“Help! I’m a bunny, you see. And I’m about to be inserted into a giant toaster. Kind friend, is there any way you could free me? Surely there is enough bread in the rest of this loaf to sate your hunger. Yes! Carry me outside! Thank you. Wait, no! No, not the toaster! NOOO!”
A few days after I delivered a ~15-minute diatribe about how astrology is BS—useful BS—but only as useful as any other random prompt for contemplation and self-study, my partner sends me this extremely precise call-out of all my Libra character flaws/features. Hmmmm.
Planners love talking about how new freeways and wider freeways “induce demand” but what’s the term for tearing freeways out, closing lanes, and shutting off routes?
Personally pulling for “repulsed demand”—and ready for it.
Love to hear rumblings of something, think it sounds like some BS, and then read an exhaustive and brilliant essay that removes all doubt. If you read one thing on the so-called “Dimes Square” scene, highly recommend this piece by James Duesterberg.
Watching The Rings of Power, I keep wishing someone would give the show the Wizard People, Dear Reader treatment, endowing these batshit scenarios, fantastic costumes, and non sequitor performances with the narration they truly deserve.
A tack-sharp photo of my dashboard.
To the license plate reading “DDDADDY”—you may have won this round, but I promise to keep on fighting. I WILL have your photograph on my phone.
“Who’s afraid of Virginia Wolf?” asks last remaining sheep in family targeted by notorious lupine mutton-hunter. “Me! I’m afraid of Virginia Wolf!”
As a writer both half-seduced by and totally unable to see how to actualize the “Thousand True Fans” hypothesis, I found this essay by Dave Karpf quite helpful. My internet work remains 100% unmonetized.
Sure everyone, including me, a billionaire, would be safer in a society where all prospered. But consider my thrills of fear as I consider the scary masses beyond my compound walls.
I’m thinking back to that moment a month ago: wife in labor, I’m driving to the hospital as carefully as possible, feeling serious and sacred. I look up and see, through a trick of the light, two adjacent business signs, merged into one: “PANINI PSYCHIC”
Our society’s got problems, and they’re all the same problem: people who already have things are resistant to giving them up.
Got a mortgage? You might be threatened by people planning to knock down the single family homes down the street and put up high-density apartment blocks.
Got a small fortune, or a high income? You might be threatened by people trying to raise taxes to fix social problems.
Got a car and routes you enjoy driving? You might be threatened by proposals to invest in mass transit over roads.
Got white supremacy? You might be threatened by people chanting “Black Lives Matter.”
Got a profitable oil company? You might be threatened by climate activists.
This isn’t to say all change is good change. And especially not when it comes to urban development, which is what I want to talk about here. Obviously, cities like Los Angeles (where I live) have long histories of using development to harm, profiteer upon, and destroy communities with less power.
One of the essays that has most influenced my thinking on this is "Racism is Killing the Planet" by Hop Hopkins. (I first read it when I profiled Hop in the Antioch Alumni Magazine from two years back.) Among many key points, Hop says that “You can’t have climate change without sacrifice zones, and you can’t have sacrifice zones without disposable people, and you can't have disposable people without racism.” So many of the disasters of urban development, from the community-bisecting freeways championed by Robert Moses to redlining to the racist “predictive policing” policies championed by fasc-tech companies like Palantir can be explained if you see the people they target as “disposable people” and the communities they live in as “sacrifice zones.”
That said, I’m not so sure that I myself live in a sacrifice zone—and yet my neighborhood seems to be in the middle of a big fight around development. Here’s a political mailer I received a few days ago:
This group, Beverly Fairfax Community Alliance (unclear who’s behind it), is rallying support to oppose the forthcoming redevelopment of the CBS studio lots down on Beverly, about ten blocks from me. According to the other side of the mailer, this expanded facility will “create traffic gridlock on our already congested streets” and “foreseeably push community rents even higher than they are today and lead to the displacement of existing renters.” The second part in particular would be a real harm, especially as many of my neighbors are Jewish emigrés from the former Soviet Union, gay men who have made their lives in West Hollywood, retirees, renters, and most often an intersection of these identities and more. (This is the same coalition that came together to create West Hollywood in the ‘80s, explicitly to pass rent control laws.) I don’t know where many of my neighbors will go if forced out of the apartments where we make our lives.
