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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

  Oil is becoming an object of the 2008 elections. In particular from the McCain ad I've seen on television Continental Shelf Drilling is being massaged into a wedge issue Oil May Become GOP's 2008 Issue . Four-dollar-a-gallon gas has done something that few Republicans thought possible just a few months ago: given them hope. . I guess they've done their home work and see this issue working for them. But the price of Gas? If it goes up if it comes down who benefits? I can't see how higher prices benefit the McCain campaign, It's likely this is simply spin to consolidate a portion of marginal opinion. Lower prices might favor McCain if it appears natural and not induced by policy trickery. Higher prices can be used to induce fear and concern, but only in the short term until people recall what party has been running the country the last eight years. In any regard for a few days it shook money out of the tree. Mainly from deep and very vested interests Industry Gushed Money After Reversal on Drilling..

 What's Up with Oil anyway? What are the causes of the current stark increase of the price of oil. The Washington Post attempts to determine this with their favorite tool a giant crushing series Oil Shock This time, it's Different.  The question they're concerned with is whether this price shift is permanent and structural or mere volatility caused by concern for the election, possible war with Iran and increasing use of oil as a financial instrument and speculation.

    Among the details provided its possible to examine offshore drilling on its merits 3 West Coast governors oppose new offshore oil drilling - Los Angeles Times. The first claim here is to control price and enhance U S security. However offshore drilling available for license now would account for only pennies on the dollar, decades from now. The amount that drilling on the continental coast or in the Alaskan arctic is often discussed in terms of what it could add to American production. The critical comparison is to the less than 1% of U S consumption it constitutes Offshore Drilling: We Have a Choice of Simple Confusion or Outright Lies | Environment | AlterNet. The McCain campaign McCain promotes drilling for oil off US coast - Yahoo! News acknowledging that a congressional vote this week would not flood refineries with price reducing crude this year or next counterd that oil company executives have told the candidate there are fields they could bring into production in the near term. This might even constitute a hundredth part of one percent. The argument for this drilling is essentially nonsense despite its temporary popularity Greenspace | Offshore oil drilling more palatable to Californians | Los Angeles Times. Other points to consider are the notion of this capacity as a strategic reserve, and as Public Relations. There are types and levels of strategic reserve. There is an official strategic reserve. I believe this is mainly what used to be the Navy Reserve, the Teapot Dome fields. Fragile geographies together with difficult geographies make further de-facto natural strategic reserves, best left touched only lightly until greater need necessitates. At the same time having some infrastructure in place and some careful and controlled production from these areas would appear forthright as we expect, and our needs require, other nations do the same.

     $4 per gallon gasoline is not the petro-economies endgame. It is simply a sign post as we move into an era of total global use, where asia and south asia begin to consume oil at the rates of the western economies. And we begin to catch glimpse of the end reaches of an oil driven world. The current price surge is mostly due to low capital investment (exploration and equipment) during previous 10-15 years of low and stable prices. Otherwise it could accommodate current increased use. This has left the industry behind a power curve. There are issues here as to where the center of expertise and capital is located. In the end this is a rectifiable matter. For the United States by whatever policy it is key to have an ordered and methodical approach to US oil exploration and subsequent exploitation. This is opposed to crisis driven Fear Uncertainty and Doubt. Even the best intention of offshore drilling amounts to no more than keeping the price at a point where things do not change. This was Cheney's rebuttal to those questioning why alternative energy and conservation was not part of his energy task force ("we won't be doing that"), It was our message to the Saudis in the 1970's: if the price of oil keeps going up the people will find other ways and means and the habit will be broken.

    Another thing I think of at this point is where are the Green Entrepreneurs?  Beyond small businessmen or women getting in touch with their inner tree hugger What Will Drive the Energy Innovation Revolution? - Dot Earth - Climate Change and Sustainability - New York Times Blog. Where is the emerging class of Start-Up CEO's and investors, the corporations, the fortunes - Bill Gates sized fortunes, forming around alternate energy solutions and the future?  Where is the knowledge base, the know how, the Sustainability MBA's to guide this money. Where are the markets for this way to wealth.

