Saturday, May 30, 2015
Thursday, May 28, 2015
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
Tuesday, May 26, 2015
Betty Draper: the great refusenik of the entire show, the one truth-teller who can accept the finitude of life, that there are endings.— corey robin (@CoreyRobin) May 20, 2015
Monday, May 25, 2015
(26 May update): Louis Proyect's great review of Mad Max: Fury Road.
Kunstler: Yesterday's Tomorrowland
America takes pause on a big holiday weekend requiring little in the way of real devotions beyond the barbeque deck with two profoundly stupid movie entertainments that epitomize our estrangement from the troubles of the present day.
First there’s Mad Max: Fury Road, which depicts the collapse of civilization as a monster car rally. They managed to get it exactly wrong. The present is the monster car show. Houston. Los Angeles. New Jersey, Beijing, Mumbai, etc. In the future, there will be no cars, gasoline-powered, electric, driverless, or otherwise. Mad Max: Fury Road is actually a perverse exercise in nostalgia, as if we’re going to miss being a nation of savages in the driver’s seat, acting out an endless and pointless competition for our little place on the highway.
The other holiday blockbuster is Disney’s Tomorrowland, another exercise in nostalgia for the present, where the idealized human life is a matrix of phone apps, robots, and holograms. Of course, anybody who had been to Disneyland back in the day remembers the old Tomorrowland installation, which eventually had to be dismantled because its vision of the future had become such a joke — starting with the idea that the human project’s most pressing task was space travel. Now, at this late date, the monster Disney corporation — a truly evil empire — sees that more money can be winkled out of the sore-beset public by persuading them that techno-utopia is at hand, if only we click our heels hard enough.
Another theme running through both films is the idea that girls can be what boys used to be, that it’s “their turn” to be masters-of-the-universe, that men are past their sell-by date and only exist to defile and humiliate females. That this message is really only a mendacious effort to rake in more money by enlarging the teen “audience share” for the reigning wishful fantasy du jour is surely lost on the culture commentators, who are so busy these days celebrating the triumph and wonder of transgender life.
The reviewers are weighing these two movies on the popular pessimism / optimism scale. These are the only choices for the masses: whether to be a “doomer” or a “wisher.” Both positions are cartoon world-views that don’t provide much guidance for continuing the project of civilization, in case anyone is actually interested in that. It’s either rampaging id or the illusion of supernatural control, take your pick. I find both stances revolting.
Anyway, it’s interesting that the real Fury Road of the rightnow runs from Syria into Iraq starring ISIS. There is a growing sentiment in the news media (including the web, of course) of a sickening déjà vu with these developments. The old familiar talk of air strikes and ground troops infects the wifi transmissions. Maybe we should think about sending Charlize Theron over there with a few vestigial male sidekicks to load her assault rifle. How else to git’er done? Nobody knows.
Memorial Day is a dreary moment to have to face this onrushing calamity of rocket-propelled medievalism rampant — all those poor American soldiers blown up and mangled the past twelve years. It’s also interesting that the news media is totally out-of-touch with the biggest prize on the great gameboard: Saudi Arabia. You think ISIS overrunning Iraq is bad news? Wait until the ordnance starts flying around Riyadh. Notice, too, that there’s no news coming out of Yemen on the base of the Arabian peninsula, a failed state with a population nearly equal to its neighbor. If we have any idea what’s going on there — and surely the Pentagon and NSA do — then it’s not for popular consumption.
This is ironic because if the trouble happens to spread into Saudi Arabia — and I don’t see how it will not — then we’ll find out in a New York minute how America’s future is not about monster trucks, cars, dirt bikes, holograms, phone apps, and all the other ridiculous preoccupations of the moment.
Saturday, May 23, 2015
Wednesday, May 20, 2015
Shameless Hypocrisy watch: Scott Desjarlais (TN-R), who supported wife's abortions & pressured gf to have one, votes for abortion ban.— Katha Pollitt (@KathaPollitt) May 16, 2015
Tuesday, May 19, 2015
Gilles d'Aymery, founder of Swans.com, has died, I have just found out. I hope Swans can continue to be published. It was one of the most original webzines I've read. And I've donated money to them from time to time, not necessarily because I agreed with everything written there, but because of the quality of its content and because Gilles was totally upfront about how donations were used. The yearly budget was roughly $4,000, less than some magazines spend on snacks. A breakdown of expenses is below.
