Thursday, May 27, 2010

Juliet Schor, "Plentitude", Seattle Town Hall

Hey there. I went and saw Juliet Schor, author of "The Overworked American" and "The Overspent American" on Monday at the Town Hall (not the literal town hall, "Town Hall" is an organization) down on First Hill in Seattle, where she talked about her new book Plentitude. Basically, what she wants is a sort of decentralized, green, industrial economy where quality of life in the community is also assured by progressive 'New Urbanism' style planning, meaning high urban density and other ideas. This would be achieved through slowly growing it under the radar screen of the big industrial economy. While I agree with most of what she says I have to take issue with the way in which the transition from alternative technology that's mainly stuff like houses and gardening to alternative technology that will actually manufacture things will take place. Her idea focused on these things called "Fablabs" or Fabrication Labs, which are high technology centers where people can design various products, like chairs for example, then program the machines to make small numbers of them on demand. There are several problems, but the big one I see is that total decentralization of manufacturing is bound to be really inefficient. Why not establish regional, yet large, high technology centers constructed according to the latest principles of environmentally friendly design and the latest productivity advances, then have the workings of the place, from how labor is divided up to what work itself looks like be turned into a showpiece about how things could be? Another problem with fabricating different things that people need is that above a certain level of complexity there are issues with not having engineers working on it. Folks can do a lot of things, but for certain products I'd rather have the input of someone who's an expert. However, this difficulty can be surmounted if engineers are employed by the regional factories to respond to the interests of the community and help them to formulate what they want, instead of dictating to them.

All in all a good talk, synthesizing a lot of things, and I hope to eventually look into some of her books to follow up on all of it.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Hey Americans! Want to speak your mind? Check out this site, a board run by the Republicans where they're soliciting American's ideas for their platform

America Speaking Out.

The Vortex--Lithuanian film at the Seattle International Film Festival, SIFF

Wow. There are few films so bad that they make me angry. This was one of them. The story of a guy from the Lithuanian countryside who goes to the city, gets involved with a bad woman, gets involved with a good woman, is married, where the woman falls while pregnant miscarries, can't have children, etc... I say etc... because there literally is no variation in this film from the standard stereotypical theme, but more importantly because the way the film is told is so flat, so emotionless, so depthless, that it feels like what I just wrote is all that's happening in a literal sense. There are scenes where the dialogue is almost literally "What happened? We lost the baby. Oh no, what will we do now! We'll manage somehow."....and nothing else. The dialogue could have been written on the back of a matchbook. There's no drama, no dramatic tension whatsoever, just a feeling that maybe all of this is a joke, some self reflexive parody of a period drama from the years immediately following the Second World War, which is when this takes place. Not that you'd know it because there's next to nothing special about the film that might indicate it took place then. I kept waiting for there to be something, anything, but no.

There's a difference between showing and telling, and the people who made this film appear not to have figured out what that is.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

"The Oath" at the Seattle International Film Fetsival....Abu Jandal and Al Qaida

Just got through seeing "The Oath", which is about former bodyguard to Osama bin Laden Abu Jandal and his brother Salim Hamdan, Hamdan's imprisonment at Guantanamo Bay and his trial, and former Al Qaida member Jandal's personal struggles with and reflections on his Islamic beliefs. Told as a split between interviews with Jandal and updates at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere about Hamdan's trial, the film gives an inside view of the ideology of radical Islam and the terrorist and organizational aspects of Al Qaida. Jandal was very deep in it and talks casually about training camps and getting guys acclimated to Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden's personal style, and other topics. What it does is to bring back to earth all of these discussions about Al Qaida as being some sort of metaphysical principle of evil beyond all comprehension. Yes, this guy knew all the 9/11 hijackers, yes, he guarded bin Laden for four years, yes, Al Qaida really is an organized terrorist organization, but there's something in his matter of factness about all of it that leads to a sort of relief, sort of like at last we know. This is a real thing, these are real people training, but they're not infinitely powerful. They're humans operating on the same principles that the U.S. military's counter-insurgency wings most likely operate on. Navy SEALS.....Al Qaida. Depends on how you look at it I suppose. I could suppose also that people with different worldviews would condemn the film as giving some sort of a propaganda boost to terrorists......who are never allowed to say what they actually think? Come on. Terrorists are convenient for the right when they're kept at arms length and out of camera angle.

