Okay, so it was late at night when I thought up that name, hot and dark and smoky. I certainly haven't spent my whole 40 years in the New Canaan of Silver Lake, but can I briefly reclaim a desert heritage for lush LA? Not like the collapsing infrastructure of our national parks, mind you, or the tribal gathering of Sunset Junction, or even that big moveable feast of Burning Man in Nevada, but the real desert creeping up through the hot asphalt, blowing salt, bigger every year, spreading out, destroying crops and snuffing out ancient tribes. That's the desert I've been wandering in, friends, not a place for hippies to play, but the desert that might tolerate you driving across it, and once you pull off the highway, you'd better be prepared to survive. The deep desert is where the Jews found their vengeful God, and where people pull up the oil that will make that desert larger still. Hell, I'll be beating the heat at work all stinkin' week, youse, but at least we've got air-conditioning. Yep, it's like flying to Argentina on Pan Am, that LA Central Library. I'd go crazy if I didn't know where the hills are long, the breezes are cool and with "La Femme d'Argent" playing, the lights of LA can tempt me back into my so-called real life.
This is going to be a bad one, full of wanton destruction and hopeless fist-shaking, but you know, it's Silver Lake, Jake. This year it starts in starving Niger, moves to Portugal, the fires racing across the mountains, and continues across to the Alps, where I can imagine my friends sitting forlorn atop their flooded autos. If you don't believe it I've enclosed a panorama of Innsbrück from Günther Hirner.
And then this morning, one of the great old palaces of North America, the city of New Orleans, just missed being turned into a desert by 30 miles. I almost sent this screed out yesterday with an urge to PRAY, not like Pat Robertson asked people to pray, not to his Christian God that, if you poke around the Internet, would like nothing better than to smite that wicked city. No, I prayed to my master, the Earth that gives us a few miles of air and trees and soil to live in, pray the havoc we've unleashed on the world would spare poor New Orleans one more time. And so it did, instead grinding into even poorer Mississippi, knocking through Biloxi and up the Delta. That's the power of prayer for you.
By some cosmic joke, just a week ago I started reading A Confederacy of Dunces by John Toole, one of those books that everybody lied about reading back in the 1980s. (The 1990s example is The Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, and other than Christine, I refuse to believe anyone fought their way through that piece of intellectual garbage.) Did you read Moby Dick or War and Peace? REALLY? Anyway, if you've never been to New Orleans, A Confederacy of Dunces is the cheapest way to get there.
You can see the terrible Katrina grinding here:
It blasted across the hot Gulf of Mexico, wrecking the oil platforms that helped feed it. If you have doubts about global warming, it should make you wonder that a storm that was barely a hurricane a week ago suddenly expanded into the fourth largest EVER recorded. In the next few days, we'll see the destruction across the mouth of the Mississippi River, the sunken bayous and towns, and though the Vieux Carré was spared, not so the poorest quarters of New Orleans, the Ninth Ward and Algiers, where the levees did give way. But it'll all be forgotten, natch, when the reporters go back to that other desert we've been toying with, the desert of Iraq where the human race first started their modernization project.
I hate to sound so cynical, but it's easy these days. This time, friends, I'm dumping out the collected little bits of hidden news that, taken as a whole, make our hold on planet Earth look tenuous at best. Maybe the heat is getting me down and maybe it's the end of an era:
Hunter Thompson's ashes fired from cannon
A few nights ago I was watching "The Western Tradition", a series on the history of Europe made about ten years ago. The host, a professor from UCLA with a perfectly dour Oxford accent, cited one of my favorite quotes, by the author/philosopher/librarian Voltaire: "Un historien est un babillard qui fait des tracasseries aux morts," or, as we playfully translate it into English, "History is after all nothing but a pack of tricks which we play upon the dead." The professor then added, correctly, that history might also be a trick that the dead play on us, and they keep playing it whether we get the joke or not.
Here's a joke that I can laugh at more than my compadres:
"Mr Housing Bubble" shirts strike chord, draw ire
Or a joke that you all can appreciate, even if it makes you feel old:
Hello Kitty Turns 30
Or a joke on all of us, like "reflectoporn":
Speaking of urban legends, I'm happy to report that this one is finally true, but not for the reasons you think:
Exxon Mobil Becomes Focus of a Boycott
By Felicity Barringer
The International Herald Tribune
But c'mon, just crying about the price of gas is not an "environmental" act. Gas is the end of the world, oil is the fruit of the desert and the mother of the desert. Watching the "leaders" of the world try to control oil is a joke:
Oil-Control FormulaBy Robert Dreyfuss
http://www.truthout.org/docs_2005/071905G.shtmlOil Manoeuvres by China, India, Challenge US
Press Trust of India/AP
Oil is the monster of our era, the impetus for more evil even than religion:
World Running Out of Time for Oil Alternatives
By Anna Mudeva
http://www.truthout.org/issues_05/081905EA.shtmlThe Twilight Era of Petroleum
By Michael T. Klare
http://www.truthout.org/docs_2005/080505L.shtmlThe Breaking Point
By Peter Maass
The New York Times
http://www.truthout.org/docs_2005/082305D.shtmlWar of the Future
By David Morse
Oil drives the genocide in Darfur.