"You send us money. Here, in total transparency, is how it is spent:
•Internet access and costs: Web, satellite, land-line access, TV: $1,900 a year
•Hardware/software maintenance and upgrades: $1,000 a year
•Press and book purchases: $1,000 a year
•Miscellaneous: $450 a year
•This is a very conservative accounting of our overall costs."
Monday, May 18, 2015
Many people seem to think that America has lost its sense of purpose. They overlook the obvious: that we are striving to become the Bulgaria of the western hemisphere. At least we already have enough vampires to qualify.
You don’t have to seek further than the USA’s sub-soviet-quality passenger railroad system, which produced the spectacular Philadelphia derailment last week that killed eight people and injured dozens more. Six days later, we’re still waiting for some explanation as to why the train was going 100 miles-per-hour on a historically dangerous curve within the city limits.
The otherwise excellent David Stockman posted a misguided blog last week that contained all the boilerplate arguments denouncing passenger rail: that it’s addicted to government subsidies and that a “free market” would put it out of its misery because Americans prefer to drive and fly from one place to another.
One reason Americans prefer to drive — say, from Albany, NY, to Boston — is that there is only one train a day, it never leaves on time or arrives on time, and it takes twice as long as a car trip for no reason that makes any sense. Of course, this is exactly the kind of journey ( slightly less than 200 miles) that doesn’t make sense to fly, either, given all the dreary business of getting to-and-from the airports, not to mention the expense of a short-hop plane ticket.
I take the popular (and gorgeous!) Hudson River Amtrak train between Albany and New York several times a year because bringing a car into Manhattan is an enormous pain in the ass. This train may have the highest ridership in the country, but it’s still a Third World experience. The heat or the AC is often out of whack, you can’t buy so much as a bottle of water on the train, the windows are gunked-over, and the seats are often broken. They put wifi on trains a couple of years ago but it cuts out every ten minutes.
Anyway, even if Americans seem to prefer for the present moment to drive or fly, it may not always be the case that they will be able to. Several surprising forces are gathering to take down the Happy Motoring matrix. Peak oil is actually not playing out in the form of too-high gasoline prices, but rather a race between a bankrupt middle class unable to pay the total costs of motoring and an oil industry that can’t make a profit drilling for hard-to-get oil. That scenario is plain to see in the rapid rise and now fall of shale oil.
Nowhere on earth is there passenger rail that pays for itself. But, of course, you don’t hear anyone complain about the public subsidies for driving or air travel. Who do you think pays for the interstate highway system? What major airport is privately owned and operated?
Some of the decisions made over our rail system are so dumb you wonder how the executives on board ever got their jobs. For instance the train between New York City and Chicago never runs on time for the simple reason that Amtrak sold the right-of-way to the CSX freight line. CSX then tore up the second track because there was an antiquated state real estate tax on railroad tracks. As a result, freight trains have priority on the single track and the passenger trains have to pull over on sidings every time a freight needs to go by. Earth calling the New York state legislature. Rescind the stupid tax.
America is going to need trains more than it thinks right now, despite what the “free market” says. The condition of our trains is symptomatic of the shape of the nation. The really sad part is we missed the window of opportunity to build a high-speed system. [George Will won't have to grumble about high-speed rail now.--P.Z.] Capital will soon be too scarce for that. But we still have a conventional network that not so many decades ago was the envy of the world, and we know exactly how to fix it. We just don’t want to. No will left. Apparently we’d rather just turn into the walking dead.
Saturday, May 16, 2015
Then there's Armond White, who never believes the hype.
"Director-writer Miller capitulates to the low instincts he originally pandered to more than 30 years ago. He’s gotten better at it — demonstrating lotsa panache — but the problem is that popular taste has degraded into an appetite for outlandish destruction and fantastic cruelty. The pop audience (and not just youth) has become like the crazed yahoos Miller depicts on screen without exactly satirizing them."
