Monday, December 13, 2010

This is what a collapse looks like

I've been paying a lot of attention recently to what most people are referring to as The Great Recession. An enormous amount of attention, maybe even obsessive attention. Looking at it from an historian’s point of view, I've come to believe that this isn't a mere recession, or even a Depression. This is "It". If one wished to be polite and speak in terms that won’t scare the kiddies, the current situation might be described as "a consolidation of society down into a much more compact, sustainable size." I'm not a polite person, and I do have a flair for the hyperbolic, so I think I'll use the simple and quite accurate word "collapse."

I noticed the first signs of the collapse out on the margins, out in the exurban areas where I live. In every rural county within driving distance of my home, there are a couple of "zombie" subdivisions and a couple of "zombie" strip malls, along with several others that are one anchor-store away from dying and becoming zombified. Out on the perimeter, where I live, in the places where the last four decades really didn’t happen (except for the ubiquitous satellite dishes), it's easy to see how it’s all rolling back now. One strip mall, abandoned early in the collapse, is already well on the way to being reclaimed: the parking lot is dotted with small, new pine trees. Give them five years, and they’ll grow higher than a man, hiding the ruins from the road and giving nature the privacy it prefers when it does its work. I think of Stephen King’s “langoliers” when I pass this place, and the others like it.

But another place where the collapse will become more and more obvious is deep down in the crumbling, dessicated urban core. Case in point: Detroit. Expect to see more of this …

… city officials will be faced with the tough decision whether to repurpose or outright abandon certain sections of the city, as the population has dwindled by half since 1950.

Mayor Dave Bing also recently announced that the city will offer incentives to residents to move to certain less blighted areas of town.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

No plastic pigs. Might "offend."

Amazing. I'm not a fan of the Brits, but they were a courageous people once upon a time. Something odd happened to them (and most of the rest of Europe, for that matter) in recent decades, and they've devolved into a low, craven, cringing people. I thought allowing Sharia law in majority-Muslim neighborhoods was ridiculous, but now they won't even ship plastic pigs in the little toy sets for fear of "offending"? Breathtaking. And let's be clear: this has nothing to do with "sensitivity" or "celebrating diversity," and everything to do with kowtowing and cowardice. But then, Europe has a history of rolling over on its back and submitting to dangerous religions out of the Middle East. They did it 1500 years ago when a loopy little fringe death-cult showed up on the scene. It was called "Christianity."

Plastic pig banned from UK toy set for fear of offending Jews, Muslims

TOY shop bosses removed a plastic pig from a children's toy farm set because they feared it would upset Muslim and Jewish parents.

A mother who complained to toy store Early Learning Centre (ELC) when she found the pig missing was told it had been removed for "religious reasons," British newspaper The Sun reported.

The mother, named only as Caroline, found there was no pig with the cow, sheep, chicken, horse and dog in the store's HappyLand Goosefeather Farm.

Caroline, who bought the toy for her daughter's first birthday, said the farm set still contained an empty sty and a button that made an oinking noise when pressed.

But after writing to ELC's customer services she got an email reply admitting the pig was removed in case it upset Muslim or Jewish parents.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

some days I feel sorry for young Georgie Bush

I was horrified when I read that Pappy and Bar went golfing the day young George's sister died, but this??? Christ almighty, is Barbara Bush the most toxic parent since Joan Crawford, or is it me??? Poor little Dubya never had a chance in hell to grow up to be a normal adult.

Former president George W. Bush explained recently that a formative event in his staunch pro-life stance came when his mother, Barbara Bush, showed him the remains of a human fetus in a jar when he was a teenager, the result of an earlier miscarriage by the elder Bush.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Interviewed by the Durham Herald for the PlaySlam

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Nameless Urge

Every year on the last Sunday of July, many thousands of pilgrims climb "Croagh Patrick". They think they're climbing to pay their respects to "Saint Patrick", but they're really driven by the nameless urge that drove their pre-Christian Celtic ancestors up the same mountain to pay homage to Lugh on Lughnasa, and that drove their pre-Celtic ancestors up there to bring offerings to the shadowy figure of Crom Dubh. Some things in human nature never change, among them the need to climb to the high places of the world to be with one's gods.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Vatican: ordination of women a "grave crime"

Apparently, Dino von Crazypuss (aka His Holiness The Pope, Bishop of Rome and Holy Father of the Roman Catholic Church) has issued a clarification so that everyone understands that the ordination of women is classified in the same category of "grave crime" as the rape of children by priests. The mind reels at trying to conceive of the moral and theological gymnastics they had to go through to reach THAT particular conclusion.

Voltaire was right: "Ecrassiez l'infame!"

Vatican: ordination of woman a "grave crime"

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Happy Bastille Day

‎"Une bonne fete" to French (and Francophile) people everywhere. To celebrate Bastille Day, a short scene from "Casablanca". The best scene in the movie. Possibly the best scene in any movie.

Casablanca: The Marseillaise

Friday, July 9, 2010

The rich are different: they are more ruthless

When does it start being OK to use that phrase that is such a taboo in America - "class warfare"? When does it start being OK to hate the rich? For that matter, when does it start being OK to eat the rich? (bonus points for the clever persons who get the reference...)