    The answer are the Petro-Chemists. By which I refer to the group of extremely wealthy men, technologists, apologists, and their associated political apparatchiks. As a class resistant to change.  While innovation, conservation and alternative energy development may be critical for the nation. It doesn't pay or privilege those in the conventional fossil fuel industries.  It likely does pay them to gather up rights and permits to resources even if they can't deal with them yet. They doubt their ability to compete or stay in the vanguard of the controlling wealth of the world.  They use their existing leverage to co-opt and stifle change.

 This is the era of peaked oil. This was implicitly the point of all those Washington Post column inches. While consumption and production have not yet hit their highest level. And the point where we have pumped and refined through to the median of what oil the earth will give up probably has not occurred yet. We have entered the era where that will occur. An era where the size of oil based economies will have closed frontiers, measurable limits, and within these, ever increasing competition for remaining resources.

  All periods of history have organizing theory. Many now put forward the ideas and outlook of the late University of Maryland professor Julian Simon, ( Julian Lincoln Simon - Wikipedia). Guiding light of various camps of anti-Malthusians: Those who believe that scarcity and environmental degradation are simply non-issues. Markets react to scarcity with higher prices, this revenue provides opportunity for innovation and solutions emerge. As long as whatever famines, wars, upheavals, genocide and clashes of civilizations such as exist fall short of catastrophic, and are far away. They are are content to believe the system works fine. Even taken narrowly in the realm of manufacturing and production. If political or economic power can strip complete and true cost from price, if externalities can be marginalized, masked, those concerned attacked. The technologists have not served mankind or human wisdom. Simon was brilliant (see the Wired profile of him from a few years ago The Doomslayer - Wired), but he was a contrarian and iconoclast; the truth is never as easily obtained as conventional wisdom turned on its head.

  The recent news that a British channel 4 documentary was found in breach of OfCom [which I presume stands for, Office of Communication, a UK government entity similar to our FCC] rules forms a case in point  BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Climate documentary 'broke rules':. A cynical set piece of obfuscation it exists to honor the notion that simple opposition presented loudly can change perceived reality. Despite presentation of information indifferent to facts or accuracy the filmmakers were merely warned and not fined. This is the problem with the Lomborgists in general. Their only message is "nothing is happening, and even if something is, concentration of capital can fix it better than any human planning. So far their energy is expounded solely on the former. This is going into the future with one hand tied behind our backs.

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Thursday, July 24, 2008
Fort Reno

 The Fort Reno Free Summer Concert Series slipped my mind this year  Fort Reno 2008 | Schedule. I didn't even think of it until just last week. Looking at the schedule I have to admit, I don't know any of these bands. This is my fault not theirs. Well  - the Boom Oranutangs who have already played this year and played last year as well. They I know are Wilson High people and schoolmates of my niece Nicole C.

   The tag line at the bottom of the pages "Mostly Arsenic-free since 2008". This is reference to an improbable story from earlier in the year that Fort Reno and the adjoining Wilson High and Deal Jr. high fields where soggy with arsenic. It was going to eat through your shoes up into your body and kill you dead  New Soil Tests Show Safe Arsenic Levels. Apparently; though, all a false alarm caused by new high tech surveillance methods Norton's Fort Reno Park Community Meeting.

 The Fort Reno concerts were recalled to me by my co-worker Jeremy who posited Fort Reno as a pastoral version of Baltimore's Whartscape during a discussion of that. In passing he mentioned The Apes as only non Dischord DC area band he could recall by name. It turned out they were on the bill for that same night.  WhartScape which took place last weekend  Whartscape 2008: The Aftermath - Information Leafblower I had never heard of before. What it seems to be is 3 days, a couple of alleys and nearly every indie band between Severna Park and Coney island WHAM CITY: WHARTSCAPE 2008. But not for some reason the Wilderness or even Lord Dog Bird. Whartscape is the Alternative communities answer (counterpart) to Baltimore's more mainstream ArtScape. This is at least its second year Whartscape Music Festival | Pitchfork (last years in Pitchfork).

 Looking over the remainder of the Fort Reno Schedule. One act catches my eye: Kid Congo Powers . The Kid Congo Powers, from the Cramps, Nick Cave, and also from one of my very favorite bands, the Gun Club? It seems to be. This could interesting.

