Sunday, June 29, 2014


Oy, Bay!

Sci-fi movies not doing well, including the tremendously overrated Edge of Tomorrow.

Snowpiercer doesn't interest me either, but I'm intrigued by the gulf between its domestic and foreign box office receipts ($162,100 vs. $80,220,079!).

And compare the slate of movies atop this weekend's box office with those of thirty years ago. (I'll take Ghostbusters or even Ghostbusters 2 (1989) over Transformers 4 anytime.)

Video Rentals

Blockbuster opened in Hilo in July 1991 and closed almost 22 years later. It was displaced by Redbox and Netflix, but for a while it was the place to go for movies. It's being renovated into a branch of First Hawaiian Bank, which will open this fall. And the last movie-rental place in Hilo, Private Moments, though it offers mainstream movies, is slanted heavily towards "erotica."

The public library rents out DVDs, a dollar per item for seven days, and another dollar for another seven days. I'm watching a Filipino movie, Volta. I've seen it a few years ago and it still holds up.

Top of the Pops

Peter Jacques Band: "Mighty Fine"

The 1910 Fruitgum Company: "Simon Says"

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Possible Hydrox Revival

According to the Wikipedia page on Hydrox cookies, the biscuits (which preceded Oreos) might return to stores by the end of the year.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Iggy Azalea: "Fancy"

Currently the top song in the country.

Yesterday's Rachel Maddow Show

Watching The Rachel Maddow Show, one is certain to learn something, even if it's tangential to the matter being discussed. In her discussion of anti-abortion protests and violence, she mentioned courthouse shootings, one of which happened in 1918 in San Francisco, at the trial of eight Indian nationalists. I've never heard of this. More soon.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Bookoff Hawaii

I just learned of this place while browsing on Yelp. It's another reason to go to Shirokiya the next time I'm in Honolulu.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Kunstler: Hard Choices

In today's column, Kunstler takes a very steely look at immigration, especially emigration from Latin America. In The Long Emergency, he predicted that the Southwest, "[a] region built on the conquest of vast distances by the automobile, the conquest of unbelievable heat by air conditioning, and the conquest of thirst by heroic water diversion projects will find itself hot, thirsty, and stranded. ...Deeper into the twenty-first century, [it] will revert to being a barely habitable arid scrubland. ...Whether the region is nominally under the jurisdiction of the Mexican government or the United States may not matter very much. All but the last stragglers will have left, just as the Aztecs did around A.D. 1100."

This slideshow gives an idea of what the depopulating Southwest would look like. This is worth a look, too.

In short, few people, immigrant or native-born, will live there. If he'd pointed that out in today's column, Kunstler would have made a stronger argument.

Kunstler is wrong about the motives of the Immigration Act of 1924. Meant to preserve a common American culture with northern European origins (especially British ones), the law was "aimed at further restricting immigration of Southern Europeans, Eastern Europeans, and Jews, in addition to prohibiting the immigration of Arabs, East Asians, and Indians." Outright population control wasn't the goal.

Kunstler: Hard Choices

The New York Times editors seem to think that if they tell enough sob stories about illegal immigrants in their ongoing sentimental series “The Way North,” that the national debate will turn into a giant pity party and the nirvana of a human peaceable kingdom will come true, with no consequences — except for more interesting cuisine in states that formerly subsisted on Salisbury steak and pie.

The New York Times, like just about every other institution in the progressive orbit, has surrendered its collective brain to a morass of feelings, longings, and promptings that leads ever deeper into a wasteland of dishonesty. As a long-time registered Democrat who started voting in the year of Watergate, I resent being taken for a ride to the place where anything goes and nothing matters. And especially where nothing matters less than clear thinking and straight talk.

We could start with the practice — especially popular on National Public Radio — by which illegal immigrants are called “undocumented,” as if some unjust bureaucratic mistake was made in their journey across the border and to blame them for it amounts to persecution. It is really too obvious to belabor, except to say that the cumulative effect of such programmatic lying, day after day, will eventually discredit the basic principles of social justice, if it hasn’t already.

The popular story is that America was built by immigrants and that therefore everything about immigration is good and leads to a more successful society. This narrative is so devoid of historical context that it should embarrass anyone beyond a second-grade education. In fact, the surplus populations of industrializing European countries were off-loaded onto a more sparsely-populated New World that also happened to be in the throes of rapid industrialization (including industrial farming), offered a lot of cheap land under plain terms, and held a bonanza of untapped resource wealth in everything from timber to iron ore.

A few things that progressives leave out of the story these days: immigration was rigorously controlled at its ports of entry, and particularly at the height of immigration between the 1880s and the 1920s. A lot of people may have been pouring in from foreign lands, but they were carefully scrutinized on the way in, and not a few were sent back. Secondarily, these immigrants were required to assimilate into a recognizable common culture. There was no handwringing over the question of whether children from Italy or Lithuania should have to learn how to read, write, and speak in the English language. A strong consensus required it of them, and it must be fair to say that most of them were eager to enter that new common culture. We also conveniently forget that immigration quotas were severely restricted in 1924, not out of meanness, as the sentimentalists would suppose, but because the public and its representatives correctly apprehended that the situation had changed in some of its obvious particulars, requiring a consensus about limits.