Whether it is their residence, a second home or a house bought as an investment, the rich have stopped paying the mortgage at a rate that greatly exceeds the rest of the population.
More than one in seven homeowners with loans in excess of a million dollars are seriously delinquent, according to data compiled for The New York Times by the real estate analytics firm CoreLogic.
By contrast, homeowners with less lavish housing are much more likely to keep writing checks to their lender. About one in 12 mortgages below the million-dollar mark is delinquent.
Though it is hard to prove, the CoreLogic data suggest that many of the well-to-do are purposely dumping their financially draining properties, just as they would any sour investment.
"The rich are different: they are more ruthless," said Sam Khater, CoreLogic's senior economist.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Cleopatra was White

Apparently there's a big hoo-ha over the idea of Angelina Jolie playing Cleopatra, and that the role should go to an "actress of color". Postmodern PC ahistorical silliness. Look, Cleopatra was Greek. Well, specifically, she was Macedonian. When Alexander of Macedon (called "Alexander the Great") died, his generals whacked up his vast empire among them. Egypt went to his general Ptolemy, who decided since he was ruler of Egypt, it would be really cool to name himself Pharoah. And so the "Ptolemaic Dynasty" was born. The Macedonian rulers did -not- intermarry with the locals. Cleopatra, the last of the Ptolemaic Dynasty, was pure Macedonian. Saying you don't want Jolie as Cleopatra because she's not Greek is fine -- someone like Nia Vardalos ("Big Fat Greek Wedding") or the still-gorgeous Marina Sirtis ("Counselor Troya") would be historically-accurate to play the role of Cleopatra. But saying she isn't suited to play Cleopatra because she isn't black is silly. She isn't black -- and neither was Cleo.

Chimps attack other chimps ... for their land

The Sharks and the Jets. The English and the French. The Germans and,
well, pretty much anybody. And now chimps. Apparently the urge to
engage in expansionist warfare and seize one's neighbor's land is
another thing that is no longer exclusive to the human race. So
if territorial expansion is hard-wired into our DNA, does that give
us an alibi to invade our neighbors and shrug it off as "evolution, baby".
Serious question.

Chimp-on-chimp attacks in the wild are very common, especially among small packs of males on patrol. Now research suggests the motive for these crimes is to gain territory.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Malcolm McLaren, dead at 64

Malcolm McLaren: impressario, fashion visionary, and general agent provocateur, dead way before his time. His fashion boutique was the seed from which the whole "punk look" emerged, not to mention the idea of piercing one's body parts. Before McLaren, only women got pierced, and then only once in each ear, for inserting a single pair of sensible and non-flamboyant earrings. So if you have any piercings of any kind (and I most definitely DO NOT WANT TO KNOW ABOUT IT if you do, thank you very much), you can thank Malcolm. He also kicked in the doors of the tedious, pointless disco era with a quartet of fresh-scrubbed, clean-minded lads known as the Sex Pistols. Whatever you may think of their music (and mind you, I'm a person who can play every verse of "Anarchy in the UK" in my head), they were total game-changers.

Johnny Rotten, speaking at McLaren's funeral, choked back tears as he so eloquently expressed what we all must be feeling:

"**** on you, ya ****in' utter ***t!!! I'm *****n' glad yer *****n' dead, so ******and don't forget to ***** while ya ****** yer ******** and
your Mum too, ya *****n' wanker!!!!'

(OK, I made up the Johnny Rotten paragraph. Couldn't resist .... ;-)

Monday, March 29, 2010

Creepiest Childrens' Books Ever

This is some messed-up stuff right here. Thankfully, my mother chose to scar my psyche Olde Schoole Style, with endless readings of the anarchistic guerrilla-theater stylings of "The Cat in The Hat" and the bitter nihilism of "The Cat in The Hat Comes Back." I mean come on, seriously: a children's book called "Hair in Funny Places"? Really? Still, it sure beats #14 on the list, "I Wish Daddy Didn't Drink So Much." Hell, when I was growing up, we all kind of rooted for Daddy to drink his fill, he was more tolerable when he was three sheets to the wind. But I digress.

Creepiest Childrens Books

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Does Jesus Cause Gayness?

I'm really starting to wonder if there isn't some connection between ultra-conservative belief in Jesus and men who do all that there secret gay sex stuff. Could it be ... is it possible? ... OMFG!!! We finally know what causes gayness -- it's Jesus!!!

VATICAN CITY- One of Pope Benedict's ceremonial ushers and a member of an
elite choir in St Peter's Basilica have been implicated in a gay
prostitution ring, in the latest sexual scandal to taint the Vatican.

Read more:

Thursday, March 4, 2010

O Irony, is there no end to your endless array of manifestations?

Early Wednesday morning, State Sen. Roy Ashburn (R-Calif.) was pulled over and arrested for drunk driving.Sources report that Ashburn -- a fierce opponent of gay rights -- was driving drunk after leaving a gay nightclub; when the officer stopped the state-issued vehicle, there was an unidentified man in the passenger seat of the car.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Good for the French

Given their tendency in recent decades towards that uniquely post-modern combination of strident relativism and knee-jerk anti-Westernism -- this is the country, after all, that has inflicted both Foucault and Derrida on the world -- it's good to see the French can still act in a way that suggests they may still possess some vestigial remnants of cultural sanity.

Veiled wife costs man French citizenship

Paris, France (CNN) -- France has denied citizenship to a man because he allegedly forced his wife to wear a full Islamic veil, the French immigration minister said in a statement Wednesday.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The ever-quotable Mark Twain

"Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it."