive gated community where George Zimmermann shot Trayvon Martin. More later.

Kunstler: Dancing Shoes


Sunday, May 20, 2012

60 Minutes: "Christians of the Holy Land"

This feature on Palestinian Christians originally aired 22 April 2012.

"Christians of the Holy Land"

"Pushing for a Boycott of Israel"

"The Lives of Palestinian Christians"

Friday, May 11, 2012

Bland Leading the Blind

Discussion of the Washington Post expose of Mitt Romney's thuggish ways at Cranbrook has centered on his forcible haircutting of a younger student. But leading a nearly blind teacher to walk into a closed door was another of his so-called pranks. We can disregard his apology as well. He was sorry. Sorry he was caught out there. There's more I could say about this, for example, the culture of boarding schools, but I have to think about it and gather some information. == 11 May update: Like most people, I first heard about Cranbrook in the movie 8 Mile. Rapper B-Rabbit (Eminem), a working-class white man, reveals in the climactic battle-rap scene that his bitterest rival, Papa Doc (Anthony Mackie), happens to be an upper-middle-class student at the academy, thereby annihilating his street cred.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Friday, May 04, 2012

The 2012 National Magazine Awards Here.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Helium: "XXX"

Too good not to post, even if I may have posted it a while ago.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Happy May Day

Whether you celebrate it as a day of aloha or a day of protest.