The film was well made, it captured the complexity of the situation, and I would recommend it to anyone.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

"This is Ecocide--The Solution"

Check it out. These folks want ecocide, heavy ecological destruction of large areas, to be considered an international crime against peace. From the site:

"Proposal for ecocide to be a 5th international Crime Against Peace
The International Criminal Court was formed in 2002 to prosecute individuals for breaches of 4 Crimes Against Peace.  They are: Genocide, Crimes Against Humanity, War Crimes and Crimes of Aggression. A 5th crime against peace is proposed:"

Now Rand Paul seemingly has a problem with the minimum wage,

This guy is a laugh riot. Title link leads to Greg Sargent, this link leads to an ABC interview. He opposes the minimum wage, even though he doesn't specifically say it, he opposes people having to sell their homes to people of different races, even though he actually did say it, and he comes back with these robotic pat phrases that are stupidly meant to distract from the very simple questions that he won't answer.

Everybody draw muhammad day in Pakistan leads to banning Facebook and protests?

Everybody Draww Muhammad Day? There are limits to sensitivity. I can understand people's anger at the Danish right wing paper that specifically solicited cartoons of Muhammad to piss people off, but at some point people in the west shouldn't be held hostage to religious fanatics personal beliefs. South Park probably made the right choice for pragmatic reasons, i.e. the people involved not getting killed, for censoring their episode, but opposing this day, which is a spoof event on Facebook done largely by Americans in a place where making drawings doesn't put you in jail, is unreasonable. So draw Muhammad. I frankly don't care about Pakistani's feelings at this point. People shouldn't have to cringe at what folks halfway around the world think of what they're drawing or saying, and frankly Pakistan has nothing to do with the United States and should mind it's own business.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Rand Paul....won't approve of lunch counters being desegregated. Here's his appearance on Rachel Maddow, which includes his Lexington Courier interview where he says it

Jesus, he goes on record with it, then spends fifteen minutes evading the question when Maddow asks him point blank if he would support owners of lunch counters deciding not to serve black people.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Seattle International Film Festival, a criticism and some picks

I'm excited about SIFF this year because it'll be the first time I'll be able to go to a number of shows since moving up here. Scanning through the listings online it sort of hit me though that a big part of the foreign film section could be renamed the "I'm Gay! Love Me!" section. I say this as a bisexual man, someone who has relations with other men, so neener neener, deal with it. So many movies about a guy coming out, a guy who comes out living abroad and then has to go home, a guy who falls in love with his male servant, on and on and on. How many films about coming out can people honestly make? Aren't there more pressing problems in the world right now than foreign gay guys, many from extremely well off backgrounds, and their struggles?

Of course it's not all gay guys coming out at SIFF, there are the normal stable of movies about bored rich people having affairs with one another, something that could be another subcategory. Bored rich people might be the wrong word since these are all businessmen and women and we're not supposed to label them as being rich, even though they are. Bored rich people who have affairs and it spices up their pathetic lives.


I have a few picks for the foreign films, movies that based on the descriptions on the SIFF website look worthwhile, and are neither about coming out nor about sex with flatlined bourgeoisie.

First off is "Devil's Town", a dark comedy about life in Belgrade among a group of twenty somethings

Then we have Henri 4 or Henry of Navarre, a historical action film about the French monarch and the French wars of religion in the 16th century, paradoxically made in Germany. Kudos for there even being a film about this shown in America, even if it is an action-adventure one.

Next, Samson & Delilah, a a film about two aboriginal teenagers in central Australia and drama that unfolds not only between them but within the community in intra-community violence.