 Under the theory that you've got to name your poison if you want it (arsenic?).  I leave you with a link to the Sonics (the Sonics) doing their song Strychnine: The Sonics - Strychnine.

Some folks like water,
Some folks like wine,
But I like a taste,
Of straight strychnine
-- Sonics. Strychnine, 1965

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Saturday, July 19, 2008
Eaves of Heaven

  Andrew Pham's new book Eaves of Heaven is out The eaves of heaven : a life in three wars [] (his previous was Catfish and Mandala). I guess it's been out for a while, I'm not sure.  Mir at Dim Sum Diaries had mentioned it earlier. The Washington Post is reviewing it for tomorrows paper week  Fall from Grace -  The New York Times did last week  Book Review - 'Eaves of Heaven,' by Andrew X. Pham -  While the campus book store doesn't have either of his books, McKeldin library where I work does have the latter book. I was able to check it out and start reading it. When I finish it I'll have to come back and say more

   The book is a curious hybrid form: Memoigraphy I think. A history of his father's family through generations. A biography of his father's life, orphaned, at an earlier age  told narratively in his father's voice.

 I know my friend Trân's family forms a similar story of similarly aged people. Trân once told me her father (and his brother) were also orphans; building a life in uncertain times. Losing everything in the wars, beginning again. When she told me this she had two separate scanned pictures of her father, and maternal grandmother. She was endeavoring to put these together in the same frame. Either physically, or photoshop them together if she could manage it. It was a gift for her father. She indicated that her grandmother meant a great deal to her father. Further she recalled a period when she was young, when they lived in her home. "So this is a women who held you when you were a little girl," I asked. "Held me?" Trân echoed, "No." She was not a woman who held and comforted small children. "You look a little like her," I offered, but she was not a woman Trân thought she looked like. Looking at that picture again my thoughts ran to a play I once saw:  La Casa de Bernarda Alba.

   When I had gotten the book out of the shelves I found Trân dis-inclined to acknowlege either the book or the author particularly, even as I held it in my hand. As she did Andrew Pham's last book, which another co-worker Yeri did read and like. There is much in the Vietnamese experience which is private I think. Private trauma private fears and unconsoled aggrievements. These are not to be discussed with outsiders.

 I think about it still, because I think about Trân a great deal. For emigres, forced choice emigres, Vietnamese and others, who left the land of their birth because of calamity or oppression. There is a tendency to look back upon an idealized homeland. In this aspect it will be the fount of all possible virtue. It will be traditional unchanging perfect. It will represent all against the turning perspectives and shadows of the past for the 1rst, 1.5,  and 2nd generations. The 1.5 generation, a recognized and discussed group The Vietnamese American 1.5 generation : stories of war, revolution, flight, and new beginnings [], I believe refers to those born in Vietnam, but who grew up in America, such as someone I knew in college, Hoa Nguyen, who came to the United States when she was three. I imagine a 1.25 category for Trân who grew up in Vietnam and did not come here and become a citizen with her family until she was in her twenties. This is the work I think that Andrew Pham takes up with his writing. To tell a story. To synthesis an understanding, a perspective, greater than any he held when he started.

 There are four worlds of the Vietnamese living in the west. The emigre community close knit and protective. The joined nation, here the U S. But there are extensive communities in France, Canada, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore and elsewhere as well. The remembered homeland. The burden this is expected to carry is too great for any coherant concept of a place. What it loses in concreteness, slipping away in so many sepia-toned pictures of Saigon, perhaps it gains as argument. Against all this the Socialist Republic of Vietnam: roiling hungry locked down. The country - the authoritarian government - that modern (free) marketeers adore. Reliable, free from regulation or the demands of labor  Corporate love for communism | Globalizing engagement, many are begining to realize, is a long term, not a short term process. In the short term authortarian governments are only strengthened by investment and the deals they cut. Greater liberty is only gradually extracted by a combination of increasing material well being and increasing awareness information and of possibilities that accompany that.