But I’m also skeptical of the motives of these folks opposing development. The last bullet point, “DENSITY,” seems to give up the game: a chief concern is that the new studio will be designated as a “Regional Center” which will lead to “future intensification of development for our entire community.”
While that sounds scary—it also seems obviously necessary! Beverly-Fairfax and West Hollywood may be relatively high-density in Los Angeles, but for us to house everyone at affordable rents and reasonable home prices, we affirmatively need intensification of development. That should be something we’re pushing for!
So I find myself skeptical of this mailer. I need to do more research. And in a larger sense, I’m finding it harder and harder to make sense of what development we should oppose (beyond obvious things like freeway widening and oil pipelines), and what we need to throw our whole weight behind. More and more, I’m pro-development until convinced otherwise.
We’ve been watching The Rings of Power, the new, half-billion-dollar Lord of the Rings spinoff that Jeff Bezos bought for Amazon Prime, hoping to replicate the success of Game of Thrones. I’m afraid to say, it’s bad. But... good-bad?
The storyline is ridiculous, reliant on the non-existence of a postal system, an absence of news-relaying networks, and some ridiculous failures of operational intelligence. The elves have short hair. The camera always feels like it’s zooming in on people’s faces when they say fancy place-name words like, “Numinor.” The acting is often wooden (not the actors’ faults necessarily; the characters are impossibly broadly written). There are no hobbits, but instead an insufferable proto-hobbit species called Har-Foots, who are always putting shit in their hair. And to top it off, the world-building, the one thing that a fantasy show can’t live without, is atrocious.
Nonetheless, each episode is packed with little pleasures. Some of these are due to the insane budget, which means that the CGI is often excellent. But often it’s due to the ridiculousness of the directorial decisions. For instance, I can’t get enough of this orc:
He’s garbed in ridiculous couture: a white alligator-skin shawl, an eggshell helment, and a battle axe that he’s apparently using to excavate the trench wall. (Why he’s helping the elf-slaves is left unexplained.) But within a moment of appearing on-screen, the sun comes out, and he recoils in pain, the light burning his skin. He holds his shawl up against the sky and does a prissy, shuffling scamper back to the part of the trench covered in awnings.
There’s something alive to this character, some irrepressible messiness and humanity. We never see the specific orc again, but for the four seconds he’s onscreen—what a king! Look at him as he goes by:
Watching the episode, we had to rewind the tape to make sure we’d seen it right. And then we rewound the tape again and again, laughing until we were crying.
At some point I want to write a longer essay about what I call “Fucked Up Taste”—the idea that part of developing an aesthetic sensibility is coming to love things that are un-beautiful and “bad” and even ridiculous. It’s not the newest of ideas, but it’s one that I enjoy contemplating. There’s nothing quite like running into something as wild and precious and lovably ridiculous as this orc, in an otherwise self-serious mess of a show. I love this guy. Give him his own spin-off!
For no good reason beyond proclivity, I can’t help myself but try out new software all the time. I’m on waiting lists for software (Arc Browser; Dall-E). I’m currently on 30-day and 10-day free trials (Qobuz; Tidal; micro.blog). I’ve got a handful of apps that I use daily that two years ago I’d never even heard of (iA Writer; Otter.ai; Fantastical). There’s always that dream, that the next thing you try will become a tool you can’t live without.
It’s sort of like bringing new tools into the kitchen. You’re never going to replace the knife, cutting board, cast iron pan. And sure, most things are either flimsy gadgets or far too specialized. But I started using an electric water kettle here in my kitchen about three months ago, and I feel like it’s been more than a marginal upgrade. I drink more coffee because of it. And I also cook pasta faster, because it’s easier to boil water.
I’m saying all this, because this is my first post to micro.blog, drafted inside iA Writer and posted directly from there (I guess; will find out shortly). And it’s also my first time using micro.blog’s “repost” functionality to automatically add it to Twitter and Tumblr, too. Will anything come of it? Likely not. But if it did, that would be sweet! I always want a new tool, if it’s useful—and especially if it helps me write more, and connect with more people through my writing.