Links of the Month: May 2023

Midjourney’s take on the quote below; my own prompt

I continued my self-guided tour and turned my head to face the other direction, to stare into space. I love the mystery of the universe. I love all the questions that have come to us over thousands of years of exploration and hypotheses. Stars exploding years ago, their light traveling to us years later; black holes absorbing energy; satellites showing us entire galaxies in areas thought to be devoid of matter entirely… all of that has thrilled me for years… but when I looked in the opposite direction, into space, there was no mystery, no majestic awe to behold . . . all I saw was death.

I saw a cold, dark, black emptiness. It was unlike any blackness you can see or feel on Earth. It was deep, enveloping, all-encompassing. I turned back toward the light of home. I could see the curvature of Earth, the beige of the desert, the white of the clouds and the blue of the sky. It was life. Nurturing, sustaining, life. Mother Earth. Gaia. And I was leaving her. Everything I had thought was wrong. Everything I had expected to see was wrong.

It was among the strongest feelings of grief I have ever encountered. The contrast between the vicious coldness of space and the warm nurturing of Earth below filled me with overwhelming sadness. Every day, we are confronted with the knowledge of further destruction of Earth at our hands: the extinction of animal species, of flora and fauna . . . things that took five billion years to evolve, and suddenly we will never see them again because of the interference of mankind. It filled me with dread. My trip to space was supposed to be a celebration; instead, it felt like a funeral.

— William Shatner, 2022, excerpted in Variety


A new UNESCO report identifies (red/orange) the areas already facing severe water ‘stress’ (shortages from overuse). These areas will likely be uninhabitable within a few decades.

A long way down: The Honest Sorcerer reminds us about what happens to a society that relies upon indefinitely living beyond its means, and what a slow but complete economic collapse, spread out over decades, is likely to look like.

And what the accompanying social collapse might look like: Rhyd Wildermuth identifies some of the symptoms of accelerating social collapse that we’re already starting to see throughout the world.

A ‘modified consensus’: Politicians, media and economists can’t tell the truth — that we’ve reached the limits to growth — because it would crash the markets and collapse the economy, which depends on continued growth. “We are stealing the future, selling it in the present, and calling it GDP” as Paul Hawken puts it. So, Tim Morgan reports, this gang has now developed a ‘modified consensus’ to lower economic expectations gradually. “Yes, we’re at the top of the roller coaster, but there’s no indication at this time we’re going down.” Thanks to Paul Heft for the link.

He’s baaaack!: El Niño is officially on the way, now that La Niña has left the building. Get ready for a hot summer this year and a record-breaking >1.5ºC above historic normal 2024. And the oceans are already hotter than ever.

Falling with grace: How to talk about the inevitability of collapse with the people you know and care about.

War and the environment: On top of the horrific emissions that accompanied Biden’s bombing of the Nord Stream pipelines, anti-Russian sanctions are causing Europe to backslide into greater reliance on fracked fossil fuel energy (mostly from the US) at a time it had been moving toward renewables.


Midjourney’s take on the Eric Whitacre song The Seal Lullaby (words by Rudyard Kipling); my own prompt

“We have to do something“: Aurélien brilliantly deconstructs the psychology behind governments’, corporations’ and NGOs’ endless posturing and lame actions and virtue signalling, that accomplish nothing. Anything is better than admitting (a) we’re fucked and (b) we haven’t the foggiest idea how to respond, if we even could. A great analysis of our state of utter dysfunction.

Products in search of a market: A new study reveals a paradox of untrammelled capitalism — incentives for producing stuff no one really needs or wants, while billions do without essentials. Thanks to Kavana Tree Bressen for the link.

Taking the profit out of housing: How the use of community land trusts are being used to address the affordable housing crisis in London, and could do so elsewhere. Thanks to Adam Greenfield for the link.

Rhetorical questions: Chad Mulligan scathingly pretends to be a foreigner puzzled about how things work in the US. A fun read. Thanks to Paul Heft for the links.

What we have to lose: A moving essay by the late Harry Belafonte, from 2016, about the crushing of the American dream. Thanks to John Whiting for the link.

Saving the last 3%: A gut-wrenching short documentary about the brutality of police (RCMP) and government repression of First Nations peoples’ attempts to protect Canada’s last old growth forests. Thanks to Sharon Goldberg for the invite to watch it.

Refusing to align: Yanis Varoufakis explains his vision to end the scourge of global imperial capitalism, through a growing non-aligned movement that refuses to take sides and instead insists on peace, cooperation and solidarity.

Please eat in the library: Could libraries provide us all with an affordable, nourishing (intellectually and nutritionally) “third place” to hang out?

The value of a wealth tax: A new Canadian study reveals what a 1-3% excess wealth tax would generate in revenues, and what those revenues could buy.


from the memebrary 

Who ‘ya gonna believe? department: Perhaps it’s a sign of the times, with the massive cognitive dissonance surrounding the Ukraine (and coming Taiwan) proxy wars, the Nord Stream bombing, and the re-emergence of the anti-mask fanatics. Some of the people who have espoused the most preposterous and credibility-destroying positions have been, at least on occasion of late, sounding extremely sober and rational, more than the usual suspects have been, anyway. Two cases in point:

  • RFK Jr, who even his family admits has become a dangerous anti-vaxxer and 5G conspiracy theorist, is running against Biden for the Democratic party presidential nomination. But read this Kennedy platform statement; he’s daring to say (and quite eloquently) what even Bernie Sanders and AOC have been unwilling to say. A platform for “unwinding empire”?! I’m gobsmacked.
  • Tulsi Gabbard, Iraq war vet, gun rights fanatic, Jordan Peterson fan and cult member, ran for the Democratic nomination in 2020, got pilloried for her anti-LGBT+ statements (later retracted, then partly reinstated in respect of the trans community), and finally quit the party altogether. Hilary Clinton despises her and has had her supporters and media attack her relentlessly for years, and she’s now regularly labeled a “Putin apologist”. But listen to this chat with the execrable Tucker Carlson about Nord Stream and the Ukraine War. They may not believe what they’re saying, and may change their tune tomorrow, but damn, what they say on this video makes sense to me!

