The Failed State of America

At some point here I would like to write about something besides the corrosive storm, rotting away the entire notion of a functioning United States of America.

But, what else would I write about.* This is a big thing, even if it’s ongoing. Meanwhile I’m not, e.g., traveling much beyond my daily hikes around western Lakewood.

On the other hand, it seems like there is little genuinely new to say about the corrosion and dysfunction of America, and even less which answers this fundamental summation: “Sometimes there is no tactical approach that will address the immediate problem—all you can do is focus on strategy and hope to survive long enough for your long-term strategic actions to bear fruit.”

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Preview: industrial civilization vs climate change

I can’t figure out now how I even found this thread. The thread itself made some more sense after I realized that it’s from an American Enterprise Institute hack, though I still don’t know how I encountered it unless Twitter coughed it up during one of its reversions of my timeline to “Top Tweets” before I shut that shit off like I always do.

That aside, I still think there’s significance in my initial reaction: the thread is a summary of industrial civilization’s response to climate change, past present and likely future.

The context of the Twitter thread is COVID-19 and America’s complete botch job of containing it. The corporate technocrat’s response is unhappy acknowledgment that current conditions are unacceptable, and that some kind of small shared sacrifice from everyone regardless of wealth would help, but the real solution is entirely a matter of waiting for technology to restore control over this disruptive natural phenomenon.

The entire thread also seems like a dismally accurate caricature of how the dominant culture reacts to climate change and is likely to continue doing.

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Corrosion, Dysfunction and Pushing on a Rope

Just about every day, now, I watch what’s going on in America with a kind of horrified fascination.

I definitely do not mean popular protests to insist that Black Lives Matter. That’s very good.

Not much else is. America completely mismanaged, is still mismanaging, a deadly pandemic. A recession is spreading throughout the economy, applying pressure to the enormous dominoes of state and local government budgets. Many cities’ police departments are pretty clearly feral. Industry is turning Earth’s climate toxic. Etc.

Beneath all of this, there’s a pretty glaring lack of effective solutions being implemented. I think a growing number of people sense this, to some extent. But I also think that very few are fully capable of conceiving how far we are, at this point, from even a fundamental degree of societal functioning which seems to be an unquestioned, popular assumption.

A lot of people seem like Captain Willard on the Do Long Bridge—demanding a response from whoever is in authority—before the penny dropped and he realized that the expected responsive system of authority simply didn’t exist.

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Social change and chaos

It’s definitely good that a lot of people seem to have, just about, woken up one day in late May 2020 and decided that racism, racists, and racial disparities—particularly in violent injury by police—are not okay and that these things need kicked to the curb promptly.

That is certainly good and an improvement.

We clearly have systems which suppress demands for change (issuing from below), however, and suppress it, and when eventually something gives, our systems are a disordered mess.

That’s a modest price to get real, material gains in justice and inclusion.

I just have to believe that some better way is possible. Someday. It’s true that few if any complaints, demands or proposals now enjoying new energy are entirely new. It would be good if we had a process—e.g. a functioning political process—where merit and effort could make headway without having to wait until the system resistance breaks up, then try to grab what gains are possible during a melee which could end as seemingly arbitrarily as it began.

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Millennium (TV series)

I have gradually worked my way through most of the late-1990s series Millennium, over the past year and a half. For various reasons I have skipped a few episodes, but I can evaluate the series from the pilot through the final episode.

Conclusion: good, interesting, holds up well. Might have gone in some very promising directions had it not been cancelled after season 3.

I remember the series from back then, and I caught some or all of a few episodes. Enough that I suppose it made some kind of impression on me, to be recalled more than a dozen years later browsing DVDs in the library. (I miss browsing in the library although I’m not going back any time soon.) The episodes I watched on the scratched-to-hell library DVDs interested me enough that eventually I asked for the complete series when trying to think of gift ideas, and here we are.

