Links for the Week — Saturday/Sunday November 29/30, 2008

BLOG Links for the Week — November 29, 2008

chris ware new yorker nov-08
Another amazing cartoon from Chris Ware, in last week’s New Yorker. You can buy Chris’ books here. If you can’t read the words, try zooming in on this copy. “Something’s gotten into me lately and I’m not sure what it is.”: I’d call it anxiety, and it seem to have infected everyone; can you feel it too?

The Girl Effect: Imagine a girl in poverty. (Thanks Nancy.)

Knowing Where You Belong: I have a soft spot for birds, and Pohangina Pete has been writing about watching and studying birds in migration. The ability of birds to know when to migrate, when to stay put, when to hibernate, and when they do migrate, exactly where to go to find their seasonal homes, is astonishing. Somehow, they know exactly where they belong. If only we were so wise, and so knowledgeable.

What Happens When the System Fails: Rob Paterson: “When the centralized distribution systems fail, all the nodes get cut off and isolated. Food, energy, money and security all collapse back to the local. If you cannot feed yourself, heat your homes, exchange goods and look after your security you are in deep trouble. In highly centralized states, the nodes are helpless. They cannot deliver the basics for life. Imagine New York with no oil and no food with intermittent electricity. Imagine this happening for only a 2 week period. Then imagine being cut off semi permanently. You think I exaggerate?  This happened in 1989 – 95 in cities like Moscow and Kiev [and it happened recently in Cuba, and Argentina, and in ancient Rome]”. When the System fails, as appears imminent, only the resilient, those in working self-sufficient communities, survive. That is why in failed states like Afghanistan, local warlords not national despots rule.

Walking Dead Bail Out Walking Dead: Jim Kunstler points out that the sponsor of the biggest bailouts — the US Government — is no more solvent than the crumbling financial and other institutions it’s bailing out with taxpayer money. He predicts that the fallout — a collapse of the bankrupt US dollar and commensurate hyperinflation and large-scale human misery — will hit in six to eighteen months. He restates his regular themes — the need for us to start producing real goods and services again, sustainably, at the local level, and to nationalize the auto companies to create a viable rail system — but still no one is listening, except us of course. Thanks to Jon Husband for the link.

Crises, Predictable and Repeatable: An interesting review of data showing how we are prone to make the same mistakes over and over, at least every 20 years or so, about how we could, if we studied history, see a lot of these repeat mistakes coming, and how we need regulations that instead of being designed to prevent exact repeats of previous excesses, address more broadly our very human propensity for stupidity and greed. Thanks to William Tozier for the link.

“Transition to Green” Prescription for Obama: A coalition of environmental and scientific groups has presented Barack Obama with a detailed 340-page prescription for shifting from environmental ruination to environmental protection and sustainability during his first 100 days in office.

Food Imperialism: Rich countries are on a furious spending spree buying up agricultural land in struggling nations to meet their future food (and biofuel) security needs. Need we ask whether the poor in those nations will benefit from the sale? Thanks to Dale Asberry for the link.

The Revisionism of the Media: It’s a good thing we have a few real researchers left in the world, to hold to account those whose memory of history, and what they said about events when they happened, is conveniently faulty. The NYT, which pretends to be the voice of moderate progressive thought, is one of the most egregious offenders. This week Glenn Greenwald recalls what they said about Chavez after the CIA-led coup attempt in Venezuela in 2002. Mistakes are understandable, but the mainstream media’s pretense of always having got it right is infuriating. If we got more apologies, more consistent and high-quality research, and fewer unexplained flip-flops and outright lies, the media might again become a force for understanding and learning, instead of a propaganda arm for government and a waste of time to read, the least trusted of all public institutions.

Iceland as the Canary: The financial collapse in North America, Western Europe, Australia/NZ and Japan has hit Iceland especially hard. We should be studying what happened there, and why, and how people are coping, to learn what we will all face if this collapse worsens. In the meantime, a newly-unemployed Icelandic blogger is giving us a blow-by-blow of how life there has deteriorated, in English. Read her interviews with Icelandic citizens as well. Thanks to Dale Asberry for the link.

Be Part of a Global Art Project: Each week, two artists ask readers to participate in a new project, and the results are compiled into archives that are sometimes presented or exhibited publicly. Anyone can play. Thanks to Chris Lott for the link.