Corpocracy, Imperialism & Fascism: Short takes (thanks to John Whiting for many of these links):

cartoon by Michael Leunig from his fans’ FB page

Propaganda, Censorship, Misinformation and Disinformation: Short takes:

CoVid-19: The Gift That Keeps On Giving: Short takes:


also from the memebrary

A pleasure to watch them play: Lyz Lenz waxes rhapsodic on the aesthetic and strategic superiority of women’s sports, compared to the violent gladiator spectacle of many male sports.

A more beautiful voice: New technology is enabling even crappy singers to sound good. It’s complicated, though, not for luddites like me, at least until AI advances to do it for me. And speaking of AI, Rick Beato explains how AI is being used to create ‘clone’ versions of famous voices, and the battles that’s entailed.

A peek at the Midjourney hype: Here’s a daily-updated glance at some of the most upvoted images produced by this AI tool, along with the precise prompts that produced them. From the sublime to the ridiculous, including far too much that looks like incel fantasy fodder.

Moonstruck: Nahre Sol explains, phrase by phrase, why Debussy’s most famous work has such appeal.

Totally shredded: The astonishing Brasilian electric guitar maker and composer Lari Basilio tries one of her recent compositions on a newly-made guitar. Mark Knopfler, move over.

Fecal transplants go mainstream: For everything from crippling bowel diseases to depression, there’s more and more data suggesting that this bizarre procedure can actually cure diseases in people diagnosed as incurable.

Where do they all belong?: A stunning version of Eleanor Rigby orchestrated by Cody Fry and sung by schoolkids.

20-to-1: A survey indicates that for every civilian killed by police, police kill 20 civilians, and that police officer isn’t even in the top 10 most dangerous jobs (while garbage collector, farmer, and truck driver are).

Better at some things, and…: A Google AI pioneer explains the crucial differences between biological and digital intelligence. And Sabine Hossenfelder speculates on what’s next in AI, including personalized AI attuned to your own voice, style, beliefs and preferences, providing an ‘assistant’ for talking things through to understand them better, and in facilitating research by finding, scanning and analyzing existing research papers.


Midjourney’s take on the poem below; my own prompt

From Emily Fragos:

The Sadness of Clothes

When someone dies, the clothes are so sad. They have outlived
their usefulness and cannot get warm and full.
You talk to the clothes and explain that he is not coming back

as when he showed up immaculately dressed in slacks and plaid jacket
and had that beautiful smile on and you’d talk.
You’d go to get something and come back and he’d be gone.

You explain death to the clothes like that dream.
You tell them how much you miss the spouse
and how much you miss the pet with its little winter sweater.

You tell the worn raincoat that if you talk about it,
you will finally let grief out. The ancients etched the words
for battle and victory onto their shields and then they went out

and fought to the last breath. Words have that kind of power
you remind the clothes that remain in the drawer, arms stubbornly
folded across the chest, or slung across the backs of chairs,

or hanging inside the dark closet. Do with us what you will,
they faintly sigh, as you close the door on them.
He is gone and no one can tell us where.

From Arthur Guiterman: What one approves, another scorns:

What one approves,
another scorns,
and thus
his nature each discloses.
You find the rosebush
full of thorns,
I find the
thornbush full of roses.

From Douglas Adams in The Salmon of Doubt:

If you take a cat apart to see how it works, the first thing you have on your hands is a non-working cat. Life is a level of complexity that almost lies outside our vision; it is so far beyond anything we have any means of understanding that we just think of it as a different class of object, a different class of matter; ‘life’, something that had a mysterious essence about it, was God given, and that’s the only explanation we had. The bombshell comes in 1859 when Darwin publishes On the Origin of Species. It takes a long time before we really get to grips with this and begin to understand it, because not only does it seem incredible and thoroughly demeaning to us, but it’s yet another shock to our system to discover that not only are we not the centre of the Universe and we’re not made by anything, but we started out as some kind of slime and got to where we are via being a monkey. It just doesn’t read well.

From Brian Eno: Culture is “everything we do that we don’t have to do”.

From Lyz Lenz on right-wing podcaster Steven Crowder:

Crowder [recently] said on his podcast, “My then-wife decided that she didn’t want to be married anymore and in the state of Texas, that is completely permitted.” His wife, he said, “simply wanted out and the law says that that’s how it works.”… Sir, complaining that a woman has agency under the law and that she’s exercising that agency to yeet herself out of her union with you isn’t making the point you think you are making.

From Mel Dee Dzelda:

Having a terminal illness is like a blazing flame to the ‘pity party moths’. There’s nothing they love more than to wallow in your illness, so that in turn, you will wallow in their unhappiness.

From *me: “It is all poetry.”

* no, I’m not the first to say this, but I mean it in a different way from what others have meant by it; the word “poetry”, after all, comes from the Greek poiētēs, meaning “made up”

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