The Idea Is Like Grass
Posted on January 29th, 2010 at 6:59 pm by Steve

“The idea is like grass. It craves light, likes crowds, thrives on crossbreeding, grows better for being stepped on.”

Ursula K. Le Guin, The Dispossessed

“Brockman, to the Ants Submits”
Posted on January 29th, 2010 at 11:16 am by Steve

What did people daydream about before popular culture? History? Religion? Geneology? Was I suffering from some sort of condition exacerbated by the internet culture of link and remix?

Author James Lileks explores how his own brain works. He travels associatively from Camptown Races to Foghorn Leghorn to Lou Grant to Singin’ in the Rain to Twitter to the Simpsons, and concludes, “I, for one, welcome the day when people no longer say ‘I, for one’.”

Read it and laugh and smile and shake your head.

America’s Rivers: A Drying Shame
Posted on January 28th, 2010 at 4:17 pm by Steve

Rebecca Solnit writes in the London Review of Books of the water-powered rise and fall of the North American west:

Eighty per cent of the Colorado River’s water goes to agriculture. Twenty per cent of California’s agricultural water goes to grow low-value alfalfa. The river, in its climate-change-driven decline, will strangle all these projects and make a mockery of the two great dams and the reservoirs that were once signs of triumph over it and over nature. The reservoirs and dams are failing now, long on silt, short on water, products of the short-sightedness that has made the West a place littered with projects that seemed like a good idea at the time.

Indeed, the epitaph for most of the “modern world” could be simply “projects that seemed like a good idea at the time.” The UN’s triennial World Water Development report says, “Humanity has embarked on a huge ecological engineering project with little or no preconception – or indeed full present knowledge – of the consequences. We have sought to redesign and impose a new order on natural planetary systems, built over aeons of time.”

(By the way, that UN quote, the riverbed image, and the inspiration for this blog post’s title, come from Arteries International.)

Feedback: Another Wow Moment
Posted on January 28th, 2010 at 2:25 pm by dr.hoo

As fans of feedback thought you might enjoy this example of one of those exciting moments of discovery.

Your Local Police: Hunting for Aliens
Posted on January 27th, 2010 at 5:39 pm by Steve

It’s even creepier than it sounds. Under the new “Secure Communities” program spearheaded by the Department of Homeland Security – named in the fashion of Bush’s “Clear Skies” and “Healthy Forests” Initiatives – all local and state police bookings will be run through the DHS master immigration database. Anyone flagged as an “illegal alien” will be detained at the request of DHS.

The idea that your local police would be cooperating with DHS in enforcing immigration rules completely undermines whatever limited trust might still remain between community members and police officers. Don’t just take my word for it; here’s the conclusion of a lobbying group called the Police Foundation:

immigration enforcement by local police undermines their core public safety mission, diverts scarce resources, increases their exposure to liability and litigation, and exacerbates fear in communities already distrustful of police.

The fact that every single person arrested and booked will be run through this system is considered a civil rights PLUS because it avoids the “profiling” of people based on their skin color or perceived ethnic background.

With that so-called advantage, I’m sure a lot of liberals will line up and cheer for the Obama administration’s newest plan to help Keep Us Safe from all those house-cleaners, musicians, DJs, gardeners, nannies, computer programmers, strawberry pickers, and meat packers who currently enable threaten our way of life.

It Even Does Black & White
Posted on January 27th, 2010 at 4:17 pm by josh-wah

Just when you thought CRT monitors were dead….

LG’s new retro TV. Includes B&W and Sepia modes, rabbit ears, and knobs for adjusting channels.

“We are born alone, we die alone, and we use the Internet alone”
Posted on January 26th, 2010 at 1:08 am by Steve

Christine Smallwood, writing at the Baffler blog, examines the question, “What Does the Internet Look Like?” It’s a long way from the question to the answer, and the journey is well worth it.

