Let a Little Evil in Your Heart!

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

So, I’m scrolling up and down my playlist during a short flight when it dawns on my that I have three separate tunes on my favorites going under the title of ‘Evil’. Okay, so one of them is cover tune, but still, 3 is a lot of evil to carry on one cell phone. Some might regard this as a bad sign, but I do love them so. And now I just have to share!

Share a little evil; that is.

 

 

 

 

 

I swear Howlin’ Wolf always sounds like it must hurt him to say a damned thing, but he belts out those vocals with amazing power and the result is amazing.

Course, by amazing in this instance, I do mean ‘evil’.

 

 

 

Lovely little cover tune.

 

Monica Martin is made of beautiful.

…and maybe a trace of evil.

 

Road Trip! (Anchorage to Valdez)

36063336_10216696059378952_4554756841099231232_n

Moni likes to take pictures of the road.

Between her new job and our move into a new apartment, my girlfriend and I haven’t had much of a chance to to travel together this summer. We did manage to sneak out for a week or so in mid June. What we decided to do this time was a quick road trip from Anchorage to Valdez. Of course, course getting to Anchorage required a little flying time, but that’s old hat. We had to make a couple purchases for the new place, so that meant staying a couple days in the vicinity of Anchorage, so we found a lovely bed and breakfast in Palmer.  After that, we hit the road!

Not literally, of course. I ain’t got nothin’ against the highway.

AnchtoValdez.png

Anyway, the trip was about a 5 hour drive, but we made plenty of stops. We traveled along the Matanuska river for quite some time, made a brief stop a bit south of Glenallen, then headed along the Copper River for a ways before diverting off toward Valdez. To say that we found a number of beautiful sites along the way would be putting it mildly.

Valdez itself was absolutely wonderful. I hit a couple museums (The Whitney Museum and the Valdez Museum & Historical Archive) and we hung out at the docks for a time. We ate at the Fat Mermaid a couple of times and made stops at Mike’s Palace and Fu Kung. …suffice to say that we were well fed. We also ran into the folks from Sweet Cheeks Bakery, run by the parents of a coworker, but we didn’t get back in time to get our cinnamon buns. Still, …all of Alaska is just one small village! You just can’t travel through this state without finding connections to the people you meet. We Eventually, we bought tickets on a tour boat, which of course meant that I got sick (yes I took some meds), but mostly that was just amazing. I almost never opt for a paid tour, but I’m very glad I did this time.

On the last day as Moni and I were strolling around downtown getting ready to say goodbye to the place, a random guy came out of Mike’s Palace and asked us if we lived in the area. The answer was ‘no’, of course, and then he proceeded to tell us that he had once, 30 years ago. I cringed inside as he launched into his efforts to tell me about the good old days. A few minutes later I felt a twinge of sadness as he left us with tales of bar fights between Okies and Texan (oil workers) spilling out of the Palace and onto the street. Apparently, the police had once been disarmed so as to enable the fight to continue. Additional stories involved a pair of Korean prostitutes who paid him extra for a pizza every night so as to have a place to stay. Just how much of this was true, I have no idea, but the stories were a good deal more entertaining than I had anticipated. I found myself wishing we’d run into him before lunch rather than after and on the verge of leaving. Still, a few more eagle pics and off we went.

Hell, even the shopping we did back in Anchorage before boarding the plane back home went well.

I wish every vacation was this cool.

(You may click to embiggen!)

 

Libertarians on the Prairie – A Reviewish Bit of Bloggetry

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

Libertarians on the Prairie

Libertarians on the Prairie

Back in college, I remember a few of my professors speaking ironically about the image of Little House on the Prairie. That the story didn’t exactly match the realities of western expansion was pretty much a forgone conclusion at the time, but I don’t recall anyone going into depth as to the nature of the problems or the reasons this popular story might not have gone so consistently in a suspicious direction.

As a kid, I certainly liked the show.

Hell, I loved it!

I actually remember the very first episode of Little House on the Prairie. I remember liking the characters immediately. I wanted them to succeed. I REALLY wanted to know if they could make that farm work. As the closing credits rolled, I remember, I couldn’t wait to see the next episode.

