Category Archives: Human Absurdities

Malibu was a place

Well, that’s uplifting. Los Angeles Times feature on how rising seas are hitting the California coast, which previously had yet to feel the effects thanks to an unusual cycle that obscured what was to come:

Miami has been drowning, Louisiana shrinking, North Carolina’s beaches disappearing like a time lapse with no ending. While other regions grappled with destructive waves and rising seas, the West Coast for decades was spared by a rare confluence of favorable winds and cooler water. This “sea level rise suppression,” as scientists call it, went largely undetected. Blinded from the consequences of a warming planet, Californians kept building right to the water’s edge.

Passing the baton of hubris

“Our Hubris Will Be Our End” (and yet, someone will adapt…):

The thing we humans of the Anthropocene share with the Nanticoke and the Unami-speaking Lenape who used to live on the Delmarva Peninsula, and with the !Kung of the Kalahari, the Yukaghir of Siberia, the medieval Persians, the ancient Mayans, the blue-painted Picts, the Neolithic proto-Chinese Peiligang peoples and the Paleolithic nomads of the Pleistocene Era is precisely our ability to adapt to changing conditions, primarily through the collective use of symbolic reasoning and narrative. Homo sapiens can live almost anywhere on Earth, under almost any conditions; all we need is a story telling us why our lives matter.

I know it, I know it, I think about it all the time when I ponder the next era. But it doesn’t make it any less frustrating, how stupid we can be, in the face of ample evidence on how to prevent it.

In some unknown future, on some strange and novel shore, human beings just like us will adapt to a whole new world. You can see them sitting circled around a fire on the beach, the light flickering on their rapt faces, one telling a story about a mighty civilization doomed by its hubris, an age of wonders long past.

I just hope we leave good books for them, to help them understand it wasn’t inevitable. It never is.

Human Beings

I remember being a young boy walking to K-Mart, watching litter from convenience store wrappers pile up along the curb, seeing dark smoke puff out of trucks’ exhaust pipes, wondering about the cumulative effects.

The Earth is mighty big, so it would take…how many years for this to matter? Turns out it was already known how many years. But it’s hard to get humans to long-term plan for themselves, or their offspring, much less everyone else who also calls this lone planet home.

A classmate, Wendy, gave a report around 1989 about acid rain, greenhouse gases, and carbon. That report and all of these thoughts stayed with me ever since. In one sense, my life has unfolded in parallel as we’ve watched ourselves screw our future selves.

And everyone who comes afterward.

Helpless feeling. How can one do more when forces with such power and capital so easily delude so many into doing nothing?

Homo Sapiens, in Three Quotes

“Long term, people say we should search for a solution,” he said, “but they don’t want to be the ones to suffer.”

“The Water Wars of Arizona,” New York Times, July 19, 2018

“The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”

–The dipshit, known for decades to be a dipshit, vomiting in 2012, four years before other oblivious/gullible/greedy dipshits helped him become president

“Why take on an intractable problem that would not be detected until this generation of employees was safely retired?”

–Exxon, debating whether to do anything about carbon emissions, in Losing Earth, Part I, The New York Times Magazine (a piece that, it should be noted, is waaaaaay to kind to the GOP and fossil fuel industry which both worked to delay, confuse, and punt the problem)

Hey, as long as you can golf in the freaking Arizona desert while you’re still alive, why bother, right?

When you sound more ironic than you probably intended

The Trump administration has quickly established itself as one that denies objective reality, proudly creates “alternative facts,” and even lies about what we’ve all plainly seen in front of our own eyes.

That’s why statements like this about the Holocaust — the administration broke with tradition by failing to even reference Jews or anti-Semitism on Holocaust Remembrance Day — cut a little too close to, well, their reality:

“If we could wipe [the Holocaust] off of the history books, we would. But we can’t.”

I bet you would, Reince Preibus. I bet you would.

 

We are (letting them) make the Web worse

Don’t over-complicate the web. Don’t hinder it with data-munching add-ons. Please.

Some kind of brain parasite infected designers back when the iPad came out, and they haven’t recovered. Everything now has to look like a touchscreen.

Really interesting piece (or transcript of a talk, with visual examples), with funny (and flooring) examples in the beginning and great points toward the end.

The kicker is actually in the tongue-in-cheek footer for the fake (and improved, and much less memory-heavy) Google AMP site he made:

Dozens of publishers and technology companies have come together to create this unfortunate initiative. However, it is 2015, and websites should be small and fast enough to render on mobile devices rapidly using minimal resources. The only reason they are not is because we are addicted to tracking, surveillance, gratuitous animation, and bloated, inefficient frameworks. Requiring a readable version of these sites is a great idea. Let’s take it one step further and make it the only version.

Combined with this lament by Iran’s “blogfather” Hossein Derakhshan about what happened to the Web — now it’s social media- and app-driven, and the flow of ideas seems hindered — while he was in prison, and we have different aspects of the same problem: as this “democratic” medium is increasingly commercialized and dumbed down…where does it leave us?

Are we witnessing a decline of reading on the web in favour of watching and listening? The web started out by imitating books and for many years, it was heavily dominated by text, by hypertext. Search engines such as Google put huge value on these things, and entire companies – entire monopolies – were built off the back of them. But as the number of image scanners and digital photos and video cameras grows exponentially, this seems to be changing. Search tools are starting to add advanced image recognition algorithms; advertising money is flowing there.