In the 21st century, The USA is no longer sparsely populated, except in the regions that are typically hostile to settlement anywhere else in the world — places where there is no water, or too hot, or too cold, or too swampy. North America is a settled continent at a moment in history when virtually every nation including the USA can be fairly considered over-populated. It is also too obvious to belabor the point that fossil fuels have produced an algae bloom of human reproduction and that, whether we like it or not, the decline of fossil fuel is certain to lead to a decrease in human population. The question is how disorderly and cruel that journey might be if we don’t make the management of contraction a supreme political priority. And managing the movement of people into this country is a necessary part of that.

Currently, progressive America is pretending that the conditions of the 19th century still prevail here — boundless material resources and land for the taking — and that we can happily accommodate the overflow from our equally overpopulated neighbors, Mexico and the countries of Central America, any way they can manage to get here. The sentimental approach as represented by The New York Times, is exactly what will prevent the kind of hard choices that national leadership is faced with. Both established political parties could founder on this issue.

It’s rather funny that the presumptive Democratic nominee for president in 2016 titled her current book Hard Choices, because that is the chief pretense of the party she represents. The last thing Hillary wants to do is take a stand on anything, other than her entitlement to live in the White House.

Friday, June 20, 2014


I've been quite busy this week, but I managed to check out my usual websites. Louis Proyect posted a link to this discussion at the Left Forum about fracking.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Also available here:

Kunstler: "Heads: You Lose"

Kunstler speculates on the economic and geopolitical results of the ISIS insurgency in Iraq.

Kunstler: "Heads: You Lose"

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

I don't know about that, but back then Justin Bieber was blessedly unknown, kids didn't have their thumbs asplay texting, and Gourmet published regularly.
The Rise and Fall of Justin Bieber

Monday, June 09, 2014

East Buffalo: A Follow-Up

East Buffalo: Buffalo News article on Yemeni entrepreneurs opening stores.

Kunstler: That Was Then, This is Now

June 9, 2014
That Was Then, This is Now

I was in Buffalo, New York, over the weekend at the annual conclave of New Urbanists — a movement started in the 1990s to rescue American towns and cities. The scale of desolation of that city is not as spectacular or vast as Detroit’s, but the visible symptoms of the illness are the same. One of the events was a bicycle tour of Buffalo’s neglected East Side, [Link added by me.--P.Z.] where maybe 80 percent of the houses are gone and the few that remain stand amid spring wildflower meadows and the human density per acre appears too low even for successful drug-selling.

The old economy is gone and is replaced now by a “social services economy,” meaning government checks, SNAP cards, and purposelessness. There were zero signs of commerce there block after block, not even a place to buy potato chips. So, as it works out, the few remaining denizens of this place must spend half their waking hours journeying to a food store. How they make that journey is hard to tell. There were almost no cars anywhere nor buses to be seen. Before long surely the people will all be gone, too, ending a chapter in American urban history.

At one edge of the East Side neighborhood stood the hulking, gigantic remnants of the Larkin soap company, a haunted brick behemoth plangent with silence, ailanthus trees sprouting from the parapets and birds nesting in the gigantic, rusted ventilation fans. The administration building of this deeply paternalistic company was famously designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, completed in 1906, and demolished in 1950 — a blink of an eye. It is considered the architect’s lost masterpiece. The site became a parking lot and now is just an empty asphalt pad with mulleins and sumacs spiking up in the pavement.

At its height of success a hundred years ago, the Larkin Company provided a stupendous bounty of social support services for its 4,500 employees: a dental office at nominal prices, dedicated rooms at local hospitals, an on-premises branch of the city library, subsidized night school classes, gyms, lounges, sports clubs, a credit union, insurance plans, and more. The people could ride streetcars all over the “Electric City,” as Buffalo styled itself because of its fortunate proximity to the bonanza of hydro power from Niagara Falls.

A hundred years ago, Buffalo was widely regarded as the city of the future. The boon of electrification made it the Silicon Valley of its day. It was among the top ten US cities in population and wealth. Its steel industry was second to Pittsburgh and for a while it was second to Detroit in cars. Now, nobody seems to know what Buffalo might become, if anything. It will be especially interesting when the suburban matrix around it enters its own inevitable cycle of abandonment.

I’m convinced that the Great Lakes region will be at the center of an internally-focused North American economy when the hallucination of oil-powered globalism dissolves. Places like Buffalo, Cleveland, and Detroit will have a new life, but not at the scale of the twentieth century. On this bike tour the other day, I rode awhile beside a woman who spends all her spare time photographing industrial ruins. She was serenely adamant that the world will never see anything like that era and its artifacts again. I tend to agree. We cannot grok the stupendous specialness of the past century, and certainly not the fact that it is bygone for good.