A whole week! How would I make it!?!

In the coming years, I watched a fair portion of the Little House television series. I can’t say that I ever got around to reading any of the books. It’s funny to think about it though, because those books have had an impact on my life and my thinking – filtered a bit through other media. When a series of books seeps that deep into the popular culture, it leaves an impression on everyone, even those who don’t seek it out. I figure that is why some of my old professors made a point to reference Little House while setting up lessons on western history. It isn’t that they had a specific point to make about the series or the books, but they new that story would be hanging there in the back of our minds. Whatever they meant to say themselves about the subject, these teachers knew they would have to reckon with the themes of the series in one form or another.

Typically, the comments in question took the form of an oblique reference to myths of the old west. The rugged individualism of the old west was a common target of abuse, and the Little House series had always put that theme front and center. Life on the frontier wasn’t really like it had been portrayed in Little House. Saying so wasn’t really necessary for most of us, but it was often a convenient (and amusing) way of sliding into a lecture about what the professors thought might be a little closer to the truth,

What I didn’t know then, not as a kid, and not later on as a college student, was that the tension between the presentation in Little House and the realities of frontier life was a lot more focused than these random comments would seem to suggest. The Little House books didn’t just happen to emphasize themes of rugged individualism, and my professors weren’t simply giving vent to some vague sense that the stories had oversimplified the matter. The original Little House books contained a very clear expression of libertarian views, and my professors were in fact trying to counter that explicit message in order to clear the way for whatever they themselves wanted to teach us. Far from an innocent theme and a series of off-hand rejoinders, the rugged individualism of the Little House books (and later the series) constituted an explicit ideological statement about the way people ought to live. I think some of those old professors knew very well about the connection between libertarianism the Little House narratives; others may have simply been irked at the persistence of themes they regarded a naieve. Either way, the story of that Little House on the Prairie was always political statement, a statement meant to tell us as much about the perils of Roosevelt’s New Deal policies or the depravity of the Great Society as anything that may or may not have happened on any particular prairie. The Little House story wasn’t just a story about the frontier; it was attack on a good deal of the the modern world. What I was hearing in class was at least partly a response from those that had noticed.

The key to this story is the realization that Laura Ingalls Wilder did not write the Little House books alone. They were a product of her collaboration with her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, one of the great matriarchs of libertarian literature. It had always been acknowledged that Rose typed up Laura’s handwritten manuscripts, and of course that she had done a little editing in the process, but it turns out there was a good deal more to the story. The death of Rose in 1968 freed up the correspondence between the two of them, and along with that, the various drafts of Little House books exchanged between them over the years. Those familiar with these documents realized very quickly that Rose contributed a great deal more than her typing skills and light editing to the process. She was an active collaborator from the very beginning.

The collaboration between Laura Ingalls and her daughter is the subject of Libertarians on the Prairie, by Christine Woodside. I first heard about the book on an episode of  Edward T.Odonell‘s podcast, In the Past Lane, wherein Woodside appeared as a guest. With a little travel on my agenda for this summer, I figured this was the perfect volume to help me get from Barrow Alaska to Billings Montana.

I was not disappointed.

This book is no hack job. Woodside is clearly a lifelong fan of the Little House series, and she clearly admires the work both women put into this series. Peering behind the curtain, so to speak, doesn’t seem to have dampened her enthusiasm. Woodside takes pains to reveal a good deal that Little House fans may find uncomfortable, but she also takes pains to praise Ingalls and Wilder on a number of points. Her work is critical, but not unsympathetic.

Woodside does an excellent job of sorting out the process that went into writing the Little House books. Of course, she is hardly working with a complete record, so she can’t piece together every detail of the process, but Woodside manages to support a number of interesting conclusions about it. She presents Laura as a story-teller with a gift for detail and a vivid memory without which the books could never have been written. It was Rose, according to Woodside, who provided the overall structure of these narratives, and shaped the line by line text enough to help bring that structure out in the final works. In doing so, Rose actively steered the narratives in a direction consistent with her own emerging interest in libertarian politics. If Rose was leaning toward such thought at the beginning of the books, she was fully committed to them by the end of the series, a phase in which Woodside tells us Laura had surrendered more control over the final copies to her daughter. Significantly, Rose omitted from the books a number of stories that would have undermined the central message of rugged individualism, even as she sometimes inserted into the work pointed stories of events her mother hadn’t written herself. The resulting narrative contains more than the occasional embellishment; it actively misrepresents the facts of Laura Ingalls’ early life, and it does so in the service of a specific political message.