Millennium is/was obviously making-it-up-as-they-went-along fiction, which has various uses for a serialized work; viewed as a whole, the absence of any firm master plan is not really a strength, but is less of a fault than might have been the case, given the intentional themes of mystery, conspiracy and questioning what’s real.

Ultimately Millennium lacks firm answers or closure, in much of any form, because its fundamental story was pre-millennial eschatology and it was cancelled several months before the year 2000. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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Black Lives Matter protests

It is difficult to summon up what I really think about everything happening. Is that because stress hinders brain function, or because the pattern of events going back a long ways suggests that the only reliable expectation for the months ahead is centrifugal forces growing stronger?

Is there a practical difference between the two?

It’s weird to watch all of this from home. Not that I’m just watching. I’m making my contribution with related activism.

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Elf Demographics in LOTR

Although nowhere mentioned or implied, directly, in Tolkein’s Middle Earth stories, elvish society should be female-majority by a tremendous margin, owing to basic demographic facts.

The elves don’t age beyond maturity. Violent injury in combat appears to be the leading cause of death among elves, by far. This means a much higher mortality rate for male elves than female elves. Millennia-long lives, compounding this disparity, would result by the late Third Age in a ratio of female to male elves entirely opposite the ratio found among Tolkein’s identifiable characters.

In this essay I will belabor this point at considerable length.

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Twenty Years

I missed the 20-year anniversary of my college graduation by a day, but under the circumstances, you know. You’ll have that.

Twenty years ago I got a graduation ceremony—in fact I got two of them, one for the College of Design and one for Iowa State University Class of 2000 as a whole—whereas this year’s graduates get a webcast.

Halfway between then and now, I wrote about assorted life lessons at another blog.

Now we are living through a greater unraveling, and, yeah.

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Ghost Rider, 2099, and futures past

It occurred to me, recently, that when Marvel launched their 2099 comics in the early 1990s, the setting’s distance in time was twice that of the “Marvel universe’s” origin. The fictional world’s pre-war beginnings lay a little more than 50 years in the past; 2099 lay more than 100 years in the future. Now, as of 2020, the present has moved to a point midway between both.

Taking stock, I feel that 2099 has aged well beneath accumulating dust. The original line, at least, may be approaching the threshold of “old/obscure comics.” The 25-issue Ghost Rider 2099 series written by Len Kaminski is probably there, and worth more appreciation than it probably has, or than at first glance it probably appears to deserve.

The series’s strong start accounts for much of its worth after a quarter-century. Nothing about Ghost Rider 2099 was really groundbreaking; realistically all of the pieces had been used before. But during the first dozen issues they were chosen and assembled very, very well.

The artwork helps a lot. Chris Bachalo‘s drawings are pretty to look at, and gifted the series with a few truly memorable designs, particularly the bizarre “Ghostworks.” The storytelling also feels perfectly timed and balanced, though. Plenty of settings and characters are introduced, but things happen every issue. There’s a sense of “openness” and freedom to how widely Ghost Rider ranges, at will, from a gang encampment to the C-suite to a round-trip errand from the Midwest to New York.

The Ghost Rider is not there to “play in a sandbox,” the Ghost Rider is there to make big, hands-on changes to a world filled with things he doesn’t like.

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The Paper Goeth into the Night

Within the past week, corporate ownership basically delivered the deathblow to traditional journalism in Cleveland. The skeleton staff of alternative weekly Scene has covered these events quite well, but in brief, owners pushed out most reporters still employed at the metro’s last remaining print daily newspaper.

I comment, here, mostly to connect the obvious dots that both broad industry trends and the specific policies of said owners have been pointing toward this outcome for years, so the stunned reaction is rather frustrating.

I grant that the past week’s actions by Plain Dealer owners, Advance Publications, pushed the familiar pace a bit. The past week’s brazen dishonesty and dickishness from Advance, and their minion Chris Quinn, also justify some measure of surprise.

But the approach of this substantive outcome has been perfectly visible for years, as has a means which was fundamentally dishonest and dickish.

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