Government Data Refutes Alberta Tar Sands ‘Cleanability’ Claims: A new federal government report, obtained by the CBC, concludes that virtually none of the effluents from the bitumen sludge mining operations currently ruining the Alberta landscape, polluting, contributing massively to global warming and devastating the ecosystem in much of the province, can be captured, ‘cleaned’ or stored.

things that are bad

Just for Fun: Things That Are Bad, the visualization above, from Yayhooray. Thanks to Eric Lilius for the link. Eric also points us to the hilarious (and surprisingly factual) Visual Guide to the Financial Crisis. And I hereby tag you all with the 5 Things Meme: tell us all five unusual things about you. But I’m adding a catch: At least two of them have to be things that help us understand you better, give us context to know you, so that when we talk, in IM, in voice, f2f, or in the comments thread here, we have some idea why you are saying what you’re saying. Here are five unusual things about me that might help you understand me better:

  1. I am utterly uncoordinated. Despite many attempts to learn, I cannot swim, or draw, or dance. It took me four tries to get my driver’s licence. And despite years of lessons, and although I love to compose music, I cannot play any instrument.
  2. I do not have low self-esteem. I do not know why that is so unusual, but evidently it is.
  3. Although (or perhaps because) I’m very happy, I cry when I listen to sad or wistful music, and at the happy parts of movies, especially corny romances, but I never cry at funerals (even when others are crying) or when I hear sad news. 
  4. I cannot bear to throw out stuffed animals, and selling my car and seeing someone else drive it away breaks my heart.
  5. I am fascinated by simulations. I once wrote a computer program that simulated every pitch of every game in a baseball season and displayed the scores and standings. And I don’t even like baseball.

…And More Fun: Chris Corrigan points us to the best board games of 2008. I was especially intrigued (simulation lover that I am) by the Pandemic game, which is cooperative rather than competitive. Now next year I want to see the Permaculture game.

Thought for the Week:
And coming full circle from the Girl Effect link that started this post, here’s a(nother) poem by Marge Piercy:

What Are Big Girls Made Of?
The construction of a woman:
a woman is not made of flesh
of bone and sinew
belly and breasts, elbows and liver and toe.
She is manufactured like a sports sedan.
She is retooled, refitted and redesigned
every decade.
Cecile had been seduction itself in college.
She wriggled through bars like a satin eel,
her hips and ass promising, her mouth pursed
in the dark red lipstick of desire.

She visited in ’68 still wearing skirts
tight to the knees, dark red lipstick,
while I danced through Manhattan in mini skirt,
lipstick pale as apricot milk,
hair loose as a horse’s mane. Oh dear,
I thought in my superiority of the moment,
whatever has happened to poor Cecile?
She was out of fashion, out of the game,
disqualified, disdained, dis-
membered from the club of desire.

Look at pictures in French fashion
magazines of the 18th century:
century of the ultimate lady
fantasy wrought of silk and corseting.
Paniers bring her hips out three feet
each way, while the waist is pinched
and the belly flattened under wood.
The breasts are stuffed up and out
offered like apples in a bowl.
The tiny foot is encased in a slipper
never meant for walking.
On top is a grandiose headache:
hair like a museum piece, daily
ornamented with ribbons, vases,
grottoes, mountains, frigates in full
sail, balloons, baboons, the fancy
of a hairdresser turned loose.
The hats were rococo wedding cakes
that would dim the Las Vegas strip.
Here is a woman forced into shape
rigid exoskeleton torturing flesh:
a woman made of pain.

How superior we are now: see the modern woman
thin as a blade of scissors.
She runs on a treadmill every morning,
fits herself into machines of weights
and pulleys to heave and grunt,
an image in her mind she can never
approximate, a body of rosy
glass that never wrinkles,
never grows, never fades. She
sits at the table closing her eyes to food
hungry, always hungry:
a woman made of pain.

A cat or dog approaches another,
they sniff noses. They sniff asses.
They bristle or lick. They fall
in love as often as we do,
as passionately. But they fall
in love or lust with furry flesh,
not hoop skirts or push up bras
rib removal or liposuction.
It is not for male or female dogs
that poodles are clipped
to topiary hedges.

If only we could like each other raw.
If only we could love ourselves
like healthy babies burbling in our arms.
If only we were not programmed and reprogrammed
to need what is sold us.
Why should we want to live inside ads?
Why should we want to scourge our softness
to straight lines like a Mondrian painting?
Why should we punish each other with scorn
as if to have a large ass
were worse than being greedy or mean?

When will women not be compelled
to view their bodies as science projects,
gardens to be weeded,
dogs to be trained?
When will a woman cease
to be made of pain?

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6 Responses to Links for the Week — Saturday/Sunday November 29/30, 2008

  1. Didi says:

    I’m interested in the financial collapse in Australia/NZ. I live in Australia and I can’t see anything collapsing around here, although there is plenty of press commending our financial regulation. Our greatest risks lie in banks that are exposed to losses in the US, but the OECD predicted last week that Australia will avoid a recession.

  2. Didi says:

    I’m interested in the financial collapse in Australia/NZ that you refer to. I live in Australia and I can’t see anything collapsing around here, although there is plenty of press commending our financial regulation. Our greatest risks lie in banks that are exposed to losses in the US, but the OECD predicted last week that Australia will avoid a recession.

  3. ps pirro says:

    Thanks for playing tag, Dave, and for adding your personal twist. fwiw, I can’t dance, either.

  4. Tree Bressen says:

    Who says the New York Times “pretends to be the voice of moderate progressive thought”? I think it pretends to be the bastion of moderate conservatism, while actually being further to the Right than that. Cheers

  5. Pearl says:

    Neat 5 things.Yes, exciting times in politics in Canada these days.

Comments are closed.