Woodside is careful to point out that the books were not simply propaganda. If Rose steered the Little House series in the direction of libertarian thought, it was because that was precisely how she came herself to view the world. It seems unlikely that Laura would have objected to the larger themes of Rose’s politics. Neither were fans of the New Deal; each was increasingly skeptical of government authority (and in fact, their own collaboration had emerged partly out of an effort to commit tax fraud). There is evidence that Laura and Rose sometimes argued over details to be included in their stories, and Rose clearly took a more strident position than Laura had, at least in her written work, but it seems that both women shared a number of assumptions about the importance of hard work and limited government. These assumptions made it into the books. They also made it into the series.

So what of it?

We could haggle over the details. Where the Little House narrative has the Ingalls family working hard to get money for that Laura’s sister, Mary, can attend a school for the blind, we know that in fact the school was funded by the Dakota Territorial Government. We know that the family generally settled closer to other people than they have been portrayed in the Little House books, and we even know that major events in their lives (such as a year in town) were omitted from the stories Laura and Rose chose to tell. Their eviction from Indian territory was played up for the purpose of inserting an anti-government message (which is ironic as Hell given the role the military played in freeing up such lands to begin with). We could go on…

These facts do matter, and Woodside provide a brief list of such details near the end of her book, but the larger issue is a bit murkier.

It may well be that the Little House books contain a very pointed message, and that message may be squarely in tune with libertarian thought, but it would not be true to say that the appeal of these stories is limited to such circles. You don’t have to be a libertarian (much less a Libertarian) to enjoy the Little House stories. Hell, I have little patience for that school of thought myself. That didn’t stop me from watching (and enjoying) an episode or two after reading this book. Their appeal goes beyond the narrow confines of free market fundamentalism, touching upon narratives of American exceptionalism with a much broader appeal in the popular culture of our nation.

It goes without saying; the spirit of Frederick Jackson Turner haunts the Little House narrative. Indeed, the series seems taylor-made to illustrate the Turner-thesis, presenting us with a living, breathing, example of a family struggling against the forces of nature at the meeting point between savagery and civilization. It was the frontier, according to Turner, that made this country unique. That is a message fraught will all manner of perilous implications, but it’s also a message that resonated with generations of historians, and with generations of writers, television and movie-makers, and even musicians. It may even have resonated with a few children reading the Little House books or watching Ma and Pa Ingalls on television. It probably even resonates with a few people who should know better. People who do know better.

Simply put, the story doesn’t become less interesting just because you know it’s fiction. It doesn’t necessarily become less interesting when you realize just how sideways the whole story spun from the realities of life for the Ingalls, or for anyone else on or near that frontier. The story-line itself is just so ingrained in the American imagination. It, like so many other myths, will outlast countless debunkings, even this one.

…which brings us back to the whole ‘what does it matter’ question.

In blending the central themes of libertarian thought with the larger myths of the American frontier, the Little House books effectively provided an exceptionally powerful re-enforcement to those themes. If we can all believe that ma and Pa Ingalls were able to survive along with their little girls out there mostly alone on the frontier, then we can believe Americans with televisions, and credit cards, and cell phones certainly ought to make it on their own too. If we can forget all the ways that frontier families derived help from friends and family, and from government policies, then we can also forget why we have social security, bank regulations, an EPA, Medicare and food stamps. Some of us may think these things are important, but a good number of very powerful people don’t care about these things, and those people are uniquely situated in today’s political environment to do away with them.

They might even tell us it was all about making American great again!