After which we have Tehroun, another one full of action from Iran about a guy who begs on the street and uses a child as a prop, which is then stolen and then sold.

Finally we have Vortex, a love story set in Lithuania right after World War II during the construction of the Soviet system there.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Rand Paul lies and lies, in relationship to Obama and Chavez

Mr. Rand Paul, now the GOP's candidate in Kentucky, came out with what's probably the most dishonest statement about what the Copenhagen conference was about that I've ever seen. Quote

"We have a president who went to Copenhagen and appeared with Robert Mugabe, Hugo Chávez and others, Evo Morales, to apologize for the Industrial Revolution. They say—these dictators, these petty dictators say—that to stop climate change, it’s about ending capitalism. They are explicit. And the President, by attending Copenhagen, gives credibility and credence to these folks, and he should not go."

From Democracy Now!

Guess who was also at Copenhagen? The heads of state of the UK, France, Germany, China, Russia. Copenhagen had an immensely comprehensive attendance. Are they all standing with Robert Mugabe? And where exactly did Obama come out against capitalism? Paul is implying that he did. Where did he apologize for the industrial revolution? Paul is not just implying but stating that Obama did this. Where is the record that Obama actually did any of this? Either facts exist or they don't, and Paul is just making things up at this point. He's also slandering most of the international community by mischaracterizing what the fundamental composition of the conference was.

Monday, May 17, 2010

30 Rock, Emmanuel goes to dinosaur land. So this is what passes for television these days

I haven't watched television for years, intentionally keeping myself away from the vapidness that inhabits the air waves, but, you know, after a while you start to question things. Maybe I was wrong about TV? Maybe TV has changed and things have gotten better? So now that shows are available on Hulu I decided to check out the hip new comedy written by Tina Fey starring Alec Baldwin, and what a reward I got. So Tina Fey is looking for a date for a wedding, and she looks up a former boyfriend to see if he wants to go, but the thing is that now the boyfriend has two pirate hooks for hands. I know, fucking pirate hooks, it's a laugh riot, especially with Fey being the corporate employee she is. I mean, what grade is she in? Seriously, if this is the best she can do she better quit while she's ahead, because this stuff is only funny if you compare it to the even more vapid shit that passes for programming on TV these days.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Sometimes I wish that John Lennon hadn't gone to those fucking primal therapy sessions

Because most of his early music independent of the Beatles is taken up by this sort of whiny complaining that came out as a direct result of the enormously liberating effects of the therapy. Whining about your mother on tape and then selling it, on and on. The purging takes the place of a lot of artistic creativity, leaving Paul McCartney's early independent works, particularly his Ram album, as more valuable for new insights into what's possible musically.

The Unicorn, Seattle

Had a deep fried snickers bar coated with coca cola flavored breading at the Unicorn on Capitol Hill today. Have to say that it was different than I expected. The heat caused the candy bar to liquify, so it was sort of like eating a semi-liquid pile of nougat in fried batter. I liked it but my stomach held it against me for a while afterwards. All in all a nice bar.

Friday, May 14, 2010

"The Takeaway", offensiveness in action

I've been listening to local public radio station KBCS here in Seattle lately and have been delighted to find an NPR version of Bill O'Reilly or Glenn Beck in The Takeaway, a syndicated program out of New York. This is what happen when rich, prejudiced, WASPs, get a show where they can fly their true colors. It's not the liberalism that's the problem; frankly I question whether these people are really liberal or not. The problem is the bigotry and condescension that they put out there. For example, today in discussing Greece one of the host asked the question of why it is that while Greeks in the United States are renowned for being industrious that the Greek government seems to be lazy. One of the guests that they had on made the argument that Mediterranean countries, naming specifically the south of France, southern Italy, and Greece, are lazy because of the good climate. So I suppose that northern climates make people more industrious, like Germany and Scandinavia.