Don't give up hope, friends, because like-minded people are seeking a way out:
Europe on an Energy Diet
By Dominique Dron
Anticipating oil shortages and climactic dislocations, the EU must meet the challenge.
http://www.truthout.org/issues_05/072905EC.shtmlCost-Competitive Solar Called "Imminent"Renewable Energy Access
http://www.truthout.org/issues_05/072205EA.shtmlUtility Company Boosts Solar Energy Project
By Laura Wides
The Associated Press
Although I admit some choose unorthodox methods:
Woman Allegedly Attacks Tree Trimmers
Sic the lawyers on 'em:
Washington to Be Sued over Global Warming
By Andrew Buncombe
The Independent UK
Yeah, I'm not much of an optimist, but I've always believed that people can get it together in the nick of time:
Tourist magnet Tijuana cleans up brothels
od_nm/mexico_brothels_dcJohn Seager: Straight Talk about Population
By Jim Motavalli
People make do however they can:
Police: Custodian Making Meth in Church
ap_on_fe_st/church_methScientists Aim for Lab-Grown Meat
The Australian Associated Press
Even the men in Washington DC have peeked out from under their blinkers:
GOP Chairmen Face Off on Global Warming
By Juliet Eilperin
The Washington Post
Public tiff over probe of study highlights divide on issue.
http://www.truthout.org/issues_05/071805EB.shtmlUS Senators Say Global Warming Obvious in Far North
By Yereth Rosen
Is it in the nick of time?
World Faces Massive Increase in CO2 Emissions
By Jon Walter
http://www.truthout.org/issues_05/072005EB.shtmlMelting Greenland Glacier May Hasten Rise in Sea Level
By Steve Connor
The Independent UK
http://www.truthout.org/issues_05/072605EC.shtmlCollapse of Antarctic Ice Shelf Could Have Global Effects
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation News
http://www.truthout.org/issues_05/080405EA.shtmlClimate warning as Siberia melts
http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=mg18725124.500Climate Warning as Siberia Melts
By Fred Pearce
The hard times are affecting everything:
Siberian police arrest bear for begging
od_afp/russiabearoffbeat_050824135610Floods, stone theft scupper Swiss rock-throwing
Again, we see more action outside the boundaries of the USA:
EU Pushes Binding Climate Deal
By Richard Black
Though we Californians always have an answer for any crisis, to go nuts:
San Francisco Postpones Plan for Ski Jump
But the wanton destruction of the Earth, friends, is no joke:
Too Much of Nothing
By Tom Athanasiou
Foreign Policy in Focus
Oh, when there's too much of nothing, No one has control. - Bob Dylan
It's getting harder to hide the climate crisis.
And we may easily lose sight of the big picture when so many smaller threats disrupt our individual lives, like Hurricane Katrina, or perhaps a disease stalking us for years:
Avian Flu Epidemic Nears Europe
Le Monde with AFP and Reuters
http://www.truthout.org/issues_05/080405HB.shtmlLaurie Garrett: Are We Prepared for Avian Flu?
By Jim Motavalli
E - The Environmental Magazine
http://www.truthout.org/issues_05/081105HB.shtmlHas Time Run Out? The Coming Avian Flu Pandemic
By Mike Davis
You see I've even enclosed an article by Mike Davis, that hysterical LA anti-intellectual who predicted that wild beasts would soon be descending from the mountains to consume the Los Angelenos not killed by floods, fires or earthquakes. Yeah, it's easy to predict the end of the world.
The end of the world is slow, I'm afraid, and more ridiculous:
Suspects, Parakeet Sought in Robbery
It comes about with a lot of help from idiots:
Tips Lead to Arrest of Clown Assailant
Rather than animals coming after us, someday we may have no creatures left:
Wave of Marine Species Extinctions Feared
By Juliet Eilperin
The Washington Post
Although sometimes the animals do strike back:
Lions stalk little Smart cars in English big game park
But in the long run, my dear friends, we are seeing something truly terrible reshape the world that most of us have only really known for a few decades:
Ringing the Alarm for Earth
By Tim Radford
The Guardian UK
Leading botanist Peter Raven calculates that species crucial to the survival of the human race are in steep decline. Tim Radford meets a man dubbed a 'hero of the planet.'
http://www.truthout.org/issues_05/072005EA.shtmlThe Climax of Humanity
By George Musser
Demographically and economically, our era is unique in human history. Depending on how we manage the next few decades, we could usher in environmental sustainability - or collapse.
And finally, just to end on a pathetic tangent, my friend Geri sends you this Generation Brat website, where some kid collected MIDI files of what he considers "depressing classic rock", which is another kind of history:
While I approve of many of his choices (especially "Wildfire", which I haven't heard in years and used to scream in the shower..."She ran callin' Wiiiiiildfire..."), some others seem a bit iffy. Is "Let the Good Times Roll" depressing, or "Year of the Cat"? Why is "Ventura Highway" by America on this list instead of their "Horse with No Name" or the incomprehensible "Tin Man" ("No, Oz never did give nothin' to the Tin Man, that he didn't, didn't already have, and cause never was the reason for the evening, or the tropic of Sir Galahad")? And where are some of the giant depressing songs of the 1970s, like "Hollywood Nights" or "Love Hurts" or the song that I couldn't listen to for years after my heart got broken (seriously), Billy Joel's "She's Always a Woman to Me"?
Still, "Cat's in the Cradle" and "Seasons in the Sun" ("We had joy, we had fun, we had seasons in the sun, but the wine and the song like the seasons have all gone")...that's fucking GENIUS. In fact, now that I'm thinking about it, I'm going to put on the Most Depressing Song Ever Written, "Cry Me a River", of which Barbra Streisand does the angriest version. Girls, this one is for YOU.
PS Because they're MIDI files they download very fast, even on a crude dial-up connection like mine. So, with "Cry Me a River" in the background, vive la terre, and vive le screed!
29 August 2005