 

 

Memo to Coach Everyman

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

To: Coach Everyman

From: Principal Stiffton, Everytown Public High School, USA

Re: Locker Room Talk

I wanted to follow up on our conversation earlier this afternoon and share with you a few of the parental concerns brought to my attention earlier this week. I have already spoken to the parties in question. I have tried to assure them that the conversations occurring in our locker room are much as they would be for any other intermural sports teams in the country. Unfortunately, several parties are simply not satisfied. They seem quite certain that our games have become the site for talk they regard they regard as dangerous and possibly harmful to the moral development of their young children. No. They don’t actually want you to do anything about it. They just want to make sure these conversations are limited to the context of the locker room.

The sexual content, you already know about, but again, I must tell you that none of the parties in question have called for any investigations. We don’t need to know if any of the activities your football players bragged about during the post-homecoming celebrations actually did take place. The parents are actually quite relieved to find that such specific sexual activities were not discussed in the context of Sex Ed classes. Please discontinue any ongoing inquiries regarding specific allegations made about or by your players. What happens in the locker room, according to these parents, should stay in the locker room.

A couple of new concerns have been raised. Mr. and Mrs. Smith are apparently quite convinced that you have been holding seminars on global warming during the pregame briefings. I really tried to assure them that you are only a part-time science teacher and that you would of course reserve such discussions for the classroom. On the contrary, the Smiths insisted that such conversations were fine so long as they occurred only during the weigh-ins for the wrestling team. In fact, they only brought it up to assure me that this was the perfect place for such matters. The other concerned parents all assured me that they were in agreement with the Smiths.

Actually, “agreeance” was the term the parents used, and one of the words in “Climate Change” was consistently replaced with some form of scatological reference. Nevertheless, all the parents in question found the topic quite appropriate for the locker room. They just don’t want you to bring the subject up in any of your actual courses.

Many of the concerned parents had much the same views regarding the subject of evolution. You may answer any of the questions Billy Johnson asks about that subject you like, they assure me, providing you limit your answers to the half-time pep talks occurring during the basketball games. If other students must hear the answers to these questions, our parents parents insist it must not be in any actual classroom. Also, they would prefer that you leave textbooks out of it. If any literature must be consulted, it should be op-ed pieces authored by economist and sundry pundits. You may present all sides of the issue, of course, but our parents would very much prefer that you keep the science out of it, and that you limit these talks to the locker room. We don’t want anymore incidents like the graph you presented in home-room last week.

You needn’t worry yourself about the subjects of genocide, slavery, or imperialism. It is quite all right if the baseball team discuss these things during practice, or more specifically, before and after practice. The group of concerned parents just wanted me to make sure these conversations were not coming up in the history classes. I will speak with Mrs. Jones about this; she has been warned twice already, and I am really getting quite frustrated with her over the whole thing, but that is no concern of yours. To the best of my knowledge, our parents have no concerns regarding your own role in the whole ‘structural racism’ incident. I told them that you would never encourage students to use such words off the field or outside the locker room, and they have accepted my word on the matter.

Asked if they had any concerns about Russian meddling in American elections, the gutting of environmental regulations, understaffing at the state department or the establishment of internment camps on U.S. soil, none of the parents in question seemed to know what I was talking about. I don’t believe any of them have been in a locker room within the last few months, and they do not seem to have encountered the subjects in any of their chosen news sources. Suffice to say that our parents have no concerns about any of these subjects. Your players are free to bring up any of these matters during the course of game preparations. You might ask them not to raise any of these topics in any of their classes, however, and perhaps to avoid discussing them with any of the adults in their families. I think morning calisthenics will offer you the perfect opportunity to warn your players about such matters, but the time and place for that discussion is entirely up to you.

This is really the extent of the matter as far as I understand it. Again, please cease any active investigations into the rumors you have been hearing and do make a point to help the students understand what should and shouldn’t be shared with their parents. Some of the things we talk about in school just isn’t fit for fragile ears. In any event, please remember that what is said in the locker room must stay in the locker room.

That is all.

Capturing One of the Last Wild Alaskan Blockbusters on Film

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

Wasilla

Yes, there are still Blockbusters in Alaska, at least two of them as I understand it; one in Fairbanks and one In Anchorage. I haven’t seen the one in Fairbanks, but Moni and I visited the one on Anchorage a couple weeks back. The one pictured above was still operating in Wasilla when we passed through on our way to Talkeetna this last Spring. Sadly, it has since closed down. Almost a year ago, we stopped into another Blockbuster in Soldatna, but that one too seems to have closed down. So yes, the great Alaskan Blockbuster lives yet in the wilderness of this great state, but it is an endangered species to be sure.

