via Romm, an article about a metaphor to change fear into action and extinguish the panic so deadly in a great crisis that seems well, a little too familiar:
Tue 29 May 2012
Fri 25 May 2012
Is now a marketing slogan.
I was talking with a friend about some of the possible consequences of the popular appeal of Mad Men, that maybe it could subjectively get us to actually hate and therefore begin to try to resist the power of advertising. But, even as the words passed my lips I knew this was a vain hope. It’s terrific art but the network executives behind it are just as clueless about why people like it – and clued in about what people will watch – as the most cynical characters on the show are. Evidence the appalling reality show that mimics it, follows it, appears to be unwatchable and will probably be some kind of quantifiable cultural phenomenon on its own.
Selling back to us things we should already be doing, making the zeitgeist attractive and appealing, is tricky. Because there are a lot of things people already do that many others should embrace for their own and our collective good, but for the streak anti-authoritarianism that runs deeper than the Mississippi – and which is completely at odds with our vulnerability to corporate thinking. We (remember, there actually is no they) can even get people be against clean air and water. We’re helpless before the slick-o ads that pervade. Even the coming presidential campaign is actually a high-concept design contest, starring people in ads who will say they just want honest conversation about our problems. “Were X’s ads effective?” the headlines will read. Such will be the nature of the political analysis. “Wheels with wheels, man!”
So, yes: eat real. Hey better yet, get real. What does that mean? Hey, now we’re back on track! Not sure we need to put such admonitions on t-shirts – though it does bring to mind Marquez’ One Hundred Years, when everyone in the village forgets the names of everything and they have to go around labeling things like ‘chair’ and ‘table.’ Yes, maybe it’s that. Or this:
Thu 24 May 2012
Happy Birthday to Mister Bob, and to Green Boy.
Mon 21 May 2012
If you want to smell the flowers in the hothouse of selflessness that is your America today, check out this Forbes article supporting fB c0-founder and erstwhile Singaporean tax patriot Ed Saverin:
Saverin’s essential maneuver will at first glance hopefully get Americans thinking once again about our wrongheaded system of taxation. As it stands now, Americans, through taxes levied on income and capital gains, are explicitly forced to “prove” their income to the IRS.
I was at first embarrassed to post this, but we really need to acknowledge that this, THIS, is where we are and the kinds of people we are releasing into the bloodstream of humanity. Not just Saverin but the writer and the many commenters who provide him attaboys, not to mention the many political and business leaders who believe this. He gets savaged by many others in the comments as well, but the appearance of this kind of stupid and graceless whining should remind us that we don’t get to think that we’re just loosening a bunch a Clooneys into the world. We aren’t. Those are rare; these are unfortunately the norm. THIS is what thirty years of government-is-the-problem propaganda has done to people’s minds and their idea of what they should expect: government as a one-way street to provide you all the opportunities of free-enterprise but a thief-in-the-night when it comes to paying your fair share.
And like most cycles, one of these kinds of people is running for president this year. If he, and Obama, don’t get asked about this early and often in the next few months, be appalled. Be very appalled.
Fri 18 May 2012
If you look around and are underwhelmed with what you see, just know you can actually always be in the presence of whatever presence you want to be.
Here’s our friend, the poet, Scott Fitzgerald, from The Crack-Up, 1936:
Now a man can crack in many ways — can crack in the head, in which case the power of decision is taken from you by others; or in the body, when one can but submit to the white hospital world; or in the nerves. William Seabrook in an unsympathetic book tells, with some pride and a movie ending, of how he became a public charge. What led to his alcoholism, or was bound up with it, was a collapse of his nervous system. Though the present writer was not so entangled — having at the time not tasted so much as a glass of beer for six months — it was his nervous reflexes that were giving way — too much anger and too many tears.
Moreover, to go back to my thesis that life has a varying offensive, the realization of having cracked was not simultaneous with a blow, but with a reprieve.
Not long before, I had sat in the office of a great doctor and listened to a grave sentence. With what, in retrospect, seems some equanimity, I had gone on about my affairs in the city where I was then living, not caring much, not thinking how much had been left undone, or what would become of this and that responsibility, like people do in books; I was well insured and anyhow I had been only a mediocre caretaker of most of the things left in my hands, even of my talent.
But I had a strong sudden instinct that I must be alone. I didn’t want to see any people at all. I had seen so many people all my life — I was an average mixer, but more than average in a tendency to identify myself, my ideas, my destiny, with those of all classes that came in contact with. I was always saving or being saved — in a single morning I would go through the emotions ascribable to Wellington at Waterloo. I lived in a world of inscrutable hostiles and inalienable friends and supporters.
But now I wanted to be absolutely alone and so arranged a certain insulation from ordinary cares.
It was not an unhappy time. I went away and there were fewer people. I found I was good-and-tired. I could lie around and was glad to, sleeping or dozing sometimes twenty hours a day and in the intervals trying resolutely not to think — instead I made lists — made lists and tore them up, hundreds of lists: of cavalry leaders and football players and cities, and popular tunes and pitchers, and happy times, and hobbies and houses lived in and how many suits since I left the army and how many pairs of shoes (I didn’t count the suit I bought in Sorrento that shrank, nor the pumps and dress shirt and collar that I carried around for years and never wore, because the pumps got damp and grainy and the shirt and collar got yellow and starch-rotted). And lists of women I’d liked, and of the times I had let myself be snubbed by people who had not been my betters in character or ability.
– And then suddenly, surprisingly, I got better.