When people use the term “post-industrial” these days, they don’t really mean it, and, more mysteriously, they don’t know that they don’t mean it. They expect complex, organized, high-powered industry to still be here, only in a new form. They almost always seem to imply (or so I infer) that we can remain “modern” by moving beyond the old smoke and clanking machinery into a nirvana of computer-printed reality. I doubt that we can maintain the complex supply chains of our dwindling material resources and run all those computer operations — even if we can still manage to get some electricity from Niagara Falls.

In my forthcoming novel A History of the Future (third installment of the World Made By Hand series), two of my characters journey to Buffalo a couple of decades from now. They find a town with its back turned to abandoned monuments of the industrial age. All the action is on the Lake Erie waterfront where trade is conducted by sailing ships at the scale of Sixteenth century, but with an identifiable American gloss. I’d be surprised if one in a thousand educated people in this country (including the New Urbanists) can take that vision seriously. But do you suppose that the executives of an enterprise like the Larkin Company in 1915 would have ever imagined the desolation of Buffalo a mere 99 years later?

Monday, June 02, 2014

Kunstler: Coasting Toward Zero

DISCLAIMER: Toward the end of an otherwise typical column on the decline of the American economy, Kunstler veers into a rant about transgenderism, which he calls "sexual confusion." I don't expect nuance on gender from Kunstler, and one can easily disregard that part of the column (second-to-last paragraph).

Coasting Toward Zero.

I n just about any realm of activity this nation does not know how to act. We don’t know what to do about our mounting crises of economy. We don’t know what to do about our relations with other nations in a strained global economy. We don’t know what to do about our own culture and its traditions, the useful and the outworn. We surely don’t know what to do about relations between men and women. And we’re baffled to the point of paralysis about our relations with the planetary ecosystem.

To allay these vexations, we just coast along on the momentum generated by the engines in place — the turbo-industrial flow of products to customers without the means to buy things; the gigantic infrastructures of transport subject to remorseless decay; the dishonest operations of central banks undermining all the world’s pricing and cost structures; the political ideologies based on fallacies such as growth without limits; the cultural transgressions of thought-policing and institutional ass-covering.

This is a society in deep danger that doesn’t want to know it. The nostrum of an expanding GDP is just statistical legerdemain performed to satisfy stupid news editors, gull loose money into reckless positions, and bamboozle the voters. If we knew how to act we would bend every effort to prepare for the end of mass motoring, but instead we indulge in fairy tales about the “shale oil miracle” because it offers the comforting false promise that we can drive to WalMart forever (in self-driving cars!). Has it occurred to anyone that we no longer have the capital to repair the vast network of roads, streets, highways, and bridges that all these cars are supposed to run on? Or that the capital will not be there for the installment loans Americans are accustomed to buy their cars with?

The global economy is withering quickly because it was just a manifestation of late-stage cheap oil. Now we’re in early-stage of expensive oil and a lot of things that seemed to work wonderfully well before, don’t work so well now. The conveyer belt of cheap manufactured goods from China to the WalMarts and Target stores doesn’t work so well when the American customers lose their incomes, and have to spend their government stipends on gasoline because they were born into a world where driving everywhere for everything is mandatory, and because central bank meddling adds to the horrendous inflation of food prices.

Now there’s great fanfare over a “manufacturing renaissance” in the United States, based on the idea that the work will be done by robots. What kind of foolish Popular Mechanicsporn fantasy is this? If human beings have only a minor administrative role in this set-up, what do two hundred million American adults do for a livelihood? And who exactly are the intended customers of these products? You can be sure that the people of China, Brazil, and Korea will have enough factories of their own, making every product imaginable. Are they going to buy our stuff now? Are they going to completely roboticize their own factories and impoverish millions of their own factory workers?

The lack of thought behind this dynamic is staggering, especially because it doesn’t account for the obvious political consequence — which is to say the potential for uprising, revolution, civic disorder, cruelty, mayhem, and death, along with the kind of experiments in psychopathic governance that the 20th century was a laboratory for. Desperate populations turn to maniacs. You can be sure that scarcity beats a fast path to mass homicide.

What preoccupies the USA now, in June of 2014? According to the current cover story Time Magazine, the triumph of “transgender.” Isn’t it wonderful to celebrate sexual confusion as the latest and greatest achievement of this culture? No wonder the Russians think we’re out of our minds and want to dissociate from the West. I’ve got news for the editors of Time Magazine: the raptures of sexual confusion are not going to carry American civilization forward into the heart of this new century.

In fact, just the opposite. We don’t need confusion of any kind. We need clarity and an appreciation of boundaries in every conceivable sphere of action and thought. We don’t need more crybabies, or excuses, or wishful thinking, or the majestic ass-covering that colors the main stream of our national life.