Why have Blockbusters lasted this long here in America’s ‘last frontier’?

Well ironic frontier jargon aside, the issue really does have something to do with the rough edges of our state. Simply put, the internet has not fully replaced video rentals in much of Alaska. Many of us have data-caps, and net usage can be quite costly up here. This fact makes video rental a more attractive option, and along with the various rental kiosks, it enables a precious few blockbusters to do business here in Alaska. But times, they are a changing, and we’re now down to two.

It’s a funny thing when you walk into one of these stores. You can’t help but feel as though you’ve been transported back a decade or two. They look just like you may have remembered them, which is of course the impression store managers want to create. But seriously, what else were they gonna look like? You might find moose in the parking lot, but inside the store, it’s pretty much the same.They will even ask you to be kind…

(You may click to embiggen)

 

 

Many thanks to Moni for contributing the Soldatna pics.

The North Pacific Fur Fish

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

North Pacific Fur Fish

North Pacific Fur Fish

So, today, my girl and I happen to be in Valdez. I decided to pop into a museum or three, and, …and well, Moni said something about me being a nerd and told me she was going to take a nap. Lot she knows! Moni totally missed learning about the North Pacific Fur Fish. It really is an amazing specimen. Just see what the Valdez Museum and Historical Archive has to say about it:

North Pacific Fur Fish

This fish is reported to have been a rare sight in the waters of Prince William Sound. Its fur coat is an adaptation to the frigid glacial waters of the area This is one of a few ever caught.

The Northern Pacific Fur Fish was a popular tourist attraction during the late 1950s and early 1960s. This original Fur fish hung for many years on the Valdez Gift Shop.

* New information just in suggests that the Fur Fish is still alive. It has gone through further adaptation since this specimen was caught. It is rumored that one caught recently was not fur covered, but was instead covered in Fore-Tex with a Thinsulate liner.

If you believe this story then you are in for a lot of laughs during your stay in Valdez.

Fur Fish donated by museum supporter Jim Thompson.

So, there it is. I learned about a really really rare breed of fish, and Moni doesn’t know anything about it, because she took a nap instead of going to the museum with me. She knows all about the Mojave Penguin, but she doesn’t know about this one, and I mean to keep it that way. So, shhhh!  My dear readers, please don’t tell Moni. This fish will be our secret!

A Very Soylent Spoiler Alert

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

51E+WFShw9L._SY445_Soylent Green is people!

Yeah we all know that.

Or do we?

I’m sorry, I meant to say; “spoiler alert!”

Anyway, yeah, Soylent Green is people, but the thing is that’s not really what the movie is about, is it? The Movie, Soylent Green, is about the death of the oceans. It’s about the end of life as we know it, or rather the moment in history just before the end of life as we know it. In that moment, as the food sources dwindle down to nothing, human beings begin to cannibalize each other on a scale never before seen in human history.

By ‘human beings’, I of course mean, the powers that be. It is a murky blend of corporate and government power that begins to market human flesh in the form of flavorless green protein wafers. Some might have found it odd to see cannibalism playing out under the auspices of capitalism. The former is a quintessentially primitive practice; the latter is all about of progress.

Right?

When Charleston Heston ends the film screaming “Soylent Green is people,” at least a little of the horror in that moment has always been the realization that the engines of progress have somehow brought humanity to embrace one of the greatest horrors of the primitive world.

It’s fiction, of course, but then again so is the story of progress, and so are a lot of those stories about ‘primitive’ cannibals.

Still it’s a little disconcerting to think that we are already in the timeline of Soylent Green. Yes, that’s right. Way back in 1973, 2018 was the very distant future, distant enough to project upon it all the dystopian horrors you might care to imagine.

For those who haven’t seen this old gem, the main plot has us following a police investigation in a world wracked by overcrowding, starvation, and of course food riots. People live on the streets or the staircases of apartment buildings, guarded by armed men, and…

…and seriously, SPOILER ALERT!!!