The stream, mobile applications, and moving images all show a departure from a books-internet toward a television-internet. We seem to have gone from a non-linear mode of communication – nodes and networks and links – toward one that is linear, passive, programmed and inward-looking.

Best description of Missouri I’ve heard in a while

“It is a funny sort of state — a couple of big cities and then the Ozarks.”

–Colin Gordon, a historian at the University of Iowa and author of Mapping Decline: St. Louis and the Fate of the American City

That pretty well explains our bizarre bifurcated politics, too.

The quote is from a Huffington Post article on how Missouri is at the center of two of the nation’s most pivotal recent racial tension events.

But Gordon’s “Mapping Decline” work, one I recommend to all newcomers to St. Louis — well, those who can handle critical thinking — an awesome history and interactive map of the policies that helped make St. Louis so segregated over the last century, to the point we are now…where we are.

‘War increases the love in the world’

Two quotes — of many, many to mull — in Max Hastings’ “Catastrophe 1914: Europe Goes to War” (p. 118-119)…

Observing the sudden unification of previously opposing factions within Germany as war neared, a young German girl:

“wrote with a mawkish sentimentality typical of the moment in Germany, that war increased the store of love in the world, ‘for it taught one to love one’s neighbor more than oneself.'”

Heh.

The Economist, meanwhile, as troops mobilized in August 1914:

“Since last week millions of men have been drawn from the field and the factory to slay one another by order of the warlords of Europe. It is perhaps the greatest tragedy of human history.

In the opinion of many shrewd judges, a social upheaval, a tremendous revolution, is the certain consequence. It may perhaps be the last time that the working class of the Continent will allow themselves to be marched to destruction at the dictates of diplomacy and by the order of their warlords.”

Prescient.

Hallmark Time, Awkward Time

For this special day, poison your (pregnant) mother with a cola!
For this special day, poison your (pregnant) mother with a cola!

I don’t do well with Hallmark holidays. To be honest, I just about hate them. That sounds silly and pretentious — “Get over yourself!” — but I can’t help my antennae being ruffled by the more contrived and manipulative parts of our surroundings.

So I’ll try to elucidate my feelings here.

For the sake of my loved ones who enjoy them, I do try to get into the “spirit” of these days. But this creates an awkward, repetitive clash between my natural inclinations to be genuine and to please.

Despite my efforts to “just go with it,” whether it’s Valentine’s Day reminding me of how many people are made miserable by that commercial push, or a parents’ “Day” reminding me of corporations filling windows in the calendar while telling me when and how to show appreciation that is already innate and heartfelt, it always feels different degrees of flat.

And that’s before the ads.

Continue reading Hallmark Time, Awkward Time

Years of obstruction, followed by momentary thought of governing

Oh, how clever and typically devious: Use the least informed, most zealous demographic to help obstruct any legislative progress for the past four, six years, then as mid-terms approach and another shot at the presidency nears, decide “Gee, maybe we should think about actually governing again.”

Wall Street Journal:

Republican leaders and their corporate allies have launched an array of efforts aimed at diminishing the clout of the party’s most conservative activists and promoting legislation instead of confrontation next year.

GOP House leaders are taking steps to impose discipline on wavering committee chairmen and tea-party factions. Meanwhile, major donors and advocacy groups, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and American Crossroads, are preparing an aggressive effort to groom and support more centrist Republican candidates for Congress in 2014’s midterm elections.

At the same time, party leaders plan to push legislative proposals—including child tax credits and flextime for hourly workers—designed to build the party’s appeal among working families.

The efforts, at the national and state levels, come at the end of a year of infighting and legislative brinkmanship, capped by the 16-day government shutdown in October that drove the party’s image to historic lows.

Thanks for wasting our time and turning yet more people off politics, shattering remnant hopes of so many who dared enter the game to try to make a difference instead of make a buck.

Even better: Pitch your mouthpiece Wall Street Journal on how you intend to change, and you totally mean it this time.

“Our No. 1 focus is to make sure, when it comes to the Senate, that we have no loser candidates,” said the business group’s top political strategist, Scott Reed. “That will be our mantra: No fools on our ticket.”

Yeah, good luck with that. May you reap what you’ve sowed for far too many years.

Reminds me of that time when it was cool to rip Al Gore for “hugging trees” and then … yada yada yada 20 years later here come the seas. Whoops!

Comforted that my marriage is safe

Tut tut, make room for the Holy Constitution
A strictly platonic, civil, legal friendship.

Via Yahoo:

North Carolinians voted to change the state constitution Tuesday to say that the only valid “domestic legal partnership” in the state is marriage between a man and a woman.

Wooh!

I love going to the Outer Banks of North Carolina most summers, but I must confess I always had this sinking fear that my marriage wasn’t safe there. Not like it was back home, where folks had already altered the constitution — all the way back in 2004! Talk about progressive, amiright?

Just to make sure no one thinks of such things in the future, our fine state is in the process of making sure such illicit relationships aren’t even spoken of in schools.

What’s more (italics mine):

Only 46 percent of voters realized that the amendment would ban civil unions for gay couples as well as marriage, according to a Public Policy Polling poll. A majority of North Carolina voters support civil unions.

Go, literacy! Go, informed electorate! Go, duplicitous fear-mongering hands at the levers of power!

So I was talking to my co-worker’s third husband the other day about our employer’s health plan, and … oh, never mind.