After noting that many visions of the Internet rely on images of connectedness, she explores the essentially solitary nature of the Internet search:

We are born alone, we die alone, and we use the Internet alone. You may gather round the screen with friends to watch a video clip (turning the Internet into a television), or hang out while you play music on Pandora (turning the Internet into a radio), or post to your blog, or “comment” on someone else’s blog (turning the Internet into a roundtable, or a bathroom wall, depending). But these are subsidiary Internet uses. The essence of the Internet, the thing it does that nothing else can do, its Internet-ness, is the search. Comedian Dave Chappelle captured this with the skit “If the Internet Were a Real Place,” in which he loitered in a seedy mall like a modern Odysseus, ransacking CD stores, ducking into curtained rooms to indulge various temptations, and running away from spammers. Wandering around the Internet, the thing we are always searching for is the door—the exit ramp off the superhighway, the way home. But it’s hard to find. How do you know when you’re done doing nothing?

Please, read the whole thing.

(h/t to Dr. Hoo for noting that Thomas Frank is one again producing The Baffler in print!)

Is There Truly No Alternative?
Posted on January 22nd, 2010 at 4:21 pm by Steve

Supporting Democrats who won’t stand up for what we believe in is actually the same as supporting Republicans. Someday we’ll figure that out. Until then, we have Chris Floyd to explain it to us:

I know what it’s like to be hardwired for supporting Democrats, come hell or high water, giving them every benefit of the doubt, turning a blind eye here, making a furious rationalization there. These tribal loyalties are very difficult to lay down; it really can feel like turning your back on your family. And of course the belligerent, bellicose, willfully ignorant Republicans are loathsome and dangerous.

But there comes a time when you must face the truth – or be lost to truth forever. There comes a time to recognize that the Democratic Party and Republican Party are part of the same corrupted entity. There comes a time to recognize that the Democratic Party’s agenda is not only ruinous in itself, unworthy of the support of anyone who cares about justice, peace, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – it is also empowering those very same loathsome and dangerous Republicans. There comes a time for even the most partisan tribalist (and I have been one) to accept the hard judgment of reality: that the Democratic Party is part of the problem, not the solution.

To say that there is no alternative to supporting this locked-in, closed-off, two-faction system of war and greed is an act of craven surrender to that system. To dismiss all hope for forging genuine alternatives to this system — whether these be other political parties or more general movements aiming not for political power but for broader changes in social consciousness — is a counsel of despair. It condemns us, and the world, to yet another generation of violence, chaos and corruption, another long, long journey away from the light. It is, as noted above, a recipe for disaster in every way.

Kicking the Digital Bucket
Posted on January 20th, 2010 at 1:09 pm by dr.hoo

Last year I became one of the millions to join the Borg of the social network known as Facebook. I had been apprehensive about joining (why would I want to spend more time online?) I have come to enjoy the ability to stay abreast of what my friends are up to (or at least what they are bragging or complaining about).

But as FB has worked itself into my life I have also come to wonder if it really is beneficial to me in the end. Do I really need to maintain relationships with so many folks I barely know? Do I really want to be publishing my life to friends of friends of friends?

Well, there’s a new solution called the Web 2.0 Suicide Machine which helps you “commit” the deed and get back to your real life in meat-space.

“The Kennedy legacy goes down to a naked guy who owns a truck
Posted on January 20th, 2010 at 12:16 am by Steve

Martha Coakley was the Democratic candidate who referred to Curt Schilling as a Yankees fan and who misspelled the word “Massachusetts” in a campaign ad. As a Massachusetts native, I can tell you that I have not been so uninspired by a candidate since the last time John Kerry was running. When Coakley was asked by the Boston Globe if her campaign was being too passive, she mentioned that she was busy meeting with local leaders rather than choosing, like her Republican rival, to “stand outside of Fenway, shaking hands, in the cold.”

As Jon Stewart pointed out (that’s a Stewart quip in the headline, by the way), with the loss of Kennedy’s seat in the Senate, the Democrats are now down to… “an 18-vote majority in the Senate. Which is way more than George W. Bush ever needed to do whatever the fuck he wanted to do.”

But, hey… bipartisanship, compromise, working together, bridging the divide…

I guess it’s time to modify those old McGovern-era bumper stickers:

Don’t Blame Me – I’m from Massachusetts!

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