…and all these people rely upon one corporation (The Soylent Corporation) for food in the form of artificial wafers, color coded for different kinds of nutritional value. As the story begins to take shape, Soylent has just brought a new wafer into its product line, and yes, it’s green.

…but that’s not too important yet.

The main story-line has us following a murder mystery as Police Detective, Frank Thorn (played by Charlton Heston) investigates the murder of a wealthy and powerful man with the assistance of an aging police analyst named Sol Roth (played by Edward G. Robinson). It turned out the victim had in his possession a report, a large tomb purporting to be an oceanographic survey conducted by the Soylent Corporation over the years 2015-2019. Through careful study and corroboration with his own colleagues, Sol comes to realize the report contains a bombshell. The oceans are dying, irrevocably losing the capacity to produce even the algae used in Soylent wafers. This knowledge is what got the wealthy victim murdered in the first place, but not before he lost all hope and gave up living in the first place. The man, so we are told, was not himself in those final days.

Realizing himself that humanity is doomed, and nearing the end of his own life in this miserable world, Sol himself elects to ‘go home’, which is to say that he reports to a facility where people assist him in committing suicide, treating him to a lovely planetarium display featuring all the sights and sounds of nature as he drifts off into oblivion. Thorn arrives too late to save Sol, but not too late to force his way into the facility and watch the display while speaking with Sol in his last moments. Thorn is shocked by the sight of fields and trees, and animals, even as he learns about the end of the world’s food supply, such as it is. He learns of earth’s former glory even as he comes to grips with its coming end. It’s a maddening thought.

But what to do about it?

Thorn begins by trying to learn a little more about the operations at Soylent. After sneaking into the vehicles transporting Sol and the other dead away the facility, Heston comes to realize the bodies are being processed into the creation of green wafers, thus explaining how the Soylent corporation could come up with a brand new and improved food staple even as humanity’s food supply runs out once and for all. Thus, the infamous line, “Soylent Green is people.”

…oh yeah, there are fights and shootings along the way.

So, yes, Soylent Green is people, but there is a reason it’s people. It’s people because people are the only edible resource left.

Faced with diminishing resources, the powers that be have turned to their own population to reproduce their world, at least for whatever time they may be able to keep this up.

I remember watching this as a kid. Those final moments were pretty shocking back in the early seventies. I remember wondering what would happen in the wake of the credits Would people respond to Heston’s character and shut down the Soylent factories? And if they did, what next? This was a story about the end of everything, and the great crime that echoes through its final moments isn’t going to change that. Perhaps the cannibalism could be stopped, but not the disaster that produced it. It’s a maddening thought, the end of humanity, one next to which the crimes of the Soylent corporation seem to pale in comparison.

What shocks me about the whole story-line now is just how much it pales in comparison to the reality in which we live. We’ve already got our own Soylent report, a whole bunch of them in fact. Scientists have been delivering news quite comparable to that of the Soylent Oceanographic Survey for decades now. Most seem to hold out at least some hope that the disaster in question could be averted, but the scale of tragedy envisioned in climate change is quite comparable to that envisioned in the movie Soylent Green. What is the result? Life goes on.

Somehow, the possibility that all life as we know it could be about to end hasn’t generated sufficient public resolve even to attempt a serious solution. Some folks, such as our Tang-Colored Denialist-in-Chief, seem Hell-bent on making sure the whole disaster comes sooner rather than later, even hiding the facts by suppressing scientific findings on the subject, but the fact is that we are all implicated in this story-line. We are all contributing to the disaster. We can point to certain villains who don’t even want us thinking about this issue, much less attempting to tackle it, but in the end, it is humanity as a whole (or at least the more developed nations within it) that is proceeding full steam ahead.

It’s as though Heston’s cries didn’t even lead to an investigation of the Soylent factories. We all heard him, and then we just kept munching away at the quaint little green wafers that give us so much more energy than the red ones or the white ones and even the purple ones.