17 May update: Box Office Mojo reports that Pitch Perfect 2 beat Mad Max for the top earning spot this weekend.
Friday, May 15, 2015
Thursday, May 14, 2015
01 Somebody's Loving /Jenny Kee
02 Duri Duri / Click
03 Chica Cubana / Tatjana
04 Love & Devotion / Co Co M
05 Go Go Boy / Ross
06 Hot Love / Jenny Kee
07 Come Come Come / Lilac
08 Jump To The Music / Lilac
09 Come Back & Do It / Malcolm J. Hill
10 I'll Be There / Dandy
11 Voice Of The Night / Molto Carina
12 Lies / King Kong & D'Jungle Girls
13 It's So Funny / King Kong & D'Jungle Girls
14 Never Can Change My Mind / Gary Cooper
15 Hey Robin / Alpha Town
16 Stop Me Baby / Mike Hazzard
17 You Can Set Me Free / Coo Coo
18 Crank It Up / Thomas & Schubert
19 Up Side Down / Coo Coo
20 Help Me / Mela
Monday, May 11, 2015
Elon Musk, Silicon Valley’s poster-boy genius replacement for the late Steve Jobs, rolled out his PowerWall battery last week with Star Wars style fanfare, doing his bit to promote and support the delusional thinking that grips a nation unable to escape the toils of techno-grandiosity. The main delusion: that we can “solve” the problems of techno-industrial society with more and better technology.
The South African born-and-raised Musk is surely better known for founding Tesla Motors, maker of the snazzy all-electric car. The denizens of Silicon Valley are crazy about the Tesla. There is no greater status trinket in Northern California, where the fog of delusion cloaks the road to the future. They believe, as Musk himself often avers, that Tesla cars “don’t burn hydrocarbons.” That statement is absurd, of course, and Musk, who holds a degree in physics from Penn, must blush when he says that. After all, you have to plug it in and charge somewhere from the US electric grid.
Only 6 percent of US electric power comes from “clean” hydro generation. Another 20 percent is nuclear. The rest is coal (48 percent) and natural gas (21 percent) with the remaining sliver coming from “renewables” and oil. (The quote marks on “renewables” are there to remind you that they probably can’t be manufactured without the support of a fossil fuel economy). Anyway, my point is that the bulk of US electricity comes from burning hydrocarbons, and then there is the nuclear part which is glossed over because the techno-geniuses and politicians of America have no idea how they are going to de-commission our aging plants, and no idea how to safely dispose of the spent fuel rod inventory simply lying around in collection pools. This stuff is capable of poisoning the entire planet and we know it.
The PowerWall roll out highlighted the “affordability” of the sleek lithium battery at $3,500 per unit. The average cluck watching Musk’s TED-like performance on the web was supposed to think he could power his home with it. Musk left out a few things. Such as: you need the rooftop solar array to feed the battery. Figure another $25,000 to $40,000 for that, depending on whether they are made in China (poor quality) or Germany, or in the USA (and installation is both laborious and expensive). Also consider that you need a charge controller and inverter to manage the electric flow and convert direct current (DC) from the sun into usable alternating current (AC) for your house — another $3,500. So, the cost of hanging a solar electric system on your house with all its parts is more like fifty grand.
What happens when the solar panels, battery, etc., reach the end of their useful lives, say 25 years or so, when there is no more fossil fuel (or an industry capable of providing it economically). How will you fabricate the replacement parts? By then the techno-wizards will have supposedly “come up with” a magic energy rescue remedy. Stand by on that, and consider the possibility that you will be disappointed with how it works out.
What gets me about Tesla’s various products and activities is that, when all is said and done, they are meant to extend the fatal rackets of contemporary life, especially car dependency and the suburban development pattern. Car dependency can and probably will fail on the financial basis, not on the question of how you run the car. The main economic problem we face is the end of growth of the kind we’re used to, the kind that generates real capital and enables bank lending. It is already happening and has led to fewer loans for fewer qualified borrowers. It will also lead to the end of government’s ability to pay for fixing the elaborate hierarchy of paved highways, roads, and streets that the cars have to run on. Imagine the psychic pain of the Silicon Valley billionaire driving his $87,000 Tesla P85D down a freeway that the State of California hasn’t been able to repair in five years.
Sunday, May 10, 2015
I'm trying to find two poems on mothers, one by Audre Lorde and the other by Juliet Kono.
Saturday, May 09, 2015
Thursday, May 07, 2015
Monday, May 04, 2015
Saturday, May 02, 2015
The BRET EASTON ELLIS PODCAST returns next week on PodCastOne: Sentimental narratives & the fallacy of "relatability" pic.twitter.com/PrdxvMioIL— Bret Easton Ellis (@BretEastonEllis) May 1, 2015