– And cracked like an old plate as soon as I heard the news.
That is the real end of this story. What was to be done about it will have to rest in what used to be called the “womb of time.” Suffice to say that after about an hour of solitary pillow-hugging, I began to realize that for two years my life had been a drawing on resources that I did not possess, that I had been mortgaging myself physically and spiritually up to the hilt. What was the small gift of life given back in comparison to that? — when there had once been a pride of direction and a confidence in enduring independence.
Mon 14 May 2012
More here. Thanks AC.
Wed 9 May 2012
That’s some kind of dystopian corporation of the future, sort of like Executive Outcomes. Remember that? Now try to dig up that Harper’s article from 1997; it’ll learn ya.
So… you wouldn’t think that an article on eliminating college football would be relevant on a blog like this. But then you didn’t name your blog this either, did you? Oh, Wall Street Journal, reminding me that Eco also stands for economy:
Who truly benefits from college football? Alumni who absurdly judge the quality of their alma mater based on the quality of the football team. Coaches such as Nick Saban of the University of Alabama and Bob Stoops of the University of Oklahoma who make obscene millions. The players themselves don’t benefit, exploited by a system in which they don’t receive a dime of compensation. The average student doesn’t benefit, particularly when football programs remain sacrosanct while tuition costs show no signs of abating as many governors are slashing budgets to the bone.
I’m down with his argument in many ways, but this part of it reminds me of a near exact parallel with the sacrosanctity of military spending in our larger budgetary reality. It is Eliot Ness. It is untouchable, all other things being up for negotiated elimination. Which is itself a reminder of what our government is becoming: an insurance company with an army.
But, to the point about college football green and the NCAA’s reluctance to part with it. No solutions are just going to prevent themselves, until the sport completes its slide toward boxing – and with solutions like, who needs problems? The idea of a triple AAA minor league paid for by the NFL seems like a no-brainer and will only take a little getting used to. In business speak, they’ve already created demand for their product, and maybe even overshot that. Time to re-route the supply.
Tue 8 May 2012
There’s one less today, though the many he released into the world and the imaginations he unlocked dwarf even his own demise.
Maurice Sendak, widely considered the most important children’s book artist of the 20th century, who wrenched the picture book out of the safe, sanitized world of the nursery and plunged it into the dark, terrifying and hauntingly beautiful recesses of the human psyche, died on Tuesday in Danbury, Conn. He was 83 and lived in Ridgefield, Conn.
He was one artist who had the keys – to the till, to the store, to the mind, however you want to think about it. RIP, Maurice.
Fri 4 May 2012
Wendell E. Berry, noted poet, essayist, novelist, farmer, and conservationist, delivered the 2012 Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities on Monday, April 23, 2012 at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.
The annual lecture, sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) is the most prestigious honor the federal government bestows for distinguished intellectual achievement in the humanities.
The term “imagination” in what I take to be its truest sense refers to a mental faculty that some people have used and thought about with the utmost seriousness. The sense of the verb “to imagine” contains the full richness of the verb “to see.” To imagine is to see most clearly, familiarly, and understandingly with the eyes, but also to see inwardly, with “the mind’s eye.” It is to see, not passively, but with a force of vision and even with visionary force. To take it seriously we must give up at once any notion that imagination is disconnected from reality or truth or knowledge. It has nothing to do either with clever imitation of appearances or with “dreaming up.” It does not depend upon one’s attitude or point of view, but grasps securely the qualities of things seen or envisioned.
I will say, from my own belief and experience, that imagination thrives on contact, on tangible connection. For humans to have a responsible relationship to the world, they must imagine their places in it. To have a place, to live and belong in a place, to live from a place without destroying it, we must imagine it. By imagination we see it illuminated by its own unique character and by our love for it. By imagination we recognize with sympathy the fellow members, human and nonhuman, with whom we share our place. By that local experience we see the need to grant a sort of preemptive sympathy to all the fellow members, the neighbors, with whom we share the world. As imagination enables sympathy, sympathy enables affection. And it is in affection that we find the possibility of a neighborly, kind, and conserving economy.
Obviously there is some risk in making affection the pivot of an argument about economy. The charge will be made that affection is an emotion, merely “subjective,” and therefore that all affections are more or less equal: people may have affection for their children and their automobiles, their neighbors and their weapons. But the risk, I think, is only that affection is personal. If it is not personal, it is nothing; we don’t, at least, have to worry about governmental or corporate affection. And one of the endeavors of human cultures, from the beginning, has been to qualify and direct the influence of emotion. The word “affection” and the terms of value that cluster around it—love, care, sympathy, mercy, forbearance, respect, reverence—have histories and meanings that raise the issue of worth. We should, as our culture has warned us over and over again, give our affection to things that are true, just, and beautiful. When we give affection to things that are destructive, we are wrong. A large machine in a large, toxic, eroded cornfield is not, properly speaking, an object or a sign of affection.
Wed 2 May 2012
As in yours. As in birthing it, feeding, slaughtering it, shipping it and cooking it in order to eat it in the quantity that we do spells certain, not probable but certain, disaster for planet, people and profit as you understand each of these things.
We say all the time how the planet would not survive China developing to levels commensurate with first-world consumption. It goes triple for meat eating. I’m just saying, I do it, too, and we should at least reckon with its consequences and be aware of them, acting accordingly if the spirit moves you. Otherwise you are ignoring this purposefully.
Bonus: Stephen King on taxes (plus a well-placed f-word or two). Word.