It’s one of the things that fascinates me about climate change. Somehow this real-world threat to life as we know it carries with it far less force than the comparable horrors of fiction. We can can appreciate the threat of The Thing or the Body-Snatchers. We can even hope that somehow Heston’s cries will bring an end to the Soylent factories. We can pull for the good guys to save the day in these stories, But when credible sources tell us that all life as we know it could come about as a result of our own actions, we ponder it while and then drive to the store.

Don’t get me wrong. Far from being an exception, I count myself among the worst offenders.

This is perhaps one of the interesting features of story-telling, that it enables us to envision solutions which would escape us in real life. Indeed, stories enable us to conceptualize problems we might not even acknowledge in real life. Our world may not contain vampires, for example, at least in the sense that we cannot find real creatures who suck the blood of others in order to sustain immortal life, but we can certainly find people whose success came at the expense of those around them. We can even find people who seem inexplicably to relish the experience of wasting other peoples time and energy in sundry ways. Deal with someone like that long enough, and you might just be tempted to see in vampire stories a real truth about real people. It wouldn’t be unfair to say of such people, I think, that they prosper, much as vampires do, by draining the life energy of those around them. In the real world, one resolves such problems (if possible) by getting such people out of your life (a peoplectomy as one of my old friends used to put it), but of course this is difficult and messy and the people in question simply move on to screw up other people’s lives when we finally get them out of our own. In a story? In story, you can drive a stake through the heart of the damned vampire. You can actually destroy them in the third act. Ironically enough, the vampires of stories may be easier to defeat than some of the bastards we meet in real life. We can’t drive a stake through the heart of toxic people in the real world, but we an sure as Hell do it with the ones we find in our stories.

Perhaps it is the same with the prospect of an anthropogenic apocalypse. It really is a systemic problem. We all know what we do that contributes to that problem, but refraining as an individual from consumption of oil products is like taking your own drop out of a crashing wave. Well it would be if you could even do it, but most of us really can’t. Most of us couldn’t even eat were it not for the fossil fuels that bring our future meals to the grocery stores. Even if we walked to our breakfast cereal, we would find that or cereal flew and trucked its way to us. The problem is simply too big for any one person to resolve on his own. But what are the odds of finding a collective resolution to the matter? The horror is beyond our reckoning. So, we enjoy zombie stories or watch Bruce Willis save us from an asteroid. (That was him, wasn’t it?) We can hope Will Smith’s blood will save mankind or we can grip our seats and wait quietly in the hopes that John Krasinski figures out how to beat those new sound-killing creatures. The end of the world is just easier to beat in a story.

…except, in Soylent Green, it really isn’t.

Perhaps, this is because the source of the apocalypse in Soylent Green isn’t a monster; it’s us, which is a little too close to the realities already taking shape in 1973. (They are more real now.) Either way the real tragedy coming for those characters is still coming for them regardless of the results of Thorn’s final revelation. This horror is closer to that of Cthulhu than it is to the simple zombies or mean-spirited sound-sniffers. This horror is a certain doom. The people in Thorn’s world may or may not be able to stop Soylent from serving other folks up in bite-sized snacks, but (at least in the terms of the story-line) they are not going to solve the problem of hunger. They are all doomed.

To appreciate the doom one has only to consider the death of Sol at the end of the film. This, it turns out, would be the last scene ever shot with Edward G. Robinson. He died of cancer a short time after shooting wrapped on Soylent Green, giving his death scene an odd real-life significance for those involved in production. Watching this film, or any other apocalyptic fantasy, I can’t help wondering if humanity itself doesn’t find itself experiencing a similar sort of parallelism. We can appreciate all manner of stories about the end of life as we know it, but more and more, I at least watch such stories with a faint sense that they are a little less far fetched than I’d prefer to imagine.

We can wonder if the characters in Soylent Green will heed Thorn’s warning.

But that is missing the point.

 

Pillow-Bombs

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

35281652_10216605160826545_1651775535061139456_n

I Made a quick stop recently at the Alaska Veterans Museum on 4th Street  in Anchorage. I’ve written about this place before, but of course they’ve changed a few things around. I’m continually amazed at the amount of material they manage to cram into such a small space. The whole facility is clearly a labor of love.

Anyway, this little throw pillow definitely caught my attention. I think we’ll just let it speak for itself.