  There is no level on which I can really understand the experience of individuals like Andrew Pham or my friend Trân. I have nothing like it in my life. But in addition to opening a window into other worlds, one thing reflecting on this does is cast a little clearer the Massachussetts in my mind. Not exactly the same as the one up north of Rhode Island, which I left thirty years ago. A vision of a questioning contrarian place, of a nation, that is becoming still and does not exist yet to be traded upon by those desiring comfort, safety security, and wealth over freedom.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Spend a Penny

 You have to spend money to make money, so they say. There are times I doubt some in the newspaper business believe this. For years it's been apparent the distribution people for the Washington Post know when school is not in session at the University. UMD on these occasions experiences no-delivery days where you can walk from one side of campus to the other and not find a paper anywhere. I don't subscribe, but I am a 6 day a week newstand buyer. I've commented on this before so I won't belabor the point. It seems this forms a metaphor of sorts. Their fear of not making a sale leads them not to even try. The newspaper business is in a defensive crouch they can't get out of.

  I was nursing this grievance earlier when I saw that Ann Marie Lipinski editor of the Chicago Tribune  Chicago Editor Quits as Tribune Cuts Deeper -, and David Hiller publisher of the Los Angeles Times Tribune's Second Shoe Drops: 'L.A. Times' Publisher Quits David Hiller , both in Sam Zell's Tribune corporation immersed in the middle of mass newsroom cuts, either fled or were rousted from that company. The Baltimore Sun is also in that family Baltimore Sun staffers applied for buyouts. This set off another round of bemoaning the death of journalism Poynter Online - Romenesko:. The idea the Tribune's executives seem to have is the remaining writers will simply produce more copy, because all column inches are equal No Joy in Zellville | American Journalism Review:. I seem to recall that either this set of new newspaper company owners or a previous set were making pronouncements on privileging (vapid) localism over critical national and international coverage. That this is what a paper like the LAT or Baltimore Sun ought to be doing. Others will handle news from other places. This leads only to narrowing awareness, manufactured consent, and giving elites a freer hand to conduct the people's business in their own interest. That is the effect, whether intentional or not. It is a fools errand to believe that ever continuing rounds of cuts and layoffs will restore newspapers to relevance. Burning down their open web-content sites as though the only true value of a paper lay in the rolls of flattened wood-pulp on the loading dock and not in their newsroom and bureau staffs. It's all luddism and tunnel vision, a reflexive defensive crouch.

   The advertising models for web content admittedly are horrendous. Existing web ads are too small, too busy and too amateurish. As yet they also are mostly in only weak and marginal categories. Another thing I think I see which is puzzling is rotary serves of ads, which means you often can't go back to a page and see a given ad a second time even if you wanted to. Frankly I suspect the true value of paper-based advertising is overestimated, and that of web advertising underestimated. On this balance (it is what advertisers are willing to pay) web-available copy is killing the business. Offhand I'd say that what pays the bills for a city newspaper are color supplements and coupons for local big retail, that and classifieds. These are destinations in print, if done right and with added value they could be destinations on-line.

   Papers like the Washington Post have shown some understanding of the need for a digital content distribution which preserves the crafted balance of the physical entity. This through animals like e-Replica | Washington Post  a high end proprietary pdf reader delivering a digital componented version of the print edition on subscription. Together with all ad copy and those lovely full page political ads: Lockheed, Boeing, the NRA, or even the ones the United Church of Christ occasionally runs which otherwise you never see online.

 The needs of the user are paramount though. I only desire to read one paper full through. The Washington Post is the only paper where I would consider digital subscription. For other news needs I take a citing and pointing approach. Being able to put URLs in a web log entry is optimum, though I could quote and cite to lesser (and more didactic) effect. The idea is a virtual library reading room, the enabling technology is RSS feeds and other aggregators. I view this technology as like a personalized clipping service, like the "early bird news" I remember from working in the Pentagon. One thing, newspaper and other journalistic entities should not presume to do is get in-between the user, citizens, and what they try to do with the information they are given.