I'm sort of speechless. The fact that this is accepted as liberal commentary is sort of beyond me.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Glenn Greenwald hits it right about Progressives, vai the Kagan nomination

Or at least the progressive media. Basically he's let it fly that progressives would support a dead dog who Obama nominates to the Supreme Court, righteously arguing back and forth with Republicans who would surely say that the dog is a secret Communist. Here are the relevant paragraphs of Greenwald's article, which, looking at it, includes a long paragraph from someone who isn't Greenwald himself.

It's anything but surprising that President Obama has chosen Elena Kagan to replace John Paul Stevens on the Supreme Court.  Nothing is a better fit for this White House than a blank slate, institution-loyal, seemingly principle-free careerist who spent the last 15 months as the Obama administration's lawyer vigorously defending every one of his assertions of extremely broad executive authority.  The Obama administration is filled to the brim with exactly such individuals -- as is reflected by its actions and policies -- and this is just one more to add to the pile.  The fact that she'll be replacing someone like John Paul Stevens and likely sitting on the Supreme Court for the next three decades or so makes it much more consequential than most, but it is not a departure from the standard Obama approach.

The New York Times this morning reports that "Mr. Obama effectively framed the choice so that he could seemingly take the middle road by picking Ms. Kagan, who correctly or not was viewed as ideologically between Judge Wood on the left and Judge Garland in the center."  That's consummate Barack Obama.  The Right appoints people like John Roberts and Sam Alito, with long and clear records of what they believe because they're eager to publicly defend their judicial philosophy and have the Court reflect their values.  Beltway Democrats do the opposite:  the last thing they want is to defend what progressives have always claimed is their worldview, either because they fear the debate or because they don't really believe those things, so the path that enables them to avoid confrontation of ideas is always the most attractive, even if it risks moving the Court to the Right.


One final thought about Kagan for now.  As I said from the beginning, the real opportunity to derail her nomination was before it was made, because the vast majority of progressives and Democrats will get behind anyone, no matter who it is, chosen by Obama.  That's just how things work.  They'll ignore most of the substantive concerns that have been raised about her, cling to appeals to authority, seize on personal testimonials from her Good Progressive friends, and try to cobble together blurry little snippets to assure themselves that she's a fine pick.  In reality, no matter what they know about her (and, more to the point, don't know), they'll support her because she's now Obama's choice, which means, by definition, that she's a good addition to the Supreme Court.  Our politics is nothing if not tribal, and the duty of Every Good Democrat is now to favor Kagan's confirmation.  Conservatives refused to succumb to those rules and ended up with Sam Alito instead of Harriet Miers, but they had a much different relationship to George Bush than progressives have to Obama (i.e., conservatives -- as they proved several times late in Bush's second term [Miers, immigration, Dubai Ports] -- were willing to oppose their leader whey they disagreed).  The White House knows that progressives will never try to oppose any important Obama initiative, and even if they were inclined, they lack the power to do so (largely because unconditional support guarantees impotence)."

Saturday, May 08, 2010

A new project

Sorry for the absence. To say that lots and lots of things have been going on is an understatement. We've had significant personal tragedy here and lots of adjustment. Anyways, what I'm going to start working on personally in terms of armchair revolutionizing is reading Ernst Jünger's "The Storm of Steel" in order to have a better understanding of the background of Fascism. This is something that will most likely come in handy with the rise of the Tea Party associated politics that's happening. Storm of Steel is Jünger's account of his time as a German soldier in the First World War. Unlike narratives of war that we might be more familiar with, Jünger in this one reportedly praises war, praises death,  violence, on and on, with absolutely no consideration of pacifism or peace in general. The book became a rallying cry for discharged German servicemen who didn't want to accept that Germany had lost and who couldn't integrate themselves back into society. Jünger became the unofficial inspiration for the paramilitary "Steel Helmets" through the book, who did their share to become one of the sources that the Nazi party drew on when it formulated itself. Hitler named Storm of Steel as being one of his top favorite books, and profusely offered Jünger positions in government after he assumed power, which Jünger politely declined.