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Wednesday, July 9, 2008
Art and Commerce

a picture named newhampshireaveart.jpg
A public art installation along New Hampshire Ave. between Piney Branch and Southampton Rds

   A couple of weeks ago as I left my apartment and headed off to work I encountered some of the physical plant people from my apartment complex using a high pressure spray washer to clean a concrete retaining wall near my place. It needed it. It was dirty and a bit of an eyesore. Still an odd occurrence considering normally it was the county that paid their indifferent attention to that particular spot. The next day nearly the entire crowd of employees from the complex were out at the same spot painting it into two shiny and very bright sections of color.  [In the first picture above it is is in the blue section right where it bends around the curve where two years ago my bike slipped out on some wet leaves and crashed.  I tore up my right shoulder rotator cuff - took a year for that to heal.]    A picture named PreparingToInstall.jpg A day later as I set out a small truck was parked across the street and some people were the laying out mystery objects on the grass. Sorting and organizing large flat brightly colored  panels, under the direction of someone with an arts council air to them.

   Coming back up New Hampshire Ave. from the bike path nine hours later, and suspecting the weeks events now were not unrelated. I was able to see the installation for what it was. Free cut painted sheets of aluminum, dozens of them all different, like decorative street signs, nailed tightly to the formerly bland concrete retaining wall. Forming into an enormous integrated mural. It was very impressive. I kept an eye on the newspaper and tv news for a couple days to seeking any hint of what this was about, but nothing came (nor has anything, in the english language press at least). I began to wonder where it was that murals came from.

A picture named ResponsibleParties.jpg   One day, about a week later, some men came by early one morning and set a large tent on the grass right outside my front door. They set up a PA system, rows of chairs, and soon the yard and tent were filled with a hundred or more impeccably dressed people listening to multiple speeches and clapping politely. This went on for more than an hour. After the speeches; tours were led down to the installation on a partially roped off New Hampshire ave. Some who appeared to be politicians circled the remaining crowd like sharks. A picture named FreeFood.JPG I felt vindicated that a real dedication had been planned for this embankment of public art. Which I now know was the two county turning point mural project. The art works name appears to simply be the Turning Points Mural, as nearly as I can tell. I see all this required $100,000 in fundraising to make it happen. A number of groups seem to have put this together: a program called CSAFE (Collaborative Supervision and Focused Engagement) togther with the Montgomery and Prince Georges  Co. police departments. The mural was physically created by a group called Arts on the Block with the Maryland Multicultural Youth Centers  and the P.G. Co. Arts Council: Arts on the Block - Two County Turning Point Mural Project. With further assistance from Northwest Park Apts. and something called the Weed and Seed community program.  In one of the pictures here the short women in the yellow shirt in the mid ground seems to have been a key person on the art end of things, the women in the black jacket and silver skirt in the foreground on the administrative end.  You can see the window to my apartment in the building just behind them. It wasn't until I had worked my way around to the front of the tent that I saw they had free food. The world turns but once, I thought, and took up a free ice cold Mountain Dew.

A picture named Supermercado.JPG
Grand Opening of the Bestway Supermercado in the Riggs Road plaza.

 Less heralded was the reopening of a grocery store about a mile in the other direction this last week at the Riggs rd. Plaza. It used to be a Safeway, it was where I shopped for many years. Until the day they emptied the place put a lock on the door and walked away. Eighteen months gone now. Into Safeway's abandoned space, the Bestway SuperMercado has come. It is as if a Mexico City grocery store had dropped neatly out of the air into Adelphi. Many products, are spanish, everything is labeled in spanish, and everyone there speaks spanish. Still I was able to find everything I need in all the few and spare catagories of groceries I trade in. My ham sandwiches are now made with bread that comes from a little white teddy bear named Bimbo.

A picture named SunWall.JPG It's hard to say which of these two events is more critical. I still follow claims for the transformative aspect of art. The signs and signals of aesthetic effect. Calls for renewal in it's presence. Marching lightly along the watch path of cause and effect. [Here note I am just simply reciting the title of an old Mission of Burma Ep. Signals Calls and Marches for my own amusment.]. However as lemony-limey orange and grape-like as the mural is, it is an atmospheric nourishment. It will be an anchor of community morale, a point of enduring pride. The Bestway will have two-for-one sales on Honeydew melons available on my way home from work. It is also good to have local neighborhood grocery store again

10:32:16 PM    